Remembering Phyllis Bernstein (z”l)

Phyllis Bernstein at Women's Day March.
Phyllis at the International Women’s Day March in Tel Aviv, 2019.

The Social Venture Fund for Jewish-Arab Equality and Shared Society mourns the loss of our longtime member, Phyllis Bernstein, who co-chaired our Economic Development Committee. We encourage you to learn more about Phyllis in this article in The New Jersey Jewish News, in the eulogy by her husband, Robert Kuchner, and in this remembrance below by SVF Israel Director Batya Kallus:

Phyllis Bernstein Was a Friend and Colleague

Phyllis Bernstein left the world on July 28, 2022, after a long struggle with cancer. Phyllis was an incredible force for good in the world, and there is so much to say about her commitment to making the world a better place.

Every year Phyllis spent six weeks living in the Negev teaching English and art in Rahat and other Bedouin communities. During her last trip in March 2020, when she was teaching at the Ahed School, Phyllis did not rent an apartment. Instead, every night, she went home with a different student. Since Ahed is a regional school, a student’s home could be in any one of several Bedouin towns or unrecognized villages. No matter that she did not have a car and was dependent on the same transportation (or lack thereof) as her students. No matter that Phyllis did not speak Arabic or Hebrew. She was intrepid and would go wherever and however she needed to get to her destination.

During that trip in 2020, Phyllis, Alan Divack, and I visited the Rachme Elementary school in Rahat. Phyllis showed us the tiny room (really a closet) where she had taught English. Her former students raced over and embraced her with fierce love. Phyllis, as she always did, greeted each one with “Hello, darling, how are you?”

Phyllis co-chaired the Economic Development Committee of the Social Venture Fund for Jewish-Arab Equality and Shared Society. In our meetings, she was a constant advocate for the Bedouin community. Her insights were based on her personal knowledge of the field. She was, in a certain sense, a local from the Negev even though she lived in New Jersey.

In May, I visited Phyllis at her home in New Jersey. She was still full of energy, upbeat, and planning her next trip to Israel.

Her passing is truly a loss. May her memory be a blessing.

— Batya Kallus

More Photos of Phyllis

  • Phyllis in Jerusalem
  • Phyllis Bernstein in Rahat.

I