A Chain of Generations

By Cami Fussey


The principle of mitzvah, goreret mitzvah, one good deed begets another good deed, is realized by Jewish families passing on the value of giving through the generations. Along with her father, Daniel, and her brother, Peter, Michelle Bernstein, of New York City, has honored the legacy of her mother Vivian Bernstein (z”l) with the opening of a new tennis facility in Halutza, Israel that honors her memory, her love of the sport, and her commitment to helping children.


Giving tzedakah (charity) regularly is a Bernstein family value “It was instilled in us by our parents at a young age to give back - part of Jewish values,” said Peter. “The torah teaches us to donate 10% of our earnings, and our parents have always taught us to give with our hearts.”


The Bernstein Family at tennis court dedication


“We encouraged our children to make their own donations, (and) pick their own charities,” explained Daniel. The Bernstein children were also encouraged by their grandparents to be charitable, and to support personally meaningful organizations.


“It’s just ingrained in me,” said Michelle of giving, “it’s my responsibility.” The Bernstein family also maintained a continuous connection with Israel. Daniel visited Israel as a young man, and eventually returned with his wife and children during Michelle’s bat mitzvah year. Peter and Michelle both went on Birthright Israel, and the Bernstein’s returned to Israel for Passover as a family in 2008 and Michelle has continued to visit regularly with Jewish National Fund-USA.


After Vivian’s passing in 2020, Michelle, now a Jewish National Fund-USA board member on both the New York and national boards, was approached to give to their affiliate, the Halutza Communities program. Halutza is a community in the Negev desert of Israel, nestled between the high-conflict borders with Egypt and Gaza. In a formerly empty desert, a small group of Israelis worked with Jewish National Fund-USA to build a thriving town, home to research facilities, vibrant agriculture, and 500+ families.


Vivian Bernstein grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, the daughter of Holocaust survivors. “(It was) not always an easy life,” said Michelle. “Obviously her parents were greatly affected by what they saw.” Vivian’s mother always saw the glass half-full, despite great loss in her life. The best revenge on Hitler, according to Vivian’s mother, was have children and continue the generations. As a young woman, Vivian was a competitive tennis champion. She maintained her devotion to tennis throughout her life, playing weekly with her husband for their entire marriage and sharing the sport with her children. Having previously funded a dental office in memory of Daniel’s father, the suggestion for the Bernsteins’ to build a tennis court in Vivian’s honor was welcome and fitting. “It was a no-brainer,” said Michelle. “I think it’s a beautiful way to honor my mother’s legacy.”


Bernstein family cutting the ribbon at tennis courts


“My mother was passionate about tennis and about helping kids,” remembered Peter, “and this was an opportunity to do both.” The Bernstein family, including Peter’s sons, Benjamin and Eli, visited Halutza in December 2022 to dedicate the facility in person with an emotional ribbon cutting ceremony and tribute to a very special woman. “It’s amazing how it feels like home every time you go (to Israel),” he said fondly.


Of her mother, Michelle remembered, “she had a beautiful soul and spirit.” Michelle’s hope for what her mother’s legacy will bring the people of Halutza is simple: “happiness.”



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