Donald and Bobbi Bernstein

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It has always been a priority for the Bernsteins to support Jewish institutions in their community. Judaism has been a source of identity, pride, and historical interest to them, and they have tried to give back, in time and energy, as much as they have taken from their heritage. They do so by supporting their synagogue Temple Beth El, and by serving on the boards of several charitable organizations including the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, the Foundation for the Charlotte Jewish Community, and the Jewish Studies Advisory Board at the College of Charleston. 

They are also active in a long list of organizations that help the community at large, ranging from women’s causes to support for the arts, from the welfare of children to transitional centers for the homeless. In short, they have made philanthropy and volunteerism a cornerstone of their life. 

In 1988, the Bernsteins joined the Charleston community by purchasing a second home on Isle of Palms. They are especially fond of the beaches, shops, restaurants, and hospitality of the Charleston people. They have also noted with great interest and appreciation, the acceptance of the Jewish community in Charleston by the greater Charleston community, the prominence with which their events are noted in the Charleston Post and Courier, and the press coverage given to Jewish issues in general in the media. It is with great pride that they contribute to the Jewish Studies Center, in hopes that the new building will enhance the Jewish Studies Program’s presence on campus and improve its ability to educate the community, Jews and non-Jews alike. 

Donald Bernstein was born on September 4, 1938 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he earned a B.B.A. in Accounting. After a short stint in the U.S. Army Reserve, Don entered the family’s textile converting business, the Herbert S. Bernstein Company, and ran the company until he sold it to Hanes Companies Inc. in 1976. Don worked within Hanes, serving as President of Hanes Converting Company and Executive Vice President to Hanes Companies Inc. until his retirement in 1993. 

Barbara Bernstein was born in Decatur, Indiana, the 4th generation of her family to grow up in the small farming community. Like Don, she attended the University of Illinois and it was there that the two met. After earning her B.S. degree in Education, Barbara and Don moved to the Chicago suburbs and Barbara soon began teaching 2nd grade. Concurrent to her teaching, Barbara earned her Master’s degree in Counseling from Northwestern University. 

Barbara and Don were married in 1962 and subsequently adopted three children from the Jewish Children’s Bureau of Chicago, twin sons, David and Daniel born in 1968, and a daughter Leslie born in 1973. 

Upon moving to Charlotte in 1978, Barbara began dedicating most of her time to volunteerism. Following a ten-year period of intense work with the Charlotte Jewish Federation, becoming their first woman President, she was selected to serve on a variety of non-profit boards, including Leadership Charlotte. In 2002, Barbara was recognized for her commitment to community service with the Charlotte Jewish Woman of Strength Award. She attributes this commitment to the values instilled by her parents and the impact of her Jewish Studies teacher Dawn Shuman, with whom she studied for three years. 

Since retiring, Don has also been an active volunteer in community organizations. In addition to the previously mentioned Jewish community causes, he serves on the board of Spoleto, USA and also the North Carolina Dance Theatre where he is Treasurer and a member of the Executive Committee. 

In 1996, Don and Barbara established the Bernstein Leadership Program, an 18 month program that seeks to prepare the next generation of leaders to confront the needs of our rapidly changing Jewish community. It is a project that has been met with tremendous success and one that the Bernsteins consider their proudest achievement. 

Both Don and Barbara derive great pleasure from providing help through volunteerism. With their consistent generosity and hard work, they hope to set an example that others want to follow.