Covenant and Legacy: The Story of the Avi Chai Foundation, 1984-2019


This is the story of the charitable legacy of Zalman Bernstein, who created a unique Jewish foundation that for 35 years advanced Jewish education, culture, and continuity in the United States, Israel, and the former Soviet Union.

When the billionaire financier Sanford C. Bernstein experienced a religious awakening in his mid-50s, he went on not only to live a more dedicated Jewish life (and change his name to Zalman Chaim Bernstein), but to create a foundation, named Avi Chai, that would promote Jewish learning, culture, solidarity, and continuity around the world. After he died in 1999, the foundation grew exponentially when it received some of the proceeds of his charitable estate. From then on, Avi Chai vastly expanded and deepened the philanthropy he had begun, profoundly influencing the way young Jews are educated and nurtured in the United States and how Jewish culture, observance, and learning are promoted worldwide. Following Bernstein’s wishes, the foundation carefully and deliberately gave away all of its resources over the 20 years following his death and ended its extraordinary adventure in philanthropy in 2019.