Educating and Advocating for Israel with Jay Bernstein


As the chair of Ner Tamid Green-spring Valley Synagogue’s Israel committee, the last few months since Oct. 7 have been a very busy time for Jay Bernstein.

Jay Bernstein (Courtesy)

The Baltimore-based attorney, 66, has always been involved in pro-Israel activism, but the Israel-Hamas war has brought his work to the forefront.

“To me, it’s natural that any Jew in today’s world shows a connection to Israel,” Bernstein said. “Whether they’re a religious person or not, Israel is the home of the Jewish people.”

Bernstein currently lives with his wife in Baltimore. The couple have three adult children with families of their own.

Born and raised in the Woodmoor area of Baltimore as part of a traditional Orthodox family, Bernstein attended yeshiva at The Talmudical Academy of Baltimore in Pikesville. He continued his Jewish education at Yeshiva University in New York City, which appealed to him because of its mix of Jewish and secular education.

“I wanted to go somewhere where I could continue my Jewish education, but that would allow for a path in the secular professional world,” he explained.

He continued his education further at Towson University’s Baltimore Hebrew Institute, eventually earning his law degree at the NYU School of Law. After graduating, Bernstein lived in Memphis, Tennessee, for several years, where he met and later married his wife.

They later moved back to Baltimore, where they have lived and worked ever since.
Much of Bernstein’s legal work is focused on handling government contract-related issues. He has represented the Maryland government in several cases.

People who have been involved in Baltimore’s Jewish community for a long time might recognize Bernstein for his tenure as the co-founder and co-host of Shalom USA, a weekly Jewish-focused talk radio program that used to air on the 1370 AM radio station every Sunday. Bernstein founded Shalom USA with his colleague Larry Cohen in 1999, and the show ran for 15 years and accumulated 750 episodes. A Baltimore Jewish Times article reflecting on the radio show’s 2014 conclusion noted that Bernstein and Cohen interviewed several big names in the international Jewish community, including author and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel.

Much of Shalom USA’s coverage focused on Israel. In 2005, they covered the country’s withdrawal from Gaza.

Bernstein has been active in many local Israel-related organizations for many years. He has been frequently involved in Baltimore Zionist District, formerly serving as its vice president.

“The idea is for us all to be [in Israel], but if we can’t be there for whatever reason, we need to support it,” he said of his views on the country.

Bernstein started his work as the chair of Ner Tamid’s Israel committee three years ago, starting a quarterly periodical focusing on the connection between modern Israel and Jewish holidays. He noted that one issue focused on the parallels between the heroism of the Maccabees and the heroism of people in Israel following the events of Oct. 7. Currently, he has written and published 12 issues, and he hopes to keep working on this periodical.

This is far from his first time writing for a publication, though — Bernstein has published several op-eds in The Times of Israel and in the JT. Most recently, he detailed a trip he took to Israel.

Advocating for Israel in the wake of Oct. 7 has kept Bernstein very busy. He coordinated the Rally for Israel held at Penn Station on Oct. 29, which drew a crowd of approximately 500-1,000 people. He also organized a vigil for the hostages taken by Hamas, which was held on Nov. 9. Most recently, he has become involved in the Run for Their Lives movement, which sees people from all over the country embarking on a weekly 1-kilometer walk until the hostages are freed.

“I want to see more people participating [in pro-Israel events],” Bernstein said. “We have 100,000 Jews in Baltimore, and only a small number have shown up. We want more people to come.” He added that he hopes for peace in Israel “so there’s no need for me or anyone else to do this kind of activism anymore.”

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