Julius Bernstein

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Julius Bernstein...

Julius ("Julie") Bernstein was born in 1919 in New York City to Solomon ("Sam") and Rose Kimmel Bernstein. His father was born in a small town near Odessa in Russia, and his mother in Halicz in the Austro-Hungarian Empire- both came to the United States in their teens.


The family moved to Boston, where Julius attended Boston Latin School, Roxbury Memorial High School, and during another brief stay in New York, graduated from James Monroe High School. in the Bronx. He later attended the Boston University School of Journalism for one year.


Julius Bernstein served for more than twenty-five years[1]as a field representative of the Jewish Labor Committee based in Boston, but with responsibility for all of New England. A tireless advocate of civil rights, he served on the Massachusetts Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Human Rights and was appointed as a labor representative to the Boston Housing Authority (which he later served as Chairman) in 1968. An active member of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and the Socialist Party USA, Bernstein was also a member or officer of the Workmen's Circle, the American Veterans Committee, the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union and many community-based organizations.


Bernstein was drafted by the U.S. Army in December 1941 and was honorably discharged in 1945. He had married Bess Belle Luff in 1940, and the couple had two sons, Stanley, born in 1941, and Eugene Debs, born in 1943.


Bernstein went to work, in 1948, at the Boston office of the Jewish Labor Committee as an assistant to the JLC's field representative for Boston, Rose Parker. When Parker moved to Detroit Bernstein succeeded her.

The JLC, whose mission was to act as a bridge[2]between the labor movement and the organized Jewish community, had a national office in New York and field offices in major fifties across the country. Field office work was coordinated by JLC National Secretary Emanuel Muravchik and one of his chief assistants, Betty Kaye Taylor. Another JLC staffer who became a close friend and eventually relocated to Boston, where he did civil rights work, was Jacob Schlitt.

Always a self-starter and something of a maverick within the JLC, he soon became a key player in a long list of state and local organizations, on a host of related issues, from housing and education to police-community relations, immigrant rights and the campaign for Soviet Jewry.

His School Street office became a hub of community and radical activism, especially in the strife-torn years of intense civil rights and anti-war struggle in the city.

Bernstein became a court-appointed community mediator during the period of Louise Day Hicks's anti-school-busing campaign. Along the way Bernstein built strong connections to the varied ethnic, religious, labor, neighborhood and political constituencies of the city, while maintaining his personal ties to secular and progressive Jewish groups such as the Workmen's Circle and to the democratic socialist movement.

Civil Rights era

Beginning in the mid-1960s, Bernstein served as a member of the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee of the US Commission on Civil Rights (also known as the Massachusetts Commission on Human Rights). The Advisory Committee was then chaired by Father (later Congressman) Robert Drinan- its work included path-breaking studies of segregation in housing, employment and public schools; investigations of civil rights violations; and involvement in the defense of Native American rights.

An early supporter of "fair housing" measures, Bernstein was appointed in 1968 by Mayor Kevin White to a five-year term as a "labor representative" to the Boston Housing Authority. He went on to become Chairman of the Authority.

Organizational ties

Among the many organizations of which he was supporter, a member or an officer were Mothers for Welfare Rights, the A Philip Randolph Institute, the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the Mattapan-Dorchester Jewish Committee, the Citizens Housing and Planning Association, the Civil Rights Committee of the Massachusetts State Labor Council, and the Ernie Pyle Chapter of the American Veterans Committee.

Bernstein also amassed files on right-wing extremists and their organizations, in particular the Massachusetts-based John Birch Committee.

Socialist Party

In January 2001, Bill Shakalis wrote a letter to the Boston Democratic Socialists of America journal, Yankee Radical;[3]

"I am doing some research on the history of the Socialist Party of Massachusetts, and ask your help. • Where can I read over past editions of the Yankee Radical, 1962- present? • Where are the archived files, if any, of the SP of Mass.—from 1950s-1960s, and prior to these decades (1900-1960)?

Papers of such SP members as Julius Bernstein, Jospeh B. Greenfield, Frank Manning, Mary Donovan, and Alfred Baker Lewis, andothers, would be welcome as well.

Many thanks. Bill Shakalis 74 Dana St., Cambridge MA"

Hosting socialists

Guests of the Bernsteins' home in Jamaica Plain included… Bayard Rustin, James Farmer, Joe Glazer, Don Slaiman, Michael Harrington and…Hugh Gaitskell."

Harrington and Rustin, along with garment-union leaders Sol Chaiken and Jacob Sheinkman served as chairmen of a testimonial dinner honoring Bernstein in 1974.

Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee

Some 150 delegates and 100 observers met at Houston's Airport Holiday Inn, February 16-19, 1979, for the fourth national convention of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC).

DSOC's leadership[4]at the 1979 convention included-Michael Harrington, chairman, Julius Bernstein vice chairman, Victor Reuther vice chairman, Jack Clark national secretary.

the national board consisted of-Julian Bond, Harry Boyte, Bogdan Denitch, Harry Fleischman, Irving Howe, Alex Spinrad, Gloria Steinem, Harry Walsh, Nat Weinberg, Richard Wilson