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Detroit Legal News
By Christine L. Mobley
May 14, 2007
That’s a fitting word to describe attorney Richard Bernstein.
Blind since birth, he has never allowed his disability to be a deterrent. In fact, he counts it as a blessing that drives him to help others.
A lawyer for the past seven years, Bernstein practices law at his father’s law firm, the Law Offices of Samuel Bernstein in Farmington Hills. There he concentrates his practice on pro bono work, mainly for the advancement of the rights of the disabled.
On Sunday, May 20, at 7 p.m. the Jewish Community Relations Council will honor Richard Bernstein with its 2007 Activist of the Year Award at the Jewish Community Center, D. Dan and Betty Kahn Building on the Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus in West Bloomfield.
“One of the fundamental beliefs in Judaism is what we call ‘tikkun olam’ which means ‘to repair the world.’” Wendy Wagenheim, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council, noted. “Richard Bernstein exemplifies that belief in nearly everything he does in his communal, civic, professional and personal life.
“A major focus of the Jewish Community Relations Council is our involvement on social justice issues and building bridges with other communities to work toward that goal. It’s fitting that Richard’s passion for justice – whether he’s seeking justice for just one person or an entire community – be recognized by our organization.”
Bernstein says that he lives by an old adage that “to whom much is given, much is expected.”
“The greatest gift that I think a person can receive is a true gift of purpose and I think that I was born with a disability is what has given me a real sense of purpose and a real sense of passion,” Bernstein said. “I love being able to wake up each day and go to work and really try to fight for the things that I genuinely believe in and I have the opportunity through the law to actually do that.”
Not one for awards for awards sake, Bernstein will only accept the honor if it can help others and bring important issues to light.
“My priority is fighting for disabled people,” he said. “My number one focus centers around the disabled population and trying to help the special needs population receive the justice that they need in order to live their lives easier.
“My goal is to use the resources that I’ve been blessed with to try to enhance and allow for other people who are faced with challenges to try to live as easy a life as they can.”
Bernstein believes that this can be accomplished through others’ knowledge.
“My big thing is that I want to create a better understanding and awareness on disability rights and disability issues. If you make people aware then ultimately people will have a better and greater understanding of issues that affect the rights of the disabled.”
Besides his commitments to the cases he works on, Bernstein also has several other activities to which he devotes his time.
He serves as the vice chair on the Wayne State University Board of Governors and teaches as an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Bernstein also is the creator and host of CBS-Detroit’s “Making a Difference” where ordinary people and not-so-well-known organizations that “make a difference” are showcased.
Bernstein works with several organizations with the purpose of making advancements for those with disabilities.
Among those organizations is the Achilles Track Club, which is based in New York City and recently made its Michigan debut.
“I’m really passionate about this group,” Bernstein said. “What Achilles does is they recruit challenged athletes and train them to run marathons.”
Bernstein recently completed his sixth marathon.
“If you can run a marathon – you can do anything,” he says.
And through his dedication and perseverance, not only to the disabled community but to the community as a whole, he has proven that’s true.
“When I get to the end of my life my hope is that I’ve done something that has made life better for some other people.”
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