Love and Activism: The Legacy of Diane Bernstein

Diane Bernstein was a champion for our community and a compassionate leader and activist. We were sad to hear of her passing on April 30, 2021.

A long-time member of The Community Foundation family, both as a board member and major donor, Diane began her decades-long relationship with us in the early ‘90s when she was invited to serve on the board by then Chair R. Robert Linowes. A deeply committed advocate for children for over 50 years, she chaired our grants and program committee, and supported the development of many youth and children-focused initiatives, including The Community Foundation’s first major initiative, The Circle of Hope. This violence prevention initiative focused on community organizing and advocacy, and increasing resources for youth and adults in the Barry Farms, Congress Heights, Columbia Heights and the Northwest One neighborhoods in Washington, DC.

In recent years, Diane and her family foundation, the Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation, have generously supported the Partnership to End Homelessness, enhancing our efforts to bring deeply affordable and supportive housing to every ward of DC. Her support and advocacy have helped the most marginalized in our region, and allowed people experiencing homelessness to access critical services and safe, stable housing.

In addition to her six children and 12 grandchildren, Diane touched the lives of countless others:

“Diane took me under her wing 28 years ago when I was a new program officer at The Community Foundation. She became a mentor, close friend and was like a second mother to me. She taught me to trust my instincts and speak truth to power —how to use my voice on behalf of those whose voices are not being listened to,” said Silvana Straw, Senior Community Investment Officer and Philanthropic Advisor at the Greater Washington Community Foundation.

“She loved life. She was a nurturer and supported my work as a program officer and as an artist,” Silvana continues. “She was wise and brave. She was fun and funny as hell. I am blessed to have had her in my life.” 

Diane Bernstein will be missed by our community. Though she is no longer with us, her legacy will certainly continue—at The Community Foundation, and beyond.