Leonard “Eliezer” Bergstein was born in Poland in 1928. After spending his childhood years in Russia and then surviving the atrocities of the Holocaust as a teenager, young Leonard stood up, brushed himself off and went on to quench his undying thirst for greater knowledge. Blessed with an incredibly sharp and encyclopedic mind, his academic studies took him to Germany, Canada, and the United States.
Leonard Bergstein’s PhD dissertation at Columbia University gave birth to the original “Zoom Lens” which revolutionized photography and film recordings. After completing his work at Columbia, Professor Bergstein embarked on a fruitful academic career, including stints at the City College of New York (where he later returned as a Distinguished Visiting Professor), Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Technion and the Israel Institute of Technology.
Throughout the course of an exemplary career as a teacher, researcher and consultant, Dr. Bergstein continued to be an innovator and a trailblazer of global and historical impact, causing him to be counted among the post-World War II “founding fathers” of integration of numerous fields of science and technology. His expertise in optics, electronics and lasers had him sought after by American and Israeli high-tech companies in many sectors, including Bell Laboratories, Razdow Laboratories (the Apollo Project), Symbol Technologies (the barcode laser scanner company) and the Zoomar Corporation.
In the spirit of some of the greatest thinkers in Jewish history, even as Eliezer Bergstein was making his mark in the world of science, he was astoundingly pursuing and expanding his quest for Torah scholarship, which was likewise breathtaking in scope.
Leonard Bergstein passed away in 2008 at the age of 80. He is survived by his wife, Sarah, and their three children. His impact upon the world – like his legacy of teaching and giving – lives on.
On September 18, 2011, as Chabad of the Conejo opened the doors to its Center for Jewish Life in Agoura Hills, California, his son David Bergstein along with his wife Sara, formally dedicated the organization's renowned adult education program as the "Leonard Bergstein Jewish Academy" in loving tribute to the enduring legacy of David's illustrious father, who had always placed a premium on scholarship.
With its format and curricula emulated by Jewish outreach centers from coast to coast, the Leonard Bergstein Conejo Jewish Academy is one of the most innovative and premier adult education programs of its kind in the United States. Its catalogue of classes and workshops consist of a diverse range of subject matter – from the metaphysical to the practical; the historical to the philosophical. The Academy’s students tend to come from all segments of the community, arousing renewed interest in Jewish learning and a passion for deeper understanding. The Academy’s lecture series’ program features some of the greatest Jewish thinkers and speakers on the circuit today.