Berkeley school board president Judy Appel, wife in critical condition after traffic collision

Updated 01/06/19: This article has been updated to reflect information about online support networks started by community members. 

Berkeley Unified School District board President Judy Appel and her wife Alison Bernstein are in critical condition after being hit by a car just after midnight Friday, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

The two pedestrians were crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Way when they were struck by a northbound vehicle, said Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Byron White in an email. Although White did not provide the identities of the two pedestrians, their identities were confirmed to be Appel and Bernstein in a statement from BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans.

Both Appel and Bernstein sustained critical injuries and were transported to a local hospital. The driver, an 81-year-old Berkeley resident, remained at the scene and is cooperating with authorities in the ongoing investigation, according to White. There were no arrests, and BPD has not yet determined the cause of the collision, Berkeleyside reported.

Appel and Bernstein are prominent Berkeley residents. Appel is a longtime BUSD board member and began her latest term as BUSD board president in December. Bernstein is an attorney with the state public defender’s office and was a member of the Berkeley Police Review Commission for several years.

“We are deeply distressed to receive a report that Berkeley School Board President Judy Appel and her wife Alison Bernstein were seriously injured this morning,” Evans said in a statement. “We will be offering whatever support and assistance we can to the Appel-Bernstein family and invite the community to join with us in hopes and prayers for their recovery.”

Several community members, including Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Councilmember Lori Droste, tweeted about the collision, sending their thoughts and prayers to the couple and asking for community support.

“This is terrible news. Judy and (Alison) are friends and valued community leaders,” Arreguín said in his tweet. “They have always fought courageously in the face of adversity. Please pray for them and for their recovery.”

Two online support networks have also been created by community members to support the medical costs of Appel and Bernstein as well as other needs they may have during their recovery. Berkeley resident Solange Gould started a Lotsa Helping Hands community Saturday to organize volunteers to make meals for Appel and Bernstein’s children and walk their dog, among other needs.

Jessica Behrens created a GoFundMe Sunday to help cover the couple’s medical costs. While Behrens is a current Tempe, Arizona resident, her family met Appel and Bernstein when they lived in Napa Valley and Walnut Creek.

Behrens said she and her brother have known Appel and Bernstein for about 10 years and that as soon as Behrens heard about the accident, she wanted to offer her support. Behrens added that she hopes this fundraiser will show the couple the extent to which they are valued in the community.

“We wanted to take some of the stress of their shoulders — the last thing they should be worrying about is medical costs,” Behrens said. “Judy and Alison are two of the strongest women I know, and we just wanted to help any way we could.”

Check back for updates. 

Amanda Bradford is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @amandabrad_uc.