Cincinnati Associates Tribute Dinner

From right: Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., HUC-JIR President; Lisa Messinger; Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, Ph.D., Dean, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati; Joan Pines, Chair, Central Region Board of Overseers; Andrew R. Berger, Chair, HUC-JIR Board of Governors and Tribute Dinner Honoree; Linda Berger; HUC-JIR Governor John and Jen Stein, Tribute Dinner Co-Chairs; and Rabbi Kenneth Kanter, Associate Dean and Director, Rabbinical Program, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati

Civic and Jewish communal leaders of the Cincinnati community gathered to honor Andrew R. Berger, the new Chair of the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), at the 31st Annual Cincinnati Associates Tribute Dinner, held on October 26, 2014.  This special event, “Celebrating Harmony and Rhythm,” raised $530,000 in support of HUC-JIR’s rabbinical and graduate students. Berger is the first Cincinnatian to head HUC-JIR’s Board in thirty years.

Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D.

Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, HUC-JIR President, greeted the guests, stating “HUC-JIR in Cincinnati is a part of an exciting, four campus, seminary system, a thriving institution that started here, and now reaches every corner of North America, Israel, Europe, South America, Australia and Asia, providing inspired leadership to build strong communities everywhere our alumni go.”  He likened Berger to the biblical patriarch Abraham, explaining “You have that kind of fortitude and courage: you can play the melody of Jewish leadership, you are unafraid of challenge and hard work, unafraid to do what needs to be done for the good of the community, to form a bright future, even when it is not simple or easy. You have that rare and unique ability to bring others along with you, always with your characteristic grace and respect for others, to make room beside your melody for the most exquisite harmony and to create a symphony of concerted effort. You will leave a significant imprint on our institution that will be enduring and positive and will take us to a better place.”

From left: Andrew R. Berger, Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, and John and Jen Stein

John Stein, who co-chaired the dinner with his wife Jen, paid tribute to Berger, saying, “Many here tonight have been privileged to benefit from your leadership, counsel, and most all your friendship.  Your curiosity, thirst for knowledge, and meaning have lead you to Jewish study, and Jewish life.   You have brought together the broad spectrum of our community to help create a long term vision of what our community can become.  As the new Chair of our Board of Governors, I am sure you will help lead this institution to a bright future.”

Andrew R. Berger

Andrew Berger replied, “At HUC-JIR, not only do we change the lives of our students, through their studies with our world-class faculty, in our library and archives, educating them, ordaining rabbis among the Jewish People, and graduating scholars of all faiths.  But on top of that, our students’ life work, itself, is to change lives:  To educate and inspire young minds;  To bring people closer to God;  To comfort the sick, and tend to the widow and the orphan;  To celebrate with us and mourn with us.  Through them we indirectly change the life of every person they touch. The non-Jewish students of our Graduate School go into academic institutions, seminaries, and other organizations supporting their own faiths after years of study in our pre-eminent Jewish-sponsored institution.  At a time when anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are on the rise, they are ambassadors to the non-Jewish world, able to share from their first- hand experiences how our similarities and common values are so much greater than our differences.  This helps to build the critical bridges we all need to one another, to be able to solve common problems, to be able to rely on one another in times of crisis.” 

Since joining the Board of Governors in 2008, Berger has served on the Executive, Finance, Governance, and Presidential Search Committees and chaired the Audit Committee, the Strategic Planning Task Force, and The New Way Forward Task Force. As Chair, he leads HUC-JIR in its mission to provide academic and professional training programs for the Reform Movement’s rabbis, cantors, leaders in Jewish education, and nonprofit management professionals, and for scholars of all faiths who attend the School of Graduate Studies.

Shir Chadash

Berger is a prominent attorney in the Cincinnati law firm of Katz Teller. He joined the firm in 1980, became a partner in 1984, and serves as a member of the firm’s Board of Directors. He is listed in Woodward/White’s The Best Lawyers in America and is recognized as an Ohio Super Lawyer by Law & Politics Media, Inc.

A dynamic leader in the Cincinnati Jewish community, Berger is the immediate past President of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and past President of Isaac M. Wise Temple. In addition to other key roles, he led the Jewish community’s Cincinnati 2020 Strategic Planning Initiative and chaired Wise Temple’s Strategic Planning Committee. He plays guitar and sings with Shir Chadash, the rock band that participates in monthly Shabbat services at Wise Temple, which expresses Andy’s love for music in general and Jewish music in particular. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the Hillel Jewish Student Center in Cincinnati.

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Andy graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Nebraska in 1975 with a B.A. in Economics and earned his J.D., cum laude, from Cornell University School of Law in 1978. He and his wife Linda are the parents of Laura, Daniel, Timothy, Julia, and Hannah.