06 January 2023
On January 4th, our community lost a true giant: beloved friend, community leader, and Federation past president, Paul Berger, z”l. I was grateful and fortunate to call Paul my friend and advisor, and I will miss him dearly.
Paul had a truly outsized impact on our Jewish community, in Greater Washington, in Israel, and around the world, and he leaves an indelible legacy.
Locally, several Jewish communal organizations thrived under Paul’s passionate leadership — including The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, where he held several roles. He led our organization not only as Federation President, but as President of Federation’s United Jewish Endowment Fund (now the Jewish Community Foundation), Chair of Planning & Allocations, and, until his passing, as our Pro Bono Counsel. I know that many of his fellow leaders will fondly remember the meetings — in person and on Zoom — where Paul shared his wisdom.
Paul also leaves an enduring impact on the legal world. His storied career included roles as Senior Partner at Arnold & Porter, Kay, Scholer in Washington, DC, Special Counsel at the Embassy of Israel, and as a member of the Board of Trustees at the Law Center of NYU’s School of Law.
Beyond the boardroom, Paul offered guidance and counsel as a confidante, colleague, teacher, friend, and advisor to many across our community.
With his kindness, generosity, and quiet humility, Paul saw our community through its highest and lowest points, always ensuring we learned from our experiences and centered on what was most important: caring for those in need and strengthening the Jewish community. He advocated for what he believed in, yet never hesitated to learn and adapt. Paul was always open to new questions and new ways of thinking, particularly during challenging times. His approach to leadership and continued dedication to Jewish learning will serve as a model for generations to come.
Many credit Paul with guiding Greater Washington’s remarkable response to many global efforts, including Operation Exodus, which enabled Israel to rescue thousands of Ethiopian Jews in a highly secretive and virtually overnight airlift. Paul was an avid Jewish learner, an ardent Zionist, and a pioneering influence in the field of Jewish education, including as Founding President of Federation partner Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School.
When asked recently to reflect on his dedication to the Jewish community, Paul noted, “It’s been a wonderful continuing experience. I’ve always tried to do something in which I thought I had an interest, and…could make a difference.” We are and will always be profoundly grateful for the many ways in which Paul made that difference.
I and all of us at Federation extend our deepest condolences to Paul’s family, friends, and many admirers.
May his memory be for a blessing.
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