Berger, Elmer

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BERGER, ELMER (1908–1996), U.S. Reform rabbi and anti-Zionist propagandist. Berger was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1932. He had begun his career serving two congregations in Michigan as rabbi when, in 1942, he wrote a widely circulated essay Why I Am A Non-Zionist, in which he challenged the Zionist claim "to represent something called 'the Jewish people.'" As a result of his manifesto, which set forth the case for a universal and prophetic Judaism, he became executive director in 1943 of the American Council for Judaism, the leading U.S. Jewish organization opposed to the creation and existence of the State of Israel. As executive vice president of the acj from 1956, the pro-Arab Berger lobbied vigorously in the national media against Israel. After the Six-Day War in 1967, Berger fell afoul of the acj leadership and left to form a splinter group, American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism, which remained marginal. He summarized his life's crusades in his autobiographical Memoirs of an Anti-Zionist Jew, published in Beirut in 1978. His other books include The Jewish Dilemma (1945); Judaism or Jewish Nationalism (1957); A Partisan History of Judaism (1951); United States Politics and Arab Oil (1974); and Who Knows Better Must Say So (1956). Upon his death, Berger was eulogized as a hero in Arab scholarly publications.


K.M. Olitzky, L.J. Sussman, M.H. Stern, Reform Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1993).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]