BERMAN, JULIUS (1935– ), U.S. lawyer, rabbi, and communal leader. Berman was born in Dukst, Lithuania. Despite the German occupation the family managed to immigrate to the United States in April 1940 and settled in Hartford, Connecticut. After earning a B.A. at Yeshiva University (1956), Berman attended Yeshiva's Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (in the daytime) and nyu Law School (at night). In 1959 he received his rabbinic ordination from the seminary and in 1960 he graduated first in his class from law school, having been named a member of the law review and the legal honor society.
Choosing to pursue a legal career rather than practicing as a rabbi, Berman joined the New York firm of Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler (now Kaye Scholer LLP) in August 1959, where in the course of a career spanning more than 40 years he was an accomplished litigator in state and federal courts, a renowned negotiator, and a highly respected counselor for numerous clients throughout the United States, particularly those with Orthodox affiliations.
Berman was a pioneer among Sabbath-observing Jews in the New York legal world, particularly the larger law firms. By working Sundays and carrying a workload even greater than many of his colleagues, Berman was able to demonstrate that Sabbath observance did not hinder success; and his diligence and skill were rewarded in July 1969 when he was made a partner in the firm. Indeed, it was through his efforts (and those of a small number of others) that hiring observant Jews became a matter of routine in New York and other major cities. Unlike the Kaye, Scholer of the early 1960s, today many of the firm's attorneys wear kippot in the office and, due largely to Berman's efforts over the years, the firm today boasts a daily minhah/ma'ariv minyan and a weekly advanced Talmud lecture.
Berman's service to the American Jewish community began with an Orthodox focus. He was a founder and president of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (colpa), which provided legal representation with respect to issues of interest to the Orthodox community; and the founding president of Camps Mogen Avraham, Heller, Sternberg, Inc., which operated four camps serving some 3,000 Orthodox campers. Berman was active in the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (the Orthodox Union) from the outset of his career and ultimately was elected its president.
Berman was heavily involved in representing Orthodoxy in the broader Jewish community, in such organizations as the multidenominational Synagogue Council of America and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council. While serving as Orthodox Union president, he became the first Orthodox lay leader to become chairman of the *Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which propelled him into a prominent role on the national and international Jewish scene. Other national positions included the chair of the American Zionist Youth Foundation, chair of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and board member of the Joint Distribution Committee. He was also a member of Yeshiva University's Board of Trustees and Executive Committee and chairman of the Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary's Board.
Among the significant attachments in Berman's life was his close relationship with Rabbi Joseph *Soloveitchik, who had been his teacher at the seminary during his rabbinic studies. Over time, Berman became the "Rav's" lawyer, literary agent, and personal confidante. When Soloveitchik decided to publish many of his lectures and manuscripts, he entrusted the pertinent materials (including a large number of audio tapes of lectures) to Berman for safekeeping.
In the early 21st century Berman became chairman of the *Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, serving a rapidly aging survivor population. His role forced him to balance the needs of survivors, diminishing in numbers but in greater need of assistance, with the Claims Conference's commitment to use some of the funds for Holocaust education, scholarship, and remembrance. This placed him in an unenviable and certainly not an uncontroversial position.
[Michael Malina (2nd ed.)]