Mandell (Bill) Berman – 1917 to 2016 ז״ל

December 21, 2016 | John Hardwick

We are deeply saddened to share the news of the loss of Mandell (Bill) Berman, devoted husband of Madeleine (Madge) since 1950, and father of Ann Berman Feld (Dan) and Dr. Jonathan Berman (Nicky).

Bill Berman will be remembered as one of the true pillars of the Detroit Jewish community, as well as a major philanthropist and advocate on behalf of the Jewish people worldwide.

Born in 1917 and raised in Detroit, he graduated with honors from Harvard College and Harvard Business School. He had a long, distinguished career in the Detroit area as a home builder and real estate developer, serving as President of Bert L. Smokler & Company from 1946 -1975. It was as a pre-eminent Jewish leader and philanthropist, however, that Bill created his extraordinary legacy.

Bill’s philanthropic activities were widely varied, but his focus was often on Jewish education, community-building and leadership. Together with his wife Madge, he founded the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Foundation, supporting Jewish education and research and the study of the contemporary American Jewish community. In 1989, the Bermans also created the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Award for Outstanding Professional Service, which remains the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s highest honor for professionals. In 2012, he founded the Berman Center for the Performing Arts, a premier showcase of world-class entertainment at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield. He made a significant impact on a number of Federation’s partner agencies, including the University of Michigan Hillel and Tamarack Camps. He was a lifetime Honorary President of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, where he was a deeply devoted member and supporter for his entire life.

Bill was also a visionary champion for the preservation and dissemination of Jewish data, and he funded research, evaluation and informed policy making through the Jewish Federations of North America, the North American Jewish Data Bank, the Berman Jewish Policy Archive, the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA), and the University of Michigan.

In addition to numerous affiliations, Bill was Past President of the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF) (1987-1990), Past President of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, First Chairman of the Skillman Foundation, Past Chair, Investment Committee, UJC and JDC, Chair of UIA (United Israel Appeal) and the Board of the Jewish Agency and the Board of World Zionist Education Authority, Former Board Member of the Michigan Humane Society, Detroit Zoological Society, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Michigan Opera Theatre, Honorary Board Member of JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee). He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“Words cannot possibly convey the impact that Bill Berman had on our Jewish community, or the untold thousands of lives he touched through his generosity, vision and passion for the Jewish people,” notes Lawrence A. Wolfe, President of the Jewish Federation. “Whenever he spoke, he conveyed how proud he was of our Detroit community. We, in turn, will never forget how proud we are of him. His profound legacy will continue to inspire Jewish people throughout the world for many generations to come.”

Funeral Information will be shared as soon as it becomes available.


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