Keith Berman at Camp Judaea’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 2011.
This week, Camp Judaea and Young Judaea lost somebody who lived his life according to the core values we all learned growing up in the movement and at CJ: K’lal Yisrael – the unity of the Jewish people, the centrality of Israel in Jewish life and to, as Keith put it, “live ideology.” Keith Berman passed away at 48 years too young on Sunday, November 2, 2014, 9th Cheshvan, 5775.
At the time of his death he was the Director of Aardvark, a gap year Israel program he created doing what he loved best, bringing young adults to Israel for an innovative, experiential experience, inspiring them to become passionate supporters Israel and to live purposeful involved lives. However his mission in life as a tireless advocate for Israel and Jewish education was honed during his decades of dedicated work with Young Judaea, whether it was working in Israel as director of Year Course or Hamagshamim or during the summers he spent at Camp Judaea working as the drama director or Rosh Machane during the late 1980s to early 1990s.
’s summers at Camp Judaea were spent tirelessly devising ways to create innovative programming to teach the core values of Young Judaea – Zionism, Israel, and K’lal Yisrael. One of Keith
’s specialties were theme days in which the campers were given an opportunity to experience life in the Israeli army, the journey of Ethiopian Jews in Operation Moses and other aspects of Israeli cultural and political life. For those of us who worked with him during that time and for many campers he is most remembered for his imaginative and hilarious skits during Friday night
oneg. They were legendary, and if you were selected by Keith
to join in, it was considered a badge of honor. His legacy at Camp Judaea is difficult to put into words-he stands as an inspiration and an example of bringing informal and experiential education to CJ – instilling in our campers a love of Israel and the Jewish People.
He returned to Camp Judaea for the 50th Anniversary Celebration in August, 2011. Keith loved being back at the place he called home. He was thrilled to hear about the new cabins and made the largest donation of his life to help CJ grow and continue with its mission. For some of us who were his friends, it was that last time we would ever see him.
In many ways Keith was a larger than life figure. He was the most ardent Zionist any of us ever knew. He never tired of discussing his latest creative idea or connecting with friends old and new. Starting from when he was a kid in college to the moment he died, his mission was to get as many young adults as possible to Israel, to be inspired by the country, to connect to their Jewish soul, and to have a life changing experience. The number of youth he inspired with a love of Israel is countless.
It is truly hard to believe such a person can be gone. Keith Berman‘s legacy and the way he “lived ideology” should inspire us all to live lives of purpose and meaning – to make a difference in our lives and friends and family, a difference in a young Jewish person’s life and a difference for the State of Israel.