The LJCC is pleased to announce the installation of Hilton Berger as president of its board of directors.
Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Hilton emigrated to Canada in 1989. He married his wife Robin before moving to Birmingham in 2001, where they became active in the Jewish community and where he works as an insurance broker.
Their three children, Mason and Adison (twins) and Kyra, all attended the N. E. Miles Jewish Day School and are now students at the University of Alabama.
Since his youth, Hilton has always been engaged with his Jewish community. His service ranges from sitting on the Jewish Board of Deputies in Pretoria, South Africa, where he championed the development of a Jewish Retirement Home in Pretoria, to treasurer and president of Birmingham’s N. E. Miles Jewish Day School and a board member of both the Birmingham Jewish Foundation and the Birmingham Jewish Federation.
We recently caught up with Hilton to ask him a few questions…
What brought you to Canada from South Africa, and then to Alabama?
I was given the opportunity to join a specialist insurance broker in Birmingham with whom I had worked for many years while living in Toronto. They are headquartered here in Birmingham.
You had an active upbringing in South Africa with lots of swimming, rugby, and weightlifting. In North America you ran a full marathon, numerous half marathons, and several sprint triathlons. So with all that experience, what’s your favorite activity today at The J?
Swimming and rowing… although since the pandemic my main form of exercise has been walking (preferably outside).
How does your Jewish identity in Birmingham compare to what it meant to be Jewish in Cape Town?
Both communities are small and everyone is committed to and engaged in helping and supporting their communities.
When and how did you learn the importance of community service?
In my youth I attended a Jewish Day School where I learned the importance of giving back to my community.
What do you anticipate will be The J’s greatest challenges as you begin your term as president?
I have never seen things as a challenge but rather as opportunities. As a relative newcomer to the community (I’ve lived here for only 20 years), nostalgia for the past seems to be an important theme that I hear spoken about and shared in stories. The reality is that while we can learn from the past, we should not live in it.
The opportunity is for the membership and the community to recognize that the future is what we want to make it. The only way is to be actively engaged — as a J member and as a community member — in activities and events that take place throughout the year.
What can our members do to show their support for The J?
To me The J is not just a building, preschool, gym, or pool. It is a community center — a gathering place to socialize and meet up with friends, go for walks around the track and hike the paths behind the building, work out and share in fun and sociable activities.
But most importantly it is a place where we all can gather and connect with our community.
Do you get back to South Africa to visit friends and family?
My sister and brother along with my mother’s two sisters still live in South Africa. My family and I have been to visit several times.
Cape Town has some nice beaches. Have you found anywhere comparable along the Gulf?
Although Cape Town Beaches are beautiful, none match the beautiful white sandy beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast.