Jerome Seymour Berman whom everyone called Jerry was a person who loved people, his community and his wife. Berman died on June 2. He was 97.
Part of what is called “the greatest generation” Berman was born May 15, 1923 in West New York, New Jersey. His family lived on the Upper West Side in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. He played football at George Washington High School and that gridiron grit got him to the University of Michigan’s practice squad in 1941 when the Wolverines were a national power in the 1940s alongside Army and Notre Dame.
While in Ann Arbor and studying engineering, Berman met Carol Berman. “We were on the same lines together to sign up for classes when the semester started,” Carol said, adding there were to many similarities to ignore from their last names to being New Yorkers, having siblings born on the same date, Nov. 2, and their fathers both being in insurance.
“He was friendly pleasant and smart, and in my eyes he was mister tall dark and handsome. He had a way with people,” Carol said. The duo it off and became inseparable. They celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary this year.
World War II began for the United States in 1941, and two years later Berman was drafted and served stateside in the 733rd Army Air Force from Oct. 14, 1943 to March 13, 1946. He was awarded the American Service Medal and a WWII Victory medal. The couple married on May 19, 1944.
He returned to the University of Michigan and completed his degree in engineering on the GI Bill in 1948. The couple then settled in Lynbrook that year. For the first two years he was an employee of Revlon, then joined his father, Samuel Berman, in the insurance business. Jerry was a general agent for Security Mutual Life Insurance Company of NY in Manhattan and was what is called an enrolled actuary, a person who was approved to perform actuarial services. “He was very good in math,” son Charles said.
Moving to Lawrence in 1956, Jerry was active with his synagogue Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence from being the Men’s Club president to chairman of the shul’s board. “He was chairman of the board when they raised money to build an addition to the synagogue and have an exclusive caterer,” Charles said, adding it was around 1970. “There is plaque inside the lobby with all the names. He was the last one alive.” Jerry also loved playing golf at the Lawrence Club, Charles said.
Involved in the Five Towns Democratic Club “at its height,” according to Charles, Jerry was president in 1966, and his son has a photo in his office — Charles is the Receiver of Taxes for the Town of North Hempstead — with his dad, State Assemblyman Eli Wager, Eugene Nickerson, then the Nassau County Executive, Rep. Herbert Tenzer and Howard Samuels who ran for Congress, with the club’s banner in the background.
During the Vietnam War, Berman headed the Vietnam Selective Service Board No. 6 in Valley Stream. “I remember the phone would just ring nonstop with people asking questions on what they should do,” said Charles, adding the advice mostly revolved around deferments.
A huge advocate for St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, Jerry and Carol were two of the people that helped the hospital through difficult times in the 1970s. St. John’s (then a Division of Long Island Jewish Hospital) was bankrupt. Through the newly created Hospital Development Corporation $1 million was raised to save St. John’s. “My father was very, very proud of that,” Charles said. Margaret Carpenter, another longtime Lawrence resident, who worked with Jerry and others to save St. John’s said about Jerry: “He was simply wonderful.”
Jerry did much behind the scenes to help Carol, especially when she ran and won a seat in the state senate. She served from 1979 to 1984. Daughter Elizabeth Berman Berry remembers her father being very supportive of Carol. “She would go up to Albany and he would call her I’m all by myself eating rotisserie chicken,” Elizabeth said. “He didn’t have an ego he was thrilled for her. He was way ahead of his time supporting women. He was an early feminist.”
Along with Carol, Charles and Elizabeth, Berman is survived by Charles’ wife Lisa; Elizabeth’s husband David; grandchildren Sarah Berry Waxman and her husband Jacob, Jeremy Berman, Rebecca Berman engaged to Zachary Feller, and Benjamin Berman; and great grandchildren Ira Berry Waxman and Joni Berry Waxman.
Rabbi Kenneth Hain at Congregation Beth Sholom knew Jerry for more than 30 years. “He was one of the most beloved people in our community,” Hain said. “He fought for the possibility of greater health care facilities in our area. He was a lover of humanity and of the Jewish people. He was a wonderful partner to his remarkable wife, Carol.”
A service was held on June 7, and there was a virtual shiva two days later.