Rabbi Howard A. Berman is Founding Rabbi of Central Reform Temple. He is also Rabbi Emeritus of Chicago Sinai Congregation, Chicago’s historic center of liberal Reform Judaism, having served as Senior Rabbi since 1982.
He was born in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, where he received his early religious and general education. After attaining his undergraduate degree in European History from the Universities of Cincinnati and London, England, he studied for the Rabbinate at the Leo Baeck College in London, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, where he received the degree of Master of Hebrew Letters and was ordained in 1974. He has also pursued graduate studies in American Religious History at the University of Chicago Divinity School and the Chicago Theological Seminary, and studied Architectural History at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. In 1999 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
As a student, Rabbi Berman served Reform Congregations in London and Brussels, as well as in Baltimore; Petoskey, Michigan; and Rapid City, South Dakota. He also served as a Youth Group Advisor for the World Union of Progressive Judaism in Amsterdam, and as Assistant Dean of Admissions for the Hebrew Union College. After his ordination, Rabbi Berman was appointed Assistant Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, New York City, where he served for five years. While in New York, he founded “The Levites,” an interfaith clergy fellowship of assistant rabbis, priests and ministers. From 1979-1981, he was Associate Rabbi of Temple Beth Israel, West Hartford, Connecticut.
Rabbi Berman has been active in various religious and civic organizations both locally and nationally. In 1986, he was appointed by the late Mayor Harold Washington to the Chicago Peace Conversion Commission, charged with drafting and enforcing the city’s Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance. From 1989-1996, he served on the faculty of the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, and has also served on the Social Action Committee of the Chicago Board of Rabbis; the AIDS Pastoral Committee of the Council of Religious Leaders in Chicago; and the Leadership Council of the Howard Brown Memorial AIDS Clinic. From 1992-1996, Rabbi Berman represented the Chicago Jewish community on the Metropolitan Task Force of the Council for the World Parliament of Religions, and served on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood of Chicago from 1994-1996. In addition, he has been an annual contributor to the World Book Encyclopedia Year Book as editor of its articles on Judaism.
With his decision to move to Boston in 1997, he became Rabbi Emeritus of Chicago Sinai Congregation. Currently, he is active in a variety of civic and interfaith organizations in Boston. He was the Founding Co-Chair of the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in 1997, and has regularly officiated at the annual Gay Pride Service at the New England Holocaust Memorial. As part of the partnership between BJS and Emmanuel Church, Rabbi Berman serves as “Rabbi in Residence” of the parish, preaching monthly at its Sunday worship. Rabbi Berman also serves as Executive Director of the Society for Classical Reform Judaism, a national organization dedicated to promoting the historic liberal principles and distinctive worship traditions of the American Reform Movement. He lectures at congregations throughout the country on behalf of the SCRJ, and teaches regularly at Hebrew Union College, the major seminary of Reform Judaism, at its campuses in Cincinnati and Jerusalem.
Rabbi Berman’s avocational interests include the study of American history, architectural history and the collecting of contemporary art and rare books. He is an active patron and collector of the Cape Cod Impressionist art tradition. He lives in downtown Boston with his husband Steven. They were among the very first couples married in Massachusetts following the victory of marriage equality in 2004. They are the proud parents of their adored Shih Tzu “twins,” Melvin and Theodore.