Meet Jewish Person of the Week Cantor David Berger
Originally from Buffalo Grove, meet Cantor David Berger. Currently the cantor at KAM Isaiah Israel in Hyde Park, David went to High school at Adlai Stevenson and college at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. After completing the Jewish Theological Seminary in NY, David trained in cantorial school at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. In addition to his certificate in Jewish education from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he is now working on a Ph.D. at the Chicago Theological Seminary.
Where did you grow up?
Buffalo Grove, IL
What did you do Jewish growing up?
So much! My family was super involved in our synagogue, Beth AM. We went to services, had our own Sukkah, my sister and I both went to OSRUI and were both presidents of the synagogue youth group – in many ways Jewish life was the center of our family and community.
Where did you go to school?
High school at Stevenson High School, BA at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, then an MA at the Jewish Theological Seminary in NY, after that cantorial school at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Later I did a certificate in Jewish education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I am now working on a Ph.D. at the Chicago Theological Seminary.
What do you do for work?
I am the cantor at KAM Isaiah Israel in Hyde Park.
What do you do Jewish now?
I mean… sort of everything.
What is your favorite way to spend shabbat?
I am super into cooking. I love making really elaborate Shabbat meals and sharing them with family and friends. When I am not leading a service at the synagogue, you will always find me fussing over something delicious.
Top three things on your Chicago bucket list?
Bike the Drive with my son – he loves riding bikes together! A chef’s table dinner at ANY Stephanie Izzard restaurant (the chickpea salad at The Little Goat is one the best plates in the city). Sing anything from the stage of the Symphony Center!
What is your favorite Jewish Chicago event?
No big surprise here – I am really into music so I love any Jewish Chicago event where people come together to SING!
What do you do for fun/to relax?
I love to explore nature with my kids. There are so many amazing parks and nature preserves around town and we keep on discovering more. I also really love to get serious in my kitchen and cook big delicious meals – the more ingredients and steps, the happier I am. Something about the magic of turning raw ingredients into a perfectly composed dish just makes me happier.
What’s your go-to self-care?
Ice cream never hurts. Beautiful music is a must. And some zoned-out Netflix time sure can help.
How has that changed during COVID?
Our house is full all the time with two kids, two adults mostly working from home, and a babysitter. Keeping our two year old entertained while keeping our 2nd grader focused on remote school is a trick to be sure. Add to that recording synagogue services from my bedroom and you’ve got a good picture of our chaos. But we have made it through and the kids are thriving so I guess we did ok! Being unable to share meals with the people we love was terrible and we are just so grateful now to be able to (at least partially) get back to community as we know and love it.
How do you stay motivated during the Pandemic?
Who has time to think about motivation? Just keep moving and doing!
Favorite takeout spot during the Pandemic?
We do family movie night with takeout dinner every Sunday, alternating between four or five favorite places. One place we’ve really enjoyed is Tuco and Blondie – fantastic Mexican food and very vegetarian friendly!
Best virtual resource for people working from home?
I live and die on my Dropbox. I cannot imagine my life without it.
What was the best song from your Bar / Bat Mitzvah days?
Unfortunately the year of my Bar Mitzvah was the same year as Whoomp! (There It Is) came out. Now just try and get that out of your head. You’re welcome.
What is the best piece of wisdom you’ve received from your (or any) Jewish Mother?
Always clean up all the dishes from a dinner party before you go to bed.
If you could get a meal with any famous Jewish person (living or not), who would it be and why?
Just two words: Barbra Streisand and because duh.
When the Tribe Gathers… there is music to be made 🎶
Learn more about Cantor David Berger