In need of a Berger

Eric Berger was hired in October as a staff writer for the Jewish Light. 

Ellen Futterman, Editor

In need of a Berger

Perhaps you noticed a new byline in the Jewish Light. Allow me to introduce you all to staff writer Eric Berger, a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

A native St. Louisan, Eric started his journalism career in Boonville, Mo., a town of fewer than 10,000 people about 40 minutes west of Columbia. He is fairly certain that he was the only Jew in town (those of you who can prove him wrong, bring it on!). He spent one year at the Boonville Daily News as a reporter and then became news and online editor.

He then participated in a six-month internship in Israel at the Jerusalem Post, where he edited opinion pieces and helped manage the website. Next, he moved to Philadelphia to work as a staff writer at the Jewish Exponent, the second oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper in the United States.

Over three years, he interviewed author Nathan Englander, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and actress Susie Essman, who starred on Eric’s favorite comedy, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” He also wrote about the challenges Holocaust survivors face as they age; a deaf Jewish congregation that has been shrinking in numbers; and covered local and state elections, interviewing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolfe and his predecessor, Tom Corbett.

He won Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association Professional Keystone Press and Philadelphia Press Association awards for his story about local Jews who were in Israel during the 2014 Gaza war and a feature about a 13-year-old boy taking classes remotely using a robot while undergoing cancer treatment.

He moved back to St. Louis and joined the St. Louis Jewish Light as a staff writer in October. In addition to writing stories, he manages the newspaper’s social media and shoots videos.

Around the same time he started working at the Light, he started teaching journalism classes at his alma mater, Ladue Horton Watkins High School, and serving as advisor to the school’s newspaper, Panorama.

Eric has written for the Philadelphia Daily News, Tablet magazine and the St. Louis Beacon.

If you Google “Eric Berger journalist” you will find a science writer at the Houston Chronicle. This is not St. Louis Eric Berger, who has made it his life goal to overtake Houston Eric Berger and become the top hit on search engines. 

Welcome to the Light, Eric!

A perfect match

Congratulations to Chabad of Greater St. Louis and Torah Prep Boys and Girls School, both of which exceeded their fundraising goals in 24 hours using, a popular nonprofit crowd-funding website.

Both groups went beyond their original fundraising goal by $40,000. Chabad raised a total of $160,000 while Torah Prep got to more than $240,000. 

What’s so cool about is that it maximizes funding so that every dollar pledged is quadrupled. Three of the non-profit’s donors agree to become “matchers” — each contributing $1 for every $1 pledged — so that a $125 donation, for instance, becomes $500. also operates on an all-or-nothing basis so that if the campaign doesn’t reach its goal within 24 hours, no donation is processed. The fact that the goal has to be reached within a finite amount of time gives the campaign more urgency.

“The all-or-nothing aspect motivates the donor and frankly motivates the nonprofit,” explains Rabbi Yosef Landa of Chabad, whose campaign took place Dec. 14. “We used every which way possible to get the word out about the campaign, using email, texts, Facebook, and the old-fashioned phone call to communicate our goal.

“The response was gratifying. The money itself is all earmarked for the completion of our new Lazaroff Chabad Center. We were barely 10 hours into the campaign when we reached our $120,000 goal. Thankfully, a fourth matcher stepped in and agreed to match one-for-one, which helped us to reach $160,000.”

Rabbi Tzvi Freedman, executive director of Torah Prep, praised the school’s alumni as well as current parents and the local Jewish community for their overwhelming support. He said Torah Prep’s Dec. 17 campaign on was part of a national day of school giving in which 10, mostly Orthodox day schools, participated.

“I really think the all-or-nothing element encourages people to give,” he says. “There’ s a feeling of togetherness. That I’m doing this with a group and we want to make it happen.”


Stopping traffic

The National Council of Jewish Women–St. Louis Section is involved in a poster campaign at Lambert Airport designed to heighten awareness of human trafficking as well as publicize resources for its victims. Posters are located in Terminal 1 near Concourse A security and Terminal 2 in baggage claim. 

According to NCJW, sex trafficking today exploits about 1.2 million children a year.  “It’s child abuse. Human trafficking is a lucrative business, generating $9.5 billion a year in the United States and $32 billion worldwide,” says Marlene Hammerman, a member of NCJW’s Human Trafficking Task Force. She went on to say that, “The United Nations says 27 million people in the world live in slavery.”

St. Louis is among the top 20 jurisdictions where both labor and sex trafficking are most prevalent, according to the Department of Justice. For more information about trafficking and the work that NCJW is doing to combat trafficking, contact Heather Silverman at [email protected] or call 314-993-5181.

Resale facelift

If you need a shopping fix but don’t want to spend a lot, there are few better places to satisfy your jones than the ScholarShop. Some of my best finds have been at the resale shops’ two locations, in Webster Groves and Richmond Heights, across from the Galleria.

But alas shoppers, the good news and bad: the Richmond Heights location closed Saturday for remodeling. According to management, the renovation comes in response to customers and donors wanting a better shopping experience, with an airier, less cluttered design.

One improvement calls for a central try-on space divided into single rooms concealed by a curtain, similar to what exists at the Webster location. Plans also include a larger workspace area so donors can be waited on more efficiently. However, no additional parking will be added.

“Unfortunately, we have no place to grow our parking lot,” says Karin McElwain-West, who is overseeing the renovation.

The remodeling is expected to take until the early part of next year (probably late January or February). However, during that time, the ScholarShop in Webster Groves, at 7930 Big Bend Blvd., will remain open. Merchandise donations will continue to be accepted at both the Richmond Heights, at 8211 Clayton Rd., and Webster Groves locations. 

Net proceeds from ScholarShop sales support interest-free loans and grants for postsecondary students with financial need. For more information, contact McElwain-West at 314-725-7990 or [email protected]