She is a serial entrepreneur, heads an industrial real estate development firm, spent a decade as a commercial banker, has completed more than 30 Olympic-distance triathlons, and has won wide acclaim for her TED Talk.
In 2019, Wendy Berger is taking on yet another role, as Chair of the Jewish United Fund Annual Campaign, one of the largest such fundraising efforts in the nation.
The Campaign, which last year raised nearly $89 million, fuels a wide-ranging network of agencies and programs that feed, clothe, house, counsel, care for and educate more than 500,000 Chicagoans of all faiths, and millions of Jews in Israel and around the world.
For Berger, heading JUF’s 2019 Annual Campaign is a mission of compassion that emerged following the sudden deaths of both her husband and brother.
“It took me a long time to regain my strength and begin to repair my broken world,” she said. “As I did, the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, of repairing the world around me, took on a very personal meaning.
“I’ve thought a lot about living a joyful life, one filled with meaning and purpose,” Berger said. “And guiding the Annual Campaign is an extremely meaningful way to do that.
“JUF touches the lives of so many people in so many ways, and I want to carry that message not just to our existing donors, but to the next generation of activists and philanthropists. The best way to do that is through innovative thinking about how we reach them. And by listening, listening, listening.”
“Wendy Berger is a remarkable leader,” JUF President Steven B. Nasatir said, “a woman whose enviable achievements in the professional world are surpassed only by the incredible strength she has demonstrated in the wake of personal tragedy. As Campaign Chair, she is once again committing her unique talents to strengthening our community.”
Berger has held leadership positions with JUF and its affiliated agencies for more than two decades, and has served on the JUF Board for more than 15 years, often as an officer. She was a member of the Hillel Governing Commission and the United Jewish Communities National Young Leadership Cabinet, helped develop the first classes of the Jewish Leaders Institute, and graduated the Wexner Heritage Program.
She was in the 2011 class of Leadership Greater Chicago, and has been a volunteer for a wide range of Chicago organizations, including the Chicago Public Library Foundation, TimeLine Theater, The Marwen Foundation, Chicago Run and the JUF Uptown Café.
Berger earned her MBA in Finance and Real Estate from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business, and a B.S., cum laude, in Finance and Marketing from Syracuse University.
Three years ago, when Berger walked into her first JUF Board meeting after the death of her husband, she says she felt “embraced by the community. It was like coming home to a place where meaning and purpose come to life every day.
“The people there helped me rise up in my time of need,” she said. “And I proudly and thankfully embrace my responsibility to do the same for all who are in need throughout our community.”