|Deidre Berger in Tagesspiegel Newspaper|
February 1, 2013
The petite, delicately-framed woman knows them all – the influential and the
important: Deidre Berger has been the head of the American Jewish Committee’s
Berlin office for 15 years. A portrait.
In moments like these, Deidre Berger beams even more than usual: when members of the
German parliament, journalists and scientists acknowledge her arguments, when Angela
Merkel quotes from an American Jewish Committee brochure during a speech. She then has
the feeling that the many phone calls, debates and roundtable discussions, the salon
conversations, background reports and research have made a difference. A few more people
have come to understand why the political situation in the Middle East is so complex, why
Jews are hurt when they are collectively condemned for the policies of the Israeli
government, and why it is worth fighting for democracy.
Deidre Berger is the director of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, a US
lobbying organization established more than a hundred years ago. This Friday the AJC is
celebrating the 15th anniversary of its Berlin office. To mark the occasion, Deidre Berger
invited 300 prominent guests to the Hotel Adlon, the welcoming speech was made by
Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (FDP).
The petite, delicately-framed woman knows them all –the influential and the important, and
all they know her. She is well informed and networked, diplomatically skilled and charming
to boot. And who can resist her energy for making things happen?
Deidre Berger grew up in Missouri. She is the eldest daughter in her family and studied at a
women’s university, an experience that boosts self-confidence and the courage to have an
independent opinion. In the 1970s she actively campaigned for more democratic rights, for
diversity, for freedom of expression. "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask
what you can do for your country," said John F. Kennedy. Deidre Berger lives according to
this motto. After graduation, she worked as a journalist and in 1984 she came to Germany
as a correspondent.
She experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall first hand and all the twists and turns of
Germany’s process of reconciliation with its difficult past. "People have become much more
sensitive about this," she says. Which is why she was especially surprised at how bitter the
debate on circumcision became, how much hate surfaced along with ancient prejudices
against the Jewish community. She collected information in order to be able to clarify and
explain the issue, she did research and made arguments. Anti-Semitism, she says, has
always existed, sometimes more, sometimes less. But when Diedre Berger says this, it does
not sound the least bit resigned.Date: 2/1/2013