Rabbi Aaron Bergman
Rabbi Aaron Bergman

Rabbi Aaron Bergman is the past president of the Michigan Board of Rabbis and represented local rabbis throughout the state in various interfaith initiatives.

Thirty years after being ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), Rabbi Aaron Bergman of Adat Shalom Synagogue was presented with an honorary doctorate from JTS.  

“It was something I’ve actually been hoping for from the day I was ordained in 1991,” Bergman said. “It’s something JTS gives if you’ve served as a rabbi for at least 25 years or so. There were actually other rabbis getting their honorary doctorate when I was being ordained.” 

JTS is a Conservative Jewish education organization based in New York City. It is one of the academic and spiritual centers of Conservative Judaism and a major center for academic scholarship in Jewish studies.

JTS educates intellectual and spiritual leaders for Conservative Judaism, training rabbis, cantors, scholars, educators, communal professionals and lay activists.

Bergman was supposed to receive the honor last year, but his family couldn’t make it. The ceremony this year took place over Zoom, where members of Bergman’s family and congregation were able to watch.

“I didn’t know how I was going to feel because I’ve never had anything like this before, but my family told me they were proud of me and the reaction from congregants was
really nice as well,” Bergman said. “It meant a lot. I’ve been very lucky to be a rabbi in the same community and in the community I grew up in for 30 years.”

After being ordained at JTS, Bergman pursued additional graduate work in Jewish folklore at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Bergman is the past president of the Michigan Board of Rabbis and represented local rabbis throughout the state in various interfaith initiatives. 

In the past, Bergman traveled to Israel with other North American rabbis from Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Modern Orthodox denominations to discuss Israeli-diaspora relations with Israeli politicians, including former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Receiving the honor after three decades, Bergman reflects on why he got into the field in the first place.

“My goal was really to help our people, and I was figuring if I could help the next generation and the generation after that, I would feel good,” Bergman said. “I’ve had an interesting career and it’s still going, which is nice. 

“I think sometimes there’s the fear of getting an award like this and it means, ‘OK, thanks for coming,’ but I’m very lucky. The fact I was able to get this honor while I’m still at a good place in my career was very powerful for me.” 

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