November 19, 2018

Remembering Anit Berger, 29

The Los Angeles Jewish community was rocked by the tragic death of actress/producer/activist Anit Berger, who died Oct. 18, a day after she was struck in a hit-and-run accident. She was 29.

The Israeli-born actress was remembered at a service on Oct. 21 at the Pico Shul, where friends, family and collaborators recalled a woman who lived not only for herself, but, as Rabbi Yonah Bookstein put it, had “a serial impact on everyone” who came into contact with her. As more than one person noted, Berger put the idea of Tikkun Olam into action every day of her life.

Israeli audiences knew Berger through her role in the hit TV series “The ’80s,” but Bookstein said those who met her — even once — came away impressed not only by her beauty and charisma, but by the “enormous joy” she brought to life, and her “passion to make everything happen.” 

Although she had struggled and raised herself since the age of 15, she was dedicated to helping the downtrodden. Pico Shul member and Berger’s friend Marcus J Freed said this was not just a pose, but something she put into practice. In his case, it was Berger showing up in the ICU every day after he suffered a traumatic brain injury after he, too, was struck by a car last year. 

Berger made such an indelible impression on people that Shlomo Alerga, a blogger for The Times of Israel, who met her only once at a post-Shabbat Kiddush at Pico Shul, wrote that “within those few minutes I could tell there was something special about her.”  

A common thread among the speakers at the memorial was Berger’s indomitable and infectious enthusiasm.  She was, her friend Aaron Kemp said, a combination of “a peacock, an alley cat and a holy unicorn who let nothing stand in her way.” She was “a brilliant teacher about life,” who “just had a light about her.”

“Anit was a combination of a peacock, an alley cat and a holy unicorn who let nothing stand in her way.” — Aaron Kemp

Her mother-in-law, Robin Blumenthal, remembered Berger as an amazing soul, and that if people wanted to really honor her life, they should follow her example and “be a giver, a humanitarian, to take each moment and life it to the fullest.” A newlywed, she and her husband Bret Blumenthal lived on a boat, waiting to see where the waters would take them.

Along with her husband, Pico Shul’s Rabbi Bookstein has started a GoFundMe campaign (gofundme.com/funeral-and-family-of-anit-berger) to help Berger’s mother, who is in ill health in Israel, and working two jobs to support herself. 

Berger’s husband left a message on his wife’s Facebook page; “You touched more lives than I could have ever imagined. You brought Happiness and light to every corner of darkness. You didn’t walk into the room, You were the room. Your passion for life and each and every one of G-d’s Creations, especially your love of the Jewish community was unrivaled. You were the first to action when somebody needed help, you were the first to give when somebody was in need. Your dream was to give, give give; to your family, to your community, to those that were poor and suffering. It’s heartbreaking and Heartwarming at the same time to see just how much you were loved and how many lives you touched. … It was both an honor and a privilege to be your husband. I love you, very, very much. And I miss you. we ALL miss you. This place will not be the same without your insatiable love of live and adventure. … We all know that if Anit had a last will and testament she would say: ‘Please take care of my mom!’ If she knew her family is ok, she can rest in peace.”