Kenneth Berke, a local family man who was devoted to Jewish community, died Jan. 22, 2022. He was 97.
A friend got him involved with Milwaukee Jewish Federation about 70 years ago. From there, Berke became active in soliciting others to get involved, went on numerous missions to Israel, and served as campaign chair. He volunteered with the Annual Campaign until his passing.
“It was something in our household, that he made a point to let us know how important it was,” said daughter Terri Steiner. He took Steiner and her sister on their first trip to Israel around 1969.
He was the inaugural Benjamin E. Nickoll Young Leadership Award winner in 1960. The Federation’s Nickoll award program honors a young man who demonstrates exemplary leadership within the Jewish community. After winning, Berke worked on the program and the selection process annually.
“He was a wonderful mentor to many young men in the Jewish community. He was fully involved in the selection of the Benjamin E. Nickoll Young Leadership Award every year through 2022,” said Mark Brickman, a fellow community advocate. “For many of us, our involvement with the Federation and support of the State of Israel became a lifelong commitment, as it was for him.”
Lloyd Levin and other Nickoll award honorees say it was an honor to win the award, knowing that Berke had come before. “Ken was a role model in his career as a surveyor, on the Brynwood Greens and Golf committees, in Jewish communal activities and the Annual Campaign of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, and for a long time on the Nickoll award selection committee,” Levin said.
People liked Berke. He joined his father’s business as a civil engineer and businessman. One person, who arrived at his burial, said he was a great employer. “We were very touched by that,” Steiner said. Berke’s father was also a staunch supporter of Israel.
Golf and the friends he made from golf were important for him. He served as president of the Wisconsin State Golf Association, was on the Greater Milwaukee Open board of directors and the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame selection committee. The site Wisconsin.Golf remembered him as an accomplished player and tournament volunteer.
He also was devoted to keeping up with current events.
“I think that as his children, we always felt like we could count on him,” Steiner said. “If we needed something he’d be there for us.”
Loving husband of Elaine Berke. Dear father of Terri (Eric) Steiner, Laurie (Dean) Segal, and Nancy (Frederick Wasser) Berke. Adoring grandfather of Alex Steiner, Abigail (Robert Peek) Steiner, Rebecca Segal, and Adam Segal. Treasured great-grandfather of Ilan and Dalia Steiner Peek. Further survived by other relatives and friends.
The family held a private burial with a memorial service on Jan. 25, 2022, at Spring Hill Cemetery, 166 S. Hawley Court, Milwaukee. Memorials to the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, WGA Evan’s Scholar Foundation, or Hunger Task Force.