Pearl Berg (aged 3) with her parents Archiebald and Anna (Gerson) Synenberg in 1913; at right, Berg in recent years. (Photos/JTA-Gerontology Research Group, Gerry Teitelbaum-Judy Taback)
Pearl Berg (aged 3) with her parents Archiebald and Anna (Gerson) Synenberg in 1913; at right, Berg in recent years. (Photos/JTA-Gerontology Research Group, Gerry Teitelbaum-Judy Taback)

Pearl Berg, world’s oldest Jewish person and 9th-oldest overall, dies at 114

(JTA) — Pearl Berg, thought to be the oldest Jewish person in the world and the third oldest American, died Thursday in Los Angeles. She was 114.

A philanthropist active in her local Hadassah chapter, Berg was married for 58 years to Mark Berg, a businessman and investor. He died in 1989.

“She maybe had a sip of Sabbath wine but she didn’t drink, she didn’t smoke, she ate sensibly, she had good emotional balance and she clearly had remarkable genes,” Berg’s youngest son, Robert Berg, told the Los Angeles Times.

Berg was born Oct. 1, 1909, in Indiana and raised in Pittsburgh, where she was confirmed at Rodef Shalom Congregation and attended secretarial school. In a tribute written on her 114th birthday, Rabbi John Rosove of Temple Israel of Hollywood, where Berg was a member, remembered that her parents, Archiebald and Anna (née Gerson) Synenberg, were “itinerant photographers” who traveled widely looking for work, and her father later ran a used car business. When that enterprise failed, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Berg met her husband.

“Jewish life was always a priority in Pearl’s life,” wrote Rosove. “She and Mark joined Temple Israel of Hollywood in 1938 where they raised their sons Alan and Robert,” who survive her, as does a granddaughter, Belinda Berg. “She was an avid supporter of Hadassah,” serving for two years as served as president of the Nordea chapter in Los Angeles, “and a lifelong supporter of the State of Israel.”

After the death of her husband, Berg joined a book club, regularly attended concerts and plays, and became more involved with a bridge group, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which studies “supercentenarians” and confirms their ages. As a member of Temple Israel’s Sisterhood, she wrote “notes to bereaved families on behalf of the temple, which she continued to do until the age of 105,” according to the GRC.

At the time of her death, Berg was the ninth oldest living person in the world.

Another Jewish member of the supercentenarian study, Louise Levy, died last year in New York at 112. There are no other Jews among the verified 50 oldest people in the world. But a Jewish sculptor named Morrie Markoff recently entered the supercentenarian club, turning 110 in January.

Andrew Silow-Carroll

Andrew Silow-Carroll is Editor at Large of the New York Jewish Week and Managing Editor for Ideas for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.