Hyman Berkman (c.1888-1952) and Sarah Helman (1884-1960) grew up near one another in Vilna, Lithuania. They married in 1903 and moved to London, to live with family. After their children Jack and Celia were born, Hyman Berkman immigrated to New York to work in a butcher shop. Once he saved enough money, sometime before 1912, the family joined him. They settled in Cadiz, Ohio, and had two more children, Louis and Allen.
Hyman Berkman started out as a horse dealer and “junk man” in Ohio before becoming a scrap dealer. He later founded the Louis Berkman Company of Steubenville, Ohio, with his son Louis. By the time of his death, Hyman Berkman was the president of the Steel Trading Corporation, which operated Fort Pitt Malleable Iron in McKees Rocks, Pa.
Jack Berkman (1905-1995) graduated from the University of Michigan and Harvard Law School before starting a law practice in Steubenville in 1929. He spent much of his career as a lawyer and executive in the communications industry. Through the Valley Broadcasting Company, he helped create the Steubenville radio station WSTV-AM in 1940 and later the local NBC television affiliate WTOV. In 1963, he merged his operations with the Rust Craft Greeting Card Company to create the Rust Craft Broadcasting Company. He moved to New York about 1965 and joined the Associated Communications Corporation, which began in radio before expanding into wireless technologies. Jack and his first wife, Sybil “Billie” Altman Berkman, had three sons, Myles, Stephen and Monroe. After Billie Berkman died, Jack married Lillian Duban.
Celia Berkman (1906-1990) married Albert Monheim. They had three children, Stanford, Gary and Suzanne. The family lived in Pittsburgh before moving to California.
Louis Berkman (1909-2013) skipped high school and college and went directly into business. Throughout his long career, he had interests in steel, communications and finance, including positions at the Louis Berkman Company and the Ampco-Pittsburgh Corporation. Louis and Sandra “Sunny” Weiss Berkman had two children, Marshall and Donna.
Allen Berkman (1912-2003) attended primary school in Ohio and earned a degree from the University of Michigan. He graduated from Harvard Law School before moving to Pittsburgh, where he started a private law practice in the downtown Frick Building in 1937. Berkman later joined the lawyer David Glick to start the law firm of Glick, Berkman & Engel. Berkman was involved in labor law, representing corporations in negotiations with unions. In 1964, after Glick died, Berkman became a founding member of the law firm of Berkman, Ruslander, Pohl, Lieber & Engel. From 1989 until a month before his death, Berkman worked at the law firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. For many years, he had a regular poker game with Irving Gruber, Louis Blum and Alexander Speyer.
Allen Berkman met Selma Wiener (1916-1995) on a blind date in August 1936, while he was in Dallas, Texas, for the Texas Centennial. They married in March 1938 and settled in Pittsburgh. They lived on Abermarle Street in Squirrel Hill from 1943 until 1970, when they moved to a house on Devonshire Street that had been built in 1929 for William Larimer Jones Jr. From 1985 until their deaths, they lived at 5000 Fifth Avenue, near Rodef Shalom. They had five children, Barbara, Susan, Richard, Helen and James.
Barbara Berkman graduated from Winchester-Thurston School and Vassar College. In 1964, she married Alan Ackerman, who practiced law with his father-in-law for almost 30 years. Barbara and Alan Ackerman have been members of the Rauh Jewish Archives Advisory Committee since its founding.
Susan Berkman married David Rahm. Susan Rahm graduated from Wellesley College and worked in the Redevelopment Land Agency in Washington, D.C., which inspired her to study the relatively young field of urban design and later earn a law degree. “I started to realize that it was the architects and lawyers who were making things happen in urban renewal,” she said in 1987, “and I didn’t draw very well.” As a partner in a New York law firm, she handled negotiations for Trump Tower and the World Financial Center, among other things.
Richard Berkman attended Harvard University and Harvard Law School. He worked for the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Ralph Nader’s Center for the Study of Responsive Law in the 1970s before joining Dechert, a law firm in Philadelphia, Pa.
Helen Berkman married John Habbert. She attended the University of Michigan, Stanford University and the Sorbonne and ran the Quest Research Corporation in Cincinnati, Ohio.
James Berkman attended Harvard Law School and worked for a Philadelphia law firm before becoming head of the Hawken School and later the Boston University Academy. He married McKey Winston.
Allen and Selman Berkman were active in many civic, cultural and religious organizations during their lives, including the Allegheny County Bar Association, the Carnegie Museum, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Pittsburgh Symphony Society, the Rehabilitation Institute of Pittsburgh, the Visiting Nurses Association, the Vocational Rehabilitation Center of Allegheny County and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, as well as others.
The Berkmans brought the American Jewish Committee to Pittsburgh, helped found the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and established the Solomon B. Freehof Chair at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. They were members of Rodef Shalom Congregation, where Allen Berkman was the congregation’s president and Selma Berkman was president of the Sisterhood. They provided a major gift in 1989 to establish the Western Pennsylvania Jewish Archives, now known as the Rauh Jewish Archives. After his wife’s death, Allen Berkman endowed the Selma Wiener Berkman Memorial Chair for violin at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.