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Biography

Joseph Berger was a reporter, editor and columnist with The New York Times from 1984 to 2015 and continues writing periodically for The Times as well as teaching urban affairs at the City University of New York. In 2011, he won the Peter Kihss Award given for a career’s work by the Society’s of Silurians, New York City’s leading association of journalists. He was a religion correspondent from 1985 to 1987, covering the Pope's trip to 10 American cities in nine days, and national education correspondent from 1987 to 1990, a period when American school curricula were under attack as too European-focused. From 1990 until 1993, he covered New York City's schools and colleges, when there were bitter controversies over condom distribution and AIDS instruction. He was the recipient of the 1993 Education Writers Association award for exposing abuses in bilingual education. In September 1999, he was appointed deputy education editor where, among other stories, he directed coverage of the firing of one chancellor and the search for another, the dramatic changes in bilingual education and a series on the first-year of a new teacher. He wrote a biweekly national column for the Times' education page as well as columns for the regional editions. An immigrant himself, he spent three years as a kind of roving correspondent to New York neighborhoods, writing feature articles about the ethnic and cultural richness of the city that became the core of two books, "The World in a City" and "The Pious Ones." Most recently, he chronicled the building of a new Tappan Zee Bridge, the first major bridge built in the New York area in half a century, in an occasional Times series.
Prior to joining the Times, Mr. Berger worked as Newsday's religion writer, where he three times won the Supple Award given by the Religion Newswriters Association, its highest honor. Mr. Berger also worked at The New York Post, covering such assignments as the 1973 Middle East War and Watergate. From 1967 to 1971, he was an English teacher at a Bronx junior high school.

Berger is the author of “Displaced Persons: Growing Up American After the Holocaust," which was published by Scribner in April 2001 and is a memoir about his family's experience as refugees in New York in the 1950s and 1960s. The book was chosen as a notable book of the year by The New York Times, which called it ”an extraordinary memoir” and was praised by Elie Wiesel as a “powerful and sweetly melancholic memoir, brilliantly written.” There have been excellent reviews as well in the Boston Globe, Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. Berger’s first book was ``The Young Scientists,'' a study of the country's top science high schools and their students, published by Addison Wesley in 1993.

Berger was born in Russia in 1945, spent the postwar years in D.P. camps in Germany and, after immigrating here, grew up in Manhattan and the Bronx. He is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, City College and the Bronx High School of Science. He lives in Westchester County with his wife, Brenda, a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst. Their daughter, Annie, a graduate of Northwestern University, is an associate editor for young adult books at HarperCollins.