|Penny with her parents, Benjamin and Lt. Col Carol Berman, at her mother’s promotion ceremony on Sept. 15 at Beth Israel, Metairie|
While Penny Berman’s Bat Mitzvah project is entitled Pennies for Penny, she has a far greater goal than pennies — she hopes to raise $18,000 to help military families with the new Fisher House in New Orleans.
Berman grew up “in and with the soul of New Orleans, but with the heart of a military brat.” Her great-grandfather served in the U.S. Army during World War II, while her paternal grandfather, Jack Berman, was a Holocaust survivor. “I believe it was no coincidence my father married my mother, who was serving in the military when they met.”
Her mother, Carol Berman, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve with 25 years of service, at a Sept. 15 ceremony at Beth Israel in Metairie.
While having a mother in the service means she has been able to see a lot of America, there are sacrifices. “When I was only four years old, my mother was deployed to Afghanistan. My father had to play both the roles of mommy and daddy for nearly two years after she was medically evacuated out of theater and placed in the Wounded Warrior program.”
While she says her family was lucky, “there are many families who need an opportunity to find “normal” after bad things happen,” and Fisher House is part of that.
Fisher Houses are places where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving medical treatment. Since the program began in 1990, over 80 houses have been constructed around the country, serving almost 370,000 families.
The Fisher House Foundation was founded by Jewish real estate developer and philanthropist Zachary Fisher, who died in 1999.
The planned house for New Orleans is the first one in Louisiana. It will be sited at the entrance to the VA Hospital on South Galvez Street.
Naturally, Berman chose her fundraising goal using the Hebrew term for life, for the “life, luck and faith I have experienced.”
Her Bat Mitzvah will be on Feb. 8 at Gates of Prayer in Metairie.
Contributions may be sent to Friends of the Fisher House of Southern Louisiana, P.O. Box 4231, New Orleans, LA 70118, indicating Pennies for Penny NOLA on the memo line, or online, mentioning Pennies for Penny NOLA on the “comments” line.