Apart from his long and most successful rabbinate at Congregation Anshei Israel, Breger was instrumental in founding many Jewish educational and communal organizations in Tucson and the Southwest. Among those many institutions was the Judaic Studies Program at The University of Arizona.
Before coming to Tucson, Rabbi Breger distinguished himself as a learned and progressive rabbi. He served the Jewish community on the Island of Rhodes as rabbi and Av Bet-Din. He was also the Professor of Talmud at the Island’s renowned rabbinical seminary, The Collegio Rabbinico, which served Jewish communities in the Balkans, Ereẓ Israel, Egypt, and Ethiopia from 1928-1938. Despite its relatively short history, this seminary became one of the premiere rabbinical seminaries serving Sephardic communities across the region.
After the closure of the seminary amidst an outbreak of anti-Semitism on Rhodes in 1938, Breger, his wife Dr. Bertha Breger and his daughter Liba were able to secure passage to the United States, eventually settling in Tucson, Arizona. During WWII Breger served in the US Army, where his leadership skills naturally emerged, allowing him to rise through the ranks from Private to Major and become the highest ranking Jewish chaplain in the Pacific theater. After the war he returned to Tucson, where once again his robust scholarship and inspired leadership enabled him to become the Southwest’s leading rabbi, its morah d’atra. Apart from his long and most successful rabbinate at Congregation Anshei Israel, Breger was instrumental in founding many Jewish educational and communal organizations in Tucson and the Southwest. Among those many institutions was the Judaic Studies Program at The University of Arizona. Beginning with a handful of students in one Hebrew course and a single Judaica course, the Judaic Studies Program grew through the years, becoming The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies in 2000. The Center now has nearly two-dozen affiliated faculty, teaches hundreds of students each semester, serves dozens of Judaic Studies Majors and Minors, presents dozens of academic and public lectures each year, and has an outreach program that engages nearly three-thousand people each year. In 2011 the Center entered its next phase, as it inaugurated a Masters Program in Judaic Studies.
Rabbi Breger was both a congregational rabbi and a serious scholar. He graduated from the Conservative seminary in Breslau and directly published his dissertation as Zur Handelsgeschichte der Juden in Polen während des 17. Jahrhunderts. Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Judenschaft Posens (1932). His lasting commitment to the University and its Judaic Studies program is evident in the bequest of his personal library to The University of Arizona Library. It is now the cornerstone of the University’s rabbinics collection.
The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies is pleased and proud to present The Rabbi Dr. Marcus Breger Memorial Lectureship Series in honor of this this great man. His memory continues to be a blessing to all.