This week’s newsletter article is most difficult to write, as we mourn the loss of two giants whose hard work, commitment and dedication had a profound impact on Orthodox Jewish life in Providence and, more specifically, on the Providence Hebrew Day School.
On Sunday, we remembered the life of Mr. Malcolm Bromberg, a”h, and on Wednesday, the life of Mr. Thomas W. Pearlman, a”h. A unique quality that they shared was that they wanted nothing in return for their support. Both possessed great humility and shied away from any type of honor. Pirkei Avos teaches us that “Kol harodef min hakavod, hakavod rodef acharav – Anyone who flees honor, the honor pursues him.” This verse is an accurate description of these two special individuals who passed away this week.
The Midrash in Eichah Rabah relates the story of how Rachel Imeinu saved Bnai Yisroel at a time when Hashem’s face was hidden from them because of their serious misdeeds. Each of the avos attempted to earn merit for Bnai Yisroel by recounting to Hashem his great acts of personal and communal sacrifice. It was not until Rachel appeared before Hashem and mentioned that she had saved her sister from embarrassment that Hashem’s anger was appeased and the terrible decree against our ancestors was annulled. One may question how the actions of Rachel were more meritorious than those of our other forefathers. I heard an answer that is most appropriate to share when discussing the lives of these great community leaders.
Rachel and her future husband, Yaakov, had established secret signs to ensure that Rachel’s sly father, Lavan, would not succeed in switching Rachel for her sister, Leah, at the wedding. Recognizing the potential shame to her sister, Rachel shared these signs with Leah, assuming that she was forfeiting her role as a future mother of the Jewish people. This selfless act ensured the births of the twelve tribes and the continuity of Bnai Yisroel. Each of the tribes had unique qualities that were necessary for the spiritual future of our people. Similarly, both Mr. Bromberg and Mr. Pearlman sought out what was in the best interest of their community rather than what benefited them.
At this year’s Amudim Dinner, the school will be dedicating the Lifetime Achievement Tribute to the memory of Mr. Thomas W. and Mrs. Miriam Pearlman, a”h, and in honor of the Pearlman family. In particular, we will be honoring the legacy of Mr. and Mrs. Pearlman and all that they did for the school and community. On a personal level, although my relationship with the Pearlman family only began when I arrived in Providence eleven years ago, I witnessed the selfless devotion of Mr. Pearlman through his major contributions of time, effort and resources. I recall joining with Mr. Pearlman when I first arrived to make many phone calls and personal visits to raise funds for the school. Mr. Pearlman’s vision and drive to build Torah simply knew no bounds; even when he gave so generously, he desired to do even more. Many times, Mr. Pearlman told me that just as Torah giants like Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, worked against all odds to establish Torah on the shores of America, he would do the same in the city of Providence.
In school this week, we commemorated Yom Hashoah. To Mr. Pearlman, every day was Yom Hashoah. He understood that the best antidote to the horrors of the Holocaust and the acts of tyrants such as Stalin and Hitler, yemach shemam, was to establish day schools, yeshivos and kollelim in Providence and across the world. At a time when families were seeking the “American dream” and there was nominal support for Jewish education, Mr. Pearlman faced many naysayers, yet he never deviated from his goal. He joined Torah Umesorah in a campaign to get a few hundred thousand children to say Shema every day. Mr. Pearlman believed that the only way to ensure Jewish survival was through a strong Jewish education. Through his efforts, Providence Hebrew Day School has developed into a world-class day school that welcomes all families and continues to feature excellence in all curricular areas. More importantly, the school emphasizes the development of middos tovos, good citizenship and respect.
Mr. Pearlman paved the way for us through his actions and support. May we merit to continue to actualize his vision. Yehi zichro baruch, may his memory be a blessing for all of us.
I look forward to sharing only good news in the future.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman