A profound commitment to the future of the Jewish people and an abiding concern for excellence in lay and professional leadership permeated the philanthropic ideals and actions of Jack Pearlstone. His service to the Jewish community of Baltimore was characterized by vision, innovation, and energy. During his tenure as president of the Jewish Community Center, Camp Milldale was established. As president of The ASSOCIATED, he initiated a long-range financial planning process that became the prototype for the federation world. He also pioneered the concept of Young Leadership missions to Israel.
Above all, Jack Pearlstone was dedicated to the development of Jewish identity, community building, and the assurance that the richness of Judaism was transmitted to the next generation.
Jack’s sudden death in 1982 was a great loss to all. His son Richard Pearlstone and his family felt a compelling need not only to honor his accomplishments, but to continue them as well in a manner that would be “a living memorial.” After a period of discussion, the concept of a Retreat Center was proposed. However, a feasibility study at the time, determined there weren’t sufficient resources to build a facility. Instead, the concept of a “retreat center without walls” was conceived.
On May 11 1987, at the annual meeting of The ASSOCIATED, Jack’s very good friend Bernard Manekin announced the creation of “The Jack Pearlstone Institute for Living Judaism” as a “mind-boggling” resource for the Jewish community. It’s goal was to develop programs and create experiences that would introduce Jews of all ages to their heritage and traditions. Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg served as the speaker for the inaugural event which was held in June, 1988. Carol Press Pristoop was hired as the Director in November 1988. The Institute was launched!
Since its inception, the Jack Pearlstone Institute for Living Judaism has been committed to the concept of Jewish continuity. As such, it embodies the recognition that Judaism is a system of belief and behavior that continues to relevant and worthy of transmittal to succeeding generations. Experience and research indicate that there are three fundamental components which, when combined, increase the likelihood that one will develop a positive lifelong Jewish affiliation. These are:
- 1. Jewish knowledge acquired through formal study and synagogue worship;
- 2. Jewish identity and culture that is taught and reinforced through parental modeling and home reinforcement; and
- 3. Emotional engagement and opportunities provided through informal Jewish experience such as Jewish camping, retreats, and Israel trips.
The Pearlstone Institute has provided program activity in all three of these fundamental identity-building areas. The objectives of the Institute are to engage people actively in experiencing their Jewish identity, to further Jewish knowledge, and to promote a spirit of unity in the Baltimore Jewish community. To this end, the Pearlstone Institute has funded, promoted, designed, and/or implemented programs that renew and revitalize Judaism in a direct-service, hands-on manner. These programs include: teen trips to Israel, teen leadership and volunteer service programs, college student outreach, Jewish camping, and a variety of retreats. The Pearlstone Scholar-in-Residence and Kallah programs, the Pearlstone Learning Series, and various co-sponsored conferences have brought outstanding Jewish thinkers, academicians and theologians to Baltimore to lecture and to teach. Many of these programs have been designed to take place in small group settings in order to maximize interaction between participants and faculty.