Fishel Pearlmutter (1934-1983), Papers.

  • Dates: 1976-1984
  • Size: .8 linear ft.
  • Number of Boxes: 2
  • Languages: English
  • Location: Special Collections Reading Room, Jewish Theological Seminary Library.
  • Restrictions: Reproduction of fragile items is not permitted; consult the archivist about literary rights.
  • Gift Of: Rabbi Arnold Bienstock, Temple B'nai Israel, Toledo, Ohio
  • Date: March, 1990

EW, 6/7/90; revised 5/30/91, SGS

Table of Contents:

A Note on Folder Headings

Individual folders are identified in the following way on the left side of each folder: Name of Collection, box #/folder#, as in Ben Zion Bokser Papers, 4/22. Please use this format in citations and when referring to files for any other reason.

Biographical Note

Fishel Alter Pearlmutter was born in Baltimore, Maryland on November 19, 1934. He received a BA from Yeshiva University in 1955, an MHL and rabbinic ordination from The Jewish Theological Seminary in 1960 and a PhD in Philosphical Foundations in Education from the University of Toledo in 1979. In 1960 he married Dr. Anne Frances Goldberg, a professor of biochemistry.

Rabbi Pearlmutter founded and headed the Conservative Congregation of New Orleans in 1960 and afterwards served as a chaplain in the United States Navy, 1962-1965. From 1965 to 1969 he was the associate rabbi of the Park Synagogue in Cleveland, and from 1969 until his retirement in 1982 he was the rabbi of Temple B'nai Israel, Toledo, Ohio. He died in November, 1983.

Rabbi Pearlmutter was a member of the Rabbinical Assembly's Commission for the Study of the Ordination of Women as Rabbis (1977-19788) the group that assessed the ethical and legal aspects of women's ordination. In 1983 he led an unsuccessful campaign for the admission of Rabbi Beverly Magidson (Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, class of 1979) to the Rabbinical Assembly.

Collection Description

Pearlmutter's papers, 1976 to 1984, include materials distributed by the Rabbinical Assembly, material documenting his work on the RA Commission for the Study of the Ordination of Women as Rabbis, letters of support for his work on behalf of Rabbi Beverly Magidson, and programs from a tribute and several memorial services in his honor held at Temple B'nai Israel.

RA Resolutions and Supporting Material, 1976 contains notes for Pearlmutter's presentation to the RA on women's ordination, resolutions distributed by the RA for its annual conference, copies of a resolution on women's ordination signed by more than seventy-five rabbis and letters of support for his work on behalf of women in the rabbinate.

Materials concerning the RA Commission for the Study of Women in the Rabbinate, 1976- 1979, consist of letters of support for Pearlmutter's work on behalf of women in the rabbinate, resolutions presented to the RA in 1977, copies of student resolutions supporting women's ordination and copies of articles and papers on the subject of women as rabbis. Also included are copies of letters to the Comission, solicited from laypeople and professionals, with personal statements regarding the ordination of women, as well as general correspondence concerning the ongoing functions of the Commission and notes for a 1977 presentation to the Rabbinical Assembly. Handwritten notes taken during the presentation of testimony by scholars on the question of women rabbis are present as well. Lastly, there is a copy of the Commission's final report.

Statement to Congregation on RA Commission Report, February 2, 1979, contains copies of an address given by Rabbi Pearlmutter to the congregation of Temple B'nai Israel. In this address, Pearlmutter presented his own views in support of the ordination of women and his reaction to the RA Commission's report. Pearlmutter sent copies of the statement to selected members of the Rabbinical Assembly, under a cover letter which is also present.

Correspondence in Response to Statement on RA Commission Report, February 1979, consists of responses to Rabbi Pearlmutter's statement. Several of the correspondents enclosed copies of letters written to Jewish Theological Seminary Chancellor Gerson Cohen in response to the RA Commission's final report. The correspondents include Rabbi Alexander M. Shapiro, Women's League representative Marion S. Gordon, Rabbi Gordon Tucker, Rabbi Seymour J. Cohen, and Rabbi Jacob B. Agus.

Materials on the Ordination of Women, 1980 consists of correspondence following the tabling of the women's ordination question by the Seminary faculty in 1979. Much of it is in response to letters by Rabbi Pearlmutter calling for continued efforts on behalf of women's ordination despite the setback. Several survey cards with the opinions of individual rabbis are also included. A 1980 resolution on the ordination of women is followed by additional correspondence in response.

The Campaign for the Admission of Beverly Magidson to the Rabbinical Assembly, 1983, is represented by a letter written on behalf of Rabbi Magidson, and by her application essay. There are a number of letters by her colleagues encouraging a favorable review of her application. A thank you note from Rabbi Magidson to Rabbi Pearlmutter for his efforts on her behalf is also present. A large number of letters supporting the campaign for her admission are included, as well as photocopies of checks submitted to fund the campaign.

The Program from a Tribute to Rabbi Fishel Pearlmutter, April 30 and May 2, 1982, includes the program of a special service held in Rabbi Pearlmutter's honor at Temple B'nai Israel. The program also contains numerous letters of tribute to Rabbi Pearlmutter from his friends and colleagues. The tribute ceremony marked Rabbi Pearlmutter's retirement as rabbi of the congregation of B'nai Israel.

The Program of the Mincha, Maariv-Havdalah, November 26, 1983 contains an order of services and selections from the writings of Rabbi Pearlmutter.

The Memorial Tribute to Rabbi Fishel Pearlmutter, November 14, 1984, contains a pamphlet prepared in memory of Rabbi Pearlmutter on the occasion of his Yahrzeit. The pamphlet includes a short sketch of Rabbi Pearlmutter's career, selections from his writings, and tributes written by friends and colleagues.

Personal Correspondence consists of only one letter from Rabbi Alexander M. Goldstein to Rabbi Pearlmutter dated November 27, 1978. The letter deals mainly with personal matters.

List of Frequent or Prominent Correspondents

  • Kassel Abelson
  • Jacob B. Agus
  • Gerson Cohen
  • Seymour J. Cohen
  • Carol Glass
  • Alexander M. Goldstein
  • Arnold Goodman
  • Robert Gordis
  • Marion Gordon
  • Wolfe Kelman
  • Simcha King
  • Beverly Magidson
  • Judah Nadich
  • Jordan Ofseyer
  • Harry M. Plotkin
  • Harold Schulweis
  • Gordon Tucker

Box List

Box  Folder(s)  Description 
1 1 RA resolutions and supporting materials, 1976
 2-6  RA Commission for the Study of Women in the Rabbinate, 1976-1979
2 1 RA Commission for the Study of Women in the Rabbinate, 1976-1979
 2 Statement to the congregation on RA commission report, Feb 2, 1979
 3 Correspondence in response to statement on RA commission report, Feb, 1979
 4 Material Re: Ordination of Women, 1980
 5 Beverly Magidson, 1983
 6 Program, Tribute to Rabbi Fishel Pearlmutter, April 30, May 2, 1982
 7 Program, Mincha, Maariv-Havdalah, Nov 26, 1983
 8 Memorial Tribute to Rabbi Fishel Pearlmutter, November 14, 1984
 9 Personal Correspondence, Rabbi Alexander M. Goldstein to Rabbi Fishel Pearlmutter, Nov 27, 1978