PEABODY – When Rabbi Eli Perlman’s congregation in New Jersey fell on hard times, his brother Rabbi Richard “Rick” Perlman was listening from his Peabody pulpit at Temple Ner Tamid of the North Shore. Now the brothers will team up for a special High Holiday service.
As TNT president Adele Lubarsky explained in a mass email last month, Eli’s Rockville, NJ congregation lost the lease for its building, leaving the congregants without a physical option for High Holiday services. Rick and TNT stepped in, giving Eli a chance to co-officiate hybrid High Holiday services at TNT with Rick and Rabbi Bernie Horowitz. Eli will appear in person. As for his congregants, they can pay him directly to sign up for the virtual portion of the TNT High Holiday services. People who are not members of either Eli’s congregation or TNT will pay TNT to participate in the virtual services.
“It’s a good thing for me to be on the same pulpit with a brother,” Rick said.
As he explained, “we’re going to basically do the same service we’ve been doing for years with Rabbi Bernie and myself. This year, Rabbi Eli, my brother, will join us for part of the time as clergy.
“Last year, we were also hybrid because … congregants who did not want to come could follow us on Zoom. We had a couple hundred people in-person. Last year, we were just coming back from COVID.”
“This year,” he said, “we expect considerable in-person [attendance] here, and will continue offering services, regular daily services on Zoom.”
Rick recalled that after learning about Eli’s difficulties, “I said, ‘why don’t you come here and join?’ ”
Rick and Eli are actually part of a fraternal clergy quartet. Eli, the oldest, is a rabbi and cantor based in New Jersey; Emmanuel, nicknamed Manny, is a recently retired cantor; Rick is a rabbi and cantor; and Josh is a cantor. Their late father, Ivan E. Perlman, was a celebrated cantor who raised his four sons to become clergy as well.
“We all trained as hazzanim with our father growing up,” Rick said. “[We became] two rabbis and all cantors.”
In their younger days, the brothers sang with their father at the family table, moving guests to tears. Later on, father and sons performed on tour as the Cantors Five.
However, Rick said, “for me to have my brother on the same pulpit with me for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – I was never, ever able to have davened with a brother. We all served individual congregations. We’ve never been together for Yom Tov.”
Following Eli’s predicament, Rick suggested to Lubarsky the idea of bringing his brother and the New Jersey congregation into TNT High Holiday services. Lubarsky asked Rick to make the proposal to Rabbi Horowitz and to Mimi Levy, the ritual chair at TNT. Lubarsky also sent the proposal to the temple parliamentarian, Alan Lehman, who responded that there were no issues involved. The proposal was ultimately accepted by both the executive board and ritual committee before the board of directors was notified.
“Transparency is important to me,” Lubarsky wrote, adding that positive developments would emerge out of the proposal – three rabbis on the pulpit might enhance TNT’s audience. In addition, two mitzvot would be created: increasing access to people who wished to observe the High Holidays remotely; and benefiting TNT through virtual ticket sales and the Yom Kippur appeal.
“Some people just can’t travel,” Rick said. “They’re shut in. They should not be forgotten.”
He added, “It’s hard to put a price on the worth of doing something … it means so much to so many people. I still feel today that if they can’t physically go to temple, the temple can get to them.”