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Ruth Pearl, mother of slain journalist who turned her grief into activism, dies at 85

Steve Marble, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Ruth Pearl, who’d grappled with vivid and nightmarish dreams since childhood, told the Shoah Foundation that she had a dream the night her son vanished that he was in trouble and scared. She awoke and sent him an email.

“I said, ‘Danny, this is a dream that I had. Please humor me and answer this email immediately.’” she said. “He never did.”

The stop-and-go hunt for Daniel‘s killers and his family’s mounting frustration at the slow, grinding process of the investigation was chronicled in Mariane Pearl‘s memoir, “A Mighty Heart.” The book provided a blueprint for the 2007 movie of the same name, staring Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl and Perrine Moran as Ruth Pearl.

It would have been easy and understandable for Ruth and Judea Pearl to have simply given into the grief.

Instead, they went the opposite direction, founding the Daniel Pearl Foundation and giving journalists from the Middle East, Southeast Asia and North Africa an opportunity to work in American newsrooms. The foundation, which Pearl essentially ran as its CEO, also sponsors concerts, cultural events and annual lecture series at UCLA and Stanford to discuss tolerance and understanding.

With their encouragement, the Los Angeles Press Club began awarding the Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism in 2002. Diana Ljungaeus, executive director of the press club, said she was preparing to call the Pearls to go over this year’s award candidates when she learned Pearl had died.


Pearl and her husband also edited the book “I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl,” a collection of observations by prominent Jewish figures in government, science, the arts and journalism. The late actor Kirk Douglas was among those who contributed their thoughts on what it means to be Jewish.

Judea Pearl said his wife was a fast and firm believer in the pressing need to bridge cultural differences.

“I worry about the next generation,” Ruth Pearl told the Los Angeles Times in 2007. “If we don’t address this now, what will become of us? What will become of our children?”

Pearl is survived by her husband, daughters Michelle and Tamara, daughter-in-law Mariane, sister Carmella and five grandchildren, Leora, Tori, Ari, Evan, and Adam.

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