When you look around Louisville, it’s easy to find ways to be active in the Jewish community – Jewish congregations span the spectrum of practice and Jewish organizations and agencies that offer a wide variety of programs, services, opportunities to do mitzvot and work toward tikkun olam, the repair of the world, and even indulge in the arts as a patron or a spectator.
Louisville native Dr. Mark Perelmuter takes advantage of many of these offerings and has a good time doing it.
“I grew up at the Jewish Community Center,” he said, “and was a member of Rauch AZA.” Perelmuter was in charge of the chapter’s newsletter, which was reproduced on a mimeograph machine, and he won an international trophy for his efforts.
His Jewish education started at Eliahu Academy, the Jewish Day School, but after second grade he transferred to the public schools and attended the Louisville Hebrew School at the JCC.
When he was young, the Perelmuter family belonged to Keneseth Israel. His father, Sol Perelmuter, died in 1960, and when his mother, Sugar, remarried a few years later, the family affiliated with Anshei Sfard, where his stepfather, Ralph Hanish, was a member. He celebrated his bar mitzvah there, and later, his aufruf.
Music runs in his family, and Perelmuter started playing clarinet at age 10. His uncle, who performed under the name Morris Perelmuter King, was a successful musician who had a band and as a child performer was one of the musicians who opened the inaugural show on WHAS radio.
Perelmuter’s father was an accomplished violinist and had his own orchestra. And his cousin, Mel Davis, sold music.
“I attended Seneca High School,” he added, in true Louisville fashion. For his undergraduate studies, he attended the University of Louisville, where he played in the Pep Band. In college, he also served in the Coast Guard Reserve, “so I didn’t have to go to Vietnam,” he added.
“I would have gone to music school,” Perelmuter explained, “but I really wanted to be a dentist.” He stayed at UofL for Dental School, and before he graduated, “I married Marci Segal, the daughter of Dr. Theodore Segal, who was an orthodontist here.” Later, Perelmuter joined his father-in-law’s practice.
The Perelmuters moved to St. Louis, where Mark served his residency, and they quickly became involved with the Jewish community there.
“We lived five minutes from the JCC there,” Perelmuter said, “and they gave me a good deal on membership.” Grateful for their help, he looked for a way to give something back.
“They had a Big Brothers/Big Sisters program,” he continued. “They assigned me a young man who didn’t have a dad, and that was very rewarding, so when I came back to Louisville, I contacted Jewish Family and Vocational Service [now Jewish Family and Career Services] and established a Special Friends program.”
The Special Friends program was similar to Big Brothers/Big Sisters, but it worked with special needs and intellectually disadvantaged adults and seniors. He also served on JFVS’ Board.
Once back in Louisville, the Perelmuters joined Adath Jeshurun, where they were members for 10 years. Then they joined The Temple, where they have been ever since. He also taught fourth and fifth grade Sunday School classes at Anshei Sfard, Adath Jeshurun and The Temple.
They also joined the Jewish Community Center, and Mark served on the JCC’s Board as well. The Perelmuters have been generous with the JCC. They chose to commemorate their fathers by commissioning the menorah gate to the pool area nearly 20 years ago.
“I gravitated toward kids’ things,” he said, and started sponsoring children’s activities – the swim team and camps. He also sponsored groups at an elementary school.
His partner, Brad Goldberg, shares his love of volunteering. While Goldberg was in dental school, he was an AZA advisor. Today, he is a cycling coach. “Brad Goldberg is fantastic,” he said. “I couldn’t be luckier to have him as a partner. Our values are the same, even though we grew up so differently, and we share the same volunteer spirit and love of kids.”
Both partners spend a lot of time with kids. Whenever they invest money in sponsorships, they also try to get involved with the projects they sponsor. This year, as they have for a number of years, Perelmuter & Goldberg Orthodontics is the primary sponsor of JCC Summer Camp.
Perelmuter learned the lesson of the importance of tzedakah early. His grandmother, Miriam Perelmuter, who was a widow, raising five children in Louisville, told him they were considered to be one of the poorest Jewish families in town. When solicitors for charitable groups would bypass her house, she would chastise them, saying, “I may be poor, but we can always give something.”
The Perelmuters have two children, Stuart and Todd. Although both are grown now and have successful writing careers, Mark enjoyed watching them “get involved in the JCC too. When they were in high school,” he said, “they were both in AZA clubs and worked out here a lot.”
Over the years, Perelmuter has held other leadership positions in the Jewish community. In addition to previously mentioned Board and teaching positions, he served as vice president of the Jewish Education Association and the Partnership 2Gether Committee. Regular supporters of the annual Federation Campaign, the Perelmuters chaired the Major Gifts event in 2012.
In addition to his volunteer activities, Perelmuter is a part-time member of the U of L Dental School faculty and frequently travels to deliver orthodontic lectures. He has taught in Europe and in Israel at the Hadassah School of Dentistry.
With all of these activities, Perelmuter still finds time to pursue the arts. For a time, he was a cartoonist for Community. He is also a painter, and even did a series of five paintings in Israel of the Western Wall.
While he loves painting and plans to go back to it some day, right now, he is focusing on music. As a member of the Louisville klezmer band, Lost Tribe, he has played bar mitzvahs, weddings, festivals, religious services and local venues.
Carol Savkovich and Aviv Naamani came up with the idea to form the klezmer group. They recruited several others to join them, and now, the group also includes Perelmuter, Fran Weinstock, Aaron Boaz and Kato Wilbur.
The group has given Perelmuter the opportunity to spend time in another congregation, as The Lost Tribe has performed often at Temple Shalom.
Today, Perelmuter can also be found regularly at the JCC, where he swims, and cycles to stay in shape. He believes that it is the best place in the city for physical fitness options with tennis, racquetball, gyms, fitness centers and lots of classes that “most fitness centers don’t have.”
Through all of his activities, Perelmuter says, his wife, Marci, has been at his side, encouraging him to pursue whatever comes up. In addition to his wife and his partner, Perelmuter thanked his in-laws, Ted and Ruth Segal, and his sister, Sharon Nussbaum, for their help and support.