The death has been announced of Ruth Pearl (nee Rejwan), mother of Daniel Pearl, the Wall St Journal reporter who was murdered for being a Jew by terrorists in Pakistan. Asra Nomani has written this moving obituary in the Jewish Journal, praising Ruth’s character and grace, and her determination to fight for justice for her son to the last. Born in Baghdad, Ruth was a survivor of the Farhud massacre of 1941. In 2013 she shared her memories of that time, and her Baghdad childhood, with Diarna.
On January 23, 2002, she awakened in her home in California with a startling dream and wrote an email to her son, Danny, warning him to be careful, thousands of miles away in Karachi, Pakistan, where he was staying with his wife, Mariane, at a home I had rented on Zamzama Street. Danny and I were friends from our work together at the Wall Street Journal. Alas, later that evening, Danny slipped into a taxi for an interview from which he never returned.
Five weeks later, the FBI learned militants had slain Danny. It was a mother’s nightmare come true. Ruth would outlive her child. Born Ruth Rejwan in Baghdad, Iraq in 1935, Ruth Pearl died this week, 19 years later.
But what Ruth did over these 19 years is testimony to a mother’s love and her character and grace. “My beautiful, wise, generous, loving mama who overcame the traumas in her life with strength and vitality and dedication to helping others died today,” her eldest daughter, Tamara, wrote to friends.
In June 1941, as a six-year-old girl in Baghdad, born in the capital of Iraq to one of the city’s Jewish families, Ruth witnessed a massacre, the Farhud, when at least 180 Jews were killed by locals, wreaking chaos during a power vacuum. “It was like a movie,” she recalled in an interview, watching looting and violence. As bullets flew, her father led her family to the cellar. “I had nightmares,” she said, for decades.
She met her husband, Judea, at Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology. With her passing, he wrote, “I’ve lost my dear wife this afternoon, my northern-star and my college sweetheart.”