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A Debt of Gratitude

Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman

If Ina Perlmuter believed in me, others would follow

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I only met Ina Perlmuter twice in my life. She was the mother of one of my precious members, Ira Perlmuter. Nevertheless, when she passed away this past October 23, I knew I had to make a rare exception and fly to Chicago to attend her levayah.

Why did I make this exception?

Of course, the obvious reason would be to be there for my congregants, Ira and her oldest son. And that certainly figured heavily in the equation. However, there is more that needs to be said.

I began writing the “Short Vort” over a decade ago. At first, it was an e-mail sent out to shul members who had e-mail, perhaps half the congregants. Slowly, other people found out and I began to receive requests from non-shul people to receive the Short Vort. Nevertheless, circulation was still quite limited.

This was back when all I knew about Mishpacha was that it was a magazine my wife bought every so often. And certainly at a time when if you’d told me my vignettes would eventually become part of the ArtScroll canon of quality literature, I would have told you to take two aspirins and lie down.

In short, the Vort’s initial scope was minuscule.

One day, however, after sending out the Short Vort, I received my first of what would become steady e-mail responses from an Ina Perlmuter. At first, I thought it was from Ira Perlmuter and the R had mistakenly been typed as an N.

Soon enough I realized this was not the case.

The e-mails were from a woman in Chicago. They contained words of encouragement and expressed confidence in my writing. Often the woman would add her own anecdote to support and reinforce the point I was making. Most of all, she gave me a wonderful feeling of success and accomplishment.

Amazingly, it was an elderly woman in Chicago, who day in and day out took the time to read, comment, and compliment my writing — which motivated me to continue writing. And it was clear this woman knew something about writing, as she often included a poem she had written. Only later would I find out she was a published poetess.

The positive feedback from this woman who lived halfway across the country was tremendously validating. That she liked my writing and thought it worthy of spreading beyond the confines of Passaic exhilarated me. I began to realize that if Ina Perlmuter was taking the time to write me back and encourage me to keep on writing all the way from Chicago, then perhaps my writing was indeed worthwhile.

As she continued to praise and encourage me to write, I expanded the subjects I dealt with and began to write with a newfound sense of confidence and determination. If it played well in Chicago and this veteran poetess found my writing compelling, then it would play even better in Boro Park and Monsey.

A few years later I finally met Mrs. Ina Perlmuter at a family simchah.

She was a frail, dainty, somewhat stooped woman who walked with the aid of a walker. I stood in awe in front of this diminutive dynamo of a woman. Although I physically towered over her, I reverentially felt humbled before her.

I felt a tremendous debt of gratitude to this octogenarian. If Ina Perlmuter believed in me, others would follow.

It was this feeling of gratitude to Ina Perlmuter that compelled me to undertake the six-hour journey to Chicago to say thank you to someone who believed in me when few else did.

I will miss Ina Perlmuter, she was one of a kind.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 739)

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