Meet P.J. Pearlstone, Our New Campaign Chair

P.J. Pearlstone with family

For P.J. Pearlstone, family is at the heart of everything he does. 

Ask The Associated’s Campaign Chair how we would most like to spend his spare time, and there is no hesitation in his answer. “I’m always together with my family when the kids are around,” he says. 

Ask him where he gets his Jewish values and his strong desire to give back, and once again he points to family. To those that know him, that should come as no surprise. After all, he’s part of four generations of philanthropists, harking back to his great-grandfather, Joseph Meyerhoff. 

“It’s in my D.N.A,” he says.  

Recently we caught up with this fourth-generation Baltimorean to chat about his family’s legacy, discover his aspirations for this campaign year, and, of course, get to know a bit about what makes him tick.  

Four Generations. Wow! 

My great grandfather was a big philanthropist in Baltimore and very committed to giving back to the Jewish community. My grandfather helped spearhead the purchase of Camp Milldale, which is now the Pearlstone campus. My grandmother was a Women’s President. And my father was also a campaign chair and then later on served as national chair of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). I saw early on the importance of serving others and how one person can make a difference.  

P.J. Pearlstone with his wife, Karen

Family is a running theme for you. How did you meet your wife? 

Karen and I met at 17 on a Park School/Pikesville High ski trip to Wisp. She was my High School sweetheart. After high school, I went to college in Arizonia and Karen was in Connecticut. But after freshman year, we realized we wanted to be together. So, we both decided to transfer to the University of Maryland and see how it would go. We’ve been together ever since. 

After college, you moved to Miami. What brought you back to Baltimore? 

We lived in Miami for nine years. I was working as a financial analyst for a real estate company and Karen worked as a development associate for the Major Gifts division at the Miami Federation. Shortly after having kids, we decided we wanted to be closer to family. And Baltimore was (and still is) a great community to live in and raise our children. Miami was too transient and ostentatious for us. 

When you returned to Baltimore, you became involved with The Associated? 

I became involved with the Business and Professionals Division. Although I was born and raised in Baltimore, I had never lived here as an adult. Attending events, I met other young adults who have become my good friends. In 2010, I became part of the National Young Leadership Cabinet with over 200 young leaders from all over the country.  

Over the years, I’ve held had many roles within the system, including President of the Pearlstone Board as well as sitting on the Board of the Associated and the AJC (Associated Jewish Charities), serving on the JCIF investment committee since 2008 where we made sure The Associated was in a strong financial position for the future. 

Goals as Campaign Chair? 

I want to grow the campaign and increase community engagement. I want the community to understand that The Associated tackles so much from social justice to Jewish education to mental health and the well-being of older adults. We also are there in times of crisis, like raising money to help with the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.  

Hopes for the next generation?

I worry that polarization is breaking us apart. My biggest hope for the next generation, particularly the Jewish community, is that we continue to work together.  

P.J. Pearlstone with family

Jewish continuity is important to you. How has it affected how you and Karen raised your children?

When Jordan went to the JCC for preschool, we saw how much he loved learning about being Jewish. We saw the power of a Jewish education, so Karen and I decided to send our boys to day school. We really liked that we shared similar values with those around us there and it continues to be a wonderful community to be a part of. Enrolling our boys at Beth Tfiloh strengthened their Jewish identity and helped set the foundation for them to be future Jewish leaders. Our only hope is that they do the same for their children. 

As they got older, they both participated in Associated sponsored programs such as the Social Justice Fellowship, STAC, Peer Leadership Fellowship and Diller. Just recently Karen became Chair of 4Front and a JCC Board member. Our son Zach won second place last year in a nationally held Stand With Us competition for the 2022 Movement Builder Award in recognition for implementing Jewish programming on Emory’s campus. And now, Jordan is going to be a Gesher teen board member for Na’aleh: The Hub for Leadership Learning, another 4Front program. I’m excited and proud that my kids are following in my footsteps. Who knows – maybe we will have a fifth generation giving back in Baltimore. 

Fun fact?

My family has such a long history within the Jewish community. How ironic is it that my bar mitzvah was held on December 5. The next day was the rally for Soviet Jewry in Washington, DC.

P.J. Pearlstone with family

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

That is a tough question. I don’t like to make predictions but choose to live in the present moment however one assertion I can say with certainty is that my work with Jewish Baltimore will always continue to be a big part of my life.

Anything else?

I hope my grandparents Jack and Peggy Pearlstone and great grandparents Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff are looking down on me and my family and are proud of who we have become and how I am carrying on their legacy.

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The Associated is a home for everyone in the Baltimore Jewish community. We offer several email lists to help people find a community, engage with their peers and support Jewish journeys around the world.

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