Marty Perlmutter, director of the College of Charleston’s Jewish Studies Program, envisions the program serving as a catalyst for the renaissance of Jewish life in Charleston. And it’s not just a pipedream. He’s making it a reality.
So, it’s no surprise that he is one of CHARLIE Magazine’s 50 Most Progressive People of 2014. That means he’s one of the most forward-thinking people making a positive impact on the future of Charleston.
Q: How are you progressive?
A: I was raised to think I was supposed to try to make a difference in my life, and with my life. I have been blessed so far with a good life, one in which my career has managed to make a small difference in making some other lives better. Hopefully, the new kosher vegan/vegetarian kitchen and dining hall will be part of that story.
Q: You’ve been a champion for the new kosher vegan/vegetarian dining hall, what is your vision?
A: The kosher vegan/vegetarian kitchen and dining hall at the College will be yet another opportunity for the community to mingle with our students, with each learning from the other. Providing a place for people to eat together, and with it a menu that is both environmentally and ecologically sensitive, will create a diverse learning community of the best sort, one that is both generationally integrated, sensitive to the dietary needs of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and vegetarians and vegans, and tuned into the realities of the new world.
Q: Why are you an innovator?
A: M’dor L’dor (from generation to generation) is the motto of the Jewish Studies Program. Each of us is a cog in a long chain. But, merely holding onto the past is a recipe for being only a past, without any future. We have to do our part in ensuring that the chain has a future. Innovation is key to having a future, so it is key to having a meaningful past.
Q: What is your big dream? How are you going to push the boundaries next?
A: Charleston was once a center of Jewish life in America, with a vibrant, progressive and diverse community integrated into the community at large; in 1800 it was the largest and most progressive Jewish city in the United States.
Jewish Studies at the College can become a leader in making the College of Charleston better, attracting yet stronger students, developing a first-class academic program, with national prominence in Southern Jewish Studies, and creating a national footprint for the school.
Jewish Studies can also serve as a catalyst for the renaissance of Jewish life in Charleston, helping restore the importance of its Jewish community on the national scene. All these were pipedreams, and perhaps still are.
But as Theodor Herzl said of Israel more than a century ago, long before its establishment; “If you will it, it is no dream; and if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay.”