Acathartic service for Pearl at Stanford

At a memorial service beginning with a Jewish proverb and ending with the Kaddish in Stanford University's Memorial Church, close to 800 friends and strangers, Jews and non-Jews, gathered to remember slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

The service, organized by Hillel at Stanford and Stanford's Religious Life program, interspersed Jewish liturgy and texts with tributes from Stanford alumni who knew Pearl well. Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, associate dean for religious life, said the service was meant to strike a delicate balance between Pearl's identity as a former Stanford student and a Jew.

At the service, Karlin-Neumann said it was "because he was an American, because he was a journalist and because he was a Jew" that Pearl was abducted and killed by Pakistani militants. Echoing the collective feelings of confusion and helplessness over Pearl's murder, she quoted Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel, saying: "In a world of absurdity we must invent reason."

Marion Lewenstein, a former communications professor of Pearl's at Stanford, spoke at the service. Afterwards, she said she was pleasantly struck when she heard "a surprisingly large number of voices," both Jews and non-Jews, reciting the Kaddish along with Karlin-Neumann.

"It was really very cathartic," she said, referring to Pearl as "a delightful student" and "a gentle, compassionate soul who really cared about other people."

With no Jewish space in which to hold a service on the Stanford campus, Karlin-Neumann chose the Memorial Church, having learned through Pearl's family and friends that as a sacred space, he "would appreciate being remembered there."

In Judaism, said Karlin-Neumann, "there is a notion that memory is what contains the essence of someone after they die."

Pearl's family, who were in mourning and did not attend either the Stanford service or another held in Southern California, never lost hope that Pearl would be released by his kidnappers and returned safely.

Dr. Judea Pearl, and his wife, Ruth, said in a statement that they simply could not believe that anyone could harm a son they described as "such a gentle soul" and as "the musician, the writer, the storyteller, the bridge builder."

Elsewhere in their statement, Pearl's parents and his sisters, Tamara and Michelle, remembered their son and brother as a "walking sunshine of truth, humor, friendship and compassion."

The family's unflagging hope was best illustrated in an e-mail message the father sent to members of a local Israeli choir on Feb. 21, only a few hours before the U.S. State Department confirmed the brutal slaying of the Wall Street Journal reporter.

After nearly a month of torturous waiting, Judea Pearl told fellow musicians of the LA-Shir choir, which he had founded, that "We have learned to cope with the ups and downs of the situation . . . We are confident that he will return to us and fairly soon. When that happens, we will all celebrate his homecoming event with Handel's 'Hallelujah.' "

The family's grief has been shared by a circle of Daniel Pearl's close friends, many of whom date their friendship back to shared school days in the Los Angeles area.

One old friend recalls participating in a Passover seder at the Pearl home, but apparently the family was not religiously observant.

"The Pearls are not affiliated with a synagogue, but they are deeply attached to their heritage and very cognizant of who they are," said Gary Foster, the family spokesman.

Israeli newspapers reported that Daniel Pearl had celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall.

A San Fernando Valley rabbi who is also a practicing psychologist has been counseling the Pearl family during the past few weeks. A private memorial service is planned for Sunday there.

Some of Daniel Pearl's closest friends were fellow backpackers between 1978-1981 in the Explorer Post, a co-ed affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America.

One was Rachel Knopoff, now a Manhattan Beach physician, who remembers Pearl as "the greatest guy I have ever known. I had a huge crush on him, and so probably did most of the girls in the troop. He was the funniest, smartest, nicest guy I ever met."

Attorney John Liebman served as adviser to the Explorer Post.

"They were an extraordinary, highly motivated group of kids," says Liebman, who recalls Pearl as "obviously highly intelligent, with a fine sense of humor and easy to get along with."

Liebman's son, Scott, a lifelong friend of Pearl's, added a few more descriptive adjectives in a phone call from San Francisco — including "brilliant, funny, wry and sensitive."

After graduating from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Judea Pearl and his wife Ruth, an electrical engineer, moved to Princeton, N.J., for graduate studies and to work at a local research center. Their son was born there in 1963.

In 1970, Judea Pearl joined the computer science faculty at UCLA, and in the following decades he earned a reputation as a leading researcher in the field of artificial intelligence.

He was elected to the elite National Academy of Engineering in 1995 "for developing the foundation for reasoning under uncertainty," and earlier spent a sabbatical year at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

During the month following Pearl's kidnapping, there was deep concern that publication of his family's Israeli roots would further endanger his life.

Foster, the spokesman, and other representatives of Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal's parent company, worked intensively behind the scenes in New York, Los Angeles and overseas to alert news organizations to the danger inherent in publishing the names of Pearl's parents, or their background.

"We were particularly anxious that networks reaching large international audiences, such as CNN and BBC, would not break the news," Foster says.

In a remarkable display of professional restraint and solidarity, all media complied with the strictures.

Since the death announcement, it has become known that Pearl's parents carry dual American and Israeli citizenship.

Although Daniel Pearl was born in the United States and always considered himself solely an American, Israeli law considers him an Israeli citizen as well.

A foundation has been established, primarily in support of Daniel Pearl's widow, Mariane, and their first child, who is due in May. Contributions can be sent to the Daniel Pearl Family Foundation, care of The Wall Street Journal, P.O. Box 300, Princeton, N.J., 08543. Tributes to Pearl, and reprints of some of his articles can be found at the Web site of the South Asian Journalist Association,