Saying our Final Goodbye to “Ms. Perl”


I bring you the sad news of the death of BCC’s eldest member, Harriet Perl, age 92. Harriet, or “Ms. Perl” to her many adoring students during her storied tenure as an English teacher at Hamilton High School, died peacefully in her own bed at 8:45am today with her new, dear cat Mina nearby and good friend Peggy Ornelas at her side.


Harriet joined BCC in the early 70’s, not too long after BCC’s founding in 1972. Harriet was a cornerstone leader and role model at BCC throughout her approximately 38 years of membership, sharing her opinions and outpourings of love for BCC in equal amounts. One of Harriet’s lasting contributions to not just BCC, but to modern Judaism, was the authorship of one of the first gender-neutral Friday night prayerbooks, a version of which we still use today.

Harriet served as editor of the BCC newsletter for many years and was known for her exacting use of her red pen not just in editing the newsletter, but with any written materials produced by BCC. She was fiercely proud of her temple and temple community, and always remembered those we lost along the way to the closet, to AIDS, to time. Harriet was outspoken about many issues, her thoughts mattered greatly to our community in issues of governance and ethics.

Tonight at 7:30pm at BCC instead of the previously scheduled class there will be an informal gathering of friends and members to share remembrances and stories of Harriet. Fran will be there to share a few prayers as well. There will be light refreshments. This will be live-streamed on BCC Live.

Many of you know that Harriet was a big fan of Ellen DeGeneres and over time had developed an acquaintanceship with her and a friendship with Ellen’s mother Betty. Tune in tomorrow to NBC at 4pm to watch Ellen’s show, she will briefly recognize Harriet’s life and passing.

Sunday at March 24, at 10:30am at BCC there will be a complete Memorial Service led by Rabbi Edwards, Cantor Juval Porat, Fran Chalin, BCC Cantorial Emerita, and Rabbi Heather Miller. Please feel free to share this with others who knew Harriet. This service will also be livestreamed.

Please consider a donation in honor of Harriet to BCC, the home of what she called her family of choosing, the SPCA-LA in honor of her great of love cats, and/or  GLSEN, a group fighting for LGBT rights and equality in the schools.


4 Comments on “Saying our Final Goodbye to “Ms. Perl””

  • Wayne Johnson February 26, 2013 pm28 6:20 pm . Reply

    I met Harriet in September 1962 and taught with her for the next twenty years until she retired. When I was elected President of UTLA we hired her to proof every thing that was sent out to our members. No one knew the English language,English grammar and spelling like Harriet Perl! She then edited every article I wrote for UTLA and later when I was President of CTA. She was my mentor and I modeled my teaching as much after her as my ability would allow. I talked to her for about an hour on Saturday and she sounded like she did 40 years ago. I am so happy that she was in no pain, very alert and sharp as a tack until the very end. She was an amazing woman and did wonderful things. Things like helping found a gay and lesbian Temple, and taking the gender out of religious documents. We have been very close for the last twenty five years, talking at least twice a week during those years. Harriet Death leaves a big void in my life and I will miss her very much! She told me recently that her major regret was NOT seeing a woman president? Rest in peace my dear Harriet you have shown us all how to live a life that really matters!

  • Wayne Johnson February 26, 2013 pm28 6:37 pm . Reply

    I met Harriet in September 1962 and taught with her until she retired. When I was elected President of UTLA we hired her to proof everything we sent to our members. No one knew the English language, spelling and grammar better than Harriet Perl. She edited a thousand articles that I (we) wrote for the LA Times, UTLA newspaper and CTA Magazine. We got so close she could finish my thoughts and often did. We went through the 1970 LA teachers strike and became very close and that lasted the rest of our lives. We both love animals and last week she got a new cat, Mina and was very happy. I would take my dogs over for a visit and she would tell me about the dogs she had in her life! I talked to her for about an hour Saturday and she sounded like the Harriet of 40 years ago. In my sadness over her death I am elated that she had no pain and was as sharp as a tack until the end! Rest In Peace Harriet Perl you showed us how to live a life that really matters.

  • Gregory Jackson April 23, 2013 pm30 2:05 pm . Reply

    Knowing Harriet for nearly forth years has and continues to be a life- long blessing. She was my colleague, mentor and friend. She actually reached out to me on thr second floor during my first day at Hamilton by introducing hersel. She then asked me if I knew I closely resembled a then popular civil rights leader. Over the next seventeen years, Harriet provided many stories reflections and advice that I used to become more efficient, productive and approachable.
    Eventually I moved to an apartment in her building. And eventually when she decided to promote women,s consciousness-raising groups by self-financing a tour of the Midwest and the east coast. She and her partner presented several dozen workshops which both provided a foundation and extended women’s awareness of a non- therapy based reflective process.
    I feel so fortunate to have known and been mentored by Ms. Perl. SHALOM my friend. Greg Jackson

  • Hagit Hof December 1, 2013 pm31 1:59 pm . Reply

    1st December 2013.
    I have just learned from Yafa that Harriet passed away. I had called from Israel to congratulate her on her birthday, and realized that in spite of her presence, charisma, and knowlege above time – this dear woman won’t live for ever.
    In spite of the fact that Harriet was more than 30 years older than me, (we became friends 20 years ago) I never knew which one of us is the youngesst and the more courageous! She was a source of inspiration for me, because she always did what she belived in. It is rare to meet someone that lives in a way that leaves no gaps between her actual life and what she believed in.
    She was always very worried about the politics in Israel and we often spoke about it. Harriet had a passion and she was full of hope and this always made me much more optimistic.
    Not to mention the letters that she used to write to me, I was the only one in my neighbourhood that still got letters, with those special envelops. written with so much concern and attention.
    What a rare person. with so much love and caring for the world. and for people. Harriet was a true humanist – fighting for human causes and she was caring, soft, funny! I really loved her!
    May you rest in peace, my dear friend.

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