Judea Pearl is the father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and the founder of The Daniel Pearl Foundation.
Last month, Daniel Pearl would have turned 45 years old. October 10 marked the slain Wall Street Journal reporter's seventh birthday since he was murdered by al-Qaeda terrorists in January 2002. The infamous photo of a captured Danny, handcuffed with a gun to his head, tells the story of his violent and widely publicized death. Danny's family, however, chooses to tell the story of his well-lived and widely celebrated life.
His father, Judea, and mother, Ruth, founded The Daniel Pearl Foundation in their son’s memory just two months after his death, in part, to “address the root causes of this tragedy, in the spirit, style, and principles that shaped Danny's work and character.” One of those principles, Judea explains, is music. In addition to being a talented journalist, Danny was also a noted musician trained in classical violin. He played other instruments too - the mandolin was his last.
“We were thinking after his funeral, ‘How will we cope with his upcoming birthday?’” Judea recalls. “His sister suggested we [celebrate] in a way that he would like – with a jam session. So we contacted his musician friends, people came together, and it was the seed for Music Day.”
Daniel Pearl World Music Days, an international network of concerts hosted every October, was one of the Foundation’s first projects aimed at promoting intercultural friendship, teaching tolerance and raising awareness of Danny's story. This year, more than 1,140 concerts were held in more than 60 countries to honor of Danny's life. Describing World Music Days as a "movement," Judea sees his son's legacy as inspiring the Jewish future.
Daniel Pearl was killed in 2002 at age 38.
"He traveled everywhere, trying to connect the world with his laptop and his mandolin," Judea says. "I tell audiences, 'You are the traveling journalists now. As you travel, you spread decency, commonsense and insight."
In a letter to the Jewish Student Organization and Hillel at the University of Missouri, Judea and Ruth wrote: “Danny lived a life that knew no geographical boundaries, with a spirit that knew no prejudice. Through journalism and music, he communicated friendship, respect, humor and joy wherever his journeys took him. He keenly recognized the power of music to bridge differences, and he used it passionately to make friends and inspire understanding.”
The Daniel Pearl Foundation would welcome additional Hillel participation in Daniel Pearl Music Days. “The image may evoke anxiety and defeat, but it takes true enlightenment to see the opportunity here - to elevate the image of Jews to the honorable commitments and ideals that Daniel has come to symbolize."
Judea, a professor of computer science at UCLA, travels frequently, lecturing extensively on behalf of Jewish and non-Jewish organizations in an attempt to promote dialogue between Jews, Muslims and Christians about the prospects of inter-religion tolerance.
Together with his wife, Judea edited the 2004 anthology I am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl, in which 147 Jewish thinkers give a panoramic view of how Jews define themselves in post 9/11 era.
Danny’s family has also continued his legacy through work with aspiring reporters. The PEARL (Prepare and Educate Aspiring Reporters for Leadership) Youth Initiatives help student journalists throughout the world develop high ethical standards and skills for conveying a compelling, yet truthful, message. Judea says there is a desperate need for that type of journalism to spread as quickly and as broadly as possible.
Recently, Judea received a message from Faisalabad, Pakistan – the country where Danny was killed. There, a local businessman has provided a grant to build an interfaith library in the name of Daniel Pearl. “They asked for some books on Judaism because what they have [in that country] is all hateful propaganda,” explains Judea. “The library will be focused on Judaism, Danny’s life and human ethics. It's an opportunity to penetrate the curtain of hatred in Pakistan."
Mariane Pearl with newborn son Adam in May 2002.
The kidnapping and killing of Daniel Pearl was depicted in the 2007 film A Mighty Heart, starring Angelina Jolie as Danny’s pregnant widow, Mariane. Judea and his family, also portrayed in the film, had no editorial input but were reasonably satisfied with its outcome.
“The movie gave a good picture of the chaos that existed [in the few days after Danny’s abduction,]” says Judea. “But at the same time, I think the movie missed an opportunity to give historical context to the plot, which is really the 21st century version of Able and Cain."
The final scene of A Mighty Heart shows Mariane Pearl walking down a Paris street with her young son Adam, who was born three months after Danny was killed. Mariane and Adam continue living in Europe, but recently traveled to California to visit Judea and Ruth. Now six years old, their grandson reminds them of the power of good and the perpetuation of the human spirit.
Get Involved: Have your Hillel chapter host a musical talent show in October 2009 and invite other student organizations to join! Daniel Pearl World Music Days has included performances by Elton John, Jason Mraz, R.E.M., Alison Krauss and Matisyahu. A complete list of artists is available here.