I watched with delight Wednesday evening as the Giants won their third World Series in five years. The championship brings everyone associated with the team pride, money and celebrity. Giants’ fans may share in the pride, but we’ll have to take a pass on everything else. But I don’t care. I just found out that there’s a street named for me—kind of.
Welcome to Perlstein Street in Bat Yam, Israel, just south of Tel Aviv. I’ve strolled it digitally thanks to Google Maps. It’s a modest one-way street, tree-lined and about five blocks long. It’s located in the city’s central district, which reminds me in some ways of Rego Park (Queens, New York City) where I grew up. You probably wouldn’t feel impelled to live on Perlstein Street unless, perhaps, your name is Perlstein.
But what’s in a name? My father Morris (Moishe) arrived at Ellis Island from Warsaw in February 1906. It would make a great legend that he came by himself, but he was two-and-a-half. (My mother’s father Lyon Finkle came by himself at 14—not unusual.) My grandfather Sam (Chaim Shlioma) took my father off the ship along with my grandmother Katie (Kayleh) and aunts Alice (Elka) and Etta (Etka). Grandpa and Grandma had two children here—Uncle Benjamin, who died ay age two, and Aunt Babe (Sarah). The name itself first was inscribed as Perelstein—note the “e” after the “r”. That spelling appears on the family’s naturalization certificate dated August 25, 1914. The name got somewhat anglicized after. Not surprisingly, America has its Pearlsteins, Pearlstones and other variations, too.
So who was Perlstein Street named after? I don’t know. A list of prominent people from Bat Yam doesn’t include a Perlstein, but a city of 130,000 has lots of streets to name. I sent the question to the city but my email didn’t go through. I’ll keep digging.
Here in the United States, Perlsteins, whatever the spelling, have made their mark. Rick Perlstein is a noted historian and best-selling author. His new book is The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. Norman Pearlstine served as editor-in-chief at Time magazine from 1995–2005. Philip Pearlstein is an influential painter known for his modernist-realism nudes. Linda Perlstein has written about families for Newsweek. There’s also a Perlstein Hall at the Illinois Institute of Engineering in Chicago. LinkedIn lists 25 successful Perlsteins. There are plenty more.
Two of my favorite Perlsteins are less well known. I used to go down to the basement of my college (Alfred University) library and look through old editions of the New York Times. One article from the 1940s or ‘50s detailed Max “Snooky” Perlstein playing pool against the legendary Willie Mosconi. Max got edged out, 150–6. Yes, six! Then there was Larry Perlstein, who played basketball for Brooklyn College. Unfortunately, Larry never enrolled as a student.
Will any city name a street after me? I doubt it. And I won’t be feted with a parade down Market Street. Still, I take pride in the accomplishments of Perlsteins known and unknown. And if, after I die, a few people can say they were glad to have known me, I’ll be famous enough. Although Perlstein Street in San Francisco does sound pretty good.
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