As the youngest executive director of The Blue Card in the national nonprofit organization’s history, Masha Pearl spearheads fundraising campaigns to benefit Holocaust survivors. In this way, Pearl remembers a lonely Holocaust survivor who lived upstairs from her family in Israel, where they moved from Moscow when Pearl was 6.
“The survivor relied greatly on my parents, and I’d spend countless hours listening to her childhood stories,” recalls Pearl, whose family later moved to New York. “Her stories always resonated with me.”
There was also personal family history. “From an early age, I recall my grandparents speaking of their experiences escaping Nazi persecution and being displaced from their homes in Eastern Europe,” said Pearl. “These stories helped shape my identity.”
Pearl attended Binghamton and planned to attend law school, but a stint working at a law firm after college changed her mind. “It wasn’t meaningful work to me,” she said. When a relative alerted her to a job opening at The Blue Card, which provides survivors with financial assistance for medical care, mental health care, nutrition, medicine and other basic necessities such as rent and utility payments, Pearl was intrigued.
“I’d never heard of the organization before, and was amazed to find out the work it was doing and disturbed to learn how sorely survivors needed its help,” said Pearl, who took a job there as program coordinator in 2009. Her tireless work and dedication to The Blue Card was noted, and in 2012, she was promoted to executive director.
As with most nonprofits, The Blue Card’s biggest challenge is fundraising. “We’re constantly looking for efficient and creative fundraising ideas, like participating in bike tours and our bar/bat mitzvah program,” said Pearl. “Twelve- and 13-year-olds are paired with survivors to meet them and learn about their experiences before choosing a bar/bat mitzvah fundraising project to benefit Blue Card.”
As the remaining survivors age, there’s also the challenge of time, which remains Pearl’s motivation. “Blue Card is not just a job to me,” she said. “It’s my personal mission to ensure survivors’ needs are met so they can live the rest of their lives with dignity and comfort.”
Pearl lives in Manhattan with her husband, Joshua, and their son Jonathan Joseph (JJ)—named after her husband’s grandfather, a concentration camp survivor.
Dance fever: Pearl performed with a children’s dance theater group while in college to help expose children to various dance styles.