Nathan Perlmutter, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith who was widely cited for his fight against bigotry and discrimination and dedication to humanitarian causes, died Sunday of cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center here at age 64. Funeral services will be held Wednesday at Temple Emanu-El here.
Perlmutter was a recipient last month of the 1987 Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award, for his public service. In making the presentation at the White House, President Reagan said it was “his life work to champion human dignity. He is a hero indeed.”
Mayor Edward Koch of New York presented Perlmutter with the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award last May “for extraordinary courage, enduring humanity, unshakable faith in a world without prejudice.” In March he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
Perlmutter was an author, lecturer, lawyer and former Marine infantry officer. His 38-year career in the human relations field began when he joined the ADL in 1949. He served through 1964 as director of the three of the human rights agency’s regional offices — in Detroit, Miami and New York. From 1965-69 he was associate national director of the American Jewish Committee.
He returned to the ADL in 1973 as assistant national director and became its national director in 1979. He was a vice president of Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass., from 1969 to 1973.
The son of immigrant parents from Poland, Perlmutter grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, NY. He entered the civil service at age 19 and worked as a clerk/typist at the Pentagon. He enrolled at the Georgetown University School of Diplomatic and Consular Practice and also studied at Villanova College. He obtained his law degree from New York University Law School Perlmutter was the author of “A Bias of Reflections” and co-author with his wife, Ruth Ann Perlmutter, of “The Real Anti-Semitism in America.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.