Born in Saratov in the former Soviet Union, Miriam Pearlmutter has vivid memories of her relatives bringing food to her family as they prepared to leave their homeland to come to the United States.
Pearlmutter was 5. Russian propaganda in 1980 spread reports of food shortages in the United States.
When her family arrived months later to Boston, they stayed with the wife and children of Nobel laureate and dissident Andrei Sakharov in Chestnut Hill, a suburb of Boston.
“We lived in their basement for a year until my parents were able to get jobs, get their own apartment, and buy a house in the suburbs and kind of move up the ladder,” Pearlmutter said.
She attended the Maimonides School in Brookline, Mass.
“We were pretty (much) considered off the boat when we got to school,” she said.
Her mother wouldn’t allow English to be spoken in the home, so acculturation was a slow process.
Pearlmutter attended undergraduate school at Barnard College in New York City and studied to become a school psychologist at Tufts University in Somerville, Mass. Only after being a school psychologist for a few years did she decide to go to law school because of the wider impact she could make on children as a lawyer from that vantage point.
A graduate of Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University in Columbus, she practices at Walter | Haverfield in Cleveland, focusing on education law.
Outside of work, Pearlmutter enjoys helping others – both in her profession and at home in some of the same ways she was helped when she first arrived in the United States.
In 2001, her family opened their home to an elderly Russian refugee couple who needed assistance in finding employment. The pair stayed in her home for more than a year before moving out on their own and becoming independent.
In addition, Pearlmutter has taken in foster children.
At one point, she fostered three siblings, plus her own four children.
“I ended up having seven children living in my house, which was crazy,” Pearlmutter said. “I still remember that time, and I still try to keep up with those kids.”
In her work, she enjoys the cutting edge questions that she grapples with on a regular basis and appreciates the opportunity to influence the justice system in order to help individuals.
On the job, Pearlmutter started a podcast in 2016 called “Class Act: Updates in Education Law,” which she co-hosts. During COVID-19, Pearlmutter began addressing issues affecting schools pertaining to the pandemic in the podcast.
“I enjoy speaking to school districts about their legal requirements, compliance with various civil rights issues, or bullying issues,” Pearlmutter said. “When I go and I give a presentation about what a school district has to do to comply with the regulations issued by the Office of Civil Rights, I know that it’s not only that I’m helping my clients, I’m also affecting all the kids in that school district … by helping school staff members learn how to respond to these situations, some child that is being harassed or bullied is going to have a better outcome than maybe if I hadn’t presented that day.”