Perry J. Mendelson, longtime Vaad, Chabad leader, dies at 82

Perry Mendelson in a 1985 photograph from the Jewish Light’s archives.

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Perry J. Mendelson, a native St. Louisan who made aliyah to Israel, a former longtime president of the local Vaad Hoeir, and one of the founding lay leaders of Chabad in St. Louis, died in Jerusalem on March 31, at the age of 82.

Perry Jerome Mendelson was born in St. Louis on Oct. 31, 1938, the son of the late Harry and Ruth Londe Mendelson.  He was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara Osheroff Mendelson. They are survived by children Mark Mendelson, Channie (Jonathan) Spetner, Chaya Klein, Jeffrey (Robin) Mendelson and Davida (Chaim) Schapiro.  He is also survived by a sister, Sandy (Robert) Abrams.

Mr. Mendelson attended the Talmud Torah Hebrew School at Congregation Nusach Hari on Blackstone Avenue, which the late Rabbi Sholom Rivkin founded at the behest of the Sixth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneerson.  He enlisted at the age of 17 in the U.S. Army Reserve, for which he served as a medic.

Mr. Mendelson studied pharmacy at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy (now the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis). He was the owner and pharmacist at Marchelle Pharmacy, and was a sales rep for the Rosenbloom Monument Company.

He was also an active member and past vice president of Nusach Hari B’nai Zion Congregation, and a past board president of the Ahavas Chesed Burial Society. 

Rabbi Yosef Landa, regional director of Chabad of Greater St. Louis, said in a statement to the Jewish Light, “Perry was among the early founders of Chabad in St. Louis, which is when our friendship began. Throughout the nearly 40 years since then he has served in leadership positions of a host of communal institutions, most notably the Vaad Hoeir, and inspired many community projects. 

“He exemplified the Jewish leader par excellence, which is described in the special blessing recited on Shabbat in many synagogues for ‘those who occupy themselves faithfully with communal affairs.’ Perry served faithfully and with great humility, always seeking the singular objective of furthering Yiddishkeit, and doing so without ever an expectation of honor or recognition.”

In 1985, when Mr. Mendelson was being honored by National Conference of Synagogue Youth Midwest Region, then-NCSY President Dr. Isaac Boniuk described why he was receiving a citation for community service. 

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“Perry is the kind of behind-the-scenes person who is always there, volunteering services even when not asked. It is most appropriate that he receive this long-overdue recognition.”

Funeral services and burial were in Jerusalem.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Barbara Mendelson Tomchei Shabbos Fund of the Vaad Hoeir.