Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Pearlman, a strong support to SOJC


Most people know Lou Pearlman as the creator of the best-selling boy band of all time, Backstreet Boys, and *NSYNC, whose recordings sold over 55 million records globally. They also know him as the perpetrator of one of the biggest Ponzi schemes that defrauded investors out of more than $300 million. For this, Pearlman was serving a 25-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami. His sentence was cut short when he died Aug. 19, 2016, from an infection following surgery to get a heart valve replaced, according to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner. He was 62 years old.

What people may not know about Pearlman is that he was also a pioneer for the Southwest Orlando Jewish community.

During the early 1990s, as his fame and fortune as a recording producer grew, Pearlman, remembering his Jewish roots, gave a large sum of money to the Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation, which was in its infant stage. Around 1990-91, the congregation was able to move forward with building plans because of Pearlman’s financial support. He became a lifetime member and was given naming rights of the new shul. In 1993, when the building was completed, the congregation was named Temple Ohalei Rivka, after Pearlman’s mother.

“Lou Pearlman gave the largest single donation at the time,” said Kurt Kotzin, a member of SOJC since its inception. “He was a big supporter of SOJC through the mid-to-late-90s.”

Pearlman continued to support the congregation financially. He would buy a table at the annual fundraising benefit and purchase an ad in the benefit’s program—usually front or back page (these ads cost the most).

“He should be remembered as a pioneer,” Kotzin said, “because without him and his generosity, there would be no SOJC or JCC South.”

Louis Jay Pearlman was born June 19,1954, in Flushing, New York, to Hy and Reenie Pearlman. Although he made a career in the music industry, his first love was aviation. He attended Queens College where he wrote a business plan for a class project based on the idea of a helicopter taxi service in New York City. By the late 1970s, he turned that business plan into reality with one helicopter. He also had a keen interest in airships and started a company named Airship International, which he relocated to Orlando in 1991. Clients included MetLife and SeaWorld.

Musician Art Garfunkel, his first cousin, and boy band New Kids on the Block stirred a desire in Pearlman to get involved in the music industry. In the early 1990s he formed Trans Continental Records and selected five unknown singers in a $3 million talent search that was advertised in the Orlando Sentinel. The result was Backstreet Boys. In 1995, Pearlman followed the same formula and formed boy band *NSYNC. Several other bands followed.

One *NSYNC member, Justin Timberlake, spun himself off from this beginning to become a solo artist and actor.

“I hope he found some peace,” Timberlake wrote. “God bless and RIP, Lou Pearlman.”

*NSYNC member Lance Bass wrote on social media, “He might not have been a stand up businessman, but I wouldn’t be doing what I love today [without] his influence. RIP Lou.”


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