Ron Perelman Is a Mix of Tabloid Headlines and Chabad Charity

Trademark Family Feuds Fueled by Millions of Dollars

Celebrity and Charity: Ronald Perelman is as famous for tabloid headlines as he is for his charitable contributions. Here, he and Barbra Streisand visit the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Getty Images
Celebrity and Charity: Ronald Perelman is as famous for tabloid headlines as he is for his charitable contributions. Here, he and Barbra Streisand visit the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

By Nathan Guttman

Published December 09, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Ronald Perelman is in the news, and once again it is for his family’s trademark feuds, fueled by millions, many millions, of dollars.

In the latest round, now on display at a New Jersey court, Perelman’s daughter is suing her uncle over her grandfather’s inheritance for more than $600 million. In the past decades, there have been similarly expensive lawsuits with ex-wives and even between Perelman and his brother.

But in the Jewish community, especially in the Philadelphia area, the Perelman family is known more for philanthropy than for scandals. While some may associate the name with raunchy tabloid headlines, others see it on plaques marking the family’s donations on the walls of hospital wings, school buildings and synagogues.

The Perelmans’ contributions to the Jewish community are undergoing a generational shift. While Raymond Perelman, the family patriarch, made his mark on Conservative Judaism by funding day schools and synagogues, his son Ronald Perelman’s personal draw to Orthodox life is translated into more attention being given to Chabad, and more donations going to Chabad-related causes. In Orthodox circles, Ronald Perelman is known for his strict observance, keeping kosher wherever he travels and flying rabbinical students across the globe to make a minyan for Sabbath prayers.

“I believe that God plays this enormous role in my life, and I believe that it’s my obligation to give back and to follow the rules that were set,” Ronald Perelman said in a 2011 interview.

The Perelman prominence in the Jewish community began with Raymond Perelman, 96, a successful businessman who moved to the Philadelphia suburb of Elkins Park after marrying Ruth Caplan (who died in 2011 at the age of 90). The couple’s two sons, Ronald and Jeffrey, followed in their father’s footsteps in the business world, although it was clear from the start that Ronald, who is now 70, was the one who shared his father’s passion for high-stakes acquisitions and trades. Ronald Perelman’s net worth is currently estimated by Forbes magazine at $14 billion, making him the 27th richest American. He is the chairman of the cosmetics giant Revlon and is involved in numerous other investment areas.

Perelman’s personal life has drawn just as much attention as his business success. A serial monogamist, he has been married five times and has eight children. His divorce cases ended with hefty settlements and extensive tabloid coverage.

Perelman met his first wife, Faith Golding on a cruise to Israel when he was 21. They were married for 19 years and had four children together. His second wife, Claudia Cohen, a former New York Post gossip columnist, was also born into wealth. Her father, Robert Cohen, owned the Hudson News airport retail network.

It is this branch of the Perelman family that is currently onstage. Or rather, in court. Samantha Perelman, 23, Perelman’s daughter with Cohen — who died in 2007 — is suing her uncle James Cohen over the Hudson News inheritance. She is claiming that he used “undue influence” to persuade his father, Robert Cohen, who was ill at the time, to cut her mother from most of his estate.

The lawsuit reflects the noxious relationship that Ronald Perelman has had with his former brother-in-law, and Perelman’s belief that Robert Cohen was not fit to make decisions about his estate because of his medical condition. Perelman was once even banned from visiting the Cohen residence after being accused of attending a bar mitzvah celebration uninvited in order to spy on Cohen to look into his health. The trial going on at the New Jersey Superior Court, in Hackensack, is as ugly as could be expected. In the latest developments, lawyers for Samantha Perelman presented a video of her late grandfather unable to speak clearly or to read a document presented to him — further proof, they claim, that he was not fit at the time the decision was made to bequeath most of his estate to his son rather than to his late daughter.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.