Irma Penn Bequest Gets Creative Juices Flowing

by Stu Slayen | Aug 25, 2017
Irma Pennz”l chose Judaism, but lived her life as if Judaism chose her. She converted when she married Marvin Pennz”l and immediately embraced Jewish life with passion and zest. 

And now, through the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, her enthusiasm for Jewish learning will live on.

“For Irma and Marvin, Judaism was a big part of their romance,” says long-time friend, Ruth Livingston. “Irma was so attracted to Jewish values and Jewish ethics. The idea of tikkun olam made sense to her.”

Penn, who passed away in 2013, was active at Temple Shalom and with B’nai B’rith Women, and worked as the first archivist at the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada. Her most significant community work was as a “soferet” – a scribe. She was the first woman in Canada to scribe a Torah. 

“The work was a labour of love,” says Livingston. “It was a monumental feat that engaged many people in the community.” When Penn passed away, she left a large bequest to the Jewish Foundation with the request that a portion of the net income earned by her fund be used to support Jewish education. In honour of Penn, the Foundation has launched the Irma Penn Jewish Educational Grant Pilot Project. Up to $35,000 will be available for new and creative Jewish educational projects. 

“We are looking for ideas that are outside the box,” says Syd Thompson, Chair of the Foundation’s Distributions Committee. “Irma lived her life in a way that elevated Jewish knowledge, practice, and connection. With this grant, we are looking for ideas that honour her legacy by enriching our community.”

Only charitable organizations are eligible to apply for funding under the program. Interested parties should inform the Foundation of their intent to apply by January 15, 2018. Applications are due by February 15. 

“We are very excited about this grant,” says Thompson. “We know it will inspire exceptional thinkers and educators in the community.”

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