Hyman Penn oral history interview and transcript
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Hyman Penn was born in Houston to Holocaust survivors Linda and Morris I. Penn in 1954. Penn attended the University of Texas Medical School, and was a pediatrician at Texas Children’s for 35 years, until retiring in 2020. Penn has been a member of Temple Beth Torah (TBT) for the last 35 years. He has served as the president, vice president and Men’s Club president, and chaired the Ritual, Membership and Fundraising committees. In 2020, Penn was awarded the first Ner Tamid Award for his service to TBT. He was also recently named to the board of trustees of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston. Since 2009, Penn has been a docent at the Holocaust Museum Houston and a member of the museum’s board of trustees. Sarah Davidson is a member of Rice University in the Class of 2025. She is majoring in History and Anthropology with a minor in Poverty, Justice, and Human Capabilities. She is a student intern at the Houston Jewish History Archive. Previously, she interviewed local artist and activist Rochella Cooper. She also worked on transcribing and editing oral history transcripts for Rabbi Emeritus Roy Walter of Congregation Emanu El and national Hadassah leader Sonia Farb Raizes. In the interview, Hyman Penn narrates the story of how his family survived the Holocaust and their journey from Eastern Europe to Texas. His mother Linda and grandmother Riva lived through nine different concentration camps, while his father Morris was hidden by Christian farmers in his hometown of Vilkaviskis, Lithuania. Linda and Morris met in a displaced persons’ camp in Austria and later reunited in the United States, eventually settling down in Houston in 1951 after their marriage. Penn recounts his childhood growing up both in the small town of Newgulf and in Houston. He details his engagement with the Jewish community from high school to adulthood, including how he got involved with Temple Beth Torah. Penn describes what it was like to run a congregation, especially during COVID-19 and the move to online services. He explains his choice to become a docent at Holocaust Museum Houston, and touches on a particularly meaningful experience where he told his father’s story for students at a school in Vilkaviskis. Finally, Penn discusses his passion for magic and some of his past performances at Jewish summer camps.
This recording and transcript form part of a collection of oral history interviews conducted as part of the Houston Jewish History Archive.