Our newest Soferet - Irma Penn
Irma is a talented Canadian artist who trained in scribing in Jerusalem. Her love for Hebrew letters drove her to study the way of becoming a scribe, a promise and a dream that took her 40 years to fulfill, but she never lost focus.
After Irma retired as the archivist for the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, she knew that it was the right time to fulfill her long awaited goal of becoming a scribe. She learned all she could about the forms and laws of Hebrew letters, selecting feathers, cutting a quill, scoring parchment, selecting different parchment and selecting ink.
Irma is now scribing the panels of parchment for the Women's Torah Project full time. "It never dawned on me, till someone pointed it out to me, that I was one of the first women scribes in the world. I merely wanted to do what I loved, with meaning, expertise and knowledge." To her, becoming a soferet is a fulfilling commitment and is much more than merely doing calligraphy or another piece of art. "I am deeply honoured and blessed to be part of the Women's Torah Project. Sofrut is very special to me. It is a way of connecting with and reaching G-d." Irma is scribing this Torah in memory of her husband, Marvin Penn, Z' L. Irma also scribes megillot, mezuzah, tifillen and Torah.
Irma graduated from the University of Manitoba completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1980, and Master of Education in Instructional Design and Evaluation in 1987. Irma has taught at all levels and many subjects including art, science and computers in public and Hebrew School. Her students won the top prize of a computer contest -- a computer.
Irma has been associated with many national, regional and local organizations including Jewish Women International. She is the past president of the Winnipeg Lionelles, and Jewish Women International (formerly B'Nai Brith Women) Nadir Chapter. She is one of the founders of the University of Manitoba Isbister Legacy Society and sits on the Jewish National Fund Board of Governors. She is also a member of the Association of Veterans and Friends of the Mackenzie Papineau Battalion of Canada.
As the archivist for the Jewish Historical Society and later the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, Irma is a very detailed person who kept track of over three million documents, pictures and artifacts which were used in exhibits and for information by people world-wide. She has helped many people who requested information about their heritage and has answered thousands of requests from around the world.
Irma sat on several committees including book writing committees such as for the book: "Our Musical Heritage, a Century of Jewish Musicians and Music in Winnipeg", in 2000 and "Jewish Life and Times Vol. VIII, Women's Voices: Personal Recollections" in 1998. She was also commissioned to design the cover for the 36th Anniversary of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, titled "Members Memoirs and Mezumen".
Irma creates many pieces of art for the betterment of others, working in various media such as water colour, oil and acrylic. She has had many one-woman exhibits of her works. Her commissioned stained glass window depicting the beginning of the State of Israel is installed at the Talmud Torah-Beth Jacob Synagogue, Winnipeg, Manitoba.