Rabbi Martin Penn was an outspoken Jewish leader, visionary and human rights advocate. He was a great Montrealer, a great Canadian.
I volunteered alongside Canadian Jewish Congress staffer Marty Penn during my McGill and post-university years. He was a passionate advocate to free the Jews of the Soviet Union. Even back in high school, I recall marching to the gates of the Soviet consulate off Doctor Penfield Avenue, chanting “Let My People Go”. Marty Penn was there leading the crowd.
I organized two JNF trips and several CJA trips to Israel and each time we greeted hundreds of overjoyed Jews arriving in their ancestral homeland from the former Soviet Union. I can’t help but give some credit to Marty Penn for their freedom.
In the 80′s, Mike Cohen invited me to get active with Congress and I was invited by Marty Penn to join him in co-chairing the Jews in Arab Lands Committee for the Quebec Region as well as the Syrian Jewry Task Force. Marty and I took marching orders from Toronto’s Judy Feld Carr, a modern day miracle worker and one of my heroes of the 20th century.
A couple of years ago I was privileged to co-chair, with Mike Cohen, the Cote Saint-Luc Human Rights Walkway induction of several human rights advocates including Marty Penn.
Sadly, Marty Penn passed away last week. He will long be remembered for dedicating his all too short life to helping others in need, of putting those who were oppressed and those who were denied their freedom and basic rights ahead of himself. Marty’s efforts were indeed of grand proportion. His legacy of self sacrifice and commitment to the Jewish People and to all who yearned for freedom will endure.
May Rabbi Martin Penn’s memory be a blessing, an inspiration for generations of students and young leaders whom he loved to teach and to motivate. He will be missed. He will be remembered.
Read an excellent tribute on Mike Cohen’s blog: Rabbi Martin Penn: a real hero leaves this earth