Jewish Student Union presents special guest for Yom HaShoah


Ariana Castaneda

Dr. Hyman Penn, a former student of Bellaire High School, presents in front of students ranging in grade. Dr. Penn serves as a member of the board of trustees and a docent at the Holocaust Museum in Houston.

The room draws to a silence as over 300 students in the auditorium stand in remembrance of the Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust.

The Jewish Student Union brought guest speaker Dr. Hyman Penn to present his parent’s experience during the Holocaust on April 28 during Cardinal Hour in the auditorium to observe Yom HaShoah.

Vice president of JSU and junior Daniella Schneider said she felt emotional hearing Dr. Penn’s presentation.

“I come from Holocaust survivors, so I feel like everything in the entire story was amazing,” Schneider said.

During his presentation, Hyman Penn described the reality of living in Germany during the Holocaust.

Students take a silent stand in the auditorium in honour of the lives lost during the Holocaust.
“You just have to care,” junior Danielle Schneider said. (Ariana Castaneda)

“Hundreds of laws were passed against the Jews to exclude them from German society, hoping that the half a million Jews that were living there would want to leave,” Penn said. “Most of the world was not interested in helping us.”

Dr. Penn, also a former Bellaire student, serves as a member of the board of trustees and a docent at the Holocaust Museum. Director of JSU, Rabbi Natistern said Dr. Penn graciously accepted the invitation to speak at Bellaire last Thursday.

“We chose the date April 28th because it is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day,” Natistern said. “With the rising acts of violence, hatred and antisemitism, we thought it would be vital to share with as many people as possible a personal story of the tragedy.”

After the presentation, students talked with Dr. Penn about recent events involving the Jewish diaspora.

Over 300 students were in attendance for the presentation, as many classes were offering extra credit for attending. Rabbi Natistern thought one of the challenges they were going to face was attendance, but that changed quickly.
“We were originally scheduled to be in LGI#2 because the auditorium was taken,” Natistern said. “Luckily, the day before, the event in the auditorium was canceled and became available to us which worked out great because of the amount of teens in attendance.” (Ariana Castaneda)

“Dr. Penn was thrilled to field questions and was blown away by the students eager to learn more,” Natistern said. “He said he was very impressed with the level of engagement. I am so proud that we were able to share this important Holocaust education with 300 teens at Bellaire.”

The awareness raised by the presentation brought Schneider to emphasize the importance of Yom HaShoah: to remember.

“The most important part about the presentation is to remember,” Schneider said. “Beforehand, no one said anything [about the Holocaust]. No one cared. You just have to care. You have to pass it on, so it doesn’t happen again. That’s just the most important part, so that everyone knows right from wrong.”