Kahn, Ruth Brown (1902–1987)

By: Rose Biderman

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: April 5, 2020

Ruth Kahn, civic and humanitarian leader, the daughter of Philip and Josie (Mayer) Brown, was born at St. Louis, Missouri, on June 21, 1902. She grew up in Oklahoma Territory near Eufala and graduated from high school at Muskogee, Oklahoma. In 1923 she graduated from the University of Chicago, and moved to Dallas. As a young Dallas matron, Ruth became active in the National Council of Jewish Women and the Sisterhood of Temple Emanu-El. She originated the NCJW Celebrity Course, which later evolved into the Community Course, a cultural series cosponsored by Southern Methodist University and Temple Emanu-El. She also served as president of Temple Emanu-El Sisterhood from 1952 to 1954. Ruth Kahn was a founding member and secretary of the Dallas Division of the USO during World War II. She also served as secretary of the Dallas USO Council for four years and was a member of the operating committee of the USO Travelers Aid. She was a founder and first vice president of the Women's Symphony League and was president and president emeritus of the Dallas Ballet Theater. She served as a board member of the Dallas Women's Club and the Dallas Garden Club. A flower, "the Ruth Brown Kahn daffodil," was named in her honor, for her efforts to bring beauty to the city. Her activities in the community also included her service on the development boards of Bishop College and Thanks-Giving Square. She was active with the Dallas Museum of Art and the Community Chest.

Ruth Brown Kahn served on the national boards of the Women's Division of United Jewish Appeal, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Women's Division of Brandeis University, and the National Interreligious Affairs Committee of the American Jewish Committee. In 1957 she was one of thirty-three women leaders chosen to participate in a survey of the United Jewish Appeal Women's Division to study relief-mission programs for Iron Curtain escapees in Europe.

In Dallas she was one of the founders of the Year-Round Women's Division of the Dallas Jewish Welfare Federation in 1946 and in 1951 was elected to head the division. She was cofounder of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society (formerly the Dallas Jewish Archives) in 1971 and served the society until her death. In 1980 she was honored for her work in preserving Dallas Jewish history at the Jewish Community Center in Dallas. She was also a member of the American Jewish Historical Society. The American Jewish Committee, Dallas, honored her in 1974 with its Human Relations Award on the fiftieth anniversary of her civic leadership in the city. Temple Emanu-El Sisterhood honored her in 1979 for her "manifold humanitarian contributions in the fields of international, national and local human needs." In 1981 the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith honored her with its Henry Cohn Humanitarian Award for advancing the cause of human rights, dignity, and equal opportunity. She received the Eleanor Roosevelt Centennial Award in 1984, presented to her by the Israel Bond Organization, for her "outstanding devotion to the traditions, values and ideals that Eleanor Roosevelt stood and fought for." Ruth Kahn was a Democrat. She married Louis J. Hexter, an attorney, in 1923. In 1936 she married Laurence S. Kahn, a Dallas merchant and civic leader. She had two children. She died on April 9, 1987.

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Dallas Morning News, April 10, 1987. Federation News, January, February 1951, October 1957. Natalie Ornish, Pioneer Jewish Texans (Dallas: Texas Heritage, 1989). Ruthe Winegarten and Cathy Schechter, Deep in the Heart: The Lives and Legends of Texas Jews (Austin: Eakin Press, 1990).

  • Peoples
  • Jews
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists
  • Women
  • Women's Clubs
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Rose Biderman, “Kahn, Ruth Brown,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/kahn-ruth-brown.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995
April 5, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: