Inauguration of Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., as president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, June 8
The Cincinnati community is invited to join dignitaries and civic and religious leaders from around the world for the Inauguration of Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., at Plum Street Temple on June 8, 2014 at 2 pm. The Inauguration will mark the formal installation of Rabbi Panken as the 12th President in the 139-year history of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).
“This is a milestone occasion for the city of Cincinnati and for HUC-JIR, whose Cincinnati campus is the historic birthplace of Reform Judaism in America,” says Mona Kerstine, Inauguration Chair. “We take great pride in the strong relationships that link our campus with the larger Cincinnati community through our Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati Rabbinical Fellows serving in internships throughout our local Jewish institutions, and the extensive cultural and educational public programs offered with the Foundation’s support.”
“The Inauguration is an opportunity for the Cincinnati community to express its support for the extraordinary contribution HUC-JIR is making here and worldwide,” adds Andrew R. Berger, Chair-Elect of the HUC-JIR Board of Governors, who will participate in the Torah reading with Rabbi Panken and Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR Chancellor. “Through the work of its students of all faiths and its 4,000 active alumni, HUC-JIR touches the lives of millions of people in the U.S., Israel, and around the globe as rabbis, cantors, educators, nonprofit professionals, and scholars in congregations, communities, academic institutions, social service agencies, cultural institutions, military and healthcare chaplaincy, and youth, summer camping, and Israel programs.”
Rabbi Aaron Panken states, “It is an honor to be formally installed as President in Cincinnati, where our Hebrew Union College was established in 1875 and has grown as an internationally renowned, global academic institution. Our institution’s sacred mission is to help our students grow into authentic thought leaders, able to articulate and advance their own visions for a new and rapidly changing religious landscape. By nurturing the entrepreneurial and collaborative spirit of our faculty and students, we can bring forth new projects and programs that will reimagine learning, transform community, and extend the College-Institute’s leadership in higher education throughout the seminary and university worlds.”
Ordained by HUC-JIR in New York in 1991, Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., has served as Vice President for Strategic Initiatives (2007-2010), Dean of the New York campus (1998-2007), and Dean of Students (1996-1998). He has taught Rabbinic and Second Temple Literature at HUC-JIR in New York since 1995, with research interests in the historical development of legal concepts and terms; narrative development; and development of holiday observances. Dr. Panken earned his doctorate in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s Electrical Engineering program, Rabbi Panken is also a certificated commercial pilot and sailor. His publications include a book on legal change in Rabbinic texts, and articles in leading academic journals and scholarly volumes. He has lectured widely at academic conferences and synagogues throughout North America and served as visiting faculty at universities in Australia and China.
An alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, Dr. Panken earned his doctorate in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. He currently serves on faculty for the Wexner Foundation and the Editorial Board of Reform Judaism Magazine, and has served on the Rabbinical Placement Commission, the Birthright Education Committee, the CCAR Ethics Committee, and in a variety of other leadership roles within the Reform Movement and greater Jewish community. Prior to teaching at the College-Institute, he served as a congregational rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City and as a rabbinical intern at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY.
Hebrew Union College was established in 1875 in Cincinnati by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the founder of American Reform Judaism, and is the first institution of higher Jewish education in America. Rabbi Panken’s predecessors include Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (1875-1900); Acting President Rabbi Moses Mielziner (1900-1903); Acting President Rabbi Gotthard Deutsch (1903); Rabbi Kaufman Kohler (1903-1921); and Rabbi Julian Morgenstern (1921-1947), who rescued scholars and students from Nazi Europe. The Jewish Institute of Religion was founded in 1922 in New York by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise (1922-1948), a pioneer of the American Zionist Movement and a social justice activist. The merger of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion took place in 1948, headed by Dr. Nelson Glueck (1947-1971), a renowned biblical archaeologist who established HUC-JIR’s campuses in Los Angeles (1954) and Jerusalem (1963). He was succeeded by Dr. Alfred Gottschalk (1971-1996); Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman (1996-2000); Acting President Norman J. Cohen (2000-2001) and Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D. (2001-2013), who now serves as Chancellor.