Inauguration of 12th HUC-JIR President, Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D held at Plum Street Temple on June 8
By Beth Kotzin
With the sobering sound of the shofar being blown, the inauguration of the 12th president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institut of Religion began at Plum Street Temple on Sunday, June 8, 2014.
Rabbi Lewish Kamrass of Wise Temple opened the ceremony, followed by the procession led by Mona Kerstine (Inauguration Chair) of over a hundred leaders of the Reform Movement from all over the world, Cincinnati civic and religious leaders, and representatives of universities, learned societies, and organizations.
There was a special processional for the Torah Scrolls, consisting of rabbinical and graduate students, HUC deans of all four campuses, faculty, and alumni, to demonstrate the transmission of Torah from generation to generation. Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, Dean of the Cincinnati Campus, carried HUC’s Holocaust Torah scroll in this processional
Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, President of HUC from 1996-2000, led the gathering in a responsive reading, after which Rabbi Panken was passed the Torah. While he held it, Rabbi David Ellenson,Ph.D., President of HUC from 2001-2013 and Chancellor, did another reading.
The Holocaust Torah scroll was then read by Rabbi David Ellenson, Chancellor, Rabbi Aaron Panken, President and Andrew Berger, Chair-Elect of the Board of Governors.
Rabbi Richard J. Jacobs, President, Union of Reform Judaism said of Panken in his speech, “the depth of his heart matches, if not exceeds, that of his brilliant mind.” Jacobs was followed by Rabbi Richard A. Block, President, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Martin Cohen, Chairman, Presidental Serach Committee , HUC-JIR, and Irwin Engleman, Chair, Board of Governors, HUC-JIR.
After a brief moment of quiet meditation, Rabbi Panken gave his inaugural address, pointing out that he was “grateful beyond words to stand here as your new president.” Panken believes that Reform Judaism is more open to innovation than ever before, and is proud to be a part of that movement.
Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D., Professor of Liturgy, Worship, and Ritual then offered a blessing for the new President. Rabbi Norman J. Cohen, Ph.D., Acting President (2000-2001), Provost Emeritus, and Professor Emeritus of Midrash, HUC-JIR, closed with a benediction.