Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D.

Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., is President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute (HUC-JIR), North America's first Jewish seminary, with campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York.  

He has taught Rabbinic and Second Temple Literature at HUC-JIR in New York since 1995. His previous roles at the College-Institute include serving as Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, as well as Dean and Dean of Students at the New York campus.  An alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, he earned his doctorate in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, where his research focused on legal change in Rabbinic Literature.

As an invited scholar to diverse congregational and university communities, he has spoken at synagogues throughout the United States and israel, Jewish camps in North America and South Africa, seminaries and universities including the University of Sydney and the University of Nanjing, and has offered the Jewish Baccalaureate sermon at the United States Air Force Academy and taught aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, a nuclear aircraft carrier. He has taught for the Wexner Foundation, the Hartman Institute, and in numerous multi-denominational settings, and has served as a member of the Editorial Board of Reform Judaism magazine, the Rabbinical Placement Commission, the birthright Israel Education Committee, the Ethics Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, 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 congregations including Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City and Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY.  A native of New York City who graduated from Johns Hopkins University's Electrical Engineering program, Rabbi Panken is also a certified commercial pilot and sailor. 

His publications include The Rhetoric of Innovation (University Press of America, 2005), which explores legal change in Rabbinic texts, and numerous scholarly and popular writings. 

The College-Institute provides the academic and professional training programs for the Reform Movement’s rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offer graduate programs for scholars of all faiths.  HUC-JIR’s 4,000 active alumni serve the Reform Movement’s 1.5 million members and nearly 900 congregations, representing the largest Jewish denomination in North America, and the growing Progressive Movement in Israel and around the world.  

“I am greatly honored to  strive for ongoing innovation and creativity in strengthening our institution as the intellectual center of Progressive Judaism worldwide,” states Dr. Panken. “Our mission is to help our students grow into authentic Jewish thought leaders, able to articulate and advance their own visions of a rich Jewish life for a new and rapidly changing religious landscape. As we invigorate our partnerships with Reform synagogues and the larger Reform Movement, we will shape a compelling message that will have an impact on the largest denomination of Jews in North America and the growing Progressive Jewish community in Israel and worldwide.  By nurturing the entrepreneurial and collaborative spirit of our faculty, staff, and students, we can bring forth new projects and programs that will reimagine Jewish learning, transform the Jewish community, and extend the College-Institute’s leadership in Jewish higher education throughout the seminary and university worlds.”

Rabbi Panken and his wife and their two children live in the New York area.