Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., Appointed Vice President for Strategic Initiatives

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, has appointed Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., as Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. 

Rabbi Panken will coordinate the implementation of the Strategic Plan unanimously adopted by HUC-JIR's Board of Governors on February 13, 2006. 

"HUC-JIR's core mission is to produce effective professionals to serve the needs of the Jewish community and to help engage and cultivate the upcoming generations of Reform Jews," stated Rabbi Ellenson. "The Strategic Plan will institute systemic change through a structured design process, fostering programmatic development, fiscal realignment, and administrative improvements. Rabbi Panken will work closely with our senior administration, faculty, and lay leadership to strengthen the College-Institute's setting of priorities and decision-making to achieve excellence, financial sustainability, and technological growth. His combination of intellectual skills, knowledge of the rabbinate and Jewish professional leadership, and understanding of technology make him uniquely qualified to plan, implement, and lead strategic planning at HUC-JIR." 

Rabbi Panken is Dean of HUC-JIR's New York campus, where he teaches Second Temple and Rabbinic Literature and has previously served as Director of the Rabbinical Program and Dean of Students. He lectures widely throughout North America and is involved in a number of leadership roles within the Reform movement and the greater Jewish world, including the Rabbinical Placement Commission, the CCAR Committee on Ethics and Appeals, the Advisory Board ofReform Judaism magazine, the URJ Press Editorial Board, the International Education Committee for Birthright Israel, and the International Council of the New Israel Fund. 

Prior to joining the faculty and administration at HUC-JIR, he served as a rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom on Manhattan's Upper West Side. A graduate of the Johns Hopkins University in Electrical Engineering, he was ordained by HUC-JIR and completed his Ph.D. in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. He was also a recipient of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship. 

Rabbi Panken's ongoing research interests include the change and growth of nascent Jewish law during the Rabbinic Period (70-600 CE), the application of Rabbinic texts to modern reality, and the intersection between science and religion. He recently published The Rhetoric of Innovation (University Press of America, 2005), which explores legal change in Rabbinic texts, and is currently at work on a book-length history of Hanukkah. 

Rabbi Panken and his wife, Lisa Messinger, have two children. 


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu