Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, has expanded the role of Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., Vice President for Strategic Initiatives.
Rabbi Panken, who has served as Dean of the New York campus while he coordinated national efforts in strategic planning, technology and partnerships with other educational institutions for the past year at HUC-JIR, will now refocus his efforts exclusively on his areas of national work for the College-Institute. His new role will combine prior work in strategic planning, technology and partnerships with a new specific emphasis on the reshaping and expanding of recruitment and admissions efforts for all campuses and programs.
"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. "Rabbi Panken will work as part of our senior administration with faculty, students, applicants and lay leadership to strengthen the College-Institute's setting of priorities and decision-making to achieve excellence, enhance technological growth, build strong partnerships with other institutions and recruit and admit the best pool of applicants for all our programs. 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 these efforts at HUC-JIR."
Rabbi Panken served as Dean of HUC-JIR's New York campus from 1998 to 2007, and teaches Second Temple and Rabbinic Literature. He 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 Advisory Board of Reform 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.