Reform seminary names professorships for head who died in plane crash

Reform seminary names professorships for head who died in plane crash

Rabbi Aaron Panken led the four-campus Hebrew Union College from 2014 until his death last year

Rabbi Aaron Panken. (Hebrew Union College)
Rabbi Aaron Panken. (Hebrew Union College)

JTA — The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform movement’s rabbinic seminary, has named four educators to receive the first professorships named for Rabbi Aaron Panken, the school’s president who was killed in May while piloting a small plane in New York state.

The Aaron D. Panken Professorships will be funded by a $12 million endowment contributed by nearly 1,000 donors in memory of Panken, who served as president of the institution from 2014 to 2018.

The professors serve on each of the HUC-JIR campuses — in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles and New York.

The first Panken professors are:

* Jennifer Grayson, assistant professor of history in Cincinnati.

* Rabbi Dalia Marx, professor of liturgy and midrash at the Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem.

* Rabbi Joseph Skloot, assistant professor of modern Jewish intellectual history in New York.

* Rabbi Dvora Weisberg, professor of rabbinics and director of the School of Rabbinical Studies at the Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles.

A day of learning led by the four professors will be held near the date of Panken’s first yahrzeit.

“The Panken Professorships honor Rabbi Panken’s profound impact on this institution, its students, and the Reform Movement,” HUC’s interim president, Rabbi David Ellenson, said in a statement.

“Rabbi Panken prized our faculty as scholars, thought leaders, teachers, and mentors who transmit shalshelet hakabalah, the chain of tradition, while inspiring our students to become transformative leaders who invigorate Jewish life and strengthen Jewish communities throughout North America, Israel, and around the world,” Ellenson said.

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