Reform’s flagship seminary names first professorships for Aaron Panken, president who died in plane crash


(JTA) — Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion has named four educators to receive the first professorships named for 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 Reform movement’s flagship seminary 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 ’02, professor of liturgy and midrash at the Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem;

* Rabbi Joseph Skloot ’10, assistant professor of modern Jewish intellectual history in New York;

* Rabbi Dvora Weisberg ’11, 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 the rabbi’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.”

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