6/1 Barney Gelburd
6/1 Rhoda Koshak
6/2 Marvin Frank
6/3 Marvin Adler
6/4 Barney Shinberg
6/5 Herman Klausner
6/7 Meyer Cohen
6/8 B. Herbert Shapiro
6/8 Beth Weinberger
6/9 Rosa Levy
6/10 Jacob Barash
6/10 Sidney Captain
6/11 Gittel Smith
6/11 John R. Steel
6/13 Shalom Baruch
6/14 Jessica M. Horn
6/15 Louis B. Freedman
6/15 Sarah Robkin
6/17 W. Zolley Lerner
6/19 Sanford Licht
6/19 Myron Parsons
6/20 Diane Ostrower
6/20 I. Harry Tanenbaum
6/21 Ernest Acanfora
6/21 Fay Friedberg
6/21 Bella Cohen Karsh
6/21 Richard Packer
6/22 Sidney Anderson
6/25 Abraham Gelburd
6/25 Lena From Reimer
Although Memorial Day – which Americans will observe this Monday – is not a Jewish holiday, the idea of remembering and honoring those who died in service to our nation is certainly a Jewish value. With that idea in mind, we’ve rounded up these stories and prayers to share with you ahead of the long holiday weekend.
Including both ancient and contemporary texts, this compilation of prayers and readings offers a selection to enrich your holiday observance.
Although the two never met, Aaron Rozovsky shares why he thanked Navy SEAL Senior Chief Petty Officer Heath Robinson, z’l, each week before Shabbat in Petoskey, Michigan.
Rabbi Dan Bronstein, Ph.D., writes about Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, who, as a chaplain for the United States Marine Corps, delivered what became an historic eulogy, following Iwo Jima, one of the most devastating battles of World War II.
Rabbi Douglas Kohn reconsiders his own patriotism and relationship with the military in today’s America – and helps readers use a Jewish lens to do the same.
Mike Rankin, z”l, a military physician, shares his remembrances of a Kol Nidre service aboard a destroyer following a battle with the North Vietnamese Army that resulted in many deaths.
Alan Weinschel recounts how a trip to the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach reminded him of his responsibility – and ours – to remember these fallen soldiers by saying Kaddish for them annually.
Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D. writes about what connects the Battle of Waterloo – which took the lives of 26,000 souls in one day – and Reform Judaism.
May those we remember on this Memorial Day rest in peace and may we, taking to heart the teaching of the Prophet Isaiah, continue the sacred task of beating our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.
May We All Be Disciples of Our Aaron
This past weekend, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Reform Movement’s seminary, announced that President Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., age 53, died tragically in the crash of a small plane he was piloting on Saturday, May 5. He served as the 12th president in HUC-JIR’s 143-year history. What follows is the eulogy Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, delivered at Rabbi Panken’s funeral earlier this week.
I first met Aaron Panken at HUC-JIR in the late 80s when I interviewed him to be my rabbinic intern at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. Based on his resume, I tried to figure out what he was like; a degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins? Really? If I was looking for a guy to run the AV equipment maybe, but I also saw that he played guitar, had been a NFTY advisor and so much more. This guy was either a complete misfit or he was one extraordinarily multi-faceted human being.
In five minutes, I knew I was in the presence of a brilliant and immensely personable future leader of our people. And when I learned that Rabbi Jack Stern had just interviewed him to be the rabbinic intern of Westchester Reform Temple (WRT), I knew there was no chance he’d take our job. And, as a former WRT intern myself, I told him he’d be crazy to work with anyone other than Rabbi Stern. I knew at that moment that if I was really lucky one day, I might get to work closely with this remarkable person.
The Torah teaches that: “Aaron shall carry the names of the children of Israel on the breast piece of decision over his heart….” (Ex 28:29)
Midrash Tanchuma elaborates: “When Aaron had to make a decision regarding a fellow Israelite, he was to consult not only the rule book but his heart as well….” (Tanchuma Sh’mot 27)
Aaron Panken was cut from the same cloth as our ancestor; the depth of his heart matched, if not exceeded, the breadth of his brilliant mind. In the past few years Rabbi Panken has not only recruited, taught, mentored, ordained, and graduated a new generation of Jewish leaders, but, more significantly, he has modeled for each of them how to live a Jewish life of depth and integrity, embodying instead of merely espousing our Torah’s timeless teachings. Greatness and goodness flowed forth from this remarkable man.
I was blessed to have Aaron as a close friend and, until six years ago, to be the rabbi of his family’s congregation. It was on this bimah that Aaron dazzled WRT with incisive and provocative readings of our sacred texts, especially the Book of Jonah each Yom Kippur. It was here that Eli and Sam lovingly received Torah from their parents and grandparents and at URJ Eisner Camp and on our URJ EIE Heller High semester in Israel they deepened their own Jewish journeys. Before I had the chance to work with Aaron, I had the supreme blessing to work closely with his amazing wife Lisa Messinger during her years as president of WRT. Lisa, by the way, was very timid at first and I take pride in having helped her come out of her shell.
Fast forward. I was invited to lead the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and in 2014, Aaron became the president of HUC-JIR. What a blessing it has been to work so closely with Aaron. There was only one other time when the Union and the College were more closely aligned and that was at the beginning, when Isaac Mayer Wise held both positions simultaneously.
Aaron Panken didn’t enter our Reform Movement through the front door. Three weeks ago, at our Scheidt Seminar in Atlanta, Aaron shared with 87 incoming congregational presidents how he came to Reform Judaism.
He shared: “It all began when I was in the fifth grade. Inexplicably, one afternoon as I walked home from school in Manhattan, I entered the Lincoln Square Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation on Amsterdam Avenue.”
“I’d like to go to religious school,” I told the receptionist. The next thing I knew, the cantor appeared and asked, “How can I help you?”
“I’d like to go to religious school,” I repeated. “That’s lovely,” he said. “Could I talk to your parents about that?”
Sitting him down later that day, his parents, Peter and Beverly, said, “Aaron, we’d prefer that you go to a place where what they teach is a little closer to what we believe.”
And so, starting at age 11, Aaron attended religious school at New York’s Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. Rabbi Sally Priesand, our movement’s first woman rabbi officiated at his bar mitzvah and the rest is as they say history. Thank God we didn’t have our specialty camps back then because Aaron would have been a stand out at 6 Points Sci-Tech and Lisa would have been a champion at 6 Points Sports, but luckily, they found each other at URJ Eisner Camp in Great Barrington, MA.
Aaron knew from his experience and his vision that Reform Judaism is truly a movement, not merely a collection of organizations and his leadership covered every part of it. You could have dropped him into any role anywhere in our movement – camp, campus, youth group, pulpit, scholarly seminar, social justice rally, Israel, chaplaincy, you name it; he possessed all of God’s leadership gifts especially humility and kindness.
Aaron didn’t just write about justice. In March 2015, at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, a watershed moment in the Civil Rights Movement, Rabbi Panken spoke in Selma, Alabama, in front of 400 activists, including Reverend William Barber, Dr. Susannah Heschel, Peter Yarrow, Rabbi Jonah Pesner and host of other leaders in the battle for equality. Aaron said:
We remember the period’s frightening moments when unabashed hatred battered the good and robbed people of life and opportunity; when authorities who we looked to for leadership, morality and fairness used their immense influence for evil and not for good, and when the powerless suffered mightily at the hand of those who held them down.
And Aaron’s love of Israel was full throated and constant. The new Taube Family Campus at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem represents his deep commitment to expanding and intensifying the place of Israel in our movement.
When 16-year-old Shira Banki was murdered during the Jerusalem Pride march three years ago, Aaron reached out to the Banki family and in partnership with the U.S. embassy created a program that brings together teachers and their young students to learn about the different groups living side-by-side in Jerusalem. These educators who are Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, religious and secular, have to face the fear of the “other,” the stereotypes, and sometimes the hatred. Aaron knew it was not enough to hope for peace.
This past November during the HUC-JIR Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem, Aaron ordained the 100th Israeli Reform rabbi, signaling the transformative impact the College-Institute has had in shaping a more inclusive and pluralistic Israel. Aaron has modeled sacred partnership with the College-Institute’s lay leadership and especially with his board chair, Andy Berger. Andy and Aaron were always in synch, always deeply respectful of each other.
And if you think Aaron was only a gentle, mild mannered individual, you should have seen him assertively carry a Torah scroll past the security guards as we entered the Kotel (Western Wall) plaza to finish our celebratory prayer service in honor of the four newest Israeli ordinees. Not only did Aaron proudly carry the Torah, he plumbed its deepest layers and lived its most demanding imperatives.
Our tradition commands us: “Raise up many disciples.” (Pirkei Avot 1:1)
Many attempt, and some succeed but only a few, including Rabbi Aaron Panken, have their disciples spread out around the world. Pirkei Avot doesn’t only want many disciples; it specifies which kind; it says, “Be disciples of Aaron.”
And how do Aaron’s disciples conduct themselves? Do they only sit in the academy studying all day and night?
No, the disciples of Aaron spend their days “loving peace and pursuing peace, loving their fellow creatures and bringing them close to the Torah.” (Pirkei Avot 1:12)
Today, this sanctuary and our movement overflow with the many disciples of Rabbi Dr. Aaron Panken, especially Aaron’s beloved sister, Rabbi Melinda Panken. The biblical Aaron and our Aaron inspire us to bring many others to the deep water of Torah and from there, find strength and inspiration to pursue peace and love all of God’s children – not just the ones who are just like us. Indeed, that was Aaron Panken’s way. May we all be disciples of our Aaron; may we never stop teaching and living his Torah.
In the Talmud, there are some sages who are simply irreplaceable: “Woe to those who are lost and cannot be replaced.” (Sanhedrin 111a)
Today we are the ones who are lost, and Rabbi Aaron Panken is the one who cannot be replaced.
Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute (HUC-JIR), died tragically in a plane crash on May 5, 2018, at the age of 53. He served as the 12th President in HUC-JIR’s 143-year history.
Dr. Panken led the four-campus international institution of higher learning and seminary for Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR’s campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles and New York provide 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.
Funeral services will take place on Tuesday, May 8, at 1:00 pm at Westchester Reform Temple, 255 Mamaroneck Road, Scarsdale, NY. We are coordinating bus transportation for the HUC-JIR community, leaving from HUC-JIR/New York at One West Fourth Street, New York, NY 10012 at 11:00 am, and returning to HUC-JIR/New York following the funeral. Registration is required to ensure we have enough buses. Please register at huc.edu/transportation by 5:00 pm on Monday, May 7. A live webstream of the service will be available on the Westchester Reform Temple website at wrtemple.org.
Rabbi Panken was a distinguished rabbi and scholar, dedicated teacher, and exemplary leader of the Reform Movement for nearly three decades. As a product of the Reform Movement’s camps, youth movement, and seminary, his passionate commitment to Reform Judaism, to the State of Israel, and to the Jewish people worldwide inspired his efforts to ensure HUC-JIR’s academic excellence in fulfilling its sacred mission. As HUC-JIR President, Rabbi Panken implemented his transformative vision by forging strategic planning initiatives: embedding new technology in support of student learning and administration, strengthening recruitment to yield the largest incoming classes in a decade, launching new Jewish education, nonprofit management, and entrepreneurship programs and academic partnerships, and invigorating the ties linking HUC-JIR’s four campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York and their larger communities and regions. He was a staunch advocate for religious pluralism in Israel and was proud to have ordained the 100th Israeli Reform rabbi graduating from HUC-JIR’s Israeli Rabbinical Program on November 16, 2017. It was his vision to renovate and transform the Jerusalem campus into a dynamic educational and cultural center for the larger public. He exponentially increased the number of Israelis studying for the rabbinate, as educators pastoral caregivers, and interfaith teachers for tolerance on the Jerusalem campus.
Rabbi Panken was elected HUC-JIR President by the Board of Governors on July 31, 2013. His appointment was effective on January 1, 2014 and he was installed on June 8, 2014 in Cincinnati. Ordained by HUC-JIR in New York in 1991, Rabbi Panken previously served as Vice President for Strategic Initiatives (2007-2010), Dean of the New York Campus (1998-2007), and Dean of Students (1996-1998). He joined the HUC-JIR faculty in 1995, and taught Rabbinic and Second Temple Literature, with research interests in the historical development of legal concepts and terms; narrative development; and development of holiday observances. His publications included The Rhetoric of Innovation (University Press of America, 2005), which explored legal change in Rabbinic texts, the newly published, co-edited Engaging Torah: Modern Perspectives on the Hebrew Bible, and articles in leading academic journals and scholarly volumes.
Rabbi Panken strove for ongoing innovation and creativity in strengthening HUC-JIR as the intellectual center of Progressive Judaism worldwide, with its renowned faculty of scholars and thought leaders and internationall y recognized library, archive, and museum research resources. Rabbi Panken stated, “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. We are shaping 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.”
An ardent supporter of Reform Judaism in Israel, Rabbi Panken said, “As the only North American seminary with a full campus and programs in Israel, we are uniquely positioned to influence both Israeli and North American society, and to ensure that the relationship between these two great centers of Jewish life continues and thrives. We will work hard to improve the understanding and integration of Reform Jews worldwide with our Jewish State and with all our global partners.”
An alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, Dr. Panken earned his doctorate in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. He was on the faculty for the Wexner Foundation and the Editorial Board of Reform Judaism Magazine, and served on the Rabbinical Placement Commission, the Birthright Education Committee, the CCAR Ethics Committee, and in a variety of other leadership roles within the Reform Movement and the greater Jewish community. He lectured widely at academic conferences and synagogues throughout North America and as visiting faculty at universities in Australia and China. Prior to teaching at the College-Institute, he served as a congregational rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City and as a rabbinical intern at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY. A native of New York City who graduated from Johns Hopkins University’s Electrical Engineering program, Rabbi Panken was a certificated commercial pilot and sailor.
At his inauguration convocation, he said, “For me, Reform Judaism has always symbolized what I consider to be the best of Judaism – firmly rooted in our tradition, yet egalitarian, inclusive of patrilineal Jews and intermarried families, welcoming to the LGBT community, politically active, and respectful of other faiths and ideologies.”
Rabbi Panken most recently presided over the New York Graduation Ceremonies on May 3, where he said, “Our celebration comes, this year, amidst a particularly challenging and painful world, one that in many respects transcends anything I have seen in my lifetime. We now live in a world in which truth is distorted, basic institutions of American life like the press, the courts, the electoral system, the FBI, the beautiful mosaic of immigration that made this country what it is, the dignity and value of public leadership and civil service, egalitarianism and a woman’s right to choose, and so many others, are threatened in ways we simply could not have imagined a mere two years ago. We see countries long civilized reverting to policies of nationalism and tactics of scapegoating reminiscent of our darkest times. We labor under the challenges of privacy and the ability for noxious leaders to spread their message ever more broadly and more efficiently through warped use of social media, cynical and often violent supremacist protests, and through targeting innocent immigrants as vicious criminals. But here’s the thing: the Jewish people, and our religious friends of other faiths, have seen this before, and we have lived through it, and thrived and built again and again and again. We are a people of action and courage, of innovation and fearlessness, of adaptation and endless creativity.”
He added, “The work of our alumni continues to make an enormous difference in our world. When tragedy strikes, in Parkland and Houston, in the Caribbean and Charlottesville, in Los Angeles and Santa Rosa, our alumni are there. For Syrian and Iraqi immigrants, in congressional offices fighting for sensible gun safety, in hospitals and in classrooms, in innovative synagogues and new communities everywhere, our alumni are there. There is nothing in the world that makes me prouder, and nothing can make me more certain of the extraordinary Jewish future we have ahead of us, than knowing who they are and what they are doing, and seeing how they have produced the next generation of committed, learned Jews, through their hard work and their wisdom.”
Rabbi Panken is survived by his wife, Lisa Messinger, his children Eli and Samantha, his parents Beverly and Peter, and his sister, Rabbi Melinda Panken of Congregation Shaari Emeth in Manalapan, NJ.
Even as we mourn the loss of our colleague, teacher, and friend, the vision that Rabbi Aaron Panken brought to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion remains a source of hope and comfort to those who mourn and the Jewish community. Rabbi Panken’s family requests donations in his memory be made to help fulfill Aaron’s vision for his beloved HUC-JIR at huc.edu/memorial or by mail to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, One West Fourth Street, New York, NY 10012.
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, museums, 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
5/1 Louis Reimer
5/1 Jack Tobin
5/2 Jack Steinbrock
5/4 Elizabeth Reemes
5/5 Sara Hecklin
5/5 Marthe Heymann
5/5 Fishel Steinbrock
5/7 Meyer Liebauer
5/7 Stephen Werner
5/8 Edith From
5/10 Harry Price
5/10 Abel Simon
5/10 Joel Spigel
5/11 Gussie Levy
5/12 David Packer
5/13 Minnie Perlman
5/14 Ernest Emory
5/14 Dr. Simon H. Smith
5/14 Pauline L. Smith
5/14 Samuel Weiner
5/15 Dorothy Brett
5/15 Hyman Greenfield
5/15 Jerry Hyder
5/15 Susan R. Wise
5/15 Rabbi Max S. Stauber
5/16 Jides Koser
5/18 Barry Goldman
5/18 Elizabeth Nabow
5/18 Morris Unger
5/18 Isadore Usiskin
2 Last Day of Hebrew School
4 Lag Ba-Omer Cookout
5 Saturday Service, Tisch with Rabbi & Carrie
6 Last Day of Sunday School
11 Kabbalat Shabbat with Dr. Mark Packer leading services
12 No Saturday Service
13 Mother’s Day
16 Hadassah Closing Meeting
18 Sisterhood Sabbath
19 Saturday Service
20 Temple Board Meeting
20 Yizkor Service & Blintzes
25 Kabbalat Shabbat
26 Saturday Service
Join the Rabbi for a Yizkor Service followed by blintzes on Sunday, May 20 at 6:00.
Please RSVP to the Temple.