Hebrew Union College President Visits Atlanta

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Rabbi Aaron D. Panken


A few weekends ago, Rabbi Aaron D. Panken,  Ph.D  visted Atlanta.  I had the honor to meet with him at the AJT offices to discuss his experiences and his work as the new President of Hebrew Union College. He assumed the Presidency in January 2014.

Rabbi Panken started his career as an engineer, graduating from the Johns Hopkins University electrical engineering program.  Rabbi Panken also explained how he left engineering to become a Rabbi:

“I realized that as an engineer, I would be spending the vast majority of my time in a laboratory with at most two or three people.” Said Panken, “I wanted meaningful learning and the kind of interactions with people I’d enjoyed during my Jewish youth group days.”

Rabbi Panken was ordained by HUC-JIR in 1991. He later received his doctorate in Hebrew and Judaic Studies from New York University.  As a rabbinical intern and rabbi, he served at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York and Congregation  Rodeph Sholom  in New York City, respectively.  He then went on to serve the College-Institute in a variety of leadership roles.

With all this experience and expertise, Rabbi Panken was an excellent choice for the Selicot program at Temple Sinai.  While in Atlanta, Rabbi Panken enjoyed the warm hospitality of Joy and Allan Greenberg.  His lectures at Temple Sinai on September 19th included “Staying Connected to Our Sacred” and “The Jewish Calendars.”  On September 20th, he continued with a program on “Repentance.”

When asked about some of his favorite things in Atlanta, Rabbi Panken stated that he enjoys the Buckhead Diner and climbing Stone Mountain early in the morning.