Hebrew Union College elects new president

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) has elected its former dean, Rabbi Aaron Panken, as its new president. Panken succeeds Rabbi David Ellenson, who will become HUC-JIR’s new chancellor upon his retirement from the position of president.

“I am greatly honored to be called to serve as the president of HUC-JIR and to strive for ongoing innovation and creativity in strengthening our institution as the intellectual center of progressive Judaism worldwide,” Panken said in a statement released by HUC-JIR on Wednesday.

As president of HUC-JIR, Panken will serve in the top leadership position – chief executive officer – of the international university and Reform seminary’s four campuses – in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Jerusalem and New York. His appointment becomes effective January 1.

At HUC-JIR, Panken previously served as vice president for strategic initiatives, dean of the New York campus and dean of students — he joined the Reform seminary’s faculty in 1995, and he currently serves as an assistant professor of Rabbinic and Second Temple Literature.

Like Panken, Ellenson will begin at the start of 2014 in his new role as chancellor.

The HUC-JIR board of governors elected Panken into the position, with Irwin Engelman, chairman of the board and Martin Cohen, chairman of the presidential search committee, announcing their selection on Wednesday.

“We are proud that Dr. Panken will be leading our institution,” Engelman said. “He is a distinguished rabbi and scholar, dedicated teacher, and committed leader of the Reform movement for more than three decades.”

Panken’s relationship with Hebrew Union dates back to 1991, when he was ordained at its New York campus. According to his biography on the HUC-JIR website, he serves in a number of “leadership roles within the reform movement and greater Jewish community.” Among the organizations he is involved with are the Wexner Foundation, the New Israel Fund, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Birthright Israel.

To read Panken’s statement regarding his appointment in its entirety, visit huc.edu.