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ID Released For Westchester Man Killed In Orange County Plane Crash

Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D.
Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D. Photo Credit: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute
  • Click here for an updated story: Man ID'd As Passenger In Orange County Crash That Killed Pilot

The identity of the 53-year-old man killed when a small plane crashed shortly after takeoff on Saturday morning in Orange County has been released.

Rabbi Aaron D. Panken of Mamaroneck, president of a leading Jewish seminary, died from injuries suffered when a yellow Aeronca 7AC aircraft crashed into the woods just after takeoff from Randall Airport in Middletown at around 9:30 a.m.

Another passenger in the plane, whose name has not been released, sustained non-life threatening injuries.

The crash is now being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Panken served as the 12th President in HUC-JIR’s 143-year history, leading the four-campus international institution of higher learning and seminary for Reform Judaism in New York City, Jerusalem, Cincinnati and Los Angeles.

Panken was elected HUC-JIR President by the Board of Governors on July 31, 2013. His appointment was effective on Jan. 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.

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. A native of New York City who graduated from Johns Hopkins University's Electrical Engineering program, Panken was a certificated commercial pilot and sailor.

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.

Funeral arrangements will be announced.

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