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Leading US Reform rabbi dies in plane crash

Rabbi Panken served as the president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, a four-campus seminary for Reform Judaism

    Rabbi Aaron Panken died aged 53 (Photo: Facebook)
    Rabbi Aaron Panken died aged 53 (Photo: Facebook)

    Rabbi Aaron Panken, one of the foremost figures in US Reform Judaism, died on Saturday when a plane he was flying crashed.

    Rabbi Panken, 53, served as the 12th president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, a four-campus seminary for Reform Judaism.

    His plane reportedly crashed in a wooded area of New Jersey, about 70 miles north-west of New York City. A passenger was injured.

    A statement released by the Hebrew Union College remembered Rabbi Panken as “a distinguished rabbi and scholar, dedicated teacher, and exemplary leader of the Reform movement for nearly three decades.”

    Dan Shapiro, the former US ambassador to Israel, remembered Rabbi Panken as a “brilliant Jewish leader, an incredible mensch and a dear friend.”

    He 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, New Jersey.

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