A Message From Rabbi Levine:
Dear Rodeph Sholom Family,
My heart is broken as I write to you today. My friend and colleague Rabbi Aaron Panken was killed in a private plane he was piloting over the weekend. As many of you remember, Rabbi Panken became our assistant rabbi in 1991. In fact, he was my first assistant rabbi at CRS. When I met Aaron during the interview process, I instantly knew that he would be an incredible fit for our congregation.
As these were my first interviews, I did not realize how the process really worked. When I did not call precisely at 9:00 AM, Aaron assumed I had selected someone else. The call came at 9:03 and the shidduch was made. Aaron’s wide range of talents soon became evident. He was a remarkable teacher of all ages and an absolute pied piper for our kids. He founded our Young Professionals Group, bringing to our shule some of our most active and caring members. Guitar in hand, he founded our Saturday morning chapel service.
Rabbi Panken worked hard and helped me in every way. On his day off he took classes toward his PhD and started taking flying lessons. He was a trained engineer and had a fascination with planes. He came back excited every time. There was a strong spiritual component to this activity. While piloting he felt great awe and unique closeness to God. The only solace in this tragedy is that he died doing something for which he had great passion.
Aaron went on to become a professor of Rabbinic literature, Dean and President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He was doing an excellent job. As busy as he was, he found time to be the keynote speaker when you honored me for my 25th anniversary at Rodeph Sholom. He said another commitment would prevent him from being a part of the panel of my assistants and associates reflecting on my rabbinate.
But Aaron and Lisa found a way to be there. They always did. Years ago we rejoiced as they got engaged and married. Theirs was an incredible marriage, a true partnership. Their son Eli’s brit milah was held in the Schnurmacher Chapel and again we thrilled as they began to build their beautiful family. Eli and his sister Samantha are great people and have been so proud of their parents.
As you can imagine, Gina and I are really struggling with our emotions. We will so miss him. As will our children Judah, Ezra, Maya and Katie. So will many of you.
The funeral will be Tuesday at Westchester Reform Temple at 1:00 PM. A live webstream of the service will be available on the Westchester Reform Temple website at www.wrtemple.org.
We will have a minyan at Rodeph Sholom on Wednesday evening at 6:30 PM, so we can share memories and grief.
Shiva will be observed:
Tuesday, May 8 at 6:30-8:30 PM with Minyan at 7:30 PM at Westchester Reform Temple, 255 Mamaroneck Road, Scarsdale, NY 10583
Wednesday, May 9 at 2:00-4:00 PM and 6:00-9:00 PM with Minyan at 7:30 PM at the home of Lisa Messinger, 8 Stonewall Lane, Mamaroneck, NY 10543
Thursday, May 10 at 4:00-8:00 PM with Minyan at 7:00 PM at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, 30 West 68th St, New York, NY 10023
Friday, May 11 at 2:00-4:00 PM at the home of Lisa Messinger, 8 Stonewall Lane, Mamaroneck, NY 10543
Saturday, May 12 at 6:00 PM with Minyan at 7:00 PM at Temple Shaari Emeth, 400 Craig Road, Manalapan, NJ 07726
Sunday, May 13 at 5:00-8:00 PM with Minyan at 7:00 PM at Temple Shaari Emeth, 400 Craig Road, Manalapan, NJ 07726
Messages of condolence to the Panken family may be sent to:
Lisa Messinger and the Panken Family
8 Stonewall Lane
Mamaroneck, NY 10543
Friday evening as we honor two extraordinary CRS clergy Rabbi Spratt andCantor De Lowe, we will also remember our dear colleague and friend Rabbi Aaron David Panken.
His memory will always be a blessing.