Rabbi Aaron D. Panken. Photo courtesy of HUC-JIR

Crash of small plane kills Jewish seminary’s president

WAWAYANDA, N.Y. (AP) — A small plane crashed just after taking off from an airport, killing the president of a seminary for Reform Judaism.

Rabbi Aaron Panken died on Saturday (May 5), the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion said. The seminary is the leading institution for the training of rabbis in the Reform movement, the largest stream of Judaism in the U.S.

An Aeronca 7AC aircraft had just taken off from Randall Airport in Middletown, about 70 miles northwest of New York City, when it crashed, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Two people were on board, said the FAA, which didn’t release their names or conditions. The state police didn’t immediately reply to a call or an email seeking information.

A spokeswoman for the seminary, Jean Rosensaft, said Panken was a skilled pilot and the flight was a routine one. There was no information available about the second person on the plane.

Panken, who was 53 years old, had been installed as the seminary’s president in 2014. He joined the institute’s faculty in 1995 and served as dean of students and vice president for strategic initiatives.