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paneknThe Scarsdale community is reeling after the tragic loss of a beloved neighbor, synagogue member, Rabbi and leader of the Jewish community. Aaron Panken of Scarsdale, the President of Hebrew Union College passed away on Saturday morning May 5 at the age of 53. The small plane that he was piloting crashed just after takeoff in Orange County. Panken was a certified pilot who was flying with an instructor who emerged alive from the accident.

In an email to the congregation of Westchester Reform Temple, Rabbi Jonathan Blake explained Panken’s importance to the Jewish community. He wrote, “Rabbi Panken was a giant among Reform Jewish leaders and intellectuals. He was the 12th President of Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, the world's oldest institute of higher Jewish learning, and the seminary for Reform Rabbis, Cantors, Educators, and a premier training ground for many other Jewish professionals. In this capacity he oversaw four campuses, in Jerusalem, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and New York, since his inauguration in 2014, following many distinguished positions of leadership at the College-Institute dating back to his faculty appointment in 1995.”

A notice from the Hebrew Union College says the following about Panken: “Rabbi Panken was a distinguished rabbi and scholar, dedicated teacher, and exemplary leader of the Reform Movement for nearly three decades. As a product of the Reform Movement’s camps, youth movement, and seminary, his passionate commitment to Reform Judaism, to the State of Israel, and to the Jewish people worldwide inspired his efforts to ensure HUC-JIR’s academic excellence in fulfilling its sacred mission. As HUC-JIR President, Rabbi Panken implemented his transformative vision by forging strategic planning initiatives: embedding new technology in support of student learning and administration, strengthening recruitment to yield the largest incoming classes in a decade, launching new Jewish education, nonprofit management, and entrepreneurship programs and academic partnerships, and invigorating the ties linking HUC-JIR’s four campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York and their larger communities and regions.”

Linda and Joseph Simon, friends of Panken, said, "Aaron Panken was a true Renaissance man. He was a rabbi, a leader of international repute in the Reform Jewish world and president of Hebrew Union College. He was an electrical engineer, and avid boater, and a pilot. He liked lively conversation over drinks and a game of darts. He was a learned scholar, teacher and mentor. He was a lively and engaging commentator of Bible and Talmud who could make even the most opaque passages of text come to life. Most of all he was a caring, kind and thoughtful friend, and a loving husband and father. He made everyone who knew him feel special and embraced by him. His loss is unfathomable, and he will be forever missed by his many friends, admirers, colleagues, and loved ones."

State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin sent her condolences; "Rabbi Aaron Panken, who tragically died in a plane crash on Saturday, was a gifted teacher and community leader, and will be sorely missed. For those of us lucky enough to have studied with him, we will always remember his intellect, enthusiasm and personal warmth. My heart and prayers go out to Lisa and his grieving family."

The family is well known in Scarsdale where Panken’s wife Lisa Messinger grew up and is a leader in her own right. She is the past President of Westchester Reform Temple, Chair of the Major Gifts Committee for the Scarsdale Library, a Director of the Scarsdale Adult School and a former member of the Scarsdale Bowl Committee. Panken is survived by Lisa, his two children, Eli and Samantha, his parents Beverly and Peter and sister, Rabbi Melinda Panken of Congregation Shaari Emeth in Manalapan, NJ.

The tragedy hit as congregants of Westchester Reform Temple and Scarsdale friends were still grappling with the death of five members of the Steinberg family, who also passed away in the crash of a small plane, on December 31, 2017.

Funeral services will be observed at Westchester Reform Temple on Tuesday, May 8th at 1:00 PM. A live webstream of the service will be available on the temple’s website at

If you would like to share your rememberances, email us at and we will add them, or feel free to comment below.

Compost 1
Compost 2Scarsdale residents welcomed spring by picking up compost made from their own food scraps at the Scarsdale Recycling Center on Saturday April 21. For the second year in a row the center held a Compost Give Back Day where residents were able to come to the Scarsdale Recycling Center and fill up buckets with compost destined for their home gardens. Hundreds of residents turned out to contribute and reap the rewards of their work.

Last year over 200,000 pounds of food scraps were collected and turned into useful compost instead of sending it to an incinerator. This program is not only centered around talking about making the earth a better place, but doing something about it right here in Scarsdale.

Residents who attended expressed positive feelings for both the Scarsdale food scrap recycling program and the compost give back day. It was truly a successful day in Scarsdale!

At the event many residents signed up for the new weekly home pickup of food scraps — which will be starting in late May/early June. Any resident can get weekly home pickup of food scraps, but they need to sign up to get it! Registration is not over yet, just email to sign up. Once registered, residents will be notified via both snail mail and email of their start date and weekly pick up day.

Any questions please email 3Father-Daughter Bonding on Compost DayCompost 4Shoveling Compost

Compost 5Another Happy Shoveler


compost 8A Happy Compost TakerCompost 7Happy Composting

pearlmanOz Pearlman will perform at Scarsdale Golf ClubOz Pearlman, nationally-known magician and mentalist, will perform in Scarsdale, Thursday, May 10th, 6:30 p.m., at Scarsdale Golf Club. Tickets can be purchased here

The performance, titled Magic and the Mind: An Evening of Enchantment and Mystery, will be part of Scarsdale Family Counseling Service’s annual benefit gala.

Oz Pearlman is a world-class entertainer and one of the busiest mentalists in the country. He developed an interest in magic at a young age and, what started as a hobby, quickly became a lifelong passion. After a couple of years spent working on Wall Street, Pearlman decided to pursue his dream and become a full-time entertainer. Pearlman’s unique blend of mentalism and mind reading creates an interactive experience that is redefining the very nature of a magic that truly has to be seen to be believed.

In the summer of 2015, Pearlman was featured on TV’s top-rated show, America’s Got Talent. Week after week, he captivated the country with never-before-seen mentalism routines and quickly became a fan favorite, finishing in third place out of thousands of acts. Pearlman has also appeared on a variety of both national and international networks, including NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The TODAY Show and more!

In addition to featuring Pearlman, Scarsdale Family Counseling Service’s annual benefit gala will also honor Dara Gruenberg with the agency’s annual Rising Star award in recognition of her outstanding volunteer leadership and contributions to many Scarsdale community organizations.

Dara Broxmeyer Gruenberg serves as President of the Friends of the Scarsdale Library and   a Co-Chair of the Library’s Capital dara photoDara Gruenberg will be honored.Campaign. Concurrently, she is serving as a Village appointedmember of both the Ad Hoc Communications Committee and the Board of Ethics, a member ofthe Foundation Board at White Plains Hospital, a Trustee on the Board of Westchester Reform Temple (after serving five years as Chair of the Temple’s Early Childhood Center’s Parent Association) and a Chair of the Connections Task Force. Additionally, Dara is a member of the Board of Directors of the Scarsdale Forum, Co-Chair of the Forum’s Membership Committee,and a member of its Nominating Committee. This past fall, Dara was elected to Scarsdale’s Citizens’ Nominating Committee.

Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service is a nationally-recognized, not-for-profit family service agency, accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children. The mission of the Agency is to be a center, in Scarsdale and the surrounding area, for family growth and learning, a place where families, couples and individuals can find help with the normal problems of daily living, as well as crises. Through therapeutic services and programs, SFCS enhances the functioning of the family and its individual members through family life education; stimulates social thinking and action to better social conditions; and cooperates with other organizations for this purpose. The Agency provides psychotherapy, parent support groups, older adult services, youth outreach, social skills groups for children, mental health services and family life education. The Agency's professional staff are licensed in New York State as providers of mental health services.

For more information, please e-mail or call (914) 723-3281.

John Sneider 300x208Shaarei Tikvah, the Scarsdale Conservative Congregation, transforms into a jazz café at 9pm on Saturday, May 5th, with a band of dazzling jazz luminaries led by internationally known jazz trumpeter John Sneider. The concert also features Shaarei Tikvah’s cantor, Gerald Cohen, who will perform jazz arrangements of his own acclaimed compositions.

The concert will include an eclectic mix ranging from a Latin riff on a popular Israeli song, to jazz versions of Jewish music and opera as well as some jazz standards. Performers include:

Ted Rosenthal, a leading jazz pianist of his generation, winner of the 1988 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Composition and artistic director of jazz at the Riverdale Y whose opera will be performed next season by the New York City Opera.

Grammy Award-nominated saxophonist, composer and arranger Jimmy Greene.

Grammy award winning bassist Phil Palombi, one of the most sought-after bass players in New York City and an accomplished writer about jazz.

Israeli jazz guitarist Yotam Silberstein, who was recognized as a prodigy in Israel and then moved to New York where he earned his place among the jazz elite with music inspired by and drawn from the Middle East, Spain, Argentina and especially Brazil.

Drummer Andy Watson, a fixture on the New York jazz scene for more than two decades, who has toured extensively through the US, Europe, Asia and South America.

John Sneider is an Ardsley resident and Shaarei Tikvah member, who recently concluded an engagement at Birdland, and has played with Max Roach, Curtis Stigers, Larry Goldings, Curtis Fuller, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Mingus Big Band Andy Bey, Brad Mehidau, Chris Potter, Joe Locke, The Blues Brothers and the Saturday Night Live Band. This will be John’s third concert at Shaarei Tikvah and he notes, “I find Jewish music to be in its own way very soulful. It’s not unlike the blues, which is the undercurrent of jazz.”

“John’s arrangements give a very special flavor to Jewish melodies,” said Gerald Cohen, who has earned distinction as a composer of both concert and liturgical music. His opera, Steal a Pencil for Me, a love story in a concentration camp, had its world premiere production by Opera Colorado in January.

The concert is Saturday evening May 5th at 9pm at Shaarei Tikvah, 46 Fox Meadow Road in Scarsdale. Adults: $36 Students: $20 (Wine, Cheese and Refreshments Included). Email: for, tickets and/or information or call 914-472-2013, ext.300.

NabihaThere are so many great tales from the ‘Dale and a host of talented community members to tell them. The second annual night of storytelling on April 12, produced by the Scarsdale Adult School, brought together an animated group of students, teachers, former teachers, moms, Scarsdale natives and a few from outside our community with amazing stories to share.

Sandi Marx, a Moth slam favorite and former Greenacres denizen produced the evening at the Heathcote Auditorium. She told a story of her own and invited others to spin their stories. The event drew a rapt crowd who laughed, cried and cheered for the talent.

The performances will be shown on the Scarsdale Cable Television (SCTV) and streamed on video, and I recommend that you watch. Trying to describe a great performance is only second to seeing the performance yourself, so look for it on SCTV.

The evening opened with Sandi Marx who told us how she shared a ride downtown with her childhood idol, Carole King. Marx poked some fun at herself. Usually glib and quick with conversation Marx was overwhelmed when she met King. Marx grew tongue-tied and in an attempt to connect, found herself playing with the famed composer’s curly hair.

Two Scarsdale High School teachers and a retired faculty member were on the program. Joe Vaughn, who teaches physics and also coaches the debate team revealed how a jack knifed tractor-trailer made him three hours late to his interview in Scarsdale, which involved teaching a class. Only 22 years old, he was sure that the mishap would cost him the job. But as hundreds of high school students know, there was a happy ending to this story.

Former A-School Director and social studies teacher Howard Rodstein brought us back to those terrifying 2-minute conference nights, when parents and teachers “speed date.” Rodstein, who revealed that he had trouble with names, confused two students and gave their parents progress reports that they did not expect. How did this play out in the semesters to come … with one of the poorest students thinking he was the class star, and the star fearing he needed to work a lot harder? There is an ironic lesson in this mishap.

Denise Del Balzo told a bittersweet tale about her tempestuous relationship with her mother. Del Balzo Del Balzohad a tough time living up to her mother’s expectations, especially when it came to taming her unruly hair. The hair was a metaphor for their conflict; Denise’s was wild and her mom’s was straight, neat and always perfect. It was only after her mom passed away and Denise was in mourning for the relationship she would never have with her mother, that she read a book that unlocked the secret to getting along with her.

The show included a student at SHS, and an Edgemont alum, and an SHS alum who all shared poignant stories.

Julia Brody, from the Edgemont class of ’13 created the Storytelling Club and was featured in USA Today. During her college years at the University of Delaware, she found a group of soul mates who spent time deep in meaningful conversation. Brody has been honing her storytelling at the Magnet Theater NYC and now has an Instagram account with over 7000 followers. On Thursday she shared how she ultimately used her storytelling skills to help her deal with her mother’s sudden and unexpected death. She said, “I am going to continue to share my story – it makes me feel less alone.”

Also impactful, was SHS junior Nabiha Qadir, who struggled to integrate her Pakistani heritage with her wish to be American, like many of her classmates. After spending years hiding her Pakistani culture she decided to “come out” to her friends, and show them her true self. She found that she was far more comfortable living with her real identity than trying to pretend she was someone else.

Justine Gelfman found out that she could learn more that science from her Physics teacher when he suffered a tragic loss during the year. Though she dreaded science, and didn’t know the difference between astrology and astronomy, she came to love the class and her teacher. After he lost his wife, she wondered if he would return to finish the school year – which he did – demonstrating lessons in courage, strength, tenacity and resilience that Gelfman will remember for a lifetime.

Another SHS Alum, Lori Weitzner returned for an encore appearance, this year sharing the story of how she came to publish a book. An accomplished textile and wallcover designer and the recipient of many design awards, she set her stars on publishing a book – but struggled to figure out what that book should say. At a loss for words, she collected her ideas in a box of inspiration with swatches, poetry and mementos, hoping to communicate through color. Eventually, an editor at Harper Collins helped her overcome her writer’s block and identify her thesis, saying, “I think you are trying to write the book of what people want to read, not what you want to say.”

RodsteinAnd there’s more – Rebecca Gabin, the daughter of Russian immigrants, and herself a mother of three, explained how her impulse to rescue others frightened her parents who were survivors who believed “no good deed goes unpunished.” Pregnant with her first child, she rushed to help an elderly woman who had fallen on the streets of the city, and ended up taking a strange ride in an ambulance.

Other community members got in the act as well. Pastor Pete Jones from Hitchcock Church recounted a story from his training years when he was instructed to pay a visit to a Baptist minister, in the last days of his life in a hospice. Fearful that he did not have the theological knowledge to address the man, he was surprised that all the minister wanted was someone to sing to him and make him feel loved as he slipped away.

For the tale from beyond the “Dale,” tech entrepreneur Justin Hefter told the thrilling story of how he and three relative strangers used social media to facilitate peace activist Mohammed El Salhawi's escape from Yemen. It’s a true story that has been turned into a book, The Fox Hunt, and is even being made into a Hollywood film by producer Marc Platt (LaLa Land) and Academy Award winning writer Josh Singer (Spotlight). He came directly to Scarsdale from The Megyn Kelly show. Wow!

Also on the program was Mary Wasacz who shared her adventure trying to recapture her lovebird who flew the nest and ignited a neighborhood chase.

The event was hosted by Sandi Marx and produced by Scarsdale Adult School co-chairs Ann Sacher and Leesa Suzman, and Executive Director Jill Serling.

Kudos to SAS and everyone involved.

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