New Rabbi aims to expand his students’ horizons
By Shant Shahrigian
During his 18 years as a rabbi in Chicago, the new head of Riverdale’s Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School noticed a significant difference in the way he and a female colleague replied to questions from community members.
Asher Lopatin said he was quick to give answers in a friendly but concise manner.
However, a colleague who was the female equivalent of rabbi delved into answers far more deeply.
“What Rachel did was talk about the context, the relationships,” Mr. Lopatin said during an interview at his office, referring to the colleague. “Sometimes it turned into an hour-long conversation about a lot of other issues that are important, but that I didn’t think of.”
Mr. Lopatin was installed as president of Chovevei in a ceremony at Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue on Sunday. He has performed duties at Chovevei since July.
Mr. Lopatin plans to continue the legacy of Avi Weiss, who stepped down from the post after years of leading groundbreaking initiatives into Modern Orthodox Judaism.
Mr. Weiss’ most controversial projects include starting a rabbinical school for women, Riverdale’s Yeshivat Maharat, a move that angered Orthodox Jews who take a conservative view of gender.
Mr. Lopatin said he does not plan to enroll women among the 36 students currently registered in rabbinical studies at Chovevei. However, he plans to invite women to study and debate the Torah together with his male students during an upcoming five-week collaboration.
The scheduled mixed-gender study sessions are consistent with the outreach that has characterized Mr. Lopatin’s career.
“I’ve become convinced — you can say obsessed — with bridging gaps,” Mr. Lopatin said. “And different people really can connect, can learn from each other, can learn together.”