Rabbi Weiss to hand rabbinical school reins to new leader
By John Sodaro
Rabbi Asher Lopatin will take over for founder Rabbi Avi Weiss at the Yeshivat Chovovei Torah Rabbinical School in July 2013.
The Riverdale rabbinical school has rankled the traditional Orthodox community and its leaders say they hope the new president can grow the small institution and connect with leaders who have shunned the school in the past.
Rabbi Weiss, who is also the spiritual leader of Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, founded the school on Henry Hudson Parkway near West 237th Street, in 1999.
But the Rabbinical Council of America, a major Orthodox rabbinical organization, does not recognize it. Young Israel, the largest Orthodox synagogue organization in the nation, does not allow any of its affiliates to hire Chovovei graduates.
Rabbi Weiss, who is stepping down to concentrate on teaching and mentoring, has been a controversial figure on many issues over the years. Most recently, he has been outspoken about establishing women as spiritual leaders in the community. Two years ago he ordained a female rabbi, rabba Sara Hurwitz, and founded a school that trains women as spiritual leaders. Century-old institutions like the rabbinical counsel — along with some members of the HIR community — were critical of Rabbi Weiss’ decision to ordain Hurwitz, who is now the dean of Yeshivat Maharat, Rabbi Weiss’ Manhattan-based women’s school.
But with Rabbi Lopatin taking over, the opportunity to strengthen ties with the rest of the Orthodox community might be attainable.
“Now is a moment to connect the Orthodox world to itself,” Rabbi Lopatin said. “I want to come to everyone and say, ‘We want to be a part of your world, and we want you to be a part of ours.’”
Rabbi Lopatin says he believes he can continue to build the school around teaching openness and engagement while also building a bridge to the organizations that have shunned them.
“This small rabbinical school has been able to train a new generation of Orthodox rabbis for America and the world,” Rabbi Lopatin said. “It has tremendous potential to grow and I think it wants to grow into a larger rabbinical school.”
KeywordsJohn Sodaro, Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Rabbi Avi Weiss, Yeshivat Chovovei Torah Rabbinical School, Orthodox,