Asher Lopatin to Succeed Avi Weiss at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah


asher-lopatinYeshivat Chovevei Torah is back in the news. No, no new women have received ordination. The news, has learned, is that Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Chicago is slated to succeed Rabbi Avi Weiss next year as the head of the “Open Orthodox” institution located in Riverdale, NY, and founded by Weiss.

Rabbi Lopatin is the 18-year rabbi of the Modern Orthodox Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel congregation in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. He is famous for serving as the rabbi of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Rabbi Lopatin received semicha from Rav Ahron Soloveitchik of Yeshivas Brisk in Chicago and also graduated from Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon at Yeshiva University in New York.

The question is in what direction Rabbi Lopatin plans to take Chovevei Torah. Only time will tell.

Avi Weiss founded Chovevei Torah in 1999 to supposedly serve as a more liberal alternative to YU. Rabbi Weiss set off a furor in the Torah world when he gave semichah several years ago to Sara Hurwitz, who was first given the title “rabba,” which was later exchanged for “maharat.” The decision raised objections from many in the Orthodox community, and following discussions with the RCA, Rabbi Weiss agreed not to bestow the title upon any other woman.

Weiss also leads the Modern Orthodox synagogue, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.

The Lopatin appointment hasn’t been made official yet, but insiders confirm the decision and Lopatin has told his constituents in Chicago that he’ll be leaving the shul in June 2013.

Lopatin several years ago joined the battle against Agriprocessors in Iowa, when he wrote online that “there seems to be a pattern of Jews, and especially Orthodox Jews, not knowing how to relate to gentiles. We have a history of really trying to survive as Jews and having to protect ourselves constantly, but now we are in a different reality. If you want to stay in the Brooklyn ghetto, maybe that’s okay. But if you want to go out into the rest of world and get involved in real business, you can’t just have the same paradigm we had in Europe or the Middle East.”

Lopatin made several other questionable statements regarding the besmirching of Agri. We speculate that he may have changed his position since then.

In January of 2011, Lopatin was one of a group of about 100 rabbis who issued a statement regarding organ donation, stating that adopting a restrictive position regarding donating organs – an approach that is the shitah of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and other gedolei haposkim – is morally untenable.

“Such an approach,” the rabbis claimed, “is also highly damaging to the State of Israel, both internally and in regards to its relationship with the larger world, and to the Jewish People as a whole.” The rabbis, with Lopatin as one of the signatories, stated that it “must thus be unequivocally rejected by Jews at the individual and the communal level.”

As far as female ordination is concerned, back in 2010, at its annual conference, the RCA formally rejected the “rabba” title and further stated, “We cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of title.”

The RCA did not invoke halacha as the basis for its position, but instead referred to upholding “sacred continuity.”

Lopatin, at the time, remarked that the purposefully vague language barring female rabbis didn’t go nearly as far as it could have in excluding women from spiritual leadership roles. Lopatin said that he would have preferred if the document said that the RCA cannot “currently” accept women into the Orthodox rabbinate. But he said he was not willing to oppose the resolution on that point.

Lopatin is a graduate of the Maimonides School, received a B.A. in International Relations and Islamic Studies from Boston University, and was awarded a Master of Philosophy from the University of Oxford in Medieval Arabic Thought. He has done doctoral work, also at Oxford, in Islamic Fundamentalist Attitudes Toward Jews. In that connection, he has authored a chapter in Muslim Jewish Relations, titled: “The Uncircumcised Jewish Heart (in Islamic and Qur’anic Thought).”

Lopatin won a Rhodes Scholarship, was a Wexner Fellow, a Truman Scholar at Boston University Trustee Scholar, and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Lopatin has also received honorary semicha from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.

Lopatin is a Vice President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and a member of the Rabbinical Council of America.

In 2008, Lopatin was one of five Orthodox rabbis named to Newsweek magazine’s list of the Top 25 Pulpit Rabbis in America.

In 2009, Lopatin publicly announced his family’s plans for aliya in the summer of 2011 in order to build a new innovative and pluralistic community in the northern Negev, Carmit. Lopatin was to be the community rabbi of the town. However, Lopatin later announced plans to establish a community in Beer Sheva. These plans were later shelved, primarily to the the illness of his daughter.

Lopatin has now set his eyes on Chovevei Torah.

Let us hope that he can set the institution on a path that is consistent with Torah hashkofa and halacha. We wish him boundless success.

{Andy Newscenter}


  1. Thank you, Matzav, for your excellent detective work scouring the internet for embarrassing information and gossip about Lopatin.
    Wishing all of you a wonderful Elul!

    It’s so much easier to find faults in others rather than ourselves, is it not?

  2. #1 what in the world is your issue?? I thought the report was courteous and accurate. It didn’t demean anyone. It was quite respectful.

    I shudder to think of how chareidi rabbonim are written up by the JTA, the Jewish Week and others. Halevai they would give chareidi rabbonim a tiniest amount of respect.

  3. “In January of 2011, Lopatin was one of a group of about 100 rabbis who issued a statement regarding organ donation, stating that adopting a restrictive position regarding donating organs – an approach that is the shitah of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and other gedolei haposkim – is morally untenable.”

    Do you still question what direction he will take?!

  4. The Olam Hatorah wished Reb Asher success. We are confident that he will bring people closer to Torah and Hashem and establish Chovevei as a yeshiva we can be proud of.

  5. to the previous poster.
    The article doesnt say he is 18 years old. It says he is the 18-year rabbi, meaning he has been there for 18 years! use some secihel, gosh

  6. I have a very close baal habatish friend who grew up off the derech and settled near R’ Lopatin’s shul after college. He ended up at the shul with some friends and R’ Lopatin not only brought him into the warm folds of yiddishkeit, but challenged him to go to Israel to learn in yeshiva. According to my friend, he is far from the only person that R’ Lopatin has been mikarev. It’s unfortunate that we sometimes lose sight of what is important, making sure yidden follow the Torah and are Kabbalas Ol Malchut Shamayim. My understanding is that R’ Lopatin has done more to bring yidden in than most and for that I congratulate him and wish him hatzlacha.

  7. “It’s so much easier to find faults in others rather than ourselves, is it not?”

    #1 i guess you find it easier as well

  8. He should be disrobed from his title for the fact that he spoke out against Agri

    There is nothing open about orthodoxy that is an oxymoron,

    you have to strictly adhere to the Torah and not to adapt to modern acceptance of anything and everything.

  9. Think commenters #9, Anonymous and #25,er zol.. are correct! Maybe on becoming a Rabbi in NY, he will become more conservative in his direction rather than liberal. Rabbi Weiss got much flack for being the liberal ‘orthodox’ rabbi and, hopefully, this will be a lesson for the new rabbi and others.

  10. As comment 23 notes, Rabbi Lopatin is extremely involved in Kiruv in the neighborhood around his shul, which those outside of Chicago might not know, is a neighborhood very far from Torah. For this he deserves the highest praise.

    Unfortunately, the shitah about organ donation that Rabbi Lopatin denounced as “morally untenable” is also the shita of his own rebbe, Rav Ahron Soloveichik zt”l.