New York, N.Y., August 31, 2012 – Known for combining a rigorous, traditional approach to Jewish text with an innovative curriculum and openness, the open Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School (YCT) has announced that Founder and President Rav Avi Weiss will be handing over the Presidency of the yeshiva to Rav Asher Lopatin of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, effective July 2013. Rav Lopatin will be working closely with Rav Weiss during the first year transition phase.
“This transition marks the proudest moment in any leadership with which I’ve ever been involved,” says Weiss, who also is a senior Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, a congregation of 850 families, and co-founder of the International Rabbinic Fellowship. “It moves YCT out of its founding stage into the realm of institutional viability which, God willing, will endure for many, many years to come. For this reason, I have been urging the Board over the past few years for this transition and feel so blessed and ecstatic that Rabbi Asher Lopatin has agreed to become the next president. I am deeply grateful to the Jim Joseph Foundation, whose guidance and grant to YCT were instrumental in realizing this goal.”
“I intend to go back to doing what I love most – teaching, writing and mentoring. I will also now have the opportunity to continue cultivating the ideas of open Orthodoxy and taking it to another level,” Weiss added.
Since founding YCT in 1999, Rav Weiss has cultivated an environment where academic excellence was the norm and character and Jewish leadership skills of its students were held to the highest standards. Rabbi Weiss will continue to teach at YCT.
“In recent years we have been the greatest feeders of rabbis and Jim Joseph Foundation educators on campus, in community day schools, camps and Jewish national leadership organizations including Uri L’Tzedek, The Samuel Bronfman Foundation and Kevah,” commented Rabbi Weiss. “In addition, our rabbis are now leading major synagogues all over the country. Of our more than 80 graduates, almost 95 percent are in avodat hakosh (holy work), an unbelievably high percentage of our graduates leading the Jewish community.”
Rav Lopatin, a former Rhodes Scholar and Wexner Fellow, has been spiritual leader of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation in Chicago for 17 years, and has helped the synagogue grow from 90 members to over 400 members. He is known as being a national leader in working together with Jews of all different backgrounds and denominations to build Jewish community and create a passion for Torah and Jewish practice. He received his ordination from Rav Aron Soloveichik and Yeshivas Brisk and from Yeshiva University in New York. He holds an MPhil in Medieval Arabic Thought from Oxford University, as well as a Bachelor’s in International Relations and Islamic Studies from Boston University. He has done doctoral work, also at Oxford, in Islamic Fundamentalist Attitudes Toward Jews. Together with his wife, Rachel, Rav Lopatin helped found the halachic and inclusive Chicago Jewish Day School, a pluralistic school with almost 200 students.
“I am incredibly humbled by the selection committee’s decision and am looking forward to the unique opportunity and challenges ahead,” says Rav Lopatin. “By cultivating a YCT family, Rav Weiss has built an institution representing the best of Orthodox Judaism – knowledge, engagement, and openness. I will do everything I can to continue this legacy, to help our students achieve their highest goals, and to enable our musmachim – ordainees – to impact not only the entire spectrum of the Orthodox world, but to reach beyond boundaries to our brothers and sisters in the wider Jewish world, wherever they may be.”
The development and implementation of the succession plan was a component of a 2011 $3 million grant that YCT received from the Jim Joseph Foundation. The five-year grant, of which $2.5 million is being matched on a one-to-one basis with the Yeshiva’s own fundraising, enables YCT to create greater numbers of dynamic, uniquely prepared Orthodox pulpit and campus rabbis and Jewish educators. The grant funded the development of a fully-realized educator’s track, which graduates ordained rabbis with the same approach to bridge-building and openness as other YCT programs.
“The Jim Joseph Foundation awarded a grant to YCT because of its stellar record in creating highly effective and innovative Jewish educators and leaders,” adds Al Levitt, President of the Jim Joseph Foundation. “As a partner with YCT, developing a strategic and timely succession plan to identify Rav Weiss’s successor was a core component of the grant. We believe that this plan, and the subsequent transition phase, will allow YCT to build on its past successes.”
YCT is admired for its approach to the role of the rabbi in Jewish life and society at large, as rabbinical students are prepared to engage both with the Jewish community and with the secular society. Graduates of YCT seek to build bridges, share knowledge, and collaborate with those from other Jewish denominations and beyond. Since its inception, YCT has ordained more than 80 rabbis and has 13 students in its Fall 2012 first year class, the largest in its history.