President of NY liberal Orthodox yeshiva to step down
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President of NY liberal Orthodox yeshiva to step down

A class at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, N.Y., which has ordained 81 rabbis since its establishment nearly two decades ago. (Courtesy of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah)

NEW YORK (JTA) — The president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a liberal Orthodox rabbinical school in New York City, announced that he will be leaving his post at the end of the academic year.

In an unexpected move, Rabbi Asher Lopatin shared the news in a Tuesday email to the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah community. Students of the yeshiva in the Riverdale section of the Bronx returned to classes this week.

“I write to share with you the news that as I enter my fifth year as President, this academic year will be my last as President of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School,” Lopatin, 52, wrote in the email.

YCT was founded in 1999 by maverick Orthodox Rabbi Avi Weiss and serves as a counter-voice to Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, which identifies as modern Orthodox but follows a more centrist interpretation of Jewish law. YCT has sought to expand women’s ritual and clergy roles in the synagogue and reform stringent rules for conversion, among other issues.

Weiss had identified the yeshiva as “Open Orthodox,” a term he coined, but which some critics said put it outside the normative Orthodox framework. Lopatin in recent years had referred to YCT as being “Modern Orthodox,” telling the New Jersey Jewish News that the “term Modern Orthodox has developed into a nice, inclusive term in the Orthodox world.”

“As I look back on my time as President of YCT, we have successfully transitioned the yeshiva from its founder stage, under the inspiring leadership of Rav Avi [Weiss], to a more established, mature stage institution,” Lopatin said. He added that he was proud of accomplishments by recent graduates, expanding the yeshiva’s Lindenbaum Center for Halakhic Studies and growing YCT’s staff.

Lopatin told The New York Jewish Week that he had no specific professional plans lined up, but that he had “lots of different opportunities.”

The chair of YCT’s board, Daniel Perla, praised Lopatin’s tenure as “very successful” and said it was “time for a change,” according to The Jewish Week.