Asher Lopatin to succeed Avi Weiss at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Chicago is set to succeed Rabbi Avi Weiss next year at the helm of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT), the liberal Orthodox rabbinical school founded by Weiss.

Lopatin is the spiritual leader of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, a high-profile Modern Orthodox synagogue in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago that counts Mayor Rahm Emanuel among its occasional congregants. A former Rhodes Scholar, Truman Scholar and Wexner Fellow, Lopatin was ordained by the late Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik of the Brisk yeshiva in Chicago and by Yeshiva University’s (YU) rabbinical school, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, or RIETS. He also has been on Newsweek’s list of America’s top 50 rabbis.

Weiss’ school was launched in 1999 as a more liberal alternative to YU’s rabbinical school and has encountered some opposition among more conservative elements in the Orthodox world. Weiss ignited a furor in those circles — and applause in many liberal Orthodox ones — when in 2010 he conferred rabbinic ordination on a woman, Sara Hurwitz, who was given the title “rabba” (female for “rabbi”). Several years ago, the New York-based YCT moved from Manhattan to the Riverdale section of the Bronx, where Weiss leads a Modern Orthodox congregation, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.

Reached by telephone, Weiss said that Lopatin’s appointment wasn’t official yet, and Lopatin said in an interview that an announcement would be premature, but the succession plan already has been shared with insiders at YCT, and Lopatin told his Chicago congregation that he’d be stepping down in June 2013.