Asher Lopatin Gets Less-Than-Warm Welcome From Orthodox World

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Leader Put on Defensive

courtesy of YCT

By Paul Berger

Published October 28, 2013, issue of November 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Rabbi Asher Lopatin is feeling a little “roughed up.”

It’s October 17, less than a fortnight since Lopatin’s official installation as president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a liberal Orthodox rabbinical school in the Bronx, and his attempts to reach out to New York’s Orthodox community are not going well.

Sitting in a cramped office at YCT, Lopatin is replaying the smackdowns and letdowns of the previous few weeks.

First there was the condemnation from the ultra-Orthodox umbrella group, Agudath Israel of America, which savaged Lopatin’s decision to mark his October 6 installation with a roundtable discussion involving leaders from the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements.

“I am surprised that the Agudah saw the panel… as something that was going to destroy Judaism as we know it,” Lopatin says.

Then there was the absence at Lopatin’s installation ceremony of his colleagues from the flagship Modern Orthodox institution, Yeshiva University. The absentees included several friends and acquaintances who found more pressing engagements that day. “There were a lot of people on the road that Sunday,” Lopatin says.

“Then I was blessed with my Yated Ne’eman article,” he adds.

Lopatin is referring to a lengthy editorial in the ultra-Orthodox newspaper describing YCT’s roundtable as a “spit in the face of Orthodox conduct and practice” and labeling Open Orthodoxy itself as a threat to Judaism.

“They aren’t content with their small group. They seek to expand it and to transform our communities as well,” the newspaper’s editor, Pinchus Lipschutz wrote, adding that Lopatin’s “deviant group” is “drawing adherents and gaining control of shuls, schools and organizations.”

Lipschutz added: “It is high time for our community to formally declare — and really mean it — that Open Orthodoxy is not Orthodoxy and that anyone involved with Open Orthodox institutions risks being ousted from leadership positions in the Orthodox community.”

Lopatin never imagined that gaining acceptance for Open Orthodoxy would be easy. But he seems genuinely surprised — and a little hurt — that the name-calling and shunning has begun already.

“It might be that they feel that we are a player in the Orthodox world,” Lopatin says. “I would like to think really we are such a factor and they are scared.”

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Lopatin was hailed as a moderating force to counteract YCT’s bullish founder, Rabbi Avi Weiss, who stepped down as president of YCT at the end of June.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.