Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Forward 50 2013

Avi Weiss

Despite continued opposition from his right flank, in 2013 Avi Weiss witnessed the coming of age of two of the groundbreaking Orthodox institutions he created. This summer, Weiss presided over the first graduation ceremony of female clerics at Yeshivat Maharat, and smoothly passed the reins of his flagship rabbinic school, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, to a successor.

Weiss earned notoriety for ordaining the first female rabba, Sara Hurwitz, in 2009. But the June graduation of the first class of Maharats may prove to be a longer-lasting legacy of Weiss’s pluralistic vision for so-called Open Orthodoxy. Despite opposition from America’s largest Modern Orthodox rabbinical association, the Rabbinical Council of America, Yeshivat Maharat’s ceremony marked the beginning of the institutionalization of women’s communal leadership roles.

“It’s not always that dreams are fulfilled in our lifetime, but here we are,” Weiss, 69, told the 500-strong crowd at the graduation ceremony.

All three Maharat graduates, Ruth Balinsky Friedman, Rachel Kohl Finegold and Abby Brown Scheier, immediately secured jobs at North American Orthodox synagogues. Their graduation was followed a few months later by the official installation of Rabbi Asher Lopatin as president of YCT. In true pluralistic fashion, Lopatin’s installation ceremony, in October, included a panel discussion titled “Training New Rabbis for a New Generation,” featuring leaders from the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements. The event was boycotted and harshly criticized by Orthodox leaders, showing that even though YCT is now independent of Weiss, the school will continue his tradition of pushing the bounds of Orthodoxy.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.