Asher Lopatin

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Asher Lopatin (born September 1, 1964) is an American rabbi. He is the President of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, the leading open Orthodox rabbinical school in America located in Riverdale in New York City. Previously, he was the spiritual leader of Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation in Chicago, and is widely known for his commitment to fostering and promoting an inclusive view of Orthodoxy.

Biographical Information[edit]

Rabbi Lopatin is a graduate of the Maimonides School, and received a B.A. in International Relations and Islamic Studies from Boston University. In 1989, he was awarded a Master of Philosophy from the University of Oxford in Medieval Arabic Thought. He has also done doctoral work at Oxford in Islamic Fundamentalist Attitudes Toward Jews, authoring a chapter on Muslim/Jewish relations titled "The Uncircumcised Jewish Heart (in Islamic and Qur'anic Thought)." Lopatin's list of academic honors is significant: he won a Rhodes Scholarship, was a Wexner Fellow, a Truman Scholar, and a Boston University Trustee Scholar. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received rabbinic ordination from both Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University in New York City in 1996 and Rabbi Aharon Soloveichik.[1][2] Lopatin also received honorary smicha from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in 2002.

Rabbi Lopatin was the spiritual leader of Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.[3] Since he assumed this position in 1995, the congregation has grown from only 90 members into a community of over 400.[4] During his tenure at Anshe Sholom, Lopatin has been instrumental in establishing the infrastructure necessary for a thriving Orthodox community. His leadership has resulted in the creation of the Adam R. Straus Memorial Mikvah (attached to ASBI), the erecting of the Lakeview Eruv, and the opening of a kosher restaurant.[5] Together with his wife Rachel, Rabbi Lopatin was a founder of the multi-denominational Chicago Jewish Day School.[6]

Among Rabbi Lopatin's congregants at Anshe Sholom is Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, former White House Chief of Staff under President Barack Obama, and former member of the United States House of Representatives. When asked, Rabbi Lopatin would not comment on Emanuel's politics, but did note: "I wish all our congregants were as loyal to the synagogue and as engaged as he is."[7]

In 2006, Rabbi Lopatin garnered much public attention during the political battle over the Chicago City Council ban on the sale of "foie gras." Lopatin was widely quoted supporting the ban on the grounds that Torah prohibits cruelty to animals, stating: "Chopped liver is good, but foie gras is bad."[8][9][10][11]

In 2009, Lopatin announced plans to lead a proposed group of 200 families making aliyah to settle in the Negev.[12][13] The plan was pushed back to the summer of 2012 (before being postponed indefinitely) due to a serious illness in the Lopatin family.[14]

In February 2012, Rabbi Lopatin made news by participating in an Indonesia Interfaith Middle East Peace Tour. Five rabbis, four members of the Christian clergy, and three American Muslim clerics traveled through Indonesia (meeting with 12 Indonesian Muslim clergymen), Dubai, Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Washington, D.C. Lopatin extensively documented the journey through blog posts on the website, Morethodoxy.[15]

On August 30, 2012, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School (YCT) officially announced that Rabbi Lopatin would succeed Rav Avi Weiss, current President and Founder, as President of the organization. Under Weiss' leadership, YCT has existed and grown on the liberal edge of Orthodoxy. In spite of having maintained positions on issues that have put him at odds with more conservative elements of Orthodoxy in the past, Lopatin has set a clear agenda for the beginning of his work at YCT: "I want to make sure Chovevei Torah is an integral part of the Orthodox world. I do think there's a perception that Chovevei is left, for liberal Orthodoxy. I want to start with getting the word out that we're open to right and left." At the same time, Lopatin maintains, "I'm very pluralistic in the sense that I want the Torah message and the Jewish message to get out beyond the walls of the Orthodox synagogue and beyond those who call themselves Orthodox."[16]

Affiliations[edit]

Rabbinical Council of America; member (Orthodox)[17] Chicago Board of Rabbis; Vice President (multi-denominational)[18] International Rabbinic Fellowship; Board Member (Orthodox)[19] Chicago Jewish Day School; Board of Trustees, Ex Officio ("halachic, inclusive")[20]

Honors[edit]

Yeshivas Brisk Alumni of the Year, 1996 American Jewish Congress Young Leadership Award, 1998 Maimonides School Pillar of Maimonides Award, 2000 Associated Talmud Torahs of Chicago Keter Torah Award, 2001 Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Honorary Smicha, 2002 Newsweek Top 25 Pulpit Rabbis (#22), 2008 Newsweek America's 25 Most Vibrant Congregations (Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel), 2009 Newsweek Top 50 Rabbis (#21), 2011 Newsweek Top 50 Rabbis (#24), 2012[21]

Ideological positions[edit]

Lopatin is noted for feeling that the denominational lines separating Jews are less important than the commitments shared by Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and non-aligned Jews.[22][23] "I am a pluralist: We need to learn from all Jews, and connect and relate to all Jews – Reform, Conservative, Renewal ; I believe it is critical for Judaism that we engage with the greater society as well... While there is a lot to critique in the Orthodox world – Modern, Centrist and Chareidi – all of us sometimes take a strident attitude that may not exhibit sufficient respect and love for our fellow Jews and their motivations. All of us can make an effort to try to make our first response be one of embracing all of Orthodoxy – all Jews of course, and all human beings – and being open to learning – sometimes with a critical, but respectful ear – from our fellow Orthodox Jews."[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ About the Rabbi, Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel. Accessed September 3, 2012
  2. ^ "Rabbi Asher Lopatin: Anshe Shalom B'nai Israel Congregation, Chicago, IL", Rabbinical Council of America. Accessed November 26, 2008.
  3. ^ Neroulias, Nicole. "Rabbi Asher Lopatin". Religion News Service. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  4. ^ EJP. "Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School Begins Transition to New President", September 2, 2012. Accessed September 4, 2012.
  5. ^ Davis, Adam. "Asher Lopatin to Head Yeshivat Chovevei Torah", jewschool.com, September 5, 2012. Accessed September 7, 2012.
  6. ^ "Lopatin, Rabbi Asher". Accessed September 9, 2012.
  7. ^ Widdicombe, Lizzie. "Emanuel In Full", The New Yorker, November 17, 2008. Accessed November 26, 2008.
  8. ^ Shaw, Andy. "Jewish Leaders Urge Against Repeal of Foie Gras Ban", WLS-TV, September 19, 2006. Accessed November 26, 2008.
  9. ^ "Religion enters Chicago's foie gras ban". UPI. 2006-09-19. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  10. ^ Spielman, Fran (2006-09-19). "Jewish leaders: Overturning foie gras ban could anger God". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  11. ^ Dubkin Yearwood, Pauline (2006-09-29). "Foie gras: bad for the Jews, rabbis say". Chicago Jewish News. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  12. ^ http://bnaibrith.org/magazines/winter2008/negev.cfm
  13. ^ http://morethodoxy.org/2009/09/07/5770-the-year-of-carmit-with-rabbi-asher-lopatin/
  14. ^ "Tehillim for Daughter of Rabbi Asher Lopatin", August 28, 2012. Accessed September 7, 2012.
  15. ^ Lopatin, Rabbi Asher. "With Hashem's Help, Let the Indonesia Interfaith Middle East Peace Tour Begin", February 20, 2012. Accessed September 9, 2012.
  16. ^ Heilman, Uriel. "Can Asher Lopatin secure Yeshivat Chovevei Torah's place in Orthodox Judaism?", September 7, 2012. Accessed September 10, 2012.
  17. ^ [1]. Accessed September 9, 2012.
  18. ^ [2]. Accessed September 9, 2012.
  19. ^ [3]. Accessed September 9, 2012.
  20. ^ [4]. Accessed September 9, 2012.
  21. ^ "America's Top 50 Rabbi's of 2012". DailyBeast/Newsweek. 
  22. ^ Tucker, Ernest (1998-05-24). "Walls tumbling in Judaism". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  23. ^ "A Class for All Traditions," Newsday, June 23, 2008.
  24. ^ Lopatin, Rabbi Asher. "Morethodoxy Openly Embraces the Entire Orthodox World", May 16, 2012. Accessed September 10, 2012.

External links[edit]