Rabbi Avi Weiss Quits Rabbinical Council of America in Protest

Weiss says he won't be a part of an association that does not admit as members those rabbis whose sole ordination is from the rabbinical school he founded.

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New York Rabbi Avi Weiss, founder of Open Orthodoxy movement.
New York Rabbi Avi Weiss, founder of Open Orthodoxy movement.Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Rabbi Avi Weiss announced Monday that he is quitting the Rabbinical Council of America to protest its failure to admit as members rabbis whose sole ordination is from the rabbinical school he founded.

The RCA, the main association of Modern Orthodox rabbis in America, has yet to grant membership to rabbis who have been ordained only from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Weiss established the rabbinical seminary in 2000 as an alternative to Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

Chovevei Torah, which is located at Weiss’ synagogue, ordains a handful of rabbis each year and is now led by Rabbi Asher Lopatin.

After Chovevei Torah graduates failed to gain membership to the RCA, Weiss co-founded an alternative rabbinic group, the International Rabbinic Fellowship.

“As an act of protest I have not paid my dues to the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), and have now allowed my membership to lapse,” Weiss wrote in an email message on Monday. “I have chosen to leave the RCA foremost because of its attitude towards Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT), the rabbinical school I founded years ago.

“If YCT rabbis – with YCT semikha only – cannot join the RCA, neither can I be part of this rabbinical group,” Weiss wrote, using the Hebrew word for ordination.

The RCA did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Weiss has been a frequent critic of the RCA, most recently for centralizing control of Orthodox conversions in America.

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