Rabbi Asher Lopatin is on tap to be the new executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC pending final employment checks.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin is in line to take over as the new executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC, pursuant to passing final employment checks.
Last summer, Lopatin was welcomed by Detroit’s Modern Orthodox community as rabbi at Kehillat Etz Chayim, a congregation started by a group of families in Huntington Woods.
He also launched the Detroit Center for Civil Discourse, a not-for-profit program co-directed by Professor Saeed Khan, a senior lecturer at Wayne State University, that recently welcomed its first cohort of fellows, who will work on projects that promote respectful debate.
According to a JCRC/AJC source, once Lopatin is officially welcomed as JCRC/AJC executive director, he will continue on the board of the Detroit Center for Civil Discourse but not take a salary. The source said Lopatin plans to continue as rabbi for the 35 families of Kehillat Etz Chayim.
Lopatin earned a bachelor’s degree at Boston University and a master’s degree in medieval Arab thought as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, where he also began work on his doctorate in international relations. He returned to the U.S. to attend Yeshiva University’s rabbinical program, where he received ordination.
For 18 years, Lopatin served as rabbi of Anshe Shalom B’nai Israel, a Modern Orthodox congregation in Chicago. Prior to coming to Detroit, Lopatin led Yeshiva Chovevei Torah, a liberal Orthodox rabbinical seminary in the Bronx, N.Y. Lopatin’s made a name for himself as a maverick, a spiritual leader who is unafraid to stake unpopular halachic (legal) positions on women’s roles in the synagogue, gay marriage, conversion and other topics that have occasionally put him in the crosshairs of the Orthodox rabbinate.
Last year, Lopatin told the JN he decided to come to Detroit because his wife, Rachel, a Hillel Day School alumna, wanted to be closer to her father, Dr. Warren Tessler (she was raised in West Bloomfield), and he was also “excited about being in a city in the midst of a rebirth.” The family lives in Huntington Woods, and their children attend Farber Hebrew Day School in Southfield.
“I’m interested in broader questions of race in America, Israelis and Palestinians, issues of gentrification and affordable housing, social justice issues,” Lopatin told the JN last summer, adding that the move to Detroit would fulfill his desire to be “involved in the Jewish community and to take on broader issues we care about in America and the world.”
The Detroit Center for Civil Discourse website features a quote from Lopatin: “Our differences need not pull us apart. Disagreements and divides can be an opportunity to find common ground if we engage with respect and civility.”