Progressive Rabbi Avi Weiss announces he will step down
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Progressive Rabbi Avi Weiss announces he will step down

Leader of New York congregation, known for social activism and ordination of females, to become ‘rabbi-in-residence’

Rabbi Avi Weiss during a memorial service on June 17, 2014, outside the UN in New York, for the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in the West Bank. (AP/John Minchillo)
Rabbi Avi Weiss during a memorial service on June 17, 2014, outside the UN in New York, for the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in the West Bank. (AP/John Minchillo)

Rabbi Avi Weiss, spiritual leader of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, announced that he will step down as rabbi of the congregation.

Weiss, who has pushed a religiously progressive agenda, made the announcement Thursday during holiday services. He added that his retirement would be effective next July.

He said he will continue to serve as rabbi-in-residence at the synagogue, The Forward reported.

Weiss is the founder of Yeshivat Maharat, which has graduated two cohorts of female spiritual leaders called Maharats, an acronym of “female spiritual,” “legal” and “Torah leader.”

Last year, he was at the center of a controversy after Israel’s Chief Rabbinate briefly refused to accept his testimony on a couple’s conversion. The rabbinate rescinded the ban after coming under pressure in Israel and the US.

Weiss, who also founded Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in the Bronx, is a well-known figure in Jewish activism, beginning with efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry in the 1970s.

He also has demonstrated for Ethiopian and Iranian Jews, against anti-Semites, on behalf of Jewish settlers in the Sinai and the West Bank, in support of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and against both a Catholic convent at Auschwitz camp and a Holocaust memorial at Belzec.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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