Rabbi Asher Lopatin is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program and a rabbi at Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel in Chicago.  He can be reached at rabbi@asbi.org. 

Just a few days before beginning negotiations on a new eight year contract at my modern Orthodox shul, I agreed with a supporter that I would not push for an innovation – women carrying the Torah: Why shake things up before contract negotiations?  Yet this kind of holding back had frustrated me in my previous eight years at the shul. I wanted to be on the cutting edge of modern Orthodoxy, to be pushing for changes and innovations that I felt were right for the shul and right for Judaism, and the atmosphere was one of avoiding the risks these changes entailed.  On the night of the board meeting, I told Rachel, my wife, about my frustrations, that I didn’t feel like signing up for another eight years if I couldn’t be myself.  Rachel said to tell the shul this, and that if they didn’t want to share my vision, and I lost my job, she would go out and work, and we would be fine.  Her words of support turned everything around. I went to the meeting and, in a loving way, told them that I had to be myself, and if they could not share my vision, then we would have to part ways.  The board voted 19-1 to support a cutting edge, modern Orthodox vision for the shul.  Innovation is still slow, but by taking a risk, I now know, five years later, that synagogue supports my vision.