Yeshiva University on Mondays announcement the creation of a new undergraduate club “for LGBTQ students striving to live an authentic Torah life”. Yeshiva’s decision is the latest in an escalating legal battle between former students and the Modern Orthodox Jewish university, which reached the United States Supreme Court last month.
Members of the YU Pride Alliance sued the university in April 2021 for his refusal to recognize the LGBTQ student group as a club. Last month, the United States Supreme Court ordered the university to recognize the Pride Alliance as it appeals to a June ruling from a New York court against Yeshiva in the case.
Then the university temporarily suspended all student activities and the Pride Alliance agreed not to seek official recognition until the legal battle was over.
The university said in a statement Monday that it would not recognize the Pride Alliance because of its association with other chapters nationwide, and that forming a new, unassociated club was the only way forward. the university would accept. The new club positions itself as “an Orthodox alternative” that champions an uncompromising approach to Halakha, or traditional Jewish law.
“Pride Alliance is a recognized movement in colleges across the country that not only combats anti-LGBTQ discrimination, a cause we fully support, but also promotes activities that conflict with Torah laws and values” , says the statement from the university.
The university did not respond The Chronicle‘s questions about these conflicts. According to the Human Rights Campaignan advocacy group
Filing a complaint was really our last resort.
LGBTQ+ rights, some Orthodox Jewish readings of the Torah, and later rabbinic writings prohibit same-sex sexual relations and base gender roles on birth biology.
Yeshiva FAQ Page about the new club says it was created through conversations with “current and past LGBTQ rabbis, educators, and undergraduate students.” The YU Pride Alliance, which was founded and led by Yeshiva students, disputes this claim.
In a statement, the alliance claimed the new club is a “desperate stunt” and a “sham” that has no student leadership or members. “This is a weak attempt by YU to continue to deny LGBTQ students equal treatment as full members of the YU student community,” the statement read.
Other Yeshiva students impacted by The Chronicle said they only heard about the club on Monday, through the Pride Alliance statement.
Yeshiva University did not respond to questions about student participation or joining the new club.
In the announcement of the new club, Yeshiva also said it would improve on-campus support services for its LGBTQ students and highlighted some ongoing programs: sensitivity training for faculty and staff, counseling at centers counseling, anti-discrimination policies, a support group, and educational sessions during new student orientation. Yeshiva did not respond to The Chroniclewhen requested to view training materials or have questions about how these programs will be improved.
Yeshiva said his new student organization, Kol Yisrael Areivim Club, will provide a space for students to gather, share experiences, organize events and support each other, and will enjoy the same benefits as other student clubs.
A long battle
The struggle of LGBTQ students to gain acceptance and create community within Yeshiva University has been a long one. By some accounts, the momentum was strengthened in 2008 and 2009 with the formation of the YU Tolerance Club and a popular round table on what it was like to be gay in the Orthodox world. The event brought together hundredswith many turned away at the door.
Over the next decade, movement accepting LGBTQ Orthodox Jews has become increasingly common in the United States. Then, in 2018, the YU Pride Alliance originally asked for permission to form, but it was denied, according to Amitai Miller, a former Yeshiva University student who is one of the plaintiffs in the alliance’s lawsuit. . Another plaintiff, Molly Meisels, helped organize a pride parade at the university, with recognition of the pride alliance among her goals. Little changed.
“Making a complaint was really our last resort,” Miller said. The Chronicle last month. “The lawsuit was the culmination of years of advocacy and years of closed, confidential meetings in which students simply asked for access to university resources and the right to build community. We did our best within the mechanisms provided by the school to advocate for a club and ask for clear guidelines regarding what that club might even look like. But even that was denied.
Pride Alliance “promotes activities that conflict with Torah laws and values”.
The former students’ lawsuit hinges on whether Yeshiva University should be classified as an educational institution or a religious society. These companies, unlike educational establishments, are exempt from New York City Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation. Under the law, sexual orientation is a protected class.
New York Supreme Court Justice Lynn R. Kotler ruled in June that the university was not a religious society and ordered the institution and its president, Rabbi Ari Berman, to immediately grant the covenant “the full and equal accommodations, benefits, facilities, and privileges granted to all other groups of students at Yeshiva University.
Judge Kotler cited the university’s own charter, adopted in 1967, which explicitly says that the university was organized “solely for educational purposes”.
The university then sought an emergency stay of Kotler’s decision from the United States Supreme Court, which Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor initially granted on an interim basis. But days later, the court, including Sotomayor, denied the stay, saying the university had other avenues to pursue first, at the state level.
Yeshiva also said in Monday’s FAQ that its decision to suspend student activities following the US Supreme Court’s order was “profoundly misconstrued”, and that club activities have simply been postponed until after the Jewish High Holy Days break – despite the lawsuit being explicitly mentioned in the emailed announcement.