Yeshiva University announced Monday the creation of a new undergraduate student club for LGBTQ students who strive to live authentic Torah lives. Yeshiva’s move is the latest in an escalating legal battle between former students and Modern Orthodox Jewish University that reached the U.S. Supreme Court last month.
Members of the YU Pride Alliance sued the university in April 2021 for refusing to recognize the LGBTQ student group as a club. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the university to recognize the Pride Alliance while it appeals a New York court’s June ruling against Yeshiva.
The university then temporarily suspended all student activities, and the Pride Alliance agreed not to seek official recognition until the court battle was over.
The university said in a statement Monday that it does not recognize the Pride Alliance because it is nationally affiliated with other chapters, and that forming a new, unaffiliated club is the only path the university will accept. The new club is positioned as an “Orthodox alternative” that supports an uncompromising approach to Halakha, or traditional Jewish law.
“The Pride Alliance is a recognized movement at colleges across the country that not only fights against anti-LGBTQ discrimination, a cause we fully support, but also promotes activities that are contrary to Torah laws and values,” the university said in a statement.
The university did not respond Chroniclequestions about these conflicts. An advocacy group, according to the Human Rights Campaign
Filing a lawsuit was 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’s FAQ page about the new club says it was created through conversations “with rabbis, teachers, and current and former LGBTQ students.” The YU Pride Alliance, founded and run by Yeshiva students, disputes that claim.
In a statement, the union insisted the new club was a “desperate gimmick” and “fake” with no student leadership or membership. “This is a weak attempt by YU to deny LGBTQ students equal treatment as full members of the YU student community,” the statement said.
Other Yeshiva students arrived Chronicle said they had not heard of the club until Monday, via a statement from the Pride Alliance.
Yeshiva University did not respond to questions about student involvement or membership in the new club.
In announcing the new club, Yeshiva also said it would improve campus support services for its LGBTQ students and pointed to some ongoing programs: sensitivity training for faculty and staff, counseling center consultations, anti-discrimination policies, a support group. and educational sessions for new student orientation. Yeshiva did not respond Chroniclei request to view training materials or questions about improving these programs.
Yeshiva said its newly formed student organization, the Kol Yisrael Areivim Club, will provide a space for students to gather, share experiences, organize events and support each other, and will receive the same benefits as other student clubs.
A long battle
The LGBTQ student-led struggle to build acceptance and community at Yeshiva University has been a long one. According to some, momentum grew in 2008 and 2009 with the formation of the YU Tolerance Club and a popular panel discussion about what it’s like to be gay in an Orthodox world. Hundreds attended the event, many were turned away at the door.
Over the next decade, the LGBTQ Orthodox Jewish acceptance movement grew increasingly mainstream in the United States. Then, in 2018, the YU Pride Alliance initially asked for permission to form but was denied, said Amitai Milleri, a former student at Yeshiva University. is one of the plaintiffs in the Union action. Another plaintiff, Molly Meisels, helped organize a university pride parade that included the Pride Alliance among its goals. Little changed.
“Filing the lawsuit was our last resort,” Miller said Chronicle last month. “The case was the culmination of years of advocacy and years of closed-door, off-the-record meetings where students were simply asking for access to university resources and the right to form a community. We did our best in the mechanisms provided by the school to promote the club and ask for clear guidance on what the club could look like. But even that was denied.”
The Pride Alliance “promotes activities that are contrary to the laws and values of the Torah.”
The former students’ lawsuit hinges on whether Yeshiva University should be classified as an educational institution or a religious corporation. Such businesses, unlike educational institutions, are exempt from the New York Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. According to the law, sexual orientation is a protected class.
New York Supreme Court Justice Lynn R. Kotler ruled in June that the university is not a religious corporation and ordered the institution and its president, Rabbi Ari Berman, to immediately provide the union with “full and equal accommodations, benefits, amenities, and privileges accorded to all other student groups at Yeshiva University .
Judge Kotler cited the university’s own charter, adopted in 1967, which expressly states that the university was organized “for educational purposes only.”
The university then tried to get the U.S. Supreme Court to grant an emergency stay of the Kotler decision, which Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor initially granted on a temporary basis. But days later, the court, including Sotomayor, rejected the stay, saying the university had other options at the state level first.
Yeshiva also said in an FAQ Monday that its decision to suspend student activities following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling was “grossly mischaracterized” and that club activities were simply delayed after the Jewish holiday break — despite the fact that the lawsuit was explicit. mentioned in the notification sent in the e-mail.