America’s Flagship Jewish University Endorses New LGBTQ Student Club

Lauren Shank | October 25, 2022 | 11:38am EDT
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(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

(CNS News) – Although Yeshiva University continues its legal battle against YU Pride Alliance, an unofficial student group at the flagship Jewish university, its administration has approved a new organization, the Kol Yisrael Areivim Club for LGBTQ undergraduates, a traditional Orthodox alternative that is grounded in Halacha and Torah values.

In an Oct. 24 press release, the school said, “Yeshiva University, America’s flagship Jewish university, today announced a new initiative grounded in Halacha and Torah values to support its LGBTQ undergraduates, including strengthening its on-campus support services and endorsing a new student club that presents an approved traditional Orthodox alternative to YU Pride Alliance.” 

“This newly founded undergraduate student club, which emerges from Yeshiva’s principles and its students’ interest for a club under traditional Orthodox auspices, was approved by the Administration, in partnership with lay leadership, and endorsed by senior Roshei Yeshiva,” reads the press release.  “It also reflects input and perspectives from conversations between Yeshiva’s rabbis, educators, and current and past undergraduate LGBTQ students.”

The release also said the university would continue to defend in court “against the claim that Yeshiva is not a religious institution.”

Kol Yisrael Areivim Club serves to give students a place to grow in their personal life, while “navigating the formidable challenges that they face in living a fully committed, uncompromisingly authentic halachic life within Orthodox communities,” said the university.  Students can gather, share their experiences and host events within the framework of Halacha, just as all other student clubs are expected to do.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“We are eager to support and facilitate the religious growth and personal life journeys of all our students to lead authentic Torah lives, and we hope that this Torah-based initiative with a new student club tailored to Yeshiva’s undergraduate LGBTQ students will provide them with meaningful support to do so,” said Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University.

Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva University, said, “I add my blessing to this initiative and new student club, which we hope deepens our students’ commitment to the Torah and leads to harmony in our Yeshiva University community.”

“I am thankful for the strong partnership between the Administration, rabbinic and lay leadership, and fully support this new initiative,” added the chairman of Yeshiva University’s Board of Trustees, Ira Mitzner.

As previously reported by CNS News, “New York County Supreme Court Judge Lynn Kotler had ruled in June that Yeshiva University must allow YU Pride Alliance, otherwise the school would be in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination by public entities.”

Stern College for Women, part of Yeshiva University, is seen in Murray Hill in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
Stern College for Women, part of Yeshiva University, is seen in Murray Hill in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

“In its request to the U.S. Supreme Court, the university said, ‘As a deeply religious Jewish university, Yeshiva cannot comply with that order because doing so would violate its sincere religious beliefs about how to form its undergraduate students in Torah values.’ Yeshiva contends that a pro-LGBT student club violates its religious liberty under the First Amendment.”

The school said it would continue to fight against New York’s lower court ruling that Yeshiva University is not a religious institution, and therefore, it lacks full religious authority over the environment.

“Our defense of this matter is essential to our ability to operate Yeshiva consistent with Torah values,” the school’s executives said in a letter.

Regarding student clubs and the current lawsuit, the university provided answers to frequently asked questions on its website, including why the institution created a new club rather than implementing an LGBTQ club that is already present on other campuses.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“Our efforts to formulate a Torah framework to provide our LGBTQ students with profound support is driven by our deep commitment to them and recognition that those who choose to attend an orthodox university come with a different set of expectations and navigate different challenges than those in a typical secular college setting,” part of the answer said.

“Pride Alliance is a recognized movement in colleges throughout the country that not only fights anti-LGBTQ discrimination, a cause which we fully support, but also promotes activities that conflict with Torah laws and values,” said the university. “While an adoption of this national brand is inherently unacceptable in the context of Yeshiva, we also realize the need to find additional ways to be supportive of our students that are consistent with Halacha and inspired by our values."

“That is what we have done with the approval of this new student club,” said the school.  “It is worth noting that this approach is in line with other devout faith-based universities nationwide, who similarly do not host Pride Alliances but have established clubs consistent with their own faith-based languages and traditions.”

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