Yeshiva University launches ‘traditional’ alternative to LGBTQ student group

Yeshiva University announced Monday that it would allow the formation of a new group of LGBTQ students, the latest twist in a year-long feud between the Orthodox Jewish university and its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students.

The university said the new queer club, Kol Yisrael Areivim, will be an “approved traditional Orthodox alternative” to its current LGBTQ student group, YU Pride Alliance. School officials have been in a legal battle with the student-led group for more than a year after the university refused to formally recognize it.

“The club will provide students with a space to grow on their personal journeys, navigating the formidable challenges they face in living a fully engaged and uncompromisingly authentic halachic life within Orthodox communities,” the university said in a statement, referring to its new group. “Within this association, students can come together, share their experiences, organize events and support each other while benefiting from all the resources of the Yeshiva community, all within the framework of halachah, like all other student clubs” . (Halakhah refers to interpretations of Jewish law, particularly the legal portion of the Talmud.)

Pride Alliance criticized the new club as a “sham”.

“This is a desperate stunt by Yeshiva University to distract from the growing calls from its donors, alumni, faculty, lawmakers, and the business community, who have stood by YU Pride Alliance, as we continue to fight for our rights.” he said the group said in a statement. “YU sham is not a club as it was not student formed, is not student run, and has no members; rather, it is a feeble attempt by YU to continue to deny LGBTQ students equal treatment as full members of the YU student community.”

The Pride Alliance, which first sought formal recognition of the New York City-based university in 2019, sued the school in April 2021, arguing that Yeshiva was violating the New York City Human Rights Law. The university has said that as a religious institution, it is exempt from following the law.

In June, a state judge ruled in favor of the Pride Alliance, finding that the university did not qualify for a religious exemption. And last month, the US Supreme Court rejected the university’s emergency request to overturn the New York decision.

Shortly after, school officials suspended all student club activities. The Pride Alliance then agreed to pause its efforts to receive official recognition until its legal battle is over so the rest of the school’s student groups can reunite. The university is expected to appeal the June ruling in state court.

The Pride Alliance has raised more than $8,200 to fund activities during the legal battle, such as guest speakers, book clubs and social events, that it would otherwise have access to if it were formally recognized.

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