This school has fought a proposed LGBTQ student club for months. So why did it just launch a new one?
Yeshiva University in New York City has voluntarily created a new LGBTQ club for students
Amid an ongoing legal battle over their refusal to recognize a student club centered on LGBTQ rights, leaders of Yeshiva University in New York City have announced the creation of a separate club aimed at serving LGBTQ students.
Kol Yisrael Areivim Club, a name that roughly translates to “All responsible for each other,” will provide a forum for LGBTQ students to share their experiences, host on-campus activities and support one another, said Eric Baxter, an attorney who represents Yeshiva, during a Monday morning press call.
“While the lawsuit will continue, Yeshiva University is excited to announce the approval of this club which will support LGBTQ students within the Torah framework,” he said.
School leaders announced the new initiative in a letter to the Yeshiva University community sent Monday.
“The new club, designed to support and guide our students in living authentic Torah lives, was approved by the Administration, in partnership with lay leadership, and endorsed by senior Roshei Yeshiva. The club also reflects input and perspectives from conversations between our rabbis, educators and current and past undergraduate LGBTQ students,” the letter said.
As Baxter noted, Monday’s announcement will not resolve conflict between the Jewish school and the students who brought the case, who allege that school officials violated the New York City Human Rights Law by refusing to recognize the YU Pride Alliance.
The students won at the trial court level after a judge determined that the school is not eligible for a religious exemption from the New York City policy since it offers a variety of secular degrees and programming.
Yeshiva has appealed that decision, as well as a separate order saying that the school must formally recognize the YU Pride Alliance as the case plays out, Baxter previously told the Deseret News.
“It’s really an absurd decision to say an organization as intensely religious as Yeshiva is not religious. It shows that something has clearly gone wrong,” he said.
In September, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to lift the order requiring recognition. A majority of justices said that Yeshiva had come to the Supreme Court too soon, before the school had exhausted its options in the lower courts.
“If applicants seek and receive neither expedited review nor interim relief from the New York courts, they may return to this court,” justices in the majority said.
The Supreme Court decision prompted Yeshiva University to temporarily suspend all undergraduate student club activity on campus. But then members of the YU Pride Alliance offered to forego official recognition in the short term if campus leaders agreed to lift the suspension.
“We are agreeing to this stay while the case moves through the New York courts because we do not want (Yeshiva University) to punish our fellow (students) by ending all student activities,” members of YU Pride Alliance said in a Sept. 21 statement, as the Deseret News previously reported.
The new LGBTQ student club grew out of conversations between Yeshiva leaders and students that took place over several months, Baxter said on Monday, noting that some of the students who brought the lawsuit were involved.
In a statement to The Forward on Monday, students involved in the push for recognition for YU Pride Alliance expressed frustration about the new club.
They described Kol Yisrael Areivim as “a feeble attempt by (Yeshiva University) to continue denying LGBTQ students equal treatment as full members of the YU student community.”
Earlier Monday, Baxter had said he was hopeful that students from the YU Pride Alliance would be interested in participating in the new club.
Regardless of how students respond, Yeshiva University remains engaged in the lawsuit and is hopeful that future rulings will clarify that it has a right to make faith-based decisions, Baxter said.
The lawsuit “calls into question Yeshiva’s ability to make religious decisions in general,” he said.