By: Yitzchak Carroll and Yosef Lemel  | 

Petition Supporting Formation of LGBTQ+ Club Signed by Over 50 Student Leaders

More than 50 undergraduate student leaders signed a petition promoted by the Jewish Activism Club (JAC) supporting the creation of an LGBTQ club at Yeshiva University.

The petition was initially shared privately with individual student leaders on campus, including club presidents and vice presidents, before being emailed to approximately 200 club heads on Thursday evening, Jan. 30, by JAC co-president Phillip Nagler (YC ‘20). After the petition garnered 56 signatures, it was emailed to Senior Vice President Josh Joseph on Feb. 2. Joseph is leading a commission on LGBTQ matters relating to the YU community.

The petition observes that “LGBTQ+ individuals have always been a part of the Orthodox Jewish community” and notes that “the stigma and ostracism of queer people in the Orthodox community” has led to suicide and other mental health issues. “One of the goals of the Jewish Activism Club is to give representation and visibility to the LGBTQ+ community at Yeshiva University,” the petition states, adding that the JAC itself “[does] not have the time to provide the necessary attention that [the LGBTQ+] community deserves.”

“The formation of an LGBTQ+ club is the first step of granting visibility to LGBTQ+ individuals and paying reparations to a community that has suffered for years,” it concludes.

In the aftermath of the LGBTQ march in September, a student group called the YU Pride Alliance was formed; according to the group’s Facebook page, their goal is “to foster an environment of acceptance on campus for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies.” Since it is not approved by the YU administration, the group does not receive funding from YU’s Office of Student Life (OSL) and must hold their events off-campus.

Nagler told The Commentator that he wrote the petition in conjunction with the JAC’s board. According to Nagler, the petition was part of an effort “to continue the momentum of the LGBTQ student rights movement that is happening this year.” While Nagler is not a board member of the YU Pride Alliance, he stated that he felt “obligated as a student activist to help them in their very important cause.”

Nagler said he was pleased with the number of student leaders who signed the petition. “Quite honestly, I did not have high hopes for collecting signatures; my original goal was to get 30,” he said. “I was blown away with the number of student leaders who want this.” According to Nagler, the JAC “reached out to some of the [student] council presidents” but was informed that “none of the presidents plan on signing and that they have a unified decision on this.”

Commenting on his decision to sign the petition, Chaim Roffman (YC ‘21), president of both the Physics Club and the Engineering Club, said, “As a student leader, I think it is important for everyone to be able to comfortably express their sexual identity.” Roffman added that he expects YU to “make a formal remark on the issue from both the Yeshiva and the University.”

Yeshiva Student Union (YSU) President Zachary Greenberg (SSSB ‘21) confirmed that YSU has received a submission for the formation of an LGBTQ-related club called the “YU Alliance” for the spring semester. According to Greenberg, the General Assembly (GA) will vote to approve or reject funding for all clubs on Thursday, Feb. 6. The GA is a student government organization comprised of Wilf student council presidents and the senior co-chair of the Wilf Student Life Committee. The GA is responsible for voting to approve or reject funding for all clubs under the purview of the Wilf student councils. According to Greenberg, it is unclear whether the YU Alliance will be approved by the GA.

According to Student Organization of Yeshiva (SOY) President Yoni Broth, student council members from both campuses will be meeting with Joseph on Wednesday, Feb. 5, to discuss the subject of an LGBTQ club at YU. Broth said he expects that members of the administration’s commission on LGBTQ matters will be in attendance.

Yeshiva College Student Association (YCSA) President Leib Wiener, who earlier this year held a “Meet and Greet” on the Wilf Campus with LGBTQ students and allies from the YU Pride Alliance, declined to comment on the petition. Stern College for Women Student Council (SCWSC) President Aleeza Katz (SCW ‘20) did not respond to The Commentator’s inquiries on the possibility of an LGBTQ club being approved by a Beren student council.

Nagler said he was disappointed by those who did not sign the petition. “It’s important to acknowledge that there were many who did not sign, but I was a bit frustrated that many who avoided signing simply said: ‘no thanks,’ or ‘sorry, that’s too controversial’ and didn’t want to open up the floor to a conversation,” he said. “It seems that some students are scared of an LGBTQ club, but I think it’s important to recognize if these fears have valid reasons behind them.”

More than 25 student organizations and over 200 individual students at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law signed an open letter addressed to President Ari Berman in favor of an undergraduate LGBTQ club. The letter, published in The YU Observer on Monday, Feb. 3, argues that “YU falls short of its duties to provide a moral education by marginalizing its LGBTQ+ students on its undergraduate campuses,” and claims that “by delegitimizing LGBTQ+ students, and by silencing the discussions that they seek to start, Yeshiva University is operating counter to the basic function of a university — as a place where the free exchange of thoughts and ideas is paramount.”

As of the time of publication, Joseph did not address The Commentator’s inquiries on the matter.

Avi Hirsch and Elisheva Kohn contributed to this story.

Photo Caption: YU Pride Alliance logo
Photo Credit: YU Pride Alliance logo