By: Chaim Book  | 

Over 1600 Students, Alumni and Faculty Sign Letter Opposing Yeshiva University’s Stance Towards LGBTQ Students

Over 1600 Yeshiva University students, alumni and faculty signed an open letter to YU’s leadership expressing disappointment with the university’s decisions and calling for it to change its approach regarding its LGBTQ students. The petition hopes to highlight support for LGBTQ students in YU and in the broader Jewish community. 

The letter, titled “A Call from the Heart of the YU Community,” was composed by Netanel Zellis-Paley (YC ‘18), Malka Svei and two others who requested anonymity, and circulated on social media beginning Saturday evening, one day after YU announced a temporary freeze of student club activities. 

“YU’s refusal to sanction the club insinuated that such a simple statement of identity would contravene Torah values.” the letter states. “We are concerned that if this conflict continues, the message these students sought to dispel will only be reaffirmed. We worry that our LGBTQ+ siblings will continue to be stigmatized as born sinners, when in reality sin is a fact of life that every Jew struggles with. 

“Most gravely, we fear that LGBTQ+ Jews will come to believe that their only choices are to suffer in silence, or leave our communities altogether.”

Zellis-Paley told The Commentator that the goal of the petition is to stress to LGBTQ people in YU and the Jewish community that there are many people who support them. 

“YU’s actions have implicitly assumed that there is a silent majority that doesn’t want LGBTQ+ people in their communities,” he said. “Even if we don’t have a majority, we felt an obligation to make sure LGBTQ+ Jews heard our voices and know that we are here for them.”

Additionally, Zellis-Paley said that while he recognizes the complexity of the decisions for rabbis and communal leaders, he does not believe that there has been an adequate response.

 “LGBTQ+ Jews do not deserve — and can no longer afford — to wait as rabbis and communal leaders continue to equivocate and defer the decision to future generations instead of fully confronting it in all of its complexity, which includes deep and far-reaching questions of theology and faith,” he said. “LGBTQ+ Jews deserve strong and loud leadership right now, and all they got was silence. So we took it upon ourselves.”

All signatories of the letter were asked to use their real names and sign only if they were a current or former student, a staff member at one of YU’s schools, a trustee or a donor. The majority of the letter’s signatories are not current undergraduate students. 

The letter comes amidst multiple internal responses to YU from faculty in its graduate schools, condemning YU’s decision to block the YU Pride Alliance and supporting YU’s LGBTQ students. 

Faculty in the Cardozo School of Law, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Ferkauf School of Psychology as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Montefiore Medical Center have released similar statements in support of LGBTQ students and condemning YU’s stance. 

On Sept. 20, the undergraduate faculty of Yeshiva College, Stern College and Sy Syms School of Business submitted a similar open letter to The Commentator with 73 signatures, some of them anonymous.

On Wednesday, walkouts were staged at Cardozo School of Law, Ferkauf School of Psychology and Wurzweiler School of Social Work in support of LGBTQ students.

In a statement sent to The Commentator Wednesday, YU expressed interest in reopening dialogue to support its LGBTQ students, activity it said was “halted by the lawsuit.”“We welcome and care deeply for all our students, including our LGBTQ community” the press release stated “We remain committed to engaging in meaningful dialogue about how best to ensure an inclusive campus for all students in accordance with our religious beliefs.”