By: Chaim Book, Elishama Marmon  | 

YU Creates New LGBTQ Club ‘Grounded in Halacha and Torah Values’

Yeshiva University announced the establishment of the Kol Yisrael Areivim Club Monday, an undergraduate student club for LGBTQ students “striving to live authentic Torah lives.” 

The club was approved by the administration and senior roshei yeshiva, with input from LGBTQ students, and was formed due to student interest in a club in line with traditional Orthodox values. Like other undergraduate clubs, club members will be granted access to the university’s resources and will be allowed to host events, provided they remain “within the framework of Halacha.”

“We recognize that our undergraduate students, including our LGBTQ students, who choose to attend Yeshiva come with different expectations and navigate different challenges than those who choose a secular college,” stated an email sent to undergraduate students. “And as such, we have been working to formulate a Torah framework to provide our LGBTQ students with an enhanced support system that continues to facilitate their religious growth and personal life journeys.

“Today, we are announcing a new initiative to support our LGBTQ undergraduates, which includes a new student club that presents an approved traditional Orthodox alternative to YU Pride Alliance and a commitment to strengthen our on-campus support services.”

The email was signed by YU President Ari Berman, Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Chairman of the board of YU Ira Mitzner and Chairman of the board of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) Lance Hirt. 

According to a FAQ page released by the university, the administration chose to create its own club rather than recognize the YU Pride Alliance because the Alliance, as part of a national movement of college pride alliances, advocates for activities contrary to the Torah. 

“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.

“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.”

According to the university, the new club will conform to the values of the university by utilizing Orthodox Jewish tradition and not advocating against the Torah’s teachings. Students will also be provided “with space to grow in their personal journeys, navigating the formidable challenges that they face in living a fully committed, uncompromisingly authentic halachic life within Orthodox communities.” 

Rabbi Schachter gave his blessing to the club.

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

Roshei yeshiva Rabbis Mordechai Willig and Michael Rosensweig were also involved in the club's formation, according to people present at an internal meeting on the matter. It is unclear who the club's leadership consists of at this time. 

The YU Pride Alliance criticized the move.

“This is a desperate stunt by Yeshiva University, to distract from the growing calls from its donors, alumni, faculty, policymakers, and the business community, who have stood alongside the YU Pride Alliance, as we continue to fight for our rights,"  the Alliance told The Commentator. “The YU sham is not a club as it was not formed by students, is not led by students, and does not have members; rather, it is a feeble attempt by YU to continue denying LGBTQ students equal treatment as full members of the YU student community.”

The university also stated in its press release that it is working on enhancing other on-campus support services for its LGBTQ students by building on existing sensitivity training, support groups, policies and educational sessions for students.

YU said it will continue its defense and appeal of a June ruling ordering it to recognize the YU Pride Alliance. 

Jonathan Levin contributed to this story.

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Photo Caption: Yeshiva University announced the Kol Yisrael Areivim Club, an LGBTQ club ‘grounded in Halacha and Torah values.’

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University