By: Jonathan Levin  | 

Yeshiva University’s ‘Newly Founded’ LGBTQ Club Does Not Currently Exist; University has ‘Framework’ For Club

Yeshiva University’s recently announced LGBTQ club, the Kol Yisrael Areivim Club, despite having been announced by the university as having been “newly founded,” “approved” and “created,” does not exist yet, The Commentator has discovered.

The Kol Yisrael Areivim Club is not listed on existing university club lists obtained by The Commentator and only exists as a framework that will lead to a club, President Ari Berman and other administration members told student leaders after the announcement, according to people familiar with the discussions.

“This is a framework within which we hope to eventually form a club,” Berman and other members of the administration are reported to have told student leaders.

The university also used the term “framework” in statements sent to The Commentator Saturday and Monday evenings.

Additionally, student leaders were not involved in discussions with the university related to the club and were not informed of the university’s announcement in advance.

The President’s Office declined to meet with The Commentator, citing time constraints, and did not answer inquiries from The Commentator about why it announced that the club exists despite not being listed among the other 142 recognized student clubs. Similarly, the university did not answer The Commentator’s inquiries regarding the club’s expected timetable and its eventual operations, and instead reiterated information from its Oct. 24 press release and invited students to contact the Office of Student Life to help develop the club.

“Within this club,” said university spokesperson Hanan Eisenman on Monday, echoing YU’s Oct. 24 press release, “students may gather, share their experiences, host events, and support one another while benefiting from the full resources of the Yeshiva community — all within the framework of Halacha — as all other student clubs.

“Following our recent announcement of this framework,” Eisenman added, “we have been engaged in further conversations with our current students who stand to benefit significantly from this club, and we invite those interested in helping develop the operational components of the club to contact Student Life.”

Yeshiva University announced the Kol Yisrael Areivim Club, with the blessing of its senior roshei yeshiva and the chairman of its board of trustees, through a press release on Oct. 24.

Following the announcement, the YU Pride Alliance, which remains in court with the university, immediately called the club a “sham,” later asserting that neither it nor its members were consulted by the university. 

“The Pride Alliance and its members,” stated the Alliance Friday, “were never asked (and still have not been asked) for our input or involvement.”

The university said Oct. 24 that the club “reflects input and perspectives from conversations” with LGBTQ students, and told The Commentator Saturday that it has continued these conversations since the announcement. 

The Commentator has been unable to verify if any LGBTQ students were involved in conversations with the administration regarding the club. The university did not answer questions from The Commentator aimed at verifying student involvement.

Some groups called on YU to dissolve Kol Yisrael Areivim on the basis of the alleged lack of LGBTQ student involvement.

“We respectfully ask YU leadership to… dissolve the new Kol Yisrael Areivim initiative, as no LGBTQ+ students were involved in or consulted about its creation,” said Yeshiva United, a group that previously gathered over 1600 signatures in support of YU’s LGBTQ students.

The Pride Alliance later adopted a more conciliatory tone towards Kol Yisrael Areivim, and expressed optimism that there could be common ground.

“If YU is genuine in its offer to provide these resources to the actual LGBTQ student club — not the shell of one it created — there is a path forward,” said the Alliance Friday.

Some student leaders agreed, expressing hope that LGBTQ students and student leaders would be able to participate in moving the club forward. 

“I am cautiously optimistic about this turn of events,” Yeshiva Student Union President Baruch Lerman (YC ‘23) told The Commentator, “and look forward to seeing how things proceed. I hope that student leaders and LGBTQ students will be involved with envisioning what this club will look like in action, in partnership with the administration and Roshei Yeshiva.”

The Pride Alliance sued the university in April 2021. In June, a judge directed YU to recognize the group, which YU attempted to delay through attempts to obtain a court-ordered stay. After failing to obtain a stay, including from the U.S. Supreme Court, the university temporarily froze all club and student council activities, prompting the Pride Alliance to offer the university a stay, which was granted on Sept. 29.

The club freeze, which prompted Jewish Queer Youth (JQY), an organization that supports Orthodox LGBTQ youth, to offer grants to clubs, ended on Oct. 20 with the approval of club applications. The university did not announce the end of the freeze.

Kol Yisrael Areivim was not present at the Wilf Campus club fair on Wednesday or the Beren Campus club fair on Monday. The YU Pride Alliance had representatives at both club fairs, although it is not clear if they were invited or officially allowed to attend.

On Wilf Campus, the Alliance only displayed papers with QR codes leading to the group's Instagram page and a new Whatsapp chat for “official notifications” about their events, inviting students to follow them, and did not display a pride flag.

On Beren Campus, the Alliance added a pride flag with a Star of David from JQY and pride-related stickers.