By: Jonathan Levin  | 

Faculty Proposed LBGTQ Sensitivity Training Announced by University for Later This Month; Will be Run By Jewish Queer Youth

Yeshiva University will conduct voluntary LGBTQ sensitivity workshops run by Jewish Queer Youth (JQY) for faculty this month. The training, requested by faculty members and announced to faculty March 28, will be conducted April 19 and 20.

The training, first mentioned at a faculty-organized town hall featuring four students discussing their experience as LGBTQ students on campus, will be run by Jeremy Novich, JQY’s full-time psychologist. It will be available to all YU faculty and rebbeim across all Undergraduate Torah Studies (UTS) programs. 

This will be the first such university LGBTQ sensitivity workshop run by JQY and the first that will use a non-university trainer who is an expert in the field.

“The Safe Zone program is the latest initiative in our continuing efforts to ensure that all our students, including our LGBTQ students, feel safe and welcome,”  Chief Human Resources Officer Julie Auster told The Commentator. “After researching a number of options, we decided that the Safe Zone program was the optimal choice in providing an inclusive and informative experience, which would be of value to all our team members. All faculty and staff are invited to attend either of two sessions which are scheduled at different times during the week to attract the most participants.”

The training was an initiative by multiple faculty members, including Isaacs and Professor of English and French Rachel Mesch. Isaacs told The Commentator she received support from Auster and Counseling Center Director Yael Muskat before requesting it, saying that it was a faculty request and that denying the event could appear “obstructionist,” given such training is “standard in educational environments.” Isaacs also requested that Novich be the one to lead the training.

After applying for the training, Dean Karen Bacon reached out to Isaacs and informed her that it was approved, and requested that she allow the university to manage it from there without further involvement from her.

Isaacs told The Commentator that it was important to have someone like Novich who has experience working with LGBTQ Jewish youth.

“I think it is important to utilize an outside therapist who has experience and a passion for helping queer Jewish youth,” said Isaacs. “Even though we have many skilled individuals working at the undergraduate colleges here at YU, it is important that we reach out to someone who has dedicated their professional life to helping this specific population. This will also allow participants who receive this training to feel confident that the trainer has no other agenda than to support the wellbeing of our LGBTQ+ population.”

“I think the fact that YU is working directly with JQY is important and encouraging,” stated Mordechai Levovitz, JQY’s co-founder and clinical director.

Isaacs told The Commentator before the training was approved that typical LGBTQ sensitivity training includes discussing sexual orientation and gender identity, inclusive language, tips to create a more inclusive environment and conversations regarding health risks and stress points that the LGBTQ community might experience. She told The Commentator that she was uncertain of what YU’s training would contain.

Isaacs told The Commentator that they were happy to be able to get this training to occur, and that she felt that faculty could have a positive impact.

"Although I support the Pride alliance and am unapologetically opposed to YU's stance in the lawsuit, many of us want to team up with our administrators to create a better environment for our LGBTQ+ students, staff, and faculty.  The goal is to be an ally in positive change, and I want to encourage every step we can make together towards this end."

Although YU has not hired JQY directly before, the university has employed JQY’s clinical supervisor, Sara Glass, to conduct Resident Assistant (RA) training since 2021.

Editors note: This article was updated April 11 to include the role Jewish Queer Youth (JQY) is playing in the training and to reflect the correct spelling of  Professor Isaacs’s name.

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Photo Caption: YU will run LGBTQ sensitivity training later this month

Photo Credit: The Commentator