What Does the Pride Alliance Actually Do?
The Yeshiva University Pride Alliance, sometimes shortened to YUPA, has existed since 2019, and has been a frequent topic of campus conversation since. I joined the board in the beginning of last fall semester, a time when the organization was frequently mentioned in the news and discussed on campus. Despite the constant dialogue, I often observed a lack of knowledge concerning a crucial question. What does the Pride Alliance actually do?
Avery Allen (SCW ‘24), one of the presidents of the Pride Alliance, summarized why the organization is important to her and her general goals. “When I first came to YU I didn’t know that there were any resources for people like me, and it often felt really alienating,” Allen said. “My goal with YUPA is that no student ever has to feel alone, and that students can have a sense of community and a sense of belonging within their institution and within their religion.” A similar statement can be found on our website. My aim here is to provide a fuller snapshot of what the Pride Alliance currently does that goes beyond what brief statements can provide.
The Pride Alliance’s primary practical concern is organizing events that provide a safe space for the queer community. There are queer students who attend YU for many of the same reasons any other student does. Unfortunately, though, as was testified in several affidavits and as is still the case now, YU is often not a comfortable place to be queer. We seek to alleviate that discomfort by arranging events which provide a safe space where students can simply enjoy themselves with friends without feeling like their very existence is negotiable. Activities we’ve held in the past include Build-A-Bear, a paint night and a board game event. Our events are intended not just for queer students but also for allies, open to all who seek to participate in or experience a welcoming space for the YU queer community.
Two members of the board, Yaffa Goldkin (SCW ‘24) and Manny Ehrlich (YC ‘24), serve as admins on a private chat for undergraduate queer students, a separate entity from the Pride Alliance, that helps provide community. Ehrlich described the chat’s purpose “as a way to make new friends that also provides a space for students to feel safe when they need advice, support or simply to vent.”
The Pride Alliance also seeks to amplify queer voices within the university. The YUPA Writing Committee, which I currently head, published two articles in The Observer last year, and aims to facilitate more this year. Our new website also enables more communication through an “Ask the Alliance” section and features an ongoing project to collate the recent history of LGBTQ student experiences in YU.
Because the Pride Alliance is not an approved YU club, we struggle to reach students and are unable to host events on campus. Approved clubs have the ability to reach out to students through email lists. The Pride Alliance, by contrast, does not, which can make it difficult for queer students to find out about the chat or events. Similarly, while approved clubs can rent rooms within YU, enabling easy event access, the Pride Alliance’s events are held off campus and require travel to attend.
Our purpose is not to try to bully others into believing a particular platform. We seek neither to force anyone to agree with our goals nor to condemn students who disagree. There is no goal of changing halakha. Involved students come from a plethora of backgrounds and have differing views on many issues. Instead, our primary purposes and pursuits are practical and internal to the community, to support each other.
Many who join the board do so because of positive experiences they had through the club. A fellow board member shared, “As a queer student, when I came to YU, I felt so alone. I am forever grateful to the YUPA community for the incredible friendships and camaraderie I have been able to experience.”
What we do is fairly simple. We try to make YU a place where queer students feel comfortable as they maximize their university experience. We seek to foster an inclusive community where queer students feel comfortable being themselves. In the future, we hope YU will support us in carrying out this mission; in the interim, we are working to accomplish these goals ourselves.
Queer YU undergraduate students interested in joining the private chat can reach out by contacting Manny Ehrlich or Yaffa Goldkin, or by sending an email to Groupchatapplication613@gmail.com
Photo Caption: Food from a Pride Alliance event
Photo Credit: YU Pride Alliance