Yeshiva University announced Monday that it would allow the formation of a new LGBTQ student group, the latest twist in a yearslong dispute between the Orthodox Jewish university and its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students.
The university said the new queer club, Kol Yisrael Areivim, will be an "approved traditional Orthodox alternative" to its current LGBTQ student group, the YU Pride Alliance. School officials have been in a legal battle with the student-run group for over a year after the university refused to formally recognize it.
"The club will provide students 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," the university said in a statement, referring to its new group. "Within this association 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." (Halacha refers to interpretations of Jewish law, particularly the legal part of the Talmud.)
The Pride Alliance slammed the new club as a "sham."
“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 group said in a statement. "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 Pride Alliance, which first sought formal recognition from the New York City-based university in 2019, sued the school in April 2021, arguing that Yeshiva was violating the New York City Human Rights Law. The university has said that as a religious institution, it is exempt from abiding by the law.
In June, a state judge ruled in the Pride Alliance's favor, finding that the university did not qualify for a religious exemption. And last month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the university's emergency request to overrule the New York decision.
Shortly afterward, school officials suspended all student club activity. The Pride Alliance then agreed to pause its efforts to receive official recognition until its legal battle ends so the rest of the school's student groups could gather. The university is expected to appeal the June ruling in state court.
The Pride Alliance has raised over $8,200 to fund activities during the legal battle — like guest speakers, book clubs and social events — that it would otherwise have access to if it were formally recognized.