YU Pride Alliance Statement Regarding Kol Yisrael Areivim
This week, YU announced that it was launching Kol Yisrael Areivim, “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.” The announcement took us by surprise. YU did not inform our student group—or to our knowledge, any students—that the announcement was coming. After taking a couple of days to reflect on it, we write to share our thoughts with the YU community.
It is meaningful to us that YU has finally expressed an openness to allowing an LGBTQ club on campus after years of stalling and saying “no” to LGTBQ students and allies who expressed the need for one. We know this would not have been possible without the more than 1,700 current and former students, 200+ faculty members, and countless community members that have expressed support for us, as well as the lawsuit we reluctantly filed more than a year ago.
Unfortunately, the administration created this new initiative alone, without any student input, student participation, or student leadership. It therefore falls short of the simple request we have been making for years—an LGBTQ student club on equal footing as all other student clubs.
First and foremost, the YU initiative is not a “student club” at all. Unlike all other student clubs, it was not created by students, it is not led by students, and it has no student members. YU claims that the initiative “reflects input” from LGBTQ students. But to our knowledge, no student was ever consulted about the formation of this initiative. The Pride Alliance and its members were never asked (and still have not been asked) for our input or involvement. And, to our knowledge, the student leadership was not involved. All we seek is the same right as all other students to form a student club; this initiative is not one.
Second, we are concerned that the initiative does not fully share in the Pride Alliance’s goal of creating a safe, unconditionally supportive space for LGBTQ students. The announcement states that it is “designed to support and guide our students in living authentic Torah lives.” This creates fear within our community that the administration may use the initiative to tell students that parts of our identities are unacceptable to them. That is the opposite of our mission. An initiative run by administrators—not students—also undermines the availability of anonymity for some students in our club who need it for their safety and well-being. Had YU collaborated with us on this initiative, we may have been able to clarify or resolve these concerns.
Third, YU’s claim that “Pride Alliance is a recognized movement” that “promotes activities that conflict with Torah laws and values” is simply false. We are not part of any national movement and do not “promote activities” of one. We are a group of YU students seeking to support one another—nothing more. We chose our name on our own to reflect that our club is a place where students can feel safe and proud of who they are, without judgment or fear.
YU’s announcement states for the first time that it is willing to provide a space where “students may gather, share their experiences, host events and support one another while benefiting from the full resources of the Yeshiva University community.” That is all we seek. But we seek to do so in the same way as all other student clubs—by organizing a club as students, not by having YU dictate the terms to us without any student involvement, participation, or input. 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.