Yeshiva University is starting its own club for LGBTQ students on its Upper Manhattan campus, the school announced on Monday.
University officials billed the new group as “an approved traditional Orthodox Alternative to YU Pride Alliance” in a memo to the community — referring to the student-led club that sued the school after being denied formal recognition.
“We have been working to formulate a Torah framework to provide our LGBTQ students with an enhanced support system that continues to facilitate their religious growth and personal life journeys,” reads the letter from YU President Ari Berman, Rabbi Hershel Schachter of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and the chairmen of both boards.
Eric Baxter, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told reporters that the “Kol Yisrael Areivim” club — which loosely translates to “we are all responsible for each other” — is the result of months of conversations about what is “a correct forum” for LGBTQ students.
“Where they can support one another, where they can share experiences, where they can enjoy some recreation together, where they can have events that that support their mission,” said Baxter, representing the university.
The group — which already has sign-off from university officials — will be a separate club from the YU Pride Alliance.
“The ‘Pride’ name means many different things to many different people,” said Baxter. “And some of those meaning, or similar activities of other clubs with that name, would not be consistent with Torah values, and so that would not be possible at Yeshiva University.”
Baxter said that students from that club would be encouraged to join the new group, though the university anticipates the ongoing lawsuit will continue.
“The lawsuit is not really about the approval of any specific club, but causing to question Yeshiva’s ability to make religious decisions,” Baxter said.
Four current and former students with the YU Pride Alliance filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court last April, after the college denied multiple requests to register the group as a student club.
A state judge ruled in the group’s favor in June, finding the school must formally register the group.
The dispute briefly escalated to the Supreme Court in August, before it was sent back down to the state courts to be heard on its merits.
University officials decided to suspend all student groups last month after the Supreme Court denied their attempt not to recognize the YU Pride Alliance — leading the student group to decide to stand down on seeking recognition from the school to avoid upending campus life.
Student clubs are set to resume Wednesday, following the Jewish high holidays, including Sukkot and Simchat Torah, which ended over the past couple of weeks.