On September 23, 2022, six liberal members of Congress wrote a letter to Yeshiva University denouncing its decision to not officially recognize a LGBTQ+ club. The letter is full of inaccuracies and fuels anti-religious hatred at a time that anti-Semitic crimes are already at record highs.
Penned by outgoing Congressman Mondaire Jones, and cosigned by Representatives Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), it contends that Yeshiva University prohibited the formation of a Pride Alliance Club which is completely false. The club already exists. YU just did not give it official recognition as it runs counter to the school’s religious mission.
Below is a letter to send to each of the members of congress, whom you can contact by clicking their names here: Mondaire Jones; Adriano Espaillat; Paul Tonko; Carolyn Maloney; Jamaal Bowman; and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. If you do not live in their districts and cannot email them, you can still call them.
LETTER TO MEMBER OF CONGRESS:
I could not disagree more with your letter to Yeshiva University, both in tone and summary of your impressions on the matter.
1. The school does not discriminate against any student, counter to your claims. There is no team, club, class, event or any activity that is available to some students and not others. It is a disgraceful slur to state that the school does not treat some of its students “as full human beings.”
2. There is already a Pride Alliance at the school. There is membership and events that have been going on for years. The school took no actions to ban the group.
3. The existing group asked for official recognition by the school, which the school declined to do – as it does for all groups that run counter to its beliefs as a religious institution. That is not selective discrimination against the LGBT community. It would have rejected a Cheeseburger Club as well. It is outrageous for a member of Congress to suggest, let alone dictate, how and what a religious institution can approve and sanction.
4. The courts sided with the Pride Alliance solely because it does not believe that YU is a religious institution and thinks it a secular one. The fact is that YU is non-binary, being both religious and secular, a situation that does not fall neatly into the legal charter boxes. It is a position that members of the LGBTQ+ community should understand.
5. This case has nothing to do with discrimination but the government’s refusal to recognize the religious character of a leading Jewish modern Orthodox institution. Your letter feeds a false narrative targeting religious Jews as discriminating against LGBT students and fuels anti-Semitic sentiment which is already at terrible levels. In fact, it is the government that has refused to recognize the university’s non-binary status, and now you are attempting to dictate how a religious institution should operate.
I urge you to amend your statement as your actions are impacting the entire modern Orthodox community. Please read the following article for a better understanding of the situation, rather than glossing information from anti-religious media. https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2022/10/02/yeshiva-university-and-modern-orthodoxy-are-non-binary/
Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman
500 West 185th Street
New York, NY 10033
Dear Dr. Berman:
Over the past weeks, we have followed the Supreme Court’s rulings affecting LGBTQ+ students at Yeshiva University who wish to form a peer support club, the YU Pride Alliance. Many of these students are our constituents.
We write to express our support for these students and for the rights of all LGBTQ+ students to equal treatment in New York State’s educational institutions. We urge the University to do everything possible to care for its LGBTQ+ students as full human beings in the campus community, including to recognize their student group.
We understand the LGBTQ+ students at Yeshiva University seek to form a student group that provides a safe space for discussion and connection. Research confirms that LGBTQ+ students face discrimination, isolation, higher rates of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and other challenges as they navigate their college years. Gay-straight alliances and student-led clubs that provide safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students to support each other and discuss issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity are critical to student health and success. Other proudly religious universities in New York have navigated this terrain, recognizing LGBTQ+ student groups as a critical resource for their students; it is time for Yeshiva University to do the same.
We are disappointed with the University’s recent decision to suspend all student groups in order to avoid recognizing the YU Pride Alliance. This move pits students against each other and risks further isolating LGBTQ+ students at Yeshiva University. We also believe this action to be in tension with your recent statement that Yeshiva University’s “commitment and love for [its] LGBTQ students are unshakeable.”
As members of Congress representing New York, we believe that the equal treatment of LGBTQ+ students and the provision of safe spaces for their well-being are consistent with established federal public policy. We know our concerns for the well-being of LGBTQ+ students at Yeshiva University are shared by many who care deeply about the institution—Jewish clergy, University faculty, alumni, current students, and local elected officials.
We encourage the University to extend its hand to its LGBTQ+ students, and their allies, who have bravely come forward telling you what they need to flourish as students and community members at Yeshiva University.
Thank you for your time and consideration.