A flagship strictly-Orthodox university has rejected the formation of a group for LGBTQ students but said it was putting in place new policies to help them feel safe.
Yeshiva University in New York has sent a statement to students addressing a yearlong battle over whether the school would allow the student group.
“The message of Torah on this issue is nuanced, both accepting each individual with love and affirming its timeless prescriptions. While students will of course socialise in gatherings they see fit, forming a new club as requested under the auspices of YU will cloud this nuanced message,” the statement said.
But the statement also announced new measures to support LGBTQ students, including updating its diversity and sensitivity training to apply to topics related to sexuality and gender, hiring a counselor with experience counseling LGBTQ people and establishing a phone line where people can report harassment and bullying. The school also reaffirmed that its policies prohibit discrimination and harassment, including based on sexuality or gender identity.
LGBTQ issues present a dilemma for the strictly-Orthodox world, which is defined by its adherence to traditional Jewish law. In recent years, as LGBTQ people and issues have gained increasing acceptance in wider society, the movement has had to grapple with how to reconcile a traditional interpretation of Jewish law, which does not allow sexual relations with the same gender or same-sex marriage.
YU Pride Alliance vice president, Chana Weiss, told the YU Commentator that the group was “disappointed by the decision” not to give the club official recognition. “The administration has failed to be transparent about which halachic ‘nuances’ are at odds with the club and, on the contrary, we stand firm in our belief that pikuach nefesh necessitates the creation of our club,” Weiss said, referring to the Jewish principle that saving a life overrides other religious rules.