(New York Jewish Week) – New York City’s comptroller sent Yeshiva University a letter regarding the Modern Orthodox institution’s ongoing court case against a student-led LGBTQ organization on campus in an apparent attempt to pressure the university into allowing the club on campus.
A letter sent Monday by Comptroller Brad Lander to Yeshiva University President Rabbi Ari Berman states: “As the City’s chief accountability officer, I have been monitoring the situation surrounding your refusal to officially recognize the YU Pride Student Alliance, including the appellate court’s recent affirmance of the lower court’s denial of Yeshiva’s motion to dismiss. Your students are alleging that your current practices are discriminatory and in violation of New York City’s Human Rights Law.”
He continues: “I must urge your institution to change course and offer a secure environment for your LGBTQ+ students and staff to create a supportive space to rightfully express their full selves.”
As comptroller, Lander, who is Jewish, oversees the accounting and fiscal health of the city. “All recipients of public funding from the City must attest that they are in compliance with City laws and statutes, including the New York City Human Rights Law. Our records show that Yeshiva University has received some $8.8 million in City funding since 2010,” the letter says.
It goes on to state that “the University’s discriminatory actions may put future funding and associated services at risk.”
In January, three state lawmakers demanded a full accounting from Y.U. in order to determine whether the Modern Orthodox flagship misrepresented itself in order to qualify for more than $230 million in public funds.
Though Yeshiva University is known as a religious institution, it receives public funding and was chartered as a secular organization in order to do so. It was for this reason that a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled last June that the university must follow the New York City Human Rights Law and recognize the student pride club — banning the pride club from campus would be considered discrimination and a violation of the law.
The university argued that the court’s interference is a violation of religious liberty, which is currently a hot-button issue in the nation’s highest court. The university filed an emergency stay motion to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was dismissed. They also appealed the New York Supreme Court’s decision, which was dismissed in an appellate court.
Although attitudes toward individuals who identify as queer have eased somewhat in many Modern Orthodox settings in recent years, gay sex is forbidden by nearly all Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law.
After suspending all student club activities at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, the university announced the “Kol Yisroel Areivim” Club, an administration-approved club that claimed it would represent LGBTQ students “under traditional Orthodox auspices.”
In a statement at the time, the YU Pride Alliance said the new club was “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.”
In his letter, Lander advocates for student-led advocacy groups. “In the past, student-led organizations like the YU Pride Alliance have worked to educate members about their rights as LGBTQ+ people while also creating a safe space for all students,” he writes. “Yeshiva University’s own anti-discrimination policy is wholly undermined by the refusal to allow students to form this group within their own terms and mission.”
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“All recipients of public funding from the City must attest that they are in compliance with City laws and statutes, including the New York City Human Rights Law,” Lander writes. “By recognizing the YU Pride Alliance, you can help ensure that the rights of LGTBQ+ students at Yeshiva University are respected, celebrated, and upheld in the City of New York.”