R’ Dr. Ari Berman Addresses Questions Regarding Yeshiva University & The Supreme Court

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Yeshiva University was once again shoved into the headlines “Yeshiva University petitions Supreme Court in bid to prohibit official LGBTQ club”. The President, Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, shared a list of FAQ’s regarding the current situation (see below).

“My Dear Friends,

Many of you know that Yeshiva University is defending its right in the Supreme Court to make its own religious decisions. Due to the significance of the matter, I share with you below a number of the answers we have posted to the questions we have received these past few days.”

FAQs

 

Why is this case in the US court system?

 

Yeshiva University was brought to court based on the claim that it is not religious enough to be allowed to make its own decision on religious matters. The court case is solely about YU’s freedom to act according to its values without government interference.

 

What are the consequences if Yeshiva University loses these court rulings?

 

Yeshiva University will no longer be able to govern itself according to its principles of faith as it will be subject to any claims of discrimination. If, for example, a student wished to form a Jews for Jesus club, Yeshiva would be required to allow it. Sabbath observance on campus, the hiring of Orthodox rabbis and educators and maintaining our separate gender campuses would all be open to potential lawsuits.

 

How did this situation arise?

 

Yeshiva University has a long-standing policy to officially approve student clubs that are consistent with its Torah values. For this reason, it has not granted official club status to many other club applications in the past, including a gun club and a Jewish fraternity, as the names and activities associated with these clubs were deemed not fully consistent with the values of YU. A similar conclusion was reached on the application of the YU Pride Alliance.

 

Does Yeshiva University welcome LGBTQ students in its undergraduate schools?

 

Absolutely.

 

We welcome, love and care for all our students, including our LGBTQ students. We place a specific emphasis of importance on supporting our LGBTQ students. There are a number of ways we express this support, including hosting an LGBTQ support group, requiring LGBTQ sensitivity training to all of our rabbis and faculty and presenting public events so that all of our students better understand the experience of being LGBTQ and Orthodox. And, of course, we uphold our strong anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies. We understand that a number of our LGBTQ students think YU should be doing more for them including establishing a student club. We had been engaged in a constructive dialogue with our students to work on building an even more inclusive campus experience.

 

However, when we were sued with the claim that we do not have the right to make our own decisions, the matter changed entirely from an LGBTQ discussion to defending the future of our institution.

 

Do the same expectations that apply to the undergraduate schools, apply to YU’s professional and academic graduate schools?

 

No.

 

The way Yeshiva University applies its Torah values to the graduate schools is very different than its undergraduate schools.

 

We are very clear about the type of environment that exists on our undergraduate campus, and every undergaduate student who makes the personal choice to come here is choosing this environment instead of other college experiences. The undergraduate experience at Yeshiva is intentionally designed to be an intensely religious one during the formative years of our students’ lives. Its fundamental purpose is to faithfully transmit our multimillennial tradition to enable our students to integrate their faith and practice in lives of enormous professional success, impact and personal meaning. The daily schedule of our undergraduate students requires hours of Torah study. The campus experience fosters a deeply religious experience including two single sex campuses, multiple prayer services throughout the day, Shabbat regulations, kashrut observance and extra Torah study opportunities in the evenings.

 

As students move from their formative years to our professional graduate schools, there is a shift in focus towards professional training and academic research. These schools, comprised of Jews and non-Jews, excel in their scholarship and education of excellent professionals in their respective fields. These schools also embody our core values to “Seek Truth, Discover Your Potential, Live Your Values, Act with Compassion and Bring Redemption,” in their respective learning communities. They also follow a Jewish calendar and maintain kosher standards to facilitate an accessible experience to our Orthodox Jewish students. But the focus is wholly different and so are the assumptions of student life.

 

Is Yeshiva University accepting of LGBTQ staff and personnel as well?

 

Absolutely.

 

As a religious institution of higher education, can Yeshiva University accept government funds?

 

Yes, it can. In fact, almost all religious universities and colleges receive state and federal funding. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly—as recently as this June—that, when the government makes funding generally available, it cannot discriminate in the distribution of those funds based on religion. For example, it can’t offer Pell grants to students generally but then deny them to students who want to go to a religious school. That would be religious discrimination. We do not lose our religious status just because we participate in public life on equal footing with everyone else.

 

Why is the university defending this right and appealing all the way to the Supreme Court?

 

Once we were brought to court, this no longer was about an LGBTQ club, but our ability to make decisions for ourselves about our religious environment.

The plaintiffs have argued that YU is not a religious institution and, thus not empowered to decide matters pertaining to religion. In its ruling, the lower court pieced together an argument that creates a threatening precedent. The implications of this decision are deleterious to the very fabric of our educational system and we need to defend ourselves to protect our future.

 

What is at stake with this case?

 

Historically, the Jewish people have had deeply negative experiences with government interference in religious matters. When a court can decide that Yeshiva University is not religious enough to administer its own religious environment, then it’s not just our institution’s future that is being threatened. In truth, this is not just a Jewish issue. Leaders of other faiths and leading legal scholars are similarly deeply concerned with this ruling. They understand that the consequences of this legal decision have severe implications for faith in America.

 

Hopefully we will be able to restore a just sense of religious liberty and return to a constructive dialogue with our students to work together to build an even more inclusive, loving campus environment that is a blessing to all of our students and a model of discourse and harmony to our society.



8 COMMENTS

  1. How about these questions: Why does YU designate itself as secular institution under New York law? Why does it not categorize itself as a religious institution which would entitle it to the big, gaping religious exemption to the NYHRA?

  2. Because YU is a corrupt institution! To the liberal politicians they pretend YU is so liberal putting on events glorifying transgenderism and now when they want to have their cake and eat it too they go crying like a little baby. Berman has no place running YU and this is an embarrassment.

  3. YU has no moral compass other than money. They charge crazy ribbis on student loans, suck the frum community dry of money, and even glorified and honored people like Robert Kraft because they’re all about the money. Now all the sudden they pretend to defend Torah values … what a complete joke!!!

  4. • YU amended its charter in 1967 specifically to move away from being a religious organization:

    defendants concede that Yeshiva’s amended charter represented a departure from its initial charter which stated an exclusively religious purpose, to wit, “to promote the study of Talmud”. Then, in 1967, Yeshiva amended its charter to state that it “is and continues to be organized and operated exclusively for educational purposes”

    • US law prohibits discrimination:

    federal, state, and city civil rights laws, all of which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation

    • YU admits it must follow the law:

    Yeshiva itself has long acknowledged that it was subject to the NYCHRL. A1995 fact sheet about gay student organizations at Yeshiva prepared by Yeshiva as per a September 5, 1995 letter from David M. Rosen, Director of Yeshiva’s Department of Public Relations: … “Yeshiva University is subject to the human rights ordinance of the City of New York, which provides protected status to homosexuals. Under this law, YU cannot ban gay student clubs. It must make facilities available to them in the same manner as it does for other student groups”

    • YU specifically has said it is not a religious organization:

    In 2018, Yeshiva reported in Form CHAR410 to the New York State Department of Law, Charities Bureau, that it was an “educational institution, museum or library incorporated under the NY State Education Law or by special act” rather than an “organization [] incorporated under the religious corporations law or is another type of organization with a religious purpose or is operated, supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization”

    Yeshiva’s Director of Tax & Compliance, Alan Kruger, testified that Yeshiva registered as an educational corporation and not a religious corporation because “it would be difficult” to produce documents showing entitlement to the latter exemption.

    • YU already has LGBTQ+ clubs:

    Yeshiva’s Graduate Schools have LGBTQ student groups, which undercuts Yeshiva’s arguments regarding compelled speech when LGBTQ student groups are already a formally recognized part of the Yeshiva community and have been so for nearly 30 years.

    Source: https://casetext.com/case/yu-pride-all-v-yeshiva-univ

    Given all of this, it is extremely clear YU has zero legal basis for its case

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