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Yeshiva U Student Councils Penalize Democrat Club For Sponsoring LGBT March

The student councils of Yeshiva University declined to renew its recognition of the school’s Democratic club after it organized a march in support of LGBTQ students, the YU Commentator reported.

The denial of the Democratic club comes amid a year of escalating unease for LGBTQ individuals in the YU community.

Last week, more than 100 students, alumni and activists marched by YU’s Washington Heights campus in Manhattan. They asked YU’s president, Rabbi Ari Berman, to condemn homophobia on campus, approve LGBTQ-related events and create a gay-straight alliance club on campus. The march, organized by YU Young Democrats, was co-sponsored by Jewish Queer Youth and Eshel, two well-known Jewish nonprofits that support Jewish LGBTQ individuals.

The Commentator, one of YU’s student newspapers, reported on Monday that student government bodies had decided not to accept the Young Democrats’ annual application to be an officially recognized club, meaning that the club will not receive money from student activity fees and cannot hold events on campus.

YU’s student government had warned the Young Democrats to remove their names from the event, because the march itself had not been officially pre-approved by the university administration or the student government, the Commentator reported.

“There are certain perks that come with being a YU-approved club on campus,” Ariel Sacknovitz, president of YU’s student government, told the Commentator. “But those come with rules of having to be approved by the Student Council and needing Office of Student Life approval for speakers and events as well.”

The Young Democrats were told they could re-apply for official club status for the spring semester.

In an emailed statement to the Forward, a spokesperson for Yeshiva University said “This pertains to a student government matter and the university was not involved in that decision.”

Yeshiva University is a Modern Orthodox institution, a denomination of Judaism that combines traditional observance with a strong connection to the secular world. YU has largely pushed back against broad acceptance of LGBTQ individuals.

Over the past 20 years, activists and groups like Eshel and Jewish Queer Youth have pushed for acceptance of LGBTQ people in Orthodox life, with mixed results. In 2011, the only openly gay Orthodox rabbi in the U.S. performed a landmark same-sex commitment ceremony, leading other Orthodox rabbis to call for his censure. This spring, the progressive Orthodox seminary Yeshivat Chovevei Torah said it would not ordain its first openly gay rabbinical student.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

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