By Bina Davidson
To whomever is reading this,
This is a direct call out to my fellow students. We have all failed. We failed to represent what it means to show true veahavta leareach kamocha [love your neighbor as yourself]. We have failed to be good Jews. The more I read through various Facebook posts, be it on the YU and Stern Confessions page, a newspaper article, or a post in YU Marketplace, the more disappointed I become to tell people I attend Stern.
When a comment that states, “Torah Jews aren’t gay,” is read, words cannot begin to describe how it can feel to someone. Have you ever seen the movie “Cyberbully” with Emily Osment? Do you remember the scene where she is reading the horrific comments written about her online while she is sobbing hysterically? That is how it would feel to someone who is reading such comments made by the Yeshiva University student body towards not just fellow students, but fellow Jews.
Optimistically, I thought that perhaps these students, including the staggering FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SIX students who voted against the anti-discrimination amendment, lacked the understanding of the possibly fatal impact they have on LGBTQ+ students. I am really going out on a limb here, being dan likaf zechut [giving the benefit of the doubt] to my fellow students who say things such as: “the gays should be stoned” and “I would not want to attend a school that supported such people.” Perhaps they do not comprehend the power behind the words they write, which are then read by someone, and it hurts… it hurts like hell. Perhaps these “Torah Jews” do not know the suicide and depression statistics of LGBTQ+ teens and young adults who live in non-accepting and apprehensive environments. In that case, I will educate each of my fellow students:
From Healthline.com: “According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst people age 10 to 24 in the united states. Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual youths in grades 7-12 are twice as likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers”
According to a report in 2013 by The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, “55% of LGBT youth feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.”
These are all facts. Staring right at you in the face.
No student is asking for your stamp of approval for their marriage. No one is asking you to march at Pride, or even wear a rainbow shirt. Additionally, the LGBTQ+ community is not asking for halachic approval. They merely ask not to be made to feel as though they are nothing — to walk through the hallways feeling equal and a part of the community. They simply want a club, a safe space, where they can express themselves and have a support system. The LGBTQ+ community is not asking for halachic p’sak [ruling], or your opinion, rather for the basic rights that other students at Yeshiva University have.
So, the next time you are writing a public Facebook comment, writing a letter that you know will be passed around everywhere (you know who you are as well), or writing a message in a WhatsApp group –– I hope you think about the statistics, the very real and serious impact you have on the life of your peers. And if after reading this, and numerous other pleas to cease the saddening discrimination, you continue to hold such hate in your heart that you’re willing to forget about veahavta leareach kamocha, and lo tachmod al daam reacha [do not stand idle by your brothers blood], I wish you much luck in your life.