By Bina Davidson, Features Editor
Each month, the YU Observer aims to highlight one club available to the YU undergraduate community. For the May issue, the YU Observer is highlighting the YU Pride Alliance, an unofficial club on campus.
Throughout the past year, I have been a part of publishing many of the club profiles for our “Club Profile” column in the Features section. When I sat down to think of which club should be interviewed for this month’s edition, I could not help but choose the YU Pride Alliance. Over all of my years at Stern College for Women, there has been much talk about the club and the YU LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) community as a whole. More recently, the club has been part of many conversations since the news broke that they, along with 4 other plaintiffs had filed a against YU for discrimination. There has been much talk about the club and if it should be an official club on campus but I felt as though the club hasn’t had the opportunity to officially introduce themselves as a club and share a little bit of what they are about with the student body. In order to protect the privacy of the board members of the club, they will remain anonymous. I met with the board members and asked them a series of questions and compiled them together.
The Pride Alliance’s mission statement (found on their facebook page) is as follows: “The Yeshiva University Pride Alliance is an unofficial group of undergraduate YU students hoping to provide a supportive space on campus for all students, of all sexual orientations and gender identities, to feel respected, visible, and represented. Conversation is at the heart of our community, in order to foster awareness and sensitivity to the unique experiences of being a LGBTQ+ person in YU and the Orthodox community, and to advocate for their unconditional inclusion and acceptance. Part of achieving this is working with the administration to officially recognize our club. Our space will promote open dialogue for all, regardless of religious views and political affiliations. We ask students to be cognizant and respectful of the beliefs, experiences, and backgrounds of everyone in attendance at our functions. At our events, please do not express assumptions about or hostility towards any person or organization.”
The YU Pride Alliance has 8 board members combined of both Wilf and Beren Campus students. The club serves students on both Beren and Wilf Campuses and the plan is that when the club, please G-d, gains official status, they will host events on both campuses. The Pride Alliance board members and those who attend their events come from all different backgrounds. They represent the entire religious spectrum and levels of frumkeit, are in-towners and out-of-towners, are freshmen all the way up to seniors. There are people who are out to everyone about their identity, and people who are closeted to almost everyone. Confidentiality is supremely important to the club and all events and groups have measures in place to ensure confidentiality.
There are 116 clubs on campus, and each one is unique in its importance to the YU community. The same stands for the YU Pride Alliance. Having an official club on campus is crucial for providing a safe space for all students, especially those who may be struggling or suffering alone. The club would enable students from all backgrounds to learn about the LGBTQ+ community and hopefully bring awareness to the fact that LGBTQ+ students are part of the YU community. Through educational events and opportunities, YU students will hopefully become more sensitive in how they speak in front of and to their peers, on social media, and to the general public as a whole. While the Pride Alliance hosts events and currently runs in an unofficial capacity, their crucial work is limited without support from the YU administration. As such, many students who could benefit from the club, students who are often struggling emotionally and mentally, don’t have easy access to these life-changing resources and communities.
The YU Pride Alliance also hopes to be a resource for YU students. Your sibling just came out to you as pansexual and you don’t know what that means or how to support them? You’re questioning your gender identity and are looking for a safe space to connect with others? Do you need advice about coming out to your roommates? Reach out to the Pride Alliance and they can help.
Getting involved in the YU Pride Alliance is not as simple as many other clubs due to its unofficial standing. Most clubs have a table at the club fair and also have emails going out to the student body when applications are out, but the YU Pride Alliance cannot partake in this. They have Facebook and Instagram pages where they post educational posts, information on events going on and how to get involved. There is also an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, where students can get in touch with the club for information, join the different whatsapp groups that they run and get involved!
Getting involved may seem scary to some, as they might be afraid of what their peers and/or family may think, but the more people join and become active, the less stigmatized being connected to the LGBTQ+ community will become. Further, the Pride Alliance offers the security of having a strong confidentiality policy regarding the members of the club. Being involved in the club does not have to mean you are a member of the LGBTQ community, we have allies on our board and at all of our events. When people are open about their support, not only do others feel safer to express their support, but this also shows the LGBTQ student body that they are loved and safe on campus.
In addition to having WhatsApp groups and small-group events to discuss LGBTQ+ topics and get support from others who are going through similar things, Pride Alliance board members are also always available to speak to students one-to-one just to be a listening ear- just reach out to them on any of their platforms.
If you were wondering “what does getting involved with the club entail?” that is a brilliant question. Through the generous funding from a non-profit organization called JQY (Jewish Queer Youth), the YU Pride Alliance has been able to run some really exciting and informative events, both online and in person. For Purim, the board members put together and delivered Mishloach Manot to over 20 students who signed up. Over Pesach they ran a book club and they hope to continue reading books through next semester. They rented out a movie theater which was a huge hit and COVID-19 safe. They have a continuous series called “Coffee and Catch Up” where they provide students with a $5 gift card for a drink of their choice and then join a Zoom to discuss different topics at each event. These are just some of the events they have run and are looking forward to many more in the future.
The reality is, there are LBGTQ members in every place in the Jewish community — any of them. They are living on the same floor as you, are in classes with you, sit next to you at an event and some are probably in your friend group. You don’t know about many of them because they hide an integral part of who they are from the public due to fear. They fear that if they came out, they would be ostracized from the community, no longer wanted by their friends and family and their life, as they know it, will be over. This fear is a very real fear and has happened to a sickening amount of people. As not only Jews, but humans, we should open our hearts to every single person, regardless of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation
The most important thing for YU students to be mindful of is to be sensitive and respectful of the words they say, the comments they post online and the way they treat every single person. Thinking about how an off-hand comment could hurt someone who is closeted and afraid may very well save a life, so do your part to making the YU Jewish community the absolute best it can possibly be.