Recently, we saw our administration’s cowardice on full display with the announcement of the Kol Yisrael Arevim club. The club is a fraudulent attempt at compromise and the student body, both LGBTQ and not, knows it. While I first thought that YU had lost the lawsuit and was forced by law into sanctioning such an initiative, I was surprised to learn this club was actually initiated by administration and rebbeim.
The phrase “kol yisrael arevim,” means that all of Israel are responsible for each other. However, the very next line in the Gemara clarifies that we collectively stumble when we have the ability to protest sin, yet fail to do so. After witnessing YU’s grand stumble, the only question is whether a second Kol Yisrael Arevim club should be formed to protest the school’s first Kol Yisrael Arevim club.
The actual YU Pride Alliance is correct in stating, “the YU sham is not a club as it was not formed by students, is not led by students, and does not have members.” While YU’s silent majority rejects the Pride Alliance, the new club is hypocritical and more damaging than the original Pride Alliance ever was. While this recent virtue signal is only a symbolic flop, it is unfortunate that the administration twisted a statement of Chazal to fit their agenda, not unlike how the Reform movement perverted Tikkun Olam into a social justice slogan.
Through YU’s attempt to appease courts and donors, they have opened a Pandora’s box of problems. As YU themselves suggested in a since retracted statement, a student might identify as a Jew for Jesus, a michalel Shabbos, or as an anti-tefillin student; seemingly, Kol Yisrael Arevim would be the perfect hangout spot to “fix” these issues. Students would eat a few school-sponsored pizzas and then what? Mandated re-education courses? Forced prayer under school-approved supervision? YU stated in their email to the students that they “remain eager to support and facilitate their religious growth.” How is this being done? Obviously, such responses sound unreasonable and draconian, but the YU administration set itself upon a slippery slope when they agreed to compromise on this issue. Even though the club may be halachically approved, I fear that Rebbeim painted a false picture of the scope and nature of LGBTQ activism.
What we have witnessed from this debacle is that Jewish values are not threatened by media groups and petitions. They are under attack when our own leaders, both students and Rabbis, refuse to voice support for Jewish values which have bound our families together for millennia.
While I respect our Rebbeim’s halachic decisions, this latest psak (ruling) reflects a semantic compromise, a public pacification that does not take into account that 1700 signees have pledged allegiance to an issur chayav skilah (a transgression liable to death by stoning). It is known that if the Maccabim, which is ironically our school mascot, had asked a Rav if they should fight against the Greeks, he would have told them it was halachically problematic. By the same token, just because something has been halachically permitted does not mean we should subscribe to that ideology. We are not Crusading Christians who burn heretics at the stake, but we are also not postmodern Biblical revisionists. As a true middle path, the Torah rejects certain behaviors, while beckoning us to channel those material desires toward spiritual pursuits. This tension allows us to reveal a deeper Godly connection than we could have ever realized without the struggle. While some people’s struggles are certainly far more challenging than others, we need not unbridle our animal within nor pretend it does not exist. Rather, we all have the opportunity to direct our energy wholeheartedly toward increasing acts of goodness and kindness, as a little light dispels much darkness.