Yeshiva University Faces a Gay Rights Crisis

It's one year after the Madoff-Merkin crisis smited Yeshiva University. And now a big gay rights crisis has hit at the Orthodox school.

All this public tribulation. One wonders, why is God so angry at these guys?

The latest storm of fire and brimstone to rain down on the school, was provoked by an anonymous newspaper column by a gay student in The Commentator in November.

The controversy spilled over this week into a moderated public panel discussion in which several gay YU students spoke. That event instantly has become a source of much remarkable discussion in various comprehensive blogs and the video of the event is here.

YU rabbis quickly have taken to the road to do some anti-gay damage control - one hard-line rebbe spoke on the issue in Teaneck yesterday between Minchah and Maariv.

Up until now the YU policy, as set by former president Norman Lamm, has been 100% hard line anti-gay. Lamm had an instinctive approach to politics and policy. He feared the right wing Orthodox yeshivas would swoop down if he showed that YU was too liberal. He most likely was right to go with his gut. He thereby stanched to loss of YU students to the competing Yeshivas.

It's obvious that times have changed. The current president is a total outsider with little savvy of the yeshiva world or the academic world. Sadly, he has been unable to formulate a clear policy for YU in the present - though he grandly preaches to do so for its future. In such a scenario, crisis management rules the day.

So now a bit of analysis. Their new openness on the issue of gay identity, even if not accompanied by any change of policy on gay rights at the school, will cost YU some students and will gain YU some students. It would not surprise us if a few young men now dramatically announce that due to the events of late, they are leaving to go enroll in another more right wing institution.

It also would not shock us to see an uptick in applications at YU this year due to the change of atmosphere. Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative schools have adopted open policies to gay students up to and including ordination. No doubt if the climate at YU had been different, some of the more serious students who went to other denominational seminaries and programs would have chosen to attend YU where they could have received better training in the classical texts of their religion by more learned and expert teachers.

No question that YU is today a different place then it was prior to November 1, 2009. As we suggested, we doubt that was a calculated part of the administration's grandiose grandstanding plans for the "Jewish future." It will be of interest to us to monitor how the leadership responds, now that they are forced by this unfolding crisis finally to come to grips with one important aspect of the "Jewish present."


tzvee said...

Thanks to joel for the video link:

shalom Tzvee,
re: Yeshiva University Faces a Gay Rights Crisis

just making sure you're aware of the videos of the evening.
enjoying your blog posts.

kol tuv,
Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel

Richard said...

I am always suprised at the presumption that the grand architect of the Universe would actually care about the sexual proclivaties of a particular sub-species - homo sapiens - in a minute corner of the galaxy - Earth. This is anthropological projection to the utmost.

I apologize, my metaphysical outlook in these matters is more Quabalistic and less traditional.

Dr. Jillian T. Weiss said...

Thanks for your insightful post. As a gay 1983 YC graduate, I'm glad to see some thoughtfulness around the issue instead of the insane hysteria and juvenile giggling that has predominated such issues at YU in the past.