`237 An Open Letter to Yeshiva University
Chananya Weissman

October 25, 2022


On October 24th I received a letter that was sent to the wider community by Yeshiva University and signed by Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Ira Mitzner, and Lance Hirt (a shortened version appears here). These four individuals are the President of Yeshiva University, the most prominent Rosh Yeshiva at YU and RIETS, and the Chairman of the Board at YU and RIETS, respectively. This letter was followed with a lengthy FAQ and additional information regarding YU's court battle with Pride Alliance activists.

It is fair to say that this expresses the official positions of the institution.

Unfortunately, the material you sent was little more than a lengthy word salad – well over 4000 words. For all that you wrote, you managed to say very little, and left readers with many more questions than answers. Although my past association with YU is no longer a source of pride (no pun intended), I remain an alumnus and concerned member of the community. As such, I hope you will address my concerns, which are shared by many who still hold Yeshiva University in high esteem.

Please provide straight answers to the following questions:

1) You begin the letter by describing Yeshiva University as “a faith community dedicated to fostering and disseminating the principles, values, and dicta of the Torah.” In the course of your email you mentioned “values” and “Torah values” a whopping seventeen times, though the word “commandments” or “mitzvos” does not appear even once. On what basis did you reduce the Torah and the Jewish way of life, which are predicated on clearly defined, inviolable commandments, to amorphous “values”? The Torah doesn't even have a word for “values”.

2) On what basis do you insinuate that membership in our “community” requires only faith, not complete acceptance of the commandments of the Torah, even those we find personally inconvenient or which clash with the Western pseudo-moral fad of the day?

3) You announced “a new initiative to support our LGBTQ undergraduates, which includes a new student club that presents an approved traditional Orthodox alternative to YU Pride Alliance and a commitment to strengthen our on-campus support services. The new club, designed to support and guide our students in living authentic Torah lives, was approved by the Administration, in partnership with lay leadership, and endorsed by senior Roshei Yeshiva...Within this association, students will be able to gather, share their experiences, host events, and support one another while benefiting from the full resources of the Yeshiva community – all within the framework of Halacha – as all other student clubs.”

What sort of student club specifically for students who identify as homosexuals, bisexuals, or who demand people affirm their delusional beliefs about their gender can be traditionally Orthodox? The traditional Orthodox view is not to disconnect sins from sinners, but to hold people fully accountable for their actions, and to care more for the wellbeing of the community that may be influenced by such people than the feelings of those who lead sinful lifestyles.

Hence, if the purpose of this club is to serve as a sort of self-help/repentance group, where people with histories of sin and/or strong temptations to commit grave sins receive support in overcoming this malady, that would be acceptable. Indeed, we have a tradition of mussar groups that served such a purpose. However, if the purpose of the club is for such people to strengthen one another in continuing to live a sinful “lifestyle”, while simultaneously identifying as Orthodox, such a club is the very definition of machzik yedei ovrei aveira.

Which is it? What exactly will be going on at these meetings, and what is the ultimate purpose: to wean them away from sinful behaviors and tendencies, or to normalize them?

4) What safeguards are there to ensure that these meetings do not provide a convenient opportunity for students with these sinful tendencies to find partners with whom to commit grave sins? How is encouraging students with desires to commit grave sexual crimes to gather together – especially unsupervised – an “approved traditional Orthodox alternative”? Ein apotropus l'arayos.

5) You keep reiterating that you love your students who are homosexual, bisexual, or believe they have transformed into the opposite gender. Is this love unconditional? The Torah makes it very clear that our love for people is not unconditional. There are in fact people that we are commanded to hate. I am not suggesting that you hate any or all of these students. However, do you recognize that there are sinners who cross a certain line, and that we are commanded to hate? If not, how do you justify this? If so, where do you draw this line, and on what basis?

Is it the policy of Yeshiva University that people who identify as grave sexual sinners, have no remorse for their behavior, have no desire or intention to repent their behavior, and implicitly or explicitly encourage others to engage in this behavior should nevertheless be loved and embraced by the Orthodox community? Please clarify.

6) You write that “Yeshiva University recognizes and empathizes with the formidable challenges which our LGBTQ identifying students face in living a fully committed, uncompromisingly authentic halachic life within our communities. Their challenges are our challenges. Their struggles are our struggles.”

Can you please clarify what you mean by this? Which of their challenges and struggles are yours as well? What is your endgame? How can people who identify as homosexual, transexual, or queer live a “fully committed, uncompromisingly authentic halachic life” short of ceasing to identify as such? Until they do so, what ground must “our communities” surrender, which corners should we cut, which compromises should we make to accommodate them, and at what cost? At what point, if any, do these accommodations cause more damage to the community than can be justified?

Do you have a red line? If so, where is it, and why is it specifically there? If not, why not?

7) The name for this new student club will be the Kol Yisrael Areivim Club. The term “Kol Yisrael Areivim”, which means “all Jews are guarantors for one another”, refers to an obligation for Jews to prevent one another from sinning, and the fact that those who fail to do so get punished along with the sinner. In light of this, is not the very name of the club most ironic and a distortion of the message the Torah sends us about relating to people who openly identify with sin?

8) You write that Yeshiva University is committed to measures such as “sensitivity training for faculty and staff” and “educational sessions for incoming students during orientation”. In other words, YU is committed to changing the views and behaviors of people who are not part of the LGBTQ “community” to be more favorable toward them.

Is this a two-way street? Will there be any “sensitivity training” for homosexuals and transexuals to ensure they don't offend God-fearing straight students with a more conservative understanding of such matters? Or is this “loving” relationship to be forcibly imposed on students who joined YU expecting a more strictly halachic environment? Is this not a form of spiritual rape?

9) Who formulated Yeshiva University's policies on these matters? At what stage were the “senior Roshei Yeshiva” who endorsed it consulted? Considering the formation of an LGBTQ club on campus with the blessing of the Roshei Yeshiva is a radical departure from tradition, why have the Roshei Yeshiva not provided a detailed halachic explanation for this? Why does the community hear about their endorsement only through press releases, but not from them directly? Why are the Roshei Yeshiva being kept in the background, muted, and trotted out only to endorse a policy that did not originate with them?

Is there any dissent among the Roshei Yeshiva? Are we supposed to assume that this endorsement is unanimous? Are Roshei Yeshiva who have issues with the formation of this club permitted and encouraged to publicly voice this dissent, in line with the way Torah always worked, or would they face retribution?

10) You write that YU has “anti-discrimination policies” as part of a support system for their students who identify with to'eiva. Does this mean that an openly homosexual or transexual student would be admitted to RIETS and receive rabbinic ordination? If yes, how is this in line with our halachic tradition? If not, how is this not discrimination?

We must further ask if YU would hire an openly homosexual or transexual Rosh Yeshiva, and if not, how they can justify this discrimination. As Eliyahu HaNavi asked the people, how long will you jump back and forth between two thoughts?

Indeed, the LGBTQ activists have made it clear that they are not impressed with this gesture, and are as angry as ever. Similarly, the Torah-observant world looks on with horror and shame as you pander to the LGBTQ students with love letters and accommdations, while professing your fidelity to “Torah values” and assuring us that senior Roshei Yeshiva have blessed your changes. You are trying to please everyone, and instead you are pleasing no one. How will you solve this existential threat to Yeshiva University?

What, if anything, does Yeshiva University really stand for?

Bonus questions:

11) Yeshiva University, with the endorsement of Rabbi Schachter and other senior Roshei Yeshiva, blackmailed its students and faculty to take multiple injections of what has proven to be an extremely dangerous pharmaceutical product. Rabbi Schachter argued that even young children may be thrown out of yeshiva if their parents do not take them for these injections.

I argued vociferously against this policy on strong Torah grounds – far stronger than anything the Roshei Yeshiva provided, though that isn't saying much – and received no reply to my emails. Since when is it the way of Torah for Roshei Yeshiva who receive tremendous respect and wield great influence to stonewall in this fashion, especially on matters of life and death affecting the entire Jewish people? How do they justify this? Will they continue to stonewall those who don't blindly accept their edicts, as if they are kings who can impose their will on the Jewish people and squelch all dissent?

12) Ever since Yeshiva University forced everyone to take the shots, and aggressively promoted them throughout their sphere of influence, there has been a dramatic increase in serious health issues and sudden deaths that correlate to these shots as with nothing else. As an alumnus of YU and RIETS I have been receiving Baruch Dayan Emes emails so frequently that I refer to them as the daily death notice.

Does Yeshiva University and its Roshei Yeshiva take any responsibility for this tragic state of affairs? Do you even entertain the possibility that your policies contributed to some of these injuries and deaths?

Do you not find it incongruous that Yeshiva University behaved ruthlessly toward students and faculty who did not take these shots, while it sends love letters to transexuals and bends over backwards to make them feel welcome? Are students who did not take these accursed shots really more dangerous to the physical health of those around them than people who proudly identify with to'eiva to the spiritual health of those around them?

Is there not some poetic justice that Yeshiva University is being blackmailed into endangering its own continued existence? Should any of us really feel sorry for you at this point?

We deserve straight answers to all these questions. Silence is not acceptable.



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