- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2023

Brad Lander, New York City’s chief financial officer, warned Yeshiva University Monday it might be “at risk” of losing future city funding if the Orthodox Jewish institution fails to recognize the YU Pride Alliance, a student-led LGBTQ+ club.

Leaders at the university say the group’s agenda violates Torah principles, while the group says Yeshiva has authorized a similar organization for its law school students, and has a gay student cohort at the undergraduate level.

Yeshiva, battling a ruling by New York’s State Supreme Court that says it must recognize the group, has received “some $8.8 million in City funding since 2010,” Mr. Lander said in a letter to school President Rabbi Ari Berman, an average of $676,923.08 per year.

In the letter, Mr. Lander told Rabbi Berman that Yeshiva’s “students are alleging that your current practices are discriminatory and in violation of the New York City‘s Human Rights Law. I  must urge your institution to change course and offer a secure environment for your LGBTQ+ students and staff to create a supportive space to rightfully express their full selves.”

The comptroller said the school’s “own anti-discrimination policy is wholly undermined by the refusal to allow students to form this group within their own terms and mission.”

He said, “The University’s discriminatory actions may put future funding and associated services at risk. By recognizing the YU Pride Alliance, you can help ensure that the rights of LGTBQ+ students at Yeshiva University are respected, celebrated, and upheld in the City of New York.”

Mr. Lander wrote that he had “confidence in your ability to make the right decision and welcome everyone in Yeshiva University including the LGBTQ+ members of your institution.”

YU Pride Alliance sued Yeshiva University in April 2021, claiming the school had denied its request to organize three times in 2019 and 2020. While the school won a temporary stay of the lawsuit from Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, the high court said it would only consider hearing the case once state appeals were exhausted.

In December, the state court’s appellate panel ruled Yeshiva, where undergraduates are required to study the Jewish Talmud for as much as five hours daily, is not a “religious corporation” under New York State law and thus doesn’t have the protections those groups receive. Yeshiva was incorporated as an educational institution, the appeals panel ruling stated, and its religious protections would be limited to “employment, housing and student admissions selections.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a District-based nonprofit law firm that represents Yeshiva University, did not immediately respond when asked to comment on Mr. Lander’s letter and its warning about city funding.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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