Politics, Sex & Gender

Rabbis and Politicians Claim YU Homophobia

Nothing like recovering from another week of lost blogs and missings links like another Gay scandal for Yeshiva University, sure to be blown out of proportion by the anti YU camps on the right and left, but it is a story on its own merits. So what’s the story this time? It seems that a former student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 29 year old Jeevan Padiyar, is suing the school for wrongful expulsion. Mr. Padyar asserts faculty homophobia as evidenced in a memo he uncovered which the school’s defense lawyers call troubling.

The document, written to Professor Marshall Horwitz, warns him to keep his distance from Mr Padiyar, and states that the school Dean “continues to remain concerned about your support of an openly gay student.”

I assume that would refer to the outgoing dean (Purpura) and not the newly appointed (Siegel). So what makes this story such a big deal? See this press release from a new group of yeshiva students – meaning students of YU schools – suing Yeshiva U. for harrasment. The group has broad support from notables such as Rabbi Shlomo Nisanov, president of Vaad Harabbanim of Queens, former NYC Public Advocate, Mark Green, Assemblywoman Bettie Mayersohn and others. According to the release they say the story goes a little like this:

Padiyar (PAD-eee-yar), 29, a Howard Hughes fellow, Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi, was recently dismissed from Albert Einstein/Yeshiva. Padiyar’s difficulties there began in 2003 when he was assigned an anti-gay roommate. To resolve the issue, Padiyar was forced to come out as gay to his advisor and Yeshiva officials. Initially, the school’s housing office refused to grant a roommate change, until Padiyar considered serious complaints against the college. Soon, Padiyar became the victim of what he claims was systematic harassment on the part of several previously-friendly academic advisors. He was suspended in May 2004, but continued to draw a salary and live in student housing for a year and a half until he retained counsel and forced Albert Einstein to grant him a hearing.

Says Rabbi Nisanov:

Rabbi Shlomo Nisanov, President of VAAD Rabbanim of Queens, speaking in regard to the group of students pursuing cases against AECOM: Discrimination against anyone—Jew or non-Jew—should not be tolerated. Einstein’s behavior is at odds with the memory of everyone who perished during the Holocaust.

The group has a detailed website, which also solicits other “victims of yeshiva” to step up: www.yeshivavictims.org
Other Curious Points To Ponder:

  • Why is Rabbi Nisanov so involved? What is his possible connection to the cause in the first place?
  • Mark Green is obviously playing politics and using YU as a way to score points with the LBGT community. Mr. Green is running for attorney general against Andrew Cuomo who already has the endorsement of the city’s most prominent homosexual, assembly City Council speaker Christine Quinn.
    Update: NYPost and Wash Times report.

  • 9 thoughts on “Rabbis and Politicians Claim YU Homophobia

    1. Before a discussion starts about how YU is an orthodox institution and that should be respected, this is a problem across the board in “community” Jewish institutions as well.
      Having attended the Community Hebrew Accedemy of Toronto which is supposed to be pluralist and open to all Jews, I can tell you that being GLBT there was not really an option. In fact, the only openly gay student while I was there experienced harrasment, homophobia, and a lack of any real support for the administration.
      Especially difficult were the Jewish Studies lessons, taught almost exclussively by orthodox shlichim with little thought paid to at least mentioning other Jewish points of view on issues such as homosexuality, who is a jew, etc.
      The examples go on and on, including the student who wrote his english paper on why all Gays are going to hell.
      Ranting complete. I just wanted people to realize that this issue goes beyond just the Orthodox institutions and is something we seriously need to address.

    2. It’s one thing if a school is training rabbis (or priests, for that matter) but Einstein trains doctors, and its hospitals treat many patients in New York. Doctors who learn this type of discrmination will have trouble serving the gay, lesbian, etc patients that come into hospitals in this city.

    3. Town Crier – How familiar are you with NY politics? Chris Quinn is the speaker of the NYC Council; the speaker of the NYS Assembly is Shelly Silver.
      To declare that it is “obvious” that Mark Green is playing politics, using YU to get in with the LGBT community because Quinn endorsed Cuomo, is silly. Cuomo’s standing in the queer community is not very good – it’s widely assumed that he was behind the anti-gay Koch smears in the ’77 mayor’s race. Cuomo has also been late on equal rights for gays & his dad had a bad rep on AIDS issues. Quinn is supporting Cuomo because 1199 is supporting Cuomo and becuase Quinn and Green are in different camps on the local Dem political scene. But despite being the highest ranking gay elected in NY, Quinn’s endorsement of Cuomo doesn’t mean shit and I doubt it’s keeping Green up at night.
      Green, on the other hand, has always been outspoken on LGBT issues. So, is he playing politics here? Well, he is a politician, so of course it’s partly political. But is Green wrong on the merits? Should he not get involved just because he’s running for office? To what standard are you holding candidates like Green?

    4. Incidentally, the author of the piece might want to make a slight correction to the piece, because it contains a number of false insinuations based on — yipes — simple misspellings.
      These are not “victims of yeshiva”, as is stated in a couple of places, but victims of Yeshiva. The proper name (capitalized) referring to a particular institution, not the lower-case name (not capitlized).
      That’s because, of course, someone who attends Einstein is certainly not a yeshiva student, only a student at the medical school of Yeshiva University. Medical schools aren’t yeshivot. So, not this press release from a new group of yeshiva students, only a new group of Yeshiva University students. Or, if you are really intent on slipping in the implication that this is about yeshivot, Yeshiva students, which is still intentionally misleading but at least a bit more transparent about it.

    5. Having attended the Community Hebrew Accedemy of Toronto which is supposed to be pluralist and open to all Jews
      Open to all Jews, sure. Pluralist, it’s hard to know what you mean. CHAT, Toronto’s largest Jewish high school, is run along traditional/Orthodox/Sephardi lines. It is not run along Ashkenazi-denominational/Conservative/Reform lines.
      It’s true that there is a lack of schools following the Ashkenazi Conservative/Reform/Reconstructionist movements at the high school level in Toronto. Leo Baeck, USDS, Bialik, Heschel, and Downtown are all primary schools with little in the way of secondary education. Perhaps that will change as the Toronto Jewish community becomes Americanized, as the CHAT administration continues to suck, and so forth.
      Certainly the dominance of a single high school among the non-really-Orthodox in such a large Jewish community is rare. Compare it to a city like Montreal with a smaller community but many more secondary school options friendly to non-black-hat types (Herzliah, Maimonide, Hebrew Academy, Bialik, JPPS). On the other hand, the Quebec government partially funds private school, unlike Ontario. Those who assert that provincial governments should fund nothing but one-size-fits-all public schools might do well to think about that: by partially funding those who opt out of the one-size-fits-all system, the Quebec government has helped make the Montreal Jewish school system more pluralist.

    6. As a Yeshiva University student in the undergraduate program, I find it unsurprising that the greater institute has put homophobic policies into place, and if indeed the memo confirms Padiyar’s story, I am deeply distressed. I have had a story killed at the college newspaper because they considered it volatile – when all it did was discuss the In the Closet homosexual community at YU. I hope that this case brings the important issue of tolerance at my University into the limelight, and gives the numerous faculty members who don’t support bigoted behavior the opportunity to condemn the circumstances.

    7. For the Record:
      the speaker line was a typo, and corrected. As for the Yeshiva/yeshiva discrepancy, despite my quick typing, i did make it clear at the beginning of the post that the term “Yeshiva Students” specifically referred to any students enrolled in the specific schools of Yeshiva University, and not the proverbial “yeshiva student” ie, a student who studies in A yeshiva.

    8. There was no smoking gun memo discovered. If you read it, you will see it is a clearly fake memo. In this politically correct world no Dean would be dumb enough to send a written communication calling for discrmination against gays.
      Of course YU should be able to discriminate on moral grounds. Its the violent intolerance of the GLBT community that it attempts to use the coercive force of government to ban people of faith from following their religioius beliefs

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