Religion & Beliefs

Yeshiva of Flatbush: No Homos At the Reunion

Last week both the Forward and the Jewish Week reported on a scandal at Yeshiva of Flatbush, a prestigious Modern Orthodox school. In December the school hosted a ten-year reunion for the class of 1997, but openly gay graduates were … Read More

By / January 23, 2008

Last week both the Forward and the Jewish Week reported on a scandal at Yeshiva of Flatbush, a prestigious Modern Orthodox school. In December the school hosted a ten-year reunion for the class of 1997, but openly gay graduates were sent a letter explaining that they couldn’t bring their partners to the reunion. Specifically, the letter said:

The Director of our Alumni Association forwarded your request to bring your partner with you to the 10th anniversary reunion this coming Saturday night. As previously stated to you, we welcome your attendance and look forward to your participation. However, your partner cannot attend. The policy of the school and that is enforced is that only graduates and their spouses (engagements are recognized) are invited. We cannot acknowledge or define your partner relationship as one that falls under this policy. We kindly ask you to respect and follow our Yeshivah’s policy and attend the reunion without your partner. 

Some gay graduates chose not to attend. Others created a Facebook group called "Open Flatbush Reunions – End Censorship and Alumni Profiling" which now has over 330 members, including, according to the Jewish Week “a Nobel Prize winner who attended the school over six decades ago and a former principal of the school, Rabbi Alan Stadtmauer, who resigned from his position in 2004 as he came to terms with being gay himself.” The best response I’ve seen so far is on Jewschool, where a gay alum of the Yeshiva of Flatbush writes about why and how the school is being hypocritical. My favorite passage:

Until this particular issue came up however, everyone was welcome at the high school reunion. There was no “tsitsiss check” or religious litmus test, no approved favorite movie or banned political opinion. People showed up, they brought guests, they shmoozed and ate and re-connected with their classmates. It didn’t matter what you named your kids. And it didn’t matter what halacha you may have broken in your life. Nobody asked you to testify as to which hashgacha certified your existence as kosher. So when Mr. Eisenberg, the administrator, claims that “there are standards of halacha that guide the Orthodox community. All of our graduates are welcome to attend our reunion but only those involved in recognized halachic relationships may register to attend as a couple,” I don’t buy it. The standards of halacha that guide the Orthodox community surely exist — but they cover a lot more than the gender of who you date and marry. Modesty rules. Ethical business rules. Rules for sabbath observance. Sexual practices of heterosexual couples.