Yeshiva University became the unlikely location for the latest protest of the Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas-based group that has achieved notoriety over the years for its aggressively anti-gay stance.
For years, Yeshiva University has had a conflicted relationship with its LGBTQ constituency. In 2009, a student-organized panel on homosexuality drew fire from the administration and faculty members, kicking off a years-long feud about the place of LGBTQ students at the flagship Modern Orthodox institution. In recent months, conservative pundit Ben Shapiro gave a speech at YU in which he called transgender people mentally ill; the comment drew cheers from many in the audience, but fierce criticism from several students.
The developing tête–à–tête between the Orthodox institution and its student body continued this week, when YU became the unlikely location for the latest protest of the Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas-based group that has achieved notoriety over the years for its aggressively anti-gay stance. The church announced on Twitter in February that it would protest YU’s “it’s OK to be Gay” attitude. Five Westboro members, all female, turned up on in Washington Heights on Monday morning to protest.
Speaking to The Jewish Week, protester Margie Phelps said the church decided to protest at YU because of the university’s strong pro-Israel stance — she referred to Israel as the “gay capital of the world,” pointing to Tel Aviv’s vibrant LGBTQ nightlife. (Phelps is the daughter of Fred Phelps, who founded the church.)
Students at the university used the protest as an opportunity to band together to support Orthodox LGBTQ youth. Despite the rain, about 30 counter-protesters from the YU community turned out to voice their opposition. Students held homemade signs that read “Hate is NOT a Yeshiva University Value,” “LGBTQ Students are Welcome In Yeshiva U.,” and “Chosen People Choose Love over Hate.”