Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Change, part 2

Here's a post a lot of you have been waiting for, for a while. I beg your indulgence and for your respect and thoughtfulness in posting comments, especially the anonymous ones. I will not be responding to comments.

The organization Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (formerly Homosexuality), known as JONAH, is a very controversial subject in the gay Jewish community, but more so in the broad Jewish community, especially the religious ones. The first line of defense for many children who speak to their parents about homosexuality is JONAH. This is for numerous reasons, one, they advertise in prominent Jewish papers that many parents read, and two, because the last thing a religious Jewish parent, or many non-religious Jewish parents want is a gay child. However, often the parents don't know the facts before sending their children to such an organization. I respect those who have worked hard within the JONAH program, and those who have come through it successfully, and know and believe that change is possible for specific individuals.

However, and I will only speak for myself, I feel it would do more harm than good. The reason I never posted about this before is because I never went through the system, so I felt inappropriate commenting on it. However, I currently find myself close with many people who have gone through the system- most unsuccessfully, some successfully- and I feel I know more about certain things. Without going into detail, there are multiple aspects of the JONAH program that would make me hate myself more than love myself, and it's taken me too long to get to this point in my life for me to go back and erase what I've accomplished. Further, I've seen people go through this therapy for ten years, and still not come out "healed", and that's not something I'm willing to risk. I'm pretty damn gay, and I know it.

I purposely did not go in to detail about their therapies and I won't. But lastly, I have to take up one issue in this time of repentance for the Jewish people. JONAH claims that they are true repentance for homosexuality. That it is any gay Jews obligation, in this time of year, to repent- and the only way to repent is to join their organization. This is false. This is wrong. This is not true, nor is it their program director's decision as to what God believes is repentance and what is not. That is between a Jew and God, not with other people in between making decisions. I believe, that with a full heart I go to God every year and ask for repentance on how I have served Him inappropriately and the wisdom to serve Him only properly in the future.

May we all be blessed with a year of true happiness.


  1. Oh the irony of Jonah. Makes me sick

  2. I know you may not respond to this because it is anonymous, but can you please post a link or something that shows this notion that JONAH claims they are the true repentance for homosexuality? Is it on their web site somewhere? Is it what therapy that they send their clients to advocates?

  3. I will respond b/c I meant to include the quote in the original post.... In an article from the Jewish Week... "[Association of Jewish Scientists] was open to Goldberg’s views, Rabbi Tendler said, because Goldberg presented his work as based on the belief 'that someone has the ability to repent and to change. Reparative therapy is known in our tradition as repentance or teshuvah.' "

    This is the line and statement I take issue with. What tradition does he follow that holds reparative therapy as repentance?

  4. (This is not addressed to the blog author but to gay Orthodox people who might be considering JONAH.)

    When you have a bunch of religious people with an ulterior motive on one side and the whole of the psychiatric and psychological communities on the other, you're a fool if you entrust your health and your life to the religious people. (I get why people go -- it's an understandable kind of foolishness, a foolishness borne of pain and rejection by the people who were supposed to love and support you, but it is foolishness.)

    Join the real world. Go to a legitimate mental health professional and learn how to accept yourself for who you are and then consider whether you want to be part of a community that is teaching the next generation of gay kids to hate themselves and to live lives of quiet desperation.

    Life is too frickin' short.

  5. I don’t understand. Tshuva means returning from our wayward ways. Clearly, having homosexual desires is something that we need, according to the Torah, to work on. Anything that helps a person remove or lessen their homosexual desires is a form of Tshuva and that would include reparative therapy. You may agree or disagree with their method, but I am not sure why you would object to the terminology of Tshuva.

    Many of the folks who have gone through their program have reduced their homosexual desires and increased their heterosexual ones. Why should they not label that as tshuva?

  6. "Many of the folks who have gone through their program have reduced their homosexual desires and increased their heterosexual ones."

    That's what they say, but the peer reviewed scientific research does not validate this. Obviously people with unwanted gay feelings have every reason to try to convince themselves that they are or can be attracted to the opposite sex. It's generally a fool's game.

    Let me ask you a question. Would you want your daughter to marry a man who had homosexual feelings in the past, regardless of what he claimed his feelings were now? I didn't think so.

    Judaism should be about accepting reality, not wishful thinking.

  7. I appreciate the perspective, and I don't think Jonah is a good program. But I do believe in reperative therapy. If rep. therapy makes you hate yourself, you're doing it wrong. It's important to stay away from programs like that which will lead to a deterioration of your mental health.

    However, I know for a fact that there is material out there involving reperative therapy. Read Joseph Nicolosi's "Reperative Therapy" see if it speaks to you - it's not a program, it's just a book.

    As for the aforementioned mental heath professionals and peer reviewed studies - it's important to note that mental health professionals are heavily biased on the subject. Homosexuality has turned political rather than scientific. Each person should try to figure out for themselves, intellectually honestly what they think is best for them. That doesn't mean that everyone can and should change their orientation, but it also means that you might be able to - and just because there are some bad organizations out there, doesn't mean you should give up. There is a huge difference between trying something and hating yourself. If every time you have to work on yourself, you hate yourself, you need to change your attitude about self-perfection as well.

  8. You wrote:

    “Let me ask you a question. Would you want your daughter to marry a man who had homosexual feelings in the past, regardless of what he claimed his feelings were now? I didn't think so.”

    It’s very simple. The average person would not want their daughter to date ANYONE who has gone through any major therapy for anything. Clearly this is a major trauma and life struggle and only someone who can handle that is suitable as a mate.

    The same is true for a recovered alcoholic or anyone who has any chance of recidivism. I suggest in all such cases that the most suitable mates are people who have also gone through a similar trauma so the two people can best relate to each other and also share in the risk of recidivism.

    The fact that there is a risk of recidivism does not mean that the behavior can not change. Recidivism is an active risk for every single trauma or therapy out there. No one would say that one should not get help for depressions, mania, smoking, alcohol or drug addiction because there is a recidivism rate.


It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews