Welcoming Gay Jews in the Orthodox Community, by Rabbi Hyim Shafner

In the series of posts that I have been writing about welcoming various populations of Jewish people, I am not purporting to address the halachic (Jewish legal) implications of the lives of populations of Jews, I am rather exploring how we as an Orthodox community can tweak our vision of the world and of people, in order to cultivate more welcoming Orthodox communities that can in turn be open to the widest range of Jews.

Last week I wrote of welcoming intermarried families and this week I would like to address how we see another population of Jews that often feels unwelcomed -Jewish people who are not physically attracted to people of the opposite gender, but only to the same gender, and how we as communities observant of halacha can welcome them and to what extent.

Various studies estimate that anywhere from 4%-20% of the American population is homosexual.  It would be dangerous for us to believe that Orthodox Jews are an exception.  That the torah forbids men from having sexual relations with each other is testament that in the Torah’s preview such a desire does exist.

My community encompasses several gay members, some are open about it and some are not, some have partners or are married and others are not, some live a celibate life alone (or have tried to) and others do not.   Just as there isn’t one type of heterosexual person so too there is not homogeneity among homosexuals.  Ultimately people are individuals (an entire universe of their own, as the Mishna in Sanhedrin says), and must be attended to as such.

What should an orthodox Rabbi do when a congregant comes out to him?  What should an Orthodox community’s attitude be toward their gay brethren?   Should we reject them?  Accept them?  Tell them they can never live a life with a family and have children?  Find them a proper partner?

I would argue that while Orthodox rabbis and communities can’t celebrate same gender weddings, at the same time we do not have to concern ourselves with what happens in everyone’s bedrooms.  For instance, some upstanding Orthodox rabbis perform weddings for people they know are not going to go to the mikvah regularly (though we hope they will one day).  Halachikally in fact, it may be worse for a man to have intercourse with a woman who has not gone to the mikvah after menstruating, than it is for a lesbian couple to be intimate and possibly even for a gay male couple to be intimate (in some ways).

Perhaps we should take at face value that people are living together and raising Jewish families together. Though I am not suggesting celebrating or performing same gender weddings, perhaps we can celebrate the fact that two people commit to living with each other forever, raising Jewish observant children together, keeping Shabbos as a family, keeping kosher, singing nigunim and learning Torah.

I am not suggesting we change the Torah or Jewish law, rather I am pointing out ways we can view things in order to better welcome the entire Jewish people into communities that study and observe the Torah.

We may fear that by being welcoming to gay Jews and families with same gender parents we are implicitly offering legitimacy to things the torah forbids.  But aren’t we just as scared of condemning people to a lonely life that they cannot lead?  I am not saying no one can be celibate; certainly there are people who can do it.  There are people who will commit their lives to serving the community, to a relationship only with God and with friends with no intimacy and no eizer kinegdo (helpmate).  But this is not everyone and I’m not sure it’s the best path for most.  How many joyous mitzvot that are most fully observed as a family must we sacrifice for this one issur (forbidden thing), which may be in many instances a rabbinic one?

I’m not saying we should be cavalier. I am not saying all of a sudden we should have  engagement parties for gay couples, but what if we had a cake at kiddush one Shabbat (albeit a big cake or one with small writing) that said “Mazal Tov on your commitment to each other forever to raise a Jewish family!”?

I remember I was once at a meeting of rabbis where one Rabbi argued that we should protest the Jewish newspapers for including ads announcing gay marriages.  He said if we did not our children would think it was ok to become gay.  I have no doubt this Rabbi had never know a gay Orthodox Jew well.  If he had he would know that often gay Orthodox Jews want nothing more than to be straight, it is not a choice most make.

I will finish with the wise words an observant gay Jew once said to me:  We must be clear that there is a difference between halacha (Jewish law) and homophobia.  When our personal fears and prejudices hide under the banner of halacha, when we use the Torah as a spade to dig with in service of our own predilections, egos and anxieties, we not only do a disservice to the Jewish people but to the Torah itself.

43 Responses to Welcoming Gay Jews in the Orthodox Community, by Rabbi Hyim Shafner

  1. Asher Lopatin says:

    Rav Hyim,

    Beautifully spoken. Your words bring to mind the first verse in the Torah spoken about relationships: Lo tov heyot Haadam Levado – It is not good for a human to be forced to live a lonely life. How precious are your words and your challenging questions, as we enter Shabbat, the day of togetherness with those we love, with our community and with God. Thanks, Rav Hyim.

    Asher Lopatin

  2. Rick says:

    Rav Hyim,
    Rav Asher could not have put it better, this was a beautiful piece. For many years I have felt we need to embrace a more expansive view of the jewish family. My one concern is that you are going down the same dangerous path as others, and not fully embracing all elements of the greater jewish community. What could be more beautiful than recognizing the loving commitment of a couple who, due to a cruel act of fate, may happen to share parents? Lo tov heyot Hadam Levado, and no in-laws! We can not as a community place one so-called “abomination” over another. I’m sure http://www.pamperedpawgifts.com/ would be happy to cater a kiddush when both partners are not “traditional” homo sapien jews. I just hope they do kosher!

    • Hyim Shafner says:

      Yours is a classic but very important argument. The answer to it is so important and central to Judaism (taamey hamitzvot, whether morality is the basis of mitzvot, several pertinent Gemaras, Ramabams and much writing by Yeshayahu Leibowitz, ob”m) that I feel I need to write an entire post in response. My day for posting is Friday so this Friday please look for it.

      As an aside I should point out that I was not advocating violation of halacha just the welcoming of gay Jews into Orthodox communities.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am so sorry you feel the need to resort to cheap shots about bestiality rather than honest discussion.

  3. There is a difference between tolerance and acceptance.
    My neighbour might be gay, or a mechalel Shabbos, or non-kosher. I can tolerate that. But if he walks up to me and says that according to his view of Judaism he’s doing nothing wrong, I cannot accept that.
    Because of secular liberalism we look at homosexuality completely different than other sins. If someone intentionaly eats on Yom Kippur, we say that it’s wrong. If someone drives to the mall to work on Shabbos, we say it’s wrong. But if someone engages in a relationship that the Torah describes as abominable, well now we have to “understand” and we can’t show disapproval, God forbid, and who are those horrible people who used the “abomination” word in the first place?
    This is Morethodoxy? Everything goes in the name of acceptance? Are the Torah’s laws and standards so meaningless that they must be swept aside lest someone indulgent of secular amorality be offended by an objective moral standard?

    • Aviva Yael says:

      The issue of homosexuality and it’s acceptance in halachically observant Jewish communities is a broad one. It’s easy to decide in life that things are black and white… but much more true to reality to see and respond to the shades of gray.

      Mr. Ironhart mentions above that he can tolerate the Jews of the world who are non shomer shabbos or non shomer kashrus, or gay but cannot accept any of them walking up to him and saying that “According to their own understanding of Judaism they are doing nothing wrong.”

      It is a common way to look at the problem… but doesn’t delve into the issue particularly deeply. All of Orthodox Judaism believes that everyone ought to strive to keep all the mitzvot, but not everyone agrees with what that means. There are shades of gray in everything in life and as unpopular as it is to say… even in Halacha.

      For instance, everyone agrees that you may not transgress any of the 39 Av Malachot on Shabbat and therefore may not squeeze out liquid from a solid on shabbat… but not everyone agrees whether you may use baby wipes on shabbat. Everyone agrees that you must keep kosher… but we as a Klal do not all agree with which hechsharim are kosher and which items strictly speaking require them. And although everyone agrees that a man may not lie with another man as he does with a woman, not everyone agrees with exactly what that means. Does that mean that it is halachically unacceptable to be a man and be gay, ie. attracted to men? What if he never acts on it? Is it halachically unacceptable to be a woman and be gay ie. attracted to women? What if she never acts on it? Is it halachically acceptable to be gay and choose to live your life with someone of the same sex, but have no sexual relationship with that person? Does that vary if you are a man or a woman? Is it halachically acceptable to be a gay woman and live your life with someone of the same sex and have an intimate relationship with them? Is it halachically acceptable to be a gay man, live your life with someone of the same sex, have an intimate relationship with them, but not anal sex (as is assumed by the phrase, “you may not lie with a man in the way you lie with a woman”)? These are good questions that blanket statements like, “Its unacceptable to be gay.” don’t address. I think the question of how to address issues of homosexuality in Halacha is something that ought to be discussed by Rabaim. Kudos to R. Shafner for bringing the issue up.

  4. Hyim Shafner says:

    See my response above to Rick.

    By the way, just to make a few corrections to your comment: We should be clear that the Torah does not forbid “being gay,” as you say above. The Torah does not forbid feelings of attraction to members of the same gender, (though it does forbid such feelings of attraction to another man’s wife.)

    I would also mention that the word “toevah” is used with regard to several sins in the Torah, such as idol worship, eating non-kosher food, the the sin of “machzir girushato”, remarrying one’s wife after divorcing her if she has been married in between. Based on the Gemara (Nidarim 51a) I think abomination is probably a bad translation and will lead to us seeing in a harsher light than necessary not only Jews who have sexual intercourse with people of the same gender but Jews who eat non-kosher, which unfortunately has become quite a common practice outside of the Orthodox community.

  5. Au contraire, I think we have become completely desensitized to sin because of how common it is. Consider what the Aruch HaShulchan says about davening in front of a married woman with uncovered hair. We shouldn’t, technically, but because most married women don’t cover their hair the excitement it once had is gone. So we’re spiritually duller and poorer for it and instead we should say “Well, obviously it’s not so bad?”
    Time was it was scandalous for a Jew to intermarry or not observe Pesach. Now when we hear about it we say “Meh, so what?” It’s our deficiency and we should not accept it.

    • Hyim Shafner says:

      I agree. the goal here, and I think I speak for all the Morethodoxy bloggers, is greater kvod shamayim (honor for Heaven) and deeper avodas Haborey (service of the Creator). But I think that the Torah wants us to do it through love and not rejection, and its more productive.

  6. Sam says:

    I find this discussion important. But as an Orthodox Jew who has dealt with homosexuality in my life….I think it is important for Modern Orthodox leaders to realize what an important role you play.

    Through way more therapy than I care to admit, plus reading, friends and all sorts of experiences, I grew out of homosexuality. I am happily married. But this was far from an easy journey.

    One thing that used to make my stomach drop further than anything was when I lost hope. When I felt that there was no way out….I almost felt there was no reason to keep trying. I realize trying to grow out of homosexuality is not for all – but imagine if you start the effort and you meet modern Orthodox Rabbis, or involved lay people who go on & on about being “open” to gays etc etc.

    Where did this leave me? What could I say? This was always the most depressing and frustrating sort of conversation for me to sit through with educated, modern Orthodox Jews. Should I say at the Shabbat table “well, as someone dealing with this….”? C’mon – that was usually NOT an option.

    Please be aware that when Orthodox leaders seem to copy western, liberal ideas….some of us are left out in the cold. If I can’t turn to Torah leaders for support and understanding of a path I have taken (and which seems to be AT LEAST as legitimate, if not more, as living with a gay partner!)…where shall I turn?

    So please, dear Modern Orthodox leaders….don’t forget us! there are many people who are looking for support in directions that may not be all that attractive in liberal circles. But is that not a reason to also accept and support us?

    Please don’t adopt the full pro-gay agenda only. Also, please remember that for many Orthodox Jews living a gay life is simply not a desired option.

    • rivka says:

      I have many friends who are gay and I have never heard of someone who”grew out of their homosexuality”. Could you please respond to that. How old were you when you started your therapy and how many years did it take? I have listened to people talk of their torment as they were going to treatment to no avail,how were you able to change your orientation?

      • Sam says:

        Hi Rivka,

        I started looking into change at age 19. I did some therapy then, however it wasn’t specific to this issue – it was general, about improving all aspects of my life. We did focus on homosexuality at times, and the therapy opened my eyes to the idea that I might be able to move beyond it. But that was mostly in my head. I took some minor steps towards change.

        I did some other therapy which was helpful in certain ways – but at a certain point I really felt that I was not moving forward. And I can relate to the “torment” you said your friends felt. I felt like….well, maybe this is just who I am. However, it in no way met my value system, and experiences with gay sex had left me feeling it was also “not me”. So I felt I was in a really tough spot.

        At a certain point I started psychoanalysis. The real thing – like out of Woody Allen movies. I had many blocks to going. But it really started to help me – and quickly. While I can see how it is not for everyone – for me, it really helped bring up a lot of deep issues which I probably would never have gotten to otherwise. In a very slow, but usually steady fashion, I found myself growing in all sorts of ways. One of them was in my feelings towards other men. It is, as you can imagine, very complex and had steps forward & backwards to be sure.

        I also participated in “Journey into Manhood” which is a secular weekend for men dealing with same sex attraction. I took part in some great activities as well as met numerous men who were like me. That was personally revealing, liberating and very educational. These men were all at different points in their journey.

        I also took part in other activities geared towards growth for men (altho’ not specifically for same sex attraction issues). I found this also very helpful.

        So….I hope this helps somewhat.

        I don’t think this is for everyone – for sure.

  7. Arieh The Man says:

    To the comments of Garnel Ironheart, I have a feeling that you have trouble getting into the shoes of other people and you are jusdging very liniently without truly understanding the issue of homosexuality. I am an Orthodox Jew, I actually became a Ba’al Teshouvs at age 22 (I am 40 now), with the hope of becoming free of my attraction to the same-sex… a rabbi told me that if I studied Torah hard enough and be in a Yeshivah environment I was going to be able to… at least be able to have attractions towards women… after a couple of years, when this didn’t happened, a very understandign Rabbi told me I needed therapy to help me with this… and I got involved for many years in therapy… I am still Orthodox, but for me my acceptance as having same-sex attractions was a choice with kiling myself… I did all the treatments, work hard inside beith midrash and in therapy… I am now abstinent from sex and would never say homosexuality is good or desirable.. but what I can say is that my feelung is that people with your linient opinion about htis subject and many others come from a place of not being able to truly understand people DO try hard many timjes, many others are confused or give up, get caught int he worlds view of the so-called “diversity” and gay lifestyle (to hwich I participated form age 18 to 22), may others kill themselves, and all this is because people like oyu and many others condemn so harshly and judge. Mr. Ironheart, I do invite you to take a look at your “iron heart” and turn to yourself and look inside you at your own fears and prejudices… you may discover very interesting things… there’s no black and white… every human being is a Child of G-d and we jsut try our best with the best of our knwledge and capabilities… sometimes I do thanks Hashem for givieng me this challenge… I learn so much, to be kind, to be open and understanding, to look inside me, to put myself in other people’s shoes, and to look at myself before judging others… I am not saying to accept homosexuality… look at the gay community, mostly, is very sad what happens there… good luck!

  8. While I have no doubt of Rabbi Hyim Shafner’s sincerity and commitment to Torah values, his recent blog “Welcoming Gay Jews in the Orthodox Community” contains fundamental flaws in understanding the dynamics of homosexuality. I am writing as one in a position to know as I have worked with homosexual oriented Jews for over ten years and have helped them change their sexual fantasies, arousals, identity, and behavior. I serve as co-director of JONAH (www.jonahweb.org), the only world-wide Jewish organization helping those who with unwanted same-sex attractions deal with the cultural, emotional, and social factors leading to homosexual feelings and/or behavior. I am also professionally credentialed as a Certified Relationship Specialist.

    While I chose (for space limitation purposes) to not take issue with every comment in the blog with which I disagree, I do feel duty bound to correct several blatant misstatements that are found within in the piece. To gain a fuller perspective of the subject matter, I recommend reading my book, Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change (www.redheiferpress.com)

    First of all the estimate that “anywhere between 4%-20% of the American population is homosexual” is egregiously in error. No serious social scientist, even from the gay advocacy camp has ever provided numbers as high as this statement indicates. The generally accepted numbers are found in the brief filed by 31 gay activist or pro gay organizations in Lawrence vs. Texas (the Texas sodomy case) and which were adopted by the Supreme Court. The total percentage of gay self-identification aggregates to less than 3% (2.8% of males and 1.4% of females.) Moreover, the National Health and Social Life Study by University of Chicago’s renown professor Edward O. Laumann finds “only 0.9% of men and 0.4% of women reported having only same-sex partners since age 18, a figure that would represent a total of only 1.4 million Americans as homosexual.”

    Rabbi Shafner next suggests that “we can celebrate the fact that two people commit to living with each other forever” in effect suggesting that homosexual coupling involves stable, long term committed relationships. The facts directly contradict this suggestion. To cite just one example of the multitude of existent studies, a gay psychiatrist and gay psychologist studied 156 male couples who had lived together for 20 years or more and found to their dismay that the longest period of sexual monogamy of those couples was 5 years and the average length of sexual exclusivity was 1 to 2 years. Gay activist Andrew Sullivan writes in “Virtually Normal”: “homosexuals have a need for extramarital outlets.” In a study of American and Canadian homosexuals, Jay and Young found that more than a third of lesbians participated in threesomes and more than three-fourths of male homosexuals did the same. Lesbian writer Camille Paglia notes how gay magazines glamorize “the bigger bang of sex with strangers” and advocate “monogamy without fidelity” in same sex couplings.

    The instability of the homosexual relationship was not solved by an option to create permanence in the relationship nor societal acceptance of homosexuality as simply an alternative lifestyle. A 2006 Swedish study showed homosexual unions having a higher divorce rate than heterosexual unions by 50% and the rate of dissolution of lesbians relationships were double that of male homosexuals. A 2003 Dutch study shows the transience of gay coupling. It found the average male homosexual partnership lasting only 1.5 years (Compare that figure to a CDC US study of heterosexual marriages showing 50% of heterosexual marriage lasting 15 years or more, ten times the results of the Dutch study.)

    The third erroneous premise is found in the statement “often gay Orthodox Jews want nothing more than to be straight, it is not a choice most make.” I assume by this statement that Rabbi Shafner is simply repeating the worn-out canard that gays are born that way, that homosexuality is immutable, and that sexual orientation cannot be changed. An avowed lesbian, Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling, Professor of Developmental Biology and Women Studies at Brown University, admits “[Although the claim that homosexuality is genetic] provides a legal argument that is, at the moment, actually having some sway in court, [f]or me, it’s a very shaky place. It’s bad science and bad politics.”

    No genetic earmark distinguishing homosexuals from heterosexuals has ever been identified. So far as science has been able to discover, homosexuals and heterosexuals are genetically indistinguishable. As stated in a British medical journal, “From an evolutionary perspective, genetically determined homosexuality would have become extinct long ago because of reduced reproduction.”

    Indeed, to take the question one step further, over 100 scientific studies confirm that change of sexual orientation is possible for motivated individuals. The father of the Diagnostic Statistical Manuel, (the Bible of Psychiatry), Dr. Robert Spitzer, was intellectually honest enough to change his own lifetime view. He published a study in 2003 which confirmed the evidence that dissatisfied homosexuals are able to make substantial long-term changes in their sexual orientation.

    Our experience at JONAH is consistent with the Spitzer study. We have helped innumerable men and women change sexual orientation, lead “frum” lives consistent with the Torah, have marriage and families, and in general lead happy and well-adjusted lives. For information, please either email info@jonahweb.org or call 201 433 3444.
    Thank you, Arthur Goldberg, co-director, JONAH

  9. Hyim Shafner says:

    If a gay person can become heterosexual that is good. It will help them do the mitzvah of piryah v’rivyah and avoid many isurim. But I know many gay orthodox Jews who wish they could be heterosexual and have spent their lives trying, marrying and divorcing, going to the brink of suicide, etc. I was not arguing that gays should remain gay if they can be heterosexual, I was arguing that we should be welcoming to all Jews and that in order to do that we need to tweak the way we see the world.

  10. Rabbi Shafner, I certainly appreciate your statement that “if a gay person can become heterosexual that is good.” However, the context in which you make this comment appears to express doubt as to its plausibility. The truth is, despite the propaganda claims of the gay advocates, an overwhelming number of homosexuals can change their sexual identity and also change their sexual orientation, including sexual fantasy, arousals, and behavior.

    You state that you know “many gay orthodox Jews who wish they could be heterosexual and have spent their lives trying, marrying and divorcing, going to the brink of suicide, etc.” With due respect, I would suggest that in most cases they received faulty advice or counseling either from gay affirmative or neutral therapists/rabbis/individuals who are unfamiliar with the true process of change. So many observantly religious men initially go to their rabbis for advice. I cannot tell you how many of our clients inform us that the advice received from their rabbi was “if you marry a good woman, she can fix you.” Not only is this totally erroneous advice (without understanding their masculinity, they cannot truly be attracted to a woman), but it is also unfair to the woman involved. Since rabbis are often the first port of call, they need to be more educated on the process of change, something I wish you had dwelled upon in your postings.

    The key to overcoming is to work with the few therapists who really understand the process of change which includes individual and group work, family counseling etc . All of the counselors affiliated with our Jonah Institute are themselves individuals who are professional trained and credentialed in this specialized subject matter and have had the personal experience of actually overcoming same sex attraction (thereby increasing their effectiveness in understanding the clients’ feelings and emotions.) Homosexuality doesn’t just vanish when a person decides he or she doesn’t want it. There is a process involved. Just as teshuvah constitutes an internal transformational process involving self reflection, value clarification and study, so too is the process of gender affirmation. The lessons of teshuvah teach us how it is within our power both to control and to redirect our thoughts, feelings, and actions. However, the gay lobby has expended enormous efforts to convince us otherwise. As Rabbi Barry Freundel wrote, “The mass media and most mental health professionals…publicly portray the goal of ‘acceptance of one’s orientation’ as the optimum, while downplaying or denying the possibility of change.” That of course is my principal complaint with your postings. Without a doubt, certainly “we should be welcoming to all Jews” but we should not “tweak the way we see the world” if we do so through a false prism. Your postings appear to gloss over and utterly disregard clinical findings concerning the effectiveness of the change process. I may suggest that those “gay orthodox Jews who wish they could be heterosexual” with whom you are familiar should be advised to call us (201 433 3444) or write us (info@jonahweb.org) so we can properly advise them of the many options available to them.

    Sincerely, Arthur Goldberg, co-director JONAH

  11. Rabbi Aaron Frank says:

    There is no doubt that human nature is complex. Just as is the case with all parts of our personalities, it is difficult to know, with 100% certainty, their roots and tendencies. The debate and research about homosexuality should continue and will continue, but, in the end, it is not the root of the issue. But there is the shema and the bari, and the bari is adif.

    The main issue is that our brothers and sisters, people in our shuls and schools are feeling marginalized. One thing we know with 100% certainty is that, we should do our best to me most macmir on being welcoming. The Torah and our mesorah mandates us creating welcoming, safe environments where people who are not threatening others are not marginalized.

    Does this mean that anything goes? No. Open honest disucssions must be had. But they must be done with the realization that there are members of the Jewish community who are homosexual who need us and need to be heard and welcomed.

    I feel that much of the frum community is more cavalier in their passion on the issues of homosexuality and gender than they are on economic violations, moral misdeeds and other serious issues in the community.

    As R. Shafner pointed out, “We must be clear that there is a difference between halacha (Jewish law) and homophobia” and also,may I add chauvinism.

  12. Chasiah says:

    Rabbi Shafner,

    Thank you for writing about this important issue. Your ability to welcome and value each member of the jewish community, while remaining steadfast in your halachic observance, is a model for many of us.

    For those of us who are Gay, Lesbian, Trans, or Bi orthodox jews- it is essential that our communities be there for us in loving and real ways, as we come to understand ourselves fully, and make decisions about how we will live our lives.

    Those of us who are lucky enough to find ourselves surrounded by communities of religious jews, like yourself, who are committed to all 613 commandments- both those that are “between man and g-d” and those that are “between a person and his fellow” are very lucky. In such a community, we are supported in finding a way to make a decision that honors the manner in which Hashem chose to create us- each one of us a unique individual. For those of us who are homosexual, we can be supported in choosing not to hurt our fellow human being (who we are commanded to love) by entering a marriage that is sure to be sexually frustrating, and likely to be emotionally difficult, if not scarring. Some of us may choose to remain single- a choice that has ample support in the halachic literature. (for a well thought out analysis of such a choice, read Judaism and Homosexuality: An authentic Orthodox view). Others, may choose to create jewish families with same-sex partners. If we are fortunate enough, as your congregants are, we might turn to our rabbis. If we are lucky, our rabbis encourage us to do our best, building households that are faithful to the Torah and to the Jewish people, and raising children to observance of Torah and mitzvot.

    But if we are not lucky we might find ourselves in communities that fail to understand what we are going through. Or, if they understand, communities that fail to care (which is much rarer). We might find ourselves in communities who turn us to organizations that promote unsafe and unproven therapies that may endanger our lives- therapies that the American academy of pediatrics, the american psychological association and the american psychiatric association consider unethical, unproven, and potentially life-threatening. Such communities, I hope unwittingly, bring a homosexual into a true Sakanat nefashot- a torah prohibition, by recommending these therapies. Some communities and Rabbis push homosexuals into heterosexual marriages, hoping that they will magically become straight. They don’t. I have met many people who have tried, through these unproven therapies, or through marriage, to overcome their orientation. Again and again, people find that while it is possible to decide not to have sexual relationships, it is not possible to become attracted to another person by sheer force of will. In such communities, a person who comes out may be shunned, making it impossible for him or her to continue to live a Torah life, and observe the mitzvot (at least those that require a community) without moving to another community that is more open and welcoming.

    Some of us find support online. Groups like Tirtzah (www.tirtzah.wordpress.com), jqyouth (www.jqyouth.com), Orthodykes (www.orthodykes.org), GLYDSA (www.orthogays.com), Bat-kol (www.bat-kol.org) and HOD (www.hod.org.il) can offer real help and support through e-mail listserves and in-person meetings and events. But without the help of the communities we live in, it is still very hard. Many of us face homophobia in shul and around the shabbat table, in our families and among our friends. We can feel invisible and alone, or worse, we can feel shunned and distanced from the communities we love and value. If anything, we sometimes need some extra support from those who care about us, as we seek to maintain our religious affiliation and observance, whatever choices we might make regarding marriage or partnering.

    Orthodox homosexuals do not benefit from the attitudes of those who deny that we exist, or those who pretend that shunning us will somehow make us, or our difficulties, go away. We, and our Orthodox communities do benefit, however, when we all find a way to be there for one another, in the spirit of Areivut. I hope that in time there will be more communities able to model, as you do, a commitment to halachic observance coupled with a sense of responsibility and love towards each and every Jew.

  13. I appreciate the sincerity and heartfelt comments of Chasiah; however, part of the problem individuals unfamiliar with the literature on the subject of homosexuality is gaining factually correct information. Constant misstatements about whether the alternative forms of therapy actually work or not has contributed to massive confusion. To suggest that therapy for homosexuality is “unethical, unproven, and potentially life threatening” totally and uneqivocally misrepresents the sceintific literature.

    To gain insight as to what the actual scientific peer reviewed literature reports, please read “What Research Shows.” (a summary can be found on the NARTH website http://www.narth.com or can be sent to an interested party who requests it by emailing info@jonahweb.org). This document is a 125 page report authored by the scientific advisory committee of NARTH (www.narth.com) and reviews 125 years of articles in the psychological literature concerning these topics. It concludes that the literature shows that (1) the people can change sexual orientation (2) that the alternative modalities utilized as therapeutic responses are NOT harmful but indeed are beneficial and (3) that their is a greater pathology within the gay and lesbian community than in the “straight” community. This is the science. It is not debatable. However, although these are the results of a century of studies, we all need to recognize that in this society, individuals such as Chasiah have the freedom to identify as gay or lesbian and that such identification needs to be respected.

    As a footnote to her comments, please be advised that the “American College of Pediatricians” strongly supports therapy to assist those with unwanted same-sex attractions.

    Arthur Goldberg, co-director, JONAH

    • Aviva Yael says:

      Arthur Goldberg – Thou dost protest too much.

      I think I would find JONAH’s information and mission more plausible if Mr. Goldberg did not attempt to present it with the certainty of the Omnipotent. It seems that everything he has to say is, “EVERYONE IS WRONG EXCEPT FOR ME WHO’S RIGHT… HERE’S MY STATISTICS.” … Which of course are the only possible correct set of statistics because Mr. Goldberg is the Omnipotent One who clearly knows everything.

      I also have a hard time understanding why it is that this representative from JONAH finds it important to make multiple attmepts to cut down Rabbi Shafner’s argument that ALL Jews ought to be welcomed into Orthodox space to live and grow in their Yiddiskeit regardless of their perfection in Torah observance?

      What is it about Rabbi Shafner’s arguments that make him a combatant to JONAH rather then an ally for this organization’s mission? From Mr. Goldberg’s description of what JONAH does… it seems that the end goal is to help Orthodox Jews that identify as homosexual become more capable of Torah observance. It seems to me that R. Shafner is trying to do the same thing. R. Shafner proposes to do this by supporting the individual through their life’s struggles and challenges with Community, Torah and Learning. What is it exactly that JONAH has to gain from taking issue with R. Shafner or R. Shafner’s approach? What do they have to gain from Rabbaim telling people who identify as homosexual that there is no place for them in a shule, community or shabbos table?

      I’m not sure. Perhaps the leaders of JONAH are afraid that they won’t get people to come to their organization unless they can have these people feeling rejected and without a place to turn besides for their organization?

    • Leshemshamayim says:

      Dear Arthur Goldberg,

      You seem to over-emphasize your qualifications and hard evidence. As I am sure you are aware, last Wednesday the American Psycological Association passed a resolution stating that mental health professionals should not use any therapy aiming at changing sexual orientations, and emphasize that there is no real evidence that this is possible. In their words: “Scientifically rigorous older studies in this area found that sexual orientation was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose. Contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change.” So all of a sudden you and your lot are the bearers of light and your scientific knowledge is much greater than that of the best psychologists in America. I have pasted the APA press release at the very bottom of this post, and you can see their full study and resolution from the following website:


      With regards to your qualifications that make you an expert in the area of sexuality: You mention that you are “professionaly qualified as a Certified Relationship Specialist.” I assume that this is your highest qualification in the realm of therapy, since I don’t see that you mention any Phd in psychology or psychiatry. Interesting then that you should be a greater expert than the task force of the American Psychological Association. And I can’t really comprehend how a course on relationships will suddenly make you an expert on the realm of sexuality…Turns out that you don’t even need a BA for your Certified Relationship Specialist certificate. Look at the description of it from the American Psychotherapy Association website:

      “The CRS program is a one-of-a-kind certification that affords those from all walks of life the opportunity to experience the universal field of relationships. As human beings, helping others repair broken relationships is among the most rewarding experiences we may have. By simply lending a hand to a stranger or helping to resolve a conflict with a coworker, the CRS certification assists in preparing individuals with the skills to make a positive difference in their connections with others.”

      These are the things which your course covers (where again is sexuality listed?), and none really seem to make you an authority in the area:

      (Taken from http://www.americanpsychotherapy.com/certifications/crs/)

      “Coursework involves one mandatory module in counseling ethics and three additional modules of your choice from our approved CRS course catalog.
      Cultural Diversity Among Couples
      Self-Mutilating Children and Adolescents
      Extended Family Dynamics
      Community Counseling
      And many more!”

      Reeks to much like the Leuchter Report claiming that the gas chambers weren’t used for killing people.Fred Leuchter, the author of the report, claimed to be giving an expert opinion and claimed to be an engineer, when in fact he simply had a BA in history… Pseudoscience with an agenda in his case, and in yours.

      I was a frum young man and my life was a living hell. I went through reparative therapy (with a frum “therapist” telling me that the only way for me to find happiness was by marrying a woman, and calling me sick for being who Hashem made me. I suffered and contemplated suicide. I saw it as mesirus nefesh, because that way I wouldn’t be making more aveiras. By telling me that there was a cure, and that I wasn’t working hard enough or committed enough to my therapy when it wasn’t working, I was just sent to a downward spiral of ruin. I was married because of all the pressure, had children, and by being in this untenable situation ruined her life and that of my children. If I had only been strong enough to stand up for myself and ignore people ranting fabrications like yourself, they would’ve been spared all the pain. I accept full responsibility for my actions, but I just wished that you hadn’t filled my head with false hopes and pseudo-scientific knowledge. Today I embrace my sexuality, have a long-term loving partner, and enjoy an incredibly happiness that people like you told me was impossible.

      If I had only met sensitive and compassionate rabbonim like Rabbi Shafner in my frum days, my wife and children would’ve been spared all this pain and I would’ve been able to reconcile my sexuality with my avodas Hashem. I probably wouldn’t have left Orthodoxy in the way which I did. Instead of being mekarev people to yiddishkeit, people like you push us away.

      Practitioners Should Avoid Telling Clients They Can Change from Gay to Straight


      TORONTO—The American Psychological Association adopted a resolution Wednesday stating that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.

      The “Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts” also advises that parents, guardians, young people and their families avoid sexual orientation treatments that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and instead seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services “that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.”

      The approval, by APA’s governing Council of Representatives, came at APA’s annual convention, during which a task force presented a report that in part examined the efficacy of so-called “reparative therapy,” or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE).

      “Contrary to claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation,” said Judith M. Glassgold, PsyD, chair of the task force. “Scientifically rigorous older studies in this area found that sexual orientation was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose. Contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change as the research methods are inadequate to determine the effectiveness of these interventions.” Glassgold added: “At most, certain studies suggested that some individuals learned how to ignore or not act on their homosexual attractions. Yet, these studies did not indicate for whom this was possible, how long it lasted or its long-term mental health effects. Also, this result was much less likely to be true for people who started out only attracted to people of the same sex.”

      Based on this review, the task force recommended that mental health professionals avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts when providing assistance to people distressed about their own or others’ sexual orientation.

      APA appointed the six-member Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation in 2007 to review and update APA’s 1997 resolution, “Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation,” and to generate a report. APA was concerned about ongoing efforts to promote the notion that sexual orientation can be changed through psychotherapy or approaches that mischaracterize homosexuality as a mental disorder.

      The task force examined the peer-reviewed journal articles in English from 1960 to 2007, which included 83 studies. Most of the studies were conducted before 1978, and only a few had been conducted in the last 10 years. The group also reviewed the recent literature on the psychology of sexual orientation.

      “Unfortunately, much of the research in the area of sexual orientation change contains serious design flaws,” Glassgold said. “Few studies could be considered methodologically sound and none systematically evaluated potential harms.”

      As to the issue of possible harm, the task force was unable to reach any conclusion regarding the efficacy or safety of any of the recent studies of SOCE: “There are no methodologically sound studies of recent SOCE that would enable the task force to make a definitive statement about whether or not recent SOCE is safe or harmful and for whom,” according to the report.

      “Without such information, psychologists cannot predict the impact of these treatments and need to be very cautious, given that some qualitative research suggests the potential for harm,” Glassgold said. “Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome.”

      As part of its report, the task force identified that some clients seeking to change their sexual orientation may be in distress because of a conflict between their sexual orientation and religious beliefs. The task force recommended that licensed mental health care providers treating such clients help them “explore possible life paths that address the reality of their sexual orientation, reduce the stigma associated with homosexuality, respect the client’s religious beliefs, and consider possibilities for a religiously and spiritually meaningful and rewarding life.”

      “In other words,” Glassgold said, “we recommend that psychologists be completely honest about the likelihood of sexual orientation change, and that they help clients explore their assumptions and goals with respect to both religion and sexuality.”

  14. Dana Friedman says:

    Dear Rabbi Shafner:

    Thank you for having posted a thought with which some people seem to have a hard time. You suggest we be more welcoming of all Jews, and not assume we know what goes on in their bedrooms.

    Gee, Rabbi, that’s *really* controversial. Do you want to put an end to a decades-old tradition of “I cheat on my marriage, but I do it with someone of the opposite sex, so I’m better than the talmud scholar who doesn’t go on shidduch dates.”?

    I’m tellin’ ya, Rabbi: Give up now. Join the foreign legion. Your detractors are clearly right. All gay people—just like all Jews—should be painted with one brush, We have enough complications in our lives. What do we need with looking at each person individually, on their own merit?

    Jews are sneaky, money grubbing, media-controlling, and sloppy-beard wearing people—and that’s just the women! Similarly: No gay person can be a talmid chacham, because they’re too busy having all kinds of illicit relations with God-knows-who.

    You’re trying to make the Jewish community more..umm…communal. You want people to stop baselessly judging each other. We just came out of a fast day brought upon us thousands of years ago by baseless hatred. It’s tradition, Rabbi! Are you sure you want to put a stop to baseless hatred after all these millennia? It’d give so many Jews a reason to stop going to shul on Shabbos!

    You’re trying to make us stronger by showing that we come in all colors, shapes, sizes, sexual orientations, genders (Oh, let’s not even *begin* going THERE), and other variances from the supposed white skinned, black hat norm. Be careful. Someone may run you out of town for trying to show humanity, and practice compassion, and actually make the Jewish people stronger.

    Right now the Jewish Community has enough splinter groups to run industrial sandpaper ragged. You’re just doing your part to maybe heal things a little. The bigotry that stands in your way is..truly astounding, and seemingly insurmountable. So: relax, go on a cruise, take a shvitz.

    It’s not just bigotry that stands in your way either, Rabbi. Those seeking to capitalize on homophobia (supposed “conversion” groups, and aversion “therapists”), while disgracefully cloaking their agenda in the name of God, won’t stop hounding you till you take their side unconditionally. Isn’t there an obscure teaching that says religion should *never* stand in the way of business? If there isn’t, that’s okay. Those who prioritize their bank accounts, causes and egos over their people will find some rabbi’s words they can twist and turn to suit their agenda.

    Maybe there’s one thing that can save you, Rabbi. Rosh HaShana’s coming. God’s got His own ideas about who should be minding whose business. Ultimately, we’ll be judged by the one Being who really knows what’s going on. Maybe, we’ll ultimately learn that the talmid chacham from your shul who seemed like a loner and didn’t go on shidduch dates had a chavrusa who was an even greater talmid chacham. On that day my only regret will be having to sit on the other side of the mechitza during the shiur they’ll give together.

  15. The comments of Aviva Yael are unfortunately typical of those who espouse the gay affirmative line: let’s attempt to disparage the messenger rather than debate the substance of the message.

    Moreover, it is helpful to clearly understand JONAH’s message and not to misrepresent it as Dana Friedman suggests when she speaks of “conversion”. Simply and succinctly our message is that the community as a whole and in particular those whose homosexual feelings and or behavior are unwanted need to be aware that an option exists to identification as gay or lesbian, that is, that change of sexual orientation is possible and that innumerable individuals have successfully changed sexual orientation as evidenced by both personal testimonies and psychological studies over a 125 year period. If, based upon the knowledge of the available alternatives, someone chooses to identify as gay or lesbian, they certainly have the freedom to do so in today’s society.
    Arthur Goldberg, co-director, JONAH

  16. Anonymous says:

    I was somewhat dismayed (an understatement) at Mr. Arthur Goldberg’s comments on this site. It seems that Mr. Goldberg is going to great lengths to prove that change is possible (a hotly contested conclusion). I wonder, though, what Mr. Goldberg has to gain from this? I am not suggesting some crass materialism, but wonder instead what is ideologically at stake here? What is his concern? Is he fighting the Torah’s battle? Is he speaking in the name of morality? Mr. Goldberg is placing great emphasis on the “could.” I would like to hear him defend why he thinks he “should.”

  17. Akiva says:

    Dear Arthur Goldburg

    After reading your comments on Morethodoxy.org I have to admire your complete dedication to a cause that almost got me to commit suicide a couple of years ago. I am fascinated as how making a person feel that they are abnormal and have a disease (SSA – seriously could Nikalosi not have come up with a more original name LOL) could possibly cure them.

    I seriously hope that you and your organization fail miserably in every aspect and I will do EVERYTHING in my power to help people realize that you and your bed buddy Exodus (whom as you know is very religious CHRISTIAN organization) are nothing more than a sham ( I mean for Gods sakes even the founders of Exodus publicly admitted that reparative therapy is a load of Hocus Pocus).

    I feel sorry for you that you were unable to accept your sons homosexuality (weird he never joined your organization did he?) but you almost ended my life and G-d knows how many others you’ve almost destroyed with your constant bashing of gay and lesbians and your ridiculous statistics. Grow up, realize that Gays are a normal part of life and try to be a little more accepting. But of course you are not going to do that are you so I will see you on the battlefield. Me personally I care about people not their money. Just out of curiosity how much does it cost to become straight? I am sure a lot of money. I have spoken to and heard from quite a few people who spent thousands of dollars in Therapy. One does have to wonder if you and quite a few others are not tapping into a very lucrative market.

    May everything you do fail and I wish you all the worst for the future. Oh and if I sound pissed off its because I am. And please send me all the statistics you want as I know at least 5 long term monogamous gay MALE couples who somehow have made things work, and I don’t know many gay people. Isn’t it amazing how personal knowledge can throw all your beautiful little statistics out the window. After all you know what they say 70% of statistics are rubbish.

    Lots of love


    P.S. I love how as an irreligious Jew you seem to quote the Torah ad verbatim. Try keeping a few more things in it besides for not having gay sex. Then maaaaaaybe you will be a bit more believable.

  18. EY says:

    Ever since the modern ‘gay’ movement got started back in the 60’s, I’ve been puzzled about how these people manage to get so much sympathy about their struggle, real and difficult as it may be. EVERY heterosexual man has a struggle which is just as difficult of being faithful to his wife, in thought and sight as well as in action. The sexual desire is an extremely powerful one for all of us, and we all have to put in tremendous effort to control ourselves, whether the temptation is for someone else’s wife or for another man.

    I don’t know or care if Arthur Goldberg is right or wrong; all I know is that the Torah commands all of us to do things which are not necessarily easy for us and it is for our own benefit.

    Maybe I lack imagination, but I can’t see why a homosexual man couldn’t force himself to have sex with a woman for the mitzva of having children, even if he found it repulsive (of course assuming the unlikely situation where the woman was willing to go along.) There are men who have sperm removed from their testes by a painful biopsy in order to conceive; why is this worse?

    We all deserve sympathy for our struggles in life, but who can say whose are harder?

  19. Josh says:

    To EY,

    Thanks for your post. Well, thanks for the last sentence of it: “We all deserve sympathy for our struggles in life, but who can say whose are harder?”

    Maybe you should keep that in mind and reread (and rewrite) the rest of what you have written.

  20. EY says:

    No, I’m not going to rewrite it, Josh, because this was exactly my point. I knew very well that I was saying something in a coarse fashion, and the whole reason why subjects like this were traditionally not discussed in public was because it is totally impossible to say anything of significance on the issue without being in bad taste. If all people want to do is what the media has been doing for the past 30-40 years, spraying verbal perfume on something disgusting and hoping that everyone will ignore the real smell, then this forum is going to go around and around the subject without ever touching it.

    Yes, everyone has difficult struggles (actually, though, my impression from all the mussar and hashkafah sefarim I have learned is that internally, everyone’s individual struggle is exactly balanced, and therefore there is no real meaning to the question of “whose is more difficult”), but the whole idea of the Torah is that there is a right way to choose and a wrong way to choose. People have to be given as much encouragement as possible to choose the right way (which in this case is absolutely clear), and any blurring of this clarity will only weaken everyone in their own personal struggles, whatever they may be.

    • Josh says:

      To EY,

      It was not your coarse wording that I found problematic, it was your analysis. I find it difficult for you to argue for the impossibility of knowing what lies deep within someone’s being and soul while nearly simultaneously condemning.

      It is perfectly fine to have an open and honest conversation. Avoiding apologetics and sugar-coating, however, need not mean abandoning sympathy, understanding, and appreciation for experiences different than one’s own.

      I do not have a problem with the way you said your words. I have a problem with the ideas expressed therein. Your mussar sefarim may tell you that all struggles are the same. That sounds to me like a gross simplification, but I imagine that even the most simple of sefarim would not prescribe the same solutions to different challenges. To flatten all human experience and sentiment to sameness is not only incorrect, it is dangerous.

      Finally, no one is asking you become gay or to abandon everything you hold dear. The discussion here is merely to invite Orthodox Jews to pause and think. There are many instances in which we make peace with the fact that others do not observe as we do, or perhaps do not observe at all, without calling for their ouster from our midst. Let’s see if we can extend that same line of thinking to people who truly wish to belong, participate, and observe, who are held back only by a part of themselves over which they truly feel they are powerless to change.

  21. EY says:

    Josh wrote:

    It was not your coarse wording that I found problematic, it was your analysis. I find it difficult for you to argue for the impossibility of knowing what lies deep within someone’s being and soul while nearly simultaneously condemning.

    Where in my words do you see ‘condemning’? My intention, which I think I conveyed accurately, was only to say that the halacha does not change as a result of anyone’s difficulties. A man may be patur from “p’ru u’rvu”, but there is no circumstance as far as I know which permits even the most ‘minor’ sort of “gay intimacy” as R. Shafner so delicately refers to it.

    You say “The discussion here is merely to invite Orthodox Jews to pause and think.” I see much more than that in R. Shafner’s original article. I see suggestions of celebrating and encouraging acts which are clearly forbidden according to halacha. I prescribed no ‘solutions’, certainly not the same ones to different challenges. I only tried, evidently unsuccessfully in your case, to open people’s minds to the way they have been manipulated by the ‘gay’ lobby.

    As I said before, it is very hard to have a discussion of sex without discussing sex, but I will ask you to consider the question, “How should a heterosexual man feel when frustrated during his wife’s Niddah period with the fact that he cannot even give her a little hug or kiss when he knows that his ‘gay’ neighbors engage in all sorts of ‘intimacy’ which is no less assur? This is not a theoretical question. Either we take halacha seriously or we don’t, and refraining from condemning failures of others (or even ourselves) is very different from turning those failures into something to celebrate.

  22. EY says:


    I will just add that neither I nor anyone else who commented here suggested “ousting” anyone from our midst. The very fact that you read so many things into my words that were neither said nor implied makes it fairly clear that you have an imaginary straw man which you are knocking down, and that you are hardly paying any attention to the actual words to which you are supposedly replying.

    • Josh says:


      You are very much correct: no one here has been talking about ousting people from the community. I think I was considering a broader discourse that often leaves gay men and women feeling like they have no choice but to leave the communities they once belonged to (it may sound like a straw man, but I think it has real consequences for some peoples’ lives). That was not the question here, but I do think it looms at the margins of most discussions about Orthodoxy and homosexuality, and is worth considering in the equation.

  23. Josh says:


    Thank you for your clarification. It is true, you did not advocate any sort of ouster of people from the community. My apologies for reading that into your words.

    Since your intention was not to condemn, this raises an interesting point: how might we find a space in between condemnation and celebration? What sort of non-condemnation would be acceptable to you?

    (To be honest, I do think the way you refer in your post to “these people” and the way you wonder at what would be so difficult in marrying a woman does ring of condemnation– as does your characterization of “a right way to choose and a wrong way to choose,” since I thought that the valuation of something as wrong was a form of condemnation– but if you claim otherwise, I have no choice but to believe you.)

    To respond to your “how should a heterosexual man feel?” question: First, I think we should adopt your suggestion above and not see all situations as comparable. Life, and sex, is not a competition. I don’t think any straight or gay person thinks about their own sex life and then says: “it is not fair that this neighbor is having sex when I am not.” (Though I am sure I could be wrong about that.)

    More importantly though, I think there is a fundamental difference between the recesses of a Niddah period and the absolute prohibition of gay intimacy. To not be able to get it right now is not the same as never knowing full human companionship and love. Having to wait sucks, but with Niddah there is an end. Two weeks are rough, never is rougher.

    Would you be more comfortable if gay relationships were conducted without anal sex? If we stuck to a literal rabbinic interpretation of the Torah’s psukim, would you invite gay couples into your world?

    If, hypothetically, the suggestion to do as the Torah makes clear does not find complete adherence, do you have a suggestion as to how Orthodox communities might relate to gay men and women in their midst? Would that be different than how the community ought to relate to violators of Niddah?

  24. Concerning the APA report—which was developed by six gay identified individuals from Div 44, the gay and lesbian section, the following is the statement issued by JONAH in response to it.

    In no way is the report an unbiased one.


    Political correctness reigns supreme in an unbalanced, scientifically flawed document that was prepared by six gay-identified therapists (all appointed as members of the six member “Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation”) and approved by The American Psychological Association (APA). There was never any pretense of balance as to the make-up of the committee’s membership. The gay and lesbian caucus of the APA, originators of the study, consistently rejected for committee membership any number of qualified therapists either with neutral views or actual practitioners of therapies designed to assist sexual reorientation change.

    The APA study also chose to totally ignore NARTH’s landscape review of over 600 studies (as compared to the APA’s citations of less than 100 selectively chosen studies.) The more detailed and definitive study was recently released by NARTH (National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.) After providing a comprehensive review of the peer-reviewed literature that examined the ability of individuals with unwanted homosexuality to change, NARTH’s Scientific Advisory Committee (the authors of the NARTH study) concluded that those with unwanted homosexual feelings or behavior can indeed change their sexual orientation, disputed the contention that change therapies are harmful, (even the APA report had to concede “there is no clear evidence of harm”) and stated their concern that homosexuals are at greater risk for medical, psychological, and relationship pathology than are members of the general population.

    Interestingly, at the same convention where the resolution prepared by the gay-identified therapists was accepted, a symposium show-cased findings from a six year study (by Drs. Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse) of people who went through a Christian reorientation program. That study showed that a significant number of the subjects studied either successfully converted to full heterosexuality or dis-identified with their homosexuality and embraced chastity.

    The secular bias in the report against religious values is evident. The report suggests that psychologists may counsel those with religious belief systems that object to homosexuality to explore alternative life paths that address the reality of their sexual orientation; in other words, suggest an alternative religion or life style that affirms their gayness. They do concede however that if the client still believes that affirming his same-sex attractions is sinful or destructive of his faith, psychologists may then help him construct an identity that rejects the power of those attractions; however, this course of action is only appropriate, according to the APA, after the counselor provides a blatant misrepresentation: that no evidence exists showing that therapy can change sexual orientations. The psychologists are also advised to promote the happiness allegedly attainable from identifying as a gay or lesbian.

    A principal rationale constantly referenced in the APA report was that the peer reviewed studies showing change of sexual orientation were insufficiently rigorous in their scientific approach. We must note that under this standard most therapies, particularly Gay Affirmative Therapy, have not been subjected to such a rigorous standard. Moreover, it should be recognized that no genetic or hormonal tests exist that distinguish gays from straights. Of relevance here are the three identical twin studies containing over 10,000 sets of twins showing that less than 10% of identical twins are concordant for homosexuality.

    The basic problem with the report is explained by the recently released book Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change, which recently entered its second printing, (see http://www.redheiferpress.com) “Men and women struggling with same-sex attractions are commonly being denied the right to receive life-giving information about the existence and effectiveness of various gender-affirming methods and therapies; the right to seek treatment for sexual disorientation and the right freely to choose to change their sexual orientation. Such interference with fundamental rights offends the dignity and humanity of these men and women. … Such attitudes are not merely wrong. They are contemptible, immoral, irresponsible, and potentially lethal.”

    Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Silodor Berk, Co-directors, JONAH

  25. Anonymous says:

    A simple question of clarification to Mr. Goldberg:

    You have asserted strongly that “the secular bias in the report against religious values is evident.” What would you say to someone who values his religious lifestyle, but also acknowledges and accepts his gay attractions and search for same-sex companionship?

    Am I a self-hating Jew?
    Am I morally flawed?
    Am I a puppet of some interest group or another?
    Is there a place for me in synagogue and community, or can your group help to make sure that my reality will continue to be viewed as aberrant, deviant, and dangerous?

    Do tell. Please.

  26. Sam says:

    Oy. For those who decide to grow out of homsexuality – it is a very personal decision. It is not for everyone. As one can read above – for some, it is soul crushing & dangerous. It is not for them. One needs to feel deeply it is for them. and then they can keep going.

    For those who choose not to take this journey – I understand, I sympathize. I am one who chose the journey – but I can totally understand why you would find it doesn’t work for you.

    I think JONAH offers amazing help to people. My only complaint is they are too ideological. Let go a bit….those who benefit from JONAH (and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of such people) are your best statistic. Stop fighting so much & arguing so much.

  27. Dear Anonymous,

    It continually amazes me how people such as yourself continue to misrepresent what we say and ask self-serving questions. In fact, your questions show a lack of understanding of what we are about. Simply stated our position is, “if you are happy being gay, gay gezunde haight” (go in good health) pun intended. In this society, one has the freedom to determine their own life choices. On the other hand, if you have a value incongruity or for whatever reason are unhappy with your feelings, attractions, or behavior, we offer programs that can be of assistance. Check out our website http://www.jonahweb.org or contact us at info@jonahweb.org.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Goldberg,

    Subtle put-down notwithstanding (you don’t know me, so I am equally “amazed” at your ability to identify
    “people such as me,” and I appreciate when the kettle calls me “self-serving”), thank you for your clarification. It is good to hear that Jonah has no ill will towards gay people.

    At the same time, you deftly avoided responded to the questions by labeling them as self-serving. Does the position “if you are happy being gay, gay gezunde haight,” mean that your organization would agree with Rabbi Shafner’s call for inclusion, understanding, and sympathy? Or do your statistics above suggest that you do see a form of moral and social deviance in the behavior of the homosexual?

    My questions may have been self serving, but perhaps no more than any other post here, or statements that your organization has been made, either. Perhaps we can just agree that we are espousing different vantage points, and those points of view are deeply bound up with systems that are exclusively reinforcing. That does not prevent me from at least trying to understand your point of view by asking questions about it, even if only to disagree with it more vehemently.

    That being said, it is hard for me to understanding why your earlier contributions take issue with Rabbi Shafner’s proposed position of sympathy and inclusion for men and women who are gay who still wish to be a part of the Orthodox community. Why does his relatively benign posting merit your response that argues that he includes fundamental flaws? What is at stake here? What problems do you foresee with Rabbi Shafner’s proposal for the future of Orthodox communities?

  29. Yaakov says:

    Mr. Goldberg,

    I appreciate that you can cite 600 papers supporting the possibility of changing sexual orientation. This gives us important insight into historical results.

    Many of us long for future results, so the relevant issue for those is not how many papers support the possibility of this change but the immediate and practical question: What is the likelihood that a person’s involvement with JONAH will lead to a long-term successful outcome.

    Certainly, you must have those statistics. I’d appreciate if you would share what criteria JONAH uses to determine successful outcome, what percentage of the people JONAH has worked with have had successful outcomes, how long these outcomes have persisted, how many married, how many are celibate, how many are living happy (or at least non-tortured) lives, and whether or not there are substantial risks — for example whether over time what percentage of JONAH participants developed detrimental effects from the treatment including suicidal ideation.

    Such direct statistics for a course of action offering such hope would go a long way to helping a great many people choose a positive course of action.


  30. Arthur Goldberg says:


    Thank you for your inquiry. Based upon the reports of our clients, a high percentage report successful outcomes. Successful outcomes principally involve elimination or significant diminishment of same-sex attractions and in many cases may include marriage for those who were single and stronger marriages for those already married. While we do not have a definitive longitudinal study at the present time, we are working with researchers to have one that is sufficiently long term to be meaningful. Studies, however, done by others with different population bases indicate a high rate of success without any significant relapses to old patterns.
    When you ask about detrimental effects including suicidal ideation, the very question is in itself a red herring. Those familiar with the literature of the field understand that the truth is that suicide rates are far more significant within the gay identified world and are deminimus in the recovery world.
    The best way for someone to determine whether they wish to proceed forward with a program of change is to do their homework and talk to individuals who have successfully gone through the process of transformation or at least read the testimonials of those who have done so.

  31. michael says:

    i think all the gay people in here are way too sensitive and moody

  32. Gay Hot Chani says:

    I think all the straight people in here are way too homophobic, sensitive and moody.

  33. […] GLBT Jews but for intermarried familes and others as well. I’ll let the Rabbi describe this in his own words: I am not suggesting we change the Torah or Jewish law, rather I am pointing out ways we can view […]

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