Gay and Jewish in Brooklyn


by Amanda Julius

Benjy Unger remembers sitting cross-legged on his therapist’s floor, waiting to be tapped on the head. Dressed in traditional Orthodox Jewish regalia, “the whole garb,” the 25 year-old was playing duck, duck, goose.

The children’s game is one of several tactics used by Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, or JONAH, to turn gay Jews straight. The idea is to return men to a childlike state, in order to rewire their sexuality. The organization, based in Jersey City, attracts men like Unger, who is from Borough Park, with the goal of treating homosexuality as a kind of disease, in order that they might have a heterosexual marriage.  In the Orthodox communities of Brooklyn, many gay Jews feel pressured to change, and they provide a substantial chunk of business for these types of programs. JONAH is one of many, though it claims to be the only organization specifically tailored to this gay Jewish audience.

Photo courtesy of the AP

Photo courtesy of the AP

According to the American Psychological Association, there is no evidence that reparative therapy, as this type of conversion technique is known, is successful. Last fall, Dr. Judith Glassgold chaired an investigation on its behalf into reparative therapy and concluded that, “there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.” Yet JONAH remains an attractive option for many young Jewish men in Brooklyn. The organization declined to comment.

“If you are Orthodox you have a choice: you are either Orthodox or gay. You have to choose, you can’t be both” Unger said. “You grow up hearing it’s a sickness, and one day you realize, ‘Oh my God, I have this’,” he explained.

Though there are those who accept his sexuality, his community as a whole holds a negative perception of homosexuality. At one extreme, the lack of acceptance of homosexuality within ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities is clear in the statements made by Rabbi Yehuda Levin, a Flatbush rabbi and a spokesman for the Rabbinical Alliance of America. In a Youtube video he blames the earthquake in Haiti on homosexuality.

Unger was raised in a highly Orthodox family, and attended conservative yeshivas as he was growing up. He was eventually expelled from a Brooklyn yeshiva when his sexuality became known. Even his friends were unsure how to react. “People went crazy when I said I was gay. I was getting calls about it, nobody believed me,” he said. “It’s a really misunderstood issue in Brooklyn.”

He came out to his family last year and, while they were supportive, they paid for him to attend therapy sessions at JONAH. The therapy, he says, was his own idea. Twice a week for the next year, Unger traveled to Jersey City, paying a weekly total of $160 for one private and one group session with around 10 to 12 other men. “After a year, we’re talking thousands of dollars,” he said. And, he says, he did not reap any benefits, instead finding the experience damaging. “I’m in therapy because of it now,” Unger said. “I’m actually in reparative therapy for my reparative therapy.”

“When I heard of JONAH, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s amazing!’ They have many members because we are desperate to change, because we have no option. But it can be very destructive,” he continued.

Unger’s friends were predominantly supportive throughout this period, he says, though he remains the only gay person they know. “There’s so little education about this in the Orthodox community that some people actually did not believe it was physically possible to be Orthodox and gay. It’s impossible to be accepted into the community and be gay. Impossible. It doesn’t exist.” According to Unger, JONAH has one member who has been attending therapy for 15 years.

Much of his therapy at JONAH focused on the idea of masculinity, Unger said. He was told the reason he was gay was that he was too close to his mother, and that his relationship with his father was not strong enough. As a result he distanced himself from his mother, a course of action he regrets.

JONAH claims many success stories and its website is filled with testimonials from men for whom their therapy has apparently worked, but Unger believes this success is defined predominantly through abstinence, rather than a holistic change. The organization has created its own lingo for discussing what in religious Judaism is frequently considered unspeakable: homosexuality is “same sex attraction,” or SSA. The website offers the knowledge of how to “journey out of homosexuality.” Gay men are repackaged as those who “are involved in homosexuality” or “embrace the false identities of homosexuality.”

Shloimy, 22, who requested his last name be removed from this story after he received threats, attended JONAH for 8 months before leaving the organization in January.  Originally from the West Coast, where he was raised Orthodox, the family relocated to Crown Heights a year ago. He came out to most of his family—several of his siblings still do not know he is gay, but he is planning to come out to them at the upcoming Passover festival—when he was 20. “They basically pushed me back in the closet,” he said. “The closet was named JONAH.”

“JONAH has done a lot of good, because it’s therapy and it can be helpful, but it’s done a lot of bad too,” he said, adding that he found several of the therapy sessions he attended useful in a general sense.

In the Torah, the holy book on which these beliefs are predicated, certain homosexual acts such as anal sex are categorized as sins, but homosexuality itself is not explicitly condemned in halacha, Jewish law. According to its website, JONAH bases its therapy on the idea that homosexuality is a type of conduct rather than an identity, another belief at odds with the American Psychological Association.

Like Unger, Shloimy experienced the same focus on masculinity at JONAH. This bothered him. “I’m masculine, I’m a guy. I like sports,” he said. “I was on the basketball team, I played soccer.” He recalls an experience he had at work recently, when his shoe squeaked on a plastic floor. The sound took him back to a weekend retreat he had participated in with an organization similar to JONAH, People Can Change.

“We were all blindfolded and the therapists bounced basketballs and yelled ‘pussy’ and ‘faggot’ at us, trying to bring us back to being the loser in gym, and the experiences we had. I never had that. I was always one of the guys,” he said.

He remembers a therapy session at JONAH where he was asked to strip in his therapist’s office, and then given a massage. “I’m lying down with a blanket covering my bottom, getting a massage, and he asked me to put my hand on the masseuse’s thigh,” he said. At other times, he was asked to hug other men for long periods of time, allegedly to accustom him to feeling like a heterosexual man would in that situation. These therapies are based on the research of psychologist Dr. Elan Karten, who argues that sexuality is changeable. Shloimy no longer thinks so.

“Occasionally I’d feel attracted to a girl and I’d be like, ‘Oh my God, it’s changing!’ But, fundamentally, you can’t change who you are,” he said. “Sexuality is a piece of the pizza pie but its one of a lot of things.”

Chaim, who did not want his last name used in this article, is a 21 year-old Crown Heights-based Lubavitch Jew who was also sent to the same organization by his parents. He was told that if he could not change it was for want of effort on his part. He left a yeshiva when it was discovered that was gay, but no other yeshiva he applied to would accept him. “They’d heard about me,” he said. He is now enrolled on a nursing course at Kingsborough College.

“My friends took a little time to come around and it wasn’t easy for my family- my mother still thinks I’m going to wake up one day and be over this,” he said. “We’re given a dream, it’s sort of like a manual: get married and have children. To let go of that is very scary.”

Chaim stresses that he can’t make a judgment about JONAH except to explain how it affected him. But he describes finding changing his sexuality to be impossible. He dated women but found that it “didn’t work.” Chaim has spoken with some rabbis who have been sympathetic, but they seem to have no solution mapped out for him, no template for how someone in his position is supposed to live their life.

“They tell me what I am doing is ‘wrong,’ but they don’t know how it can be made ‘right’ without leading a life of celibacy,” he said.

For Chaim, the Jewish gay community is a separate, although small, family within his religious world. Having been involved with organizations for frum or formerly frum Jewish youth, like himself, he also believes that acceptance is starting to grow, and that the community as a whole is starting to open up.  In particular his involvement with JQ Youth, which was founded by two Flatbush Jews, offers him a place where he is completely accepted. The group exists publicly only on the Internet, and allows its members to remain anonymous, although it holds monthly meetings in the New York area. In spite of this, “many of our members are somewhat in the closet,” its website states.

In December, the Yeshiva University Tolerance Club held a panel called Being Gay in the Orthodox World, which was moderated by Rabbi Yosef Blau, which gave him further hope. “That was a big deal,” he explained excitedly, “but it didn’t register everywhere. People in my community ignored it.”

“Attitudes still need to change,” he said. “An acquaintance of mine from JONAH recently got married. A lot of rabbis believe if you get married, you will get better. It’s not true. Marriage is not a hospital.”

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50 Responses to “Gay and Jewish in Brooklyn”

  1. Raanan Geberer
    March 31, 2010 at 3:10 PM #

    The “black-hat” ultra-Orthodox community should realize that if they rigidly segergate men from women from birth — so that they never attend the same school together, never sit together in the synagogue, and never attend the same summer camp together, and men are even forbidden from hearing women’s voices singing — that under these circumstances, is it any wonder that there is a lot of same-sex activity?

  2. CJ
    March 31, 2010 at 9:45 PM #

    @Raana: Your comment seems to imply that you agree with JONAH’s assertion that ones sexuality is the result of his (or her) experiences. The next step in your argument would be to say: maybe if we thrust these young men into mixed crowds they would change. Or if we would have sent send them to mixed schools they wouldn’t turn out this way.

    I understand how tempting it is to jump on the “black hat” world, but you’ve in essense agreed with them. Your attack has backfired.

  3. Michael
    April 1, 2010 at 8:00 AM #

    The biggest problem as Raanan said, is that the Chasidic community segregates men from women from an extremely early age, and when the hormones kick in on either side, the only way to work through it is with the same sex. When that happens, the Chasids refuse to blame themselves for what they created.

    In Los Angeles, there was/is a Jewish version of PFLAG called Response through Valley Beth Shalom in Encino. Several of the people it helped had grown up ultra-Orthodox and confirmed this. As a matter of fact, the ultra-Orthodox community had sent feelers out to Response to see if there was an explanation as to why this was happening. I don’t know if it was acted upon.

    Oh, and CJ, I’d say JONAH doesn’t work. It’s like Exodus International but for Jews. It ruins more lives than it helps.

    I’m not Orthodox, but I’m a gay Jew. Response helped me accept both aspects of myself and helped me come out to my family.

  4. Jonathan
    April 1, 2010 at 10:57 AM #

    This is an amazing case study on three participants who attended JONAH, but that is all it is. And many people will take these three individuals word as ultimate truth about JONAH. But what about the many more participants of JONAH who would say the therapy does work for them and that they have experienced profound and significant change?
    The problem with getting such people to interview for these articles is that these individuals want to move on from being associated with homosexuality. Therefore, they won’t readily come and speak in public out of fear of being labeled with something they want to move away from. But these people exist. Jews have walked through JONAH, experienced change, have married and built beautiful families. So I ask, is it fair for these three individuals to outweigh and undermine these profound success stories?
    But that takes me back to the original problem, hearing about these successful Jews would also just be another “case study.”
    Therefore I encourage people of this article to actually understand the therapy that is done at JONAH. Understand that the way it is portrayed at articles like these twists what really happens to fit the overall goal of the article, which is to usually de-legitimatize the therapy. Understand that even politically correct organizations like the APA won’t even portray the therapy correctly because in their research they look back at the ridiculous therapy that was done in the 1950’s that only involved useless shock methods and pray it away suppression type procedures. Basically, know the facts and truth about the therapy before readily believing the word of individuals who it did not (or did) work for.

  5. Jonathan
    April 1, 2010 at 11:34 AM #

    I typoed in my above post when I said, “Therefore I encourage people of this article to actually understand the therapy that is done at JONAH.”

    I meant to say “Therefore, I encourage people who read this article to actually understand the therapy that is done at JONAH.”

  6. Frum Lesbians Exist, Too
    April 1, 2010 at 6:06 PM #

    Good article. Jonah has not offered useful “alternatives” for any of the people I know who’ve tried their program. I doubt they have much success.

    In case there are any lesbian or bisexual or questioning Orthodox women reading this and wondering if there are others like them, I’d encourage them to check out, the blog of a group for gay/bi/questioning religious Jewish women that has events in the NYC area, an international e-mail discussion list, etc.

  7. Benjyunger
    April 1, 2010 at 6:55 PM #

    To jonothan:
    the funny thing is there can never be a debate because ppl from Jonah never do debate. I’m not saying that Jonah doesn’t do good to some ppl but the entire basis of is a lie. They say they change ppl from gay to straight. This is untrue. Even my therapist told me at the end that we never turn straight, it’s just a matter of working to bring the attraction down. Even my therapist at Jonah told me he still is attracted to men. I have no problem with therapy that works on ones issues but it should be based on a lie that brings in desperate ppl who see no other way, like myself. And the APA does not base it’s view on therapies 50 years ago, it constantly looks at data till this day and still doesn’t view reperative therapy as valid and still says it’s harmful. All this should be told to ppl who want to go into Jonah and if they still want to pursue It then great. But it shouldn’t be based on a lie. I can show you dozens of ppl who went through reperative therapy for years and it did nothing but harm. I have yet to see one person who has truly become straight thru it.

  8. Jonathan
    April 1, 2010 at 9:21 PM #

    In response to Benjy-
    Here’s the way I see it:
    The idea is that reparative therapy is not a cure or (in my opinion) even a complete “change.” Rather, it simply provides the tools to manage it (diminish the SSA and increase the OSA) enough for some men (if they’re sufficiently motivated and willing to stay the course) so that they’re provided the option to potentially live a life more in conformity with their religious or moral values. And such has been the case for many men in JONAH. They do the work, and they acquire the tools to live the way they choose, rather than be bound by one type of attraction. JONAH’s mission statement afterall says “Through psychological and spiritual counseling, peer support, and self-empowerment, JONAH seeks to reunify families, to heal the wounds surrounding homosexuality, and to provide hope.” Where is this “lie” from JONAH saying they will make you completely “straight?” And what is “straight” “homosexual” or “bi” anyways? Is it so true that sexuality is so black and white in the first place? Or doesn’t it seem more fluid and based off not only physical/sexual stimulation’s, but feelings and emotions as well? Sexuality itself is never as simple as we like to make it out to be.

    The JQY set on the other hand, say that it’s not about working on ourselves but rather, working to change the mainstream Orthodox world simply to become more accepting and tolerant of those who have decided that they have no choice but to live a gay lifestyle. And as for the APA, they couldn’t analyze this objectively even if they wanted to, because the question has become a civil rights issue rather than a scientific one.

  9. Benjyunger
    April 1, 2010 at 9:53 PM #

    Arthur Goldberg the head of Jonah says all the time the goal is to change from gay to straight. Richard Cohen says the same. This is a blatant lie. And you’re right sexuality Is very broad. Some ppl are gay (natural attraction is to same gender) some are straight, some are bi, some are bi curious etc. Everyone agrees it’s a broad spectrum. But gay is part of it. All scientific data prooves that homosexuality is quote natural and is found in many species of animals. And for the record the whole “gay gene” argument is ridiculous. Who says something had to be genetic in order to be ingrained in a person or part of the biology of the person. Personality isn’t genetic but to change it is ridiculous.
    There are also many other lies that the reperative therapy movement teaches. It tells us that bring gay means you will live a miserable and destructive life. They say that homosexuality is a direct link to pedophile. And so on. All this is against scientific data and is just to move their agenda. To say the APA is only about agenda is strictly you and reperative therapy promoting YOUR agenda.
    And your view of jqy is quite distorted. It isn’t saying that frum ppl should accept gay lifestyles. It is for Jewish gay ppl to support each other and to try to let the frum world know that there are gay Jews and we should be discussed. To say that all gay groups have an agenda is another lie put forth by the reperative therapy movement

  10. Benjyunger
    April 1, 2010 at 10:03 PM #

    Watch this video everyone. It is powerful

  11. Chaim
    April 1, 2010 at 10:14 PM #


    No one here said that these ‘results’ of these individuals including myself are conclusive. Furthermore, if you look at what was quoted in this article by myself, my words were very specific into not saying that JONAH is defective and doesn’t work. My point was clear that it did NOT work for me; and I’m entitled to that.

    I have more than enough evidence that on more than one occasion lies have been spread on Jonah’s list serve by their co-directors about the Gay Community and the Gay Jewish community as well. These lives only contribute to the fear that myself and others have felt at a certain point during our ‘healing’ of our homosexuality. I don’t understand how people that spread such open hatred and fallacies have the right and ability to run a group that involves such sensitive therapies.
    Furthermore, as students who are studying psychology you and I both know that in order to effectively treat patients from any disorder one must be licensed by the APA. As far as we know until this day, none of JONAH’S counselors are licensed, in fact the person that they base their philosophies on has been discredited by the American Psychological Association as well as the American Sociological Association; Richard Cohen.
    And to top it off, Arthur Goldberg himself was convicted of a fraud that involved conspiracy against a large group of people and spent 18 months in prison for this and was disbarred from the National Bar Association. He changed his middle name so that people wouldn’t recognize who he was, until he was exposed a few months ago. Now I ask you, do you think its right for someone like him to run a group that caters to the frum community?
    That’s for starters. I’m glad we can have an open discussion about this; I hope I can hear some of your input on all this.

  12. Jonathan
    April 1, 2010 at 10:34 PM #

    I do very well know that JQY lends valuable support to individuals and I think that is great. But I’d be shocked if when push comes to shove, they would not admit that they’d like the Orthodox world to become more tolerant and accepting to living a gay lifestyle.
    Please show me scientific evidence that gay is completely natural besides the fact animals do it. Do you know animals will have sex with just about anything, including a dead corpse of their animal species? So should that be natural too? To compare the behavior of animals to humans is just ludicrous to me. And if you’d like to cling to the APA for everything, lets take a look at what they say regarding homosexuality being natural:
    “Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, and cultural influence on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles…”
    American Psychological Association. (2008). Answers to your questions: For a better understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality. Washington, DC: Author. [Retrieved from
    I’m sorry but it’s just not so clear cut to say it’s natural, even if genes are not the only thing involved.
    You say that change is ridiculous. It may be ridiculous for you, but I encourage you to speak for yourself. There are many other individuals that can say just the opposite. How is it ridiculous for them?
    And I honestly don’t care what Arthur Goldberg, Richard Cohen, or other single individuals say. I care about what the therapy says, the ideology, how it works. And never has that made the claim that you can just “bam” change from gay to straight, whatever that means.
    This same ideology of therapy does not go around saying gays live miserable lives either. That is for the individuals who choose to get involved in the politics of the matter, and who choose to go around telling people how to live and what to do, all things which I have purposely stayed away from and could really care less about. I’m fine with people choosing to live the way the want, but when it comes to bashing the therapy and ridiculing it just because it did not work for you, that is what I choose to defend.

  13. Chaim Levin
    April 1, 2010 at 10:42 PM #


    No one here said that these ‘results’ of these individuals including myself are conclusive. Furthermore, if you look at what was quoted in this article by myself, my words were very specific into not saying that JONAH is defective and doesn’t work. My point was clear that it did NOT work for me; and I’m entitled to that.

    I have more than enough evidence that on more than one occasion lies have been spread on Jonah’s list serve by their co-directors about the Gay Community and the Gay Jewish community as well. These lives only contribute to the fear that myself and others have felt at a certain point during our ‘healing’ of our homosexuality. I don’t understand how people that spread such open hatred and fallacies have the right and ability to run a group that involves such sensitive therapies.
    Furthermore, as students who are studying psychology you and I both know that in order to effectively treat patients from any disorder one must be licensed by the APA. As far as we know until this day, none of JONAH’S counselors are licensed, in fact the person that they base their philosophies on has been discredited by the American Psychological Association as well as the American Sociological Association; Richard Cohen.
    And to top it off, Arthur Goldberg himself was convicted of a fraud that involved conspiracy against a large group of people and spent 18 months in prison for this and was disbarred from the National Bar Association. He changed his middle name so that people wouldn’t recognize who he was, until he was exposed a few months ago. Now I ask you, do you think its right for someone like him to run a group that caters to the frum community?
    That’s for starters. I’m glad we can have an open discussion about this; I hope I can hear some of your input on all this.

  14. Jonathan
    April 1, 2010 at 11:13 PM #

    And regarding the youtube video you posted: it really is like grasping for straws to use religious Christian past ex-gay leaders as fodder for this discussion. Organizations like Exodus, which these people came from, advocate praying the gay away, and other ridiculous suppression methods to heal, all things which have nothing to do with therapy that we are talking about here. JONAH never has Jews pray their gay away like these Christians leaders had their followers doing. In fact, that idea itself is condemned in JONAH.

  15. Benjyunger
    April 2, 2010 at 12:05 AM #

    I think it is you grasping for straws jonothan. To bring the language of the APA to defend your point doesn’t help your argument. If you look in detail at what the APA says and read what leading CERTFIED mental health professionals say, it is clear that they condemn reperative therapy as harmful and even unethical.
    And you can’t just disregard what Arthur Goldberg and Richard Cohen say since they are the leaders of the reperative therapy movement which I am against. If you found your own private magical cure for being gay then wonderful. I am talking about the therapy that THEY promote.
    As far as exodus, you are wrong about them. They use the same components of reperative therapy while also bringing god into it. And Jonah does the same with all the “higher power” talk.
    And regarding animals, we absolutely can use animals as proof. We do it all the time. Almost all scientific data is proven through experimentation with animals so there is a big connection. We are mammals like them.
    And once again you are making assumptions about jqy even though you were never involved in it. There is no agenda for frum ppl to accept gay sex. It’s just for support and to have acceptance of gay people, not the action. I was in Jonah and jqy and Jonah pushed an agenda way more than jqy and is way more biased and polarizing. It’s not good to make am argument based on assumptions

  16. Miriam
    April 2, 2010 at 12:05 AM #

    Programs like Jonah are probably most effective with people who are bisexual to begin with, or gay men who can be convinced to lead a life of celibacy. It is probably healthier for some young men raised in an Orthodox environment to make this compromise, if they can, than to risk cutting themselves off from their families, communities, and religious support systems in order to live openly gay lives. What worries me, besides the abuse that seems to be an integral part of the “therapy”, is that these men are being encouraged, probably pressured, to get married as soon as possible, and probably to young women who are told nothing about the role they are to play in “rehabilitating” these young men. Unsuspecting women, their families, and their future children are actually being recruited to take part in an experiment which may occasionally work, but probably more often will end in heartbreak for all involved.

  17. Jonathan
    April 2, 2010 at 12:29 AM #


    You are indeed entitled to your opinion and have a right to speak for yourself and your experiences. But the purpose of articles like these and usually of the interviewee’s is to de-legitimatize the therapy as a whole. I am here to defend the therapy and to encourage people to understand it for what it is, not based off various people’s experiences or based of single individuals. I am also here to bring up the important point that many people have experienced the exact opposite of what you and those interviewed have experienced, something which I think is very important to do.

    Understanding all of that, I think the answer to the rest of your statements is pretty self-explanatory. Yes, people within JONAH listserv’s and other individuals may have spoken wrongly, and said various wrong things about those who live gay, and what not. But I am not here to defend these statements or stand behind them. I am only here to defend a therapy method which has definitely worked for many people. I could care less about the people who have stood behind these therapies. Why should it bother me that Richard Cohen has said some pretty stupid things at times? Why should I readily bow down to the APA, which is an organization that appointed gay therapists in the first place to do their current research on reparative therapy and homosexuality? The APA is an organization which I mentioned before is invested in civil rights and political correctness. And I am perfectly fine with that, but I am not going to think through their lenses. It’s the content of the therapy that counts, not individual opinions. And the therapy works for many and continues to do so.

    And do you really fully know and understand what even happened with Arthur Goldberg’s fraud issues that occurred many years before he started JONAH? Do you know what he did? Do you know how much involvement he truly had in the whole thing? You probably don’t, but it doesn’t matter because it really is good material to try and use against JONAH. So why care about the actual facts of the case if it can be used to bolster an opinion.
    That is not how I jive. I do know the details of the case and have known about the whole thing for a while already. And one thing has clearly nothing to do with the other. Arthur Abba Goldberg’s actions in the fraud case, once you fully understand what happened, are laughable to use against his efforts in JONAH. But even more importantly, back to what I said before, I don’t really care what he did. He is one person, and he does not match up to the value and power of the therapy that has shown to work for many.

    No individual or individuals will ever match up to the fact that there hundreds and hundreds of people alive today who have shaped their lives the way they wanted and have gone onto build families and achieve fulfillment in life thanks to reparative therapy.

  18. Jonathan
    April 2, 2010 at 12:49 AM #


    Amazing, so JQY really does not care about the Orthodox Jewish community accepting homosexual actions. I am impressed and I am glad that their only goal is to offer support without agenda’s. But what I would like to understand better then, is once JQY succeeds in having the frum community accept that gay Orthodox Jews exist (something I would also really love to see happen) then what? Once JQY achieves this really valuable goal, what is the next step? Is there one?

    Moving on…Of course the APA thinks reparative therapy is crazy! I never doubted that for a second. Especially when they appointed 10 gay therapists to do research about it. My only point there was to show that even the APA can not conclusively say that SSA is natural, something you are really trying hard to say.
    And of course we study animals all the time to understand how humans work. But we rarely do this to study the complexities of human behavior, thought and emotion–something which we are light years more advanced than animals. This really goes without saying but I’ll say it anyways. We study mammals and animals mainly to understand physical conditions, like diseases and what not. But to think that our human sexuality, the topic of discussion here, really works like animals is something I honestly don’t get how you’re comfortable saying and feeling that you make sense.

    I never completely disregarded the things that Arthur Goldberg and Richard Cohen say. Both of them have shed light onto some really effective reparative therapy techniques. But they have also said and done some really wrong and stupid things. It is that which I disregard, because as far as I am concerned, the therapy works for many, and that is all that matters.

    The “higher power” talk is nothing close to what many of the Exodus leaders used to say, which basically was “accept the lord as your savior, and he will take away your gay.” You just can’t equate that to what the reparative therapy means when it discusses surrendering to a higher power once you truly understand that. Something in fact which is highly promoted in 12-step programs and therapies in general.

  19. Benjyunger
    April 2, 2010 at 6:54 AM #

    I’m not sure what you are trying to prove regarding jqy. Yes, if the frum community accepts that there are gay people in it then that would be a HUGE success. Then we could actually have a discussion about the issue in the community. Your notion of “then what” is silly. Maybe we shouldn’t talk about any issue ever because we don’t know what will happen once it’s discussed. I don’t get it.
    And there’s something you said that really somewhat showed what Jonah is. You basically said that you don’t think the frum community will ever accept there are gays in it so what’s the point. That is the underlying problem with Jonah. Frum people get so caught up that there is no way to be gay and try to be frum that they have no choice but to try reperative therapy. And Jonah gobbles up desperate ppl who will believe anything when they have no where to turn, as was my situation. That is why I agreed to this interview, to try to open the door for frum gays like me (and I’m assuming you) to have somewhere to turn other than a discredited and harmful therapy.
    And you seem to say that since the APA hasn’t yet found a gay gene shows that it’s definitely not natural. There are many studies that show that homosexuality is quite natural. They did a study on gay peoples brains after death and compared it to straight people and they found the gay brain was quite different and it even resembled more of a females brain than a males. And there are more studies. But to say it’s not natural because the APA hasn’t officially found something doesn’t hold.
    And to your last point, you mention how Jonah has worked for many people. Who are they? Where are they? What does work mean? If the message is it turns gay ppl straight, I’ve never seen a success story. I know plenty of Jonah ppl and they all have said it doesn’t work and have yet to find one that actually works. Yes, I’ve heard ppl say that they feel more masculine, and they relate to men more, and they saw some level of attraction go down, but that is not what reperative therapy is supposed to accomplish. It’s supposed to turn ppl straight. You can’t deny that is their message. And for the record when I was in Jonah I also saw my ssa diminish but it wasn’t natural and the desperate mind can believe anything and I think these “success” stories that we never see are usually from ppl who are do desperate to not be gay that they convince themselves they changed. I know a few of those. I have seen the Jonah list serve here and there and it is quite sad. People who have been in this therapy for 5,10,15 years and are still clinging to any hope they could find. That is not a way people should live life. Acceptance is by far the healthiest and most stable way to live life, not an entire life of questioning and analyzing and going through constant struggles

  20. Jonathan
    April 2, 2010 at 10:46 AM #


    You misunderstood what I meant regarding JQY. I want the frum community to accept that there are people with homosexuality in the community as well. JQY and JONAH probably share that goal and have this in common. But once that happens, both organizations then must and do ask themselves, then what? Once the Jewish community finally opens their eyes to this now taboo topic, what is the next step? Is the next step for them to accept the behaviors that can come with homosexuality and find ways to fit those behaviors by changing halacha, or is it to find ways to help people manage their feelings so that they can live the way the Torah mandates and live a fulfilling life while doing so. For the record, JONAH takes the latter approach, and all I asked was what approach does JQY want?

    That is the aim of JONAH. JONAH does not believe the frum community will never accept that homosexuality exists. Rather it also advocates recognition of it. JONAH offers a reparative therapy model that has helped many people, and does not go around telling all the Jews with homosexuality they must go the JONAH way. It simply offers another alternative which people have took and seen success, just like JQY offers a path for this which perhaps people have took and perhaps seen success on as well.

    The thing is Benjy, I am really not arguing with what you decide to do. If you feel that JQY is your best route, good for you, I wish you the very best. But you keep failing to look at this issue with anything but your own experiences. Your experiences in JONAH do NOT HAVE to equal the experiences other people have in JONAH. Just because you feel it does not work for you, does not mean everyone else will experience the same thing.

    What does it mean that JONAH “worked” for people? It means that many people have found a very effective way to decrease their SSA inclinations and have seen a rise in opposite sex attraction that has then led them to go on to live fulfilling lives and build a family with a wife. You may never have met such people, but that does not mean they do not exist. You may have not experienced this “change” but that does not mean it does not exist. And the change on your part may have been simply all about convincing yourself of change that actually did not happen, but that does not mean everyone else in JONAH who experiences change does so the way you did. Again, I will repeat yet again, your experiences, or any one individuals experiences, are not always equal to everyone else. That’s called black and white thinking, and putting people in a box. Something which everyone should strive NOT to do if they truly want to be honest about a subject like this.

    Again, JONAH’s message, or more importantly, the message of the therapy is NOT “we will change you from gay to straight.” Rather it is this will provide you the tools to manage SSA (diminish the SSA and increase the OSA) enough (if they’re sufficiently motivated and willing to stay the course) so that you’re provided the option to potentially live a life more in conformity with your religious or moral values. I am not sure how to make this more clear to you.

    And the change these people in JONAH experience is totally about acceptance and finding stability within your life. It’s not about constantly fighting and struggling. That’s the irony about what your saying. What you are trying to find in JQY, people successfully find at JONAH.

    Finally, regarding the APA and science stuff–you can not find me scientific evidence today that conclusively says that homosexuality is completely natural. You just can’t. I challenge you to do so. And FYI, the APA did try to say that it is completely natural in their “Brochure about Homosexuality” that I quoted above before it was revised in 2008. What I quoted was a recently updated statement where the APA finally admitted that even after all the “brain” and “gene” studies, nothing as of yet can conclusively classify homosexuality as something 100% natural and in-born. The fact the APA then went onto say that environmental factors play a part is also very significant and something I see you are happy to ignore. And regarding those brain studies, I actually read the study (did you?) and they used dead bodies of AIDS victims, leading any knowledgeable researcher to must take into account how much of a confounding variable such a factor is in the study.

  21. benjyunger
    April 2, 2010 at 11:14 AM #

    Just because there is a problem with how to deal with being gay and frum doesnt mean we should develop a therapy that isnt valid according to all scientific studies. I am not just talking about my case. I have met many many people who have tried reperative therapy and it caused more harm than good. Many people. And you are still trying to prove that homosexuality isnt biological from an APA statement. Youre right, it has not been 100% proven yet it is inborn, but all studies so far suggest that that is the probably case, way more than the case for it being unnatural or from “wounds”. It;s very easy to say the APA and 99% of mental health professionals have an agenda but thats really a scapegoat argument with zero proof. Technically according to the way jonah works, a person can technically turn from stragiht to gay too, but everyone would agree that is completely unnatural and unhealthy and would cause great damage. But reperative therapy does the same thing. Listen, if a person who is gay wishes to get married and have a family then great!! I am not against that as long as the person is truthful to himself and to his wife that she is marrying someone who has stronger feelings for the same sex than to her. But what many people in reperative therapy do is convince themselves that they are totally straight so they do not need to tell their wives anything. This is so wrong and is unfair to the girl. and it’s no surpise that many of these people end up cheating or in divorce and it becomes misery for many people. Your logic is like saying “well since people die from cancer, so obviously all cancers must have a cure”. Just because its easier to not be gay and its hard to be frum while being gay doesnt mean that there must be a therapy that could change it. The way i look at it is that nature and science have proven that there are gay people so if the Torah is true then it must somehow fit into having gay people in the community. And thats one thing JQY does, is we say we are gay and were here so lets start discussing how to deal with it before more people go off the derech.
    “And the change these people in JONAH experience is totally about acceptance and finding stability within your life. It’s not about constantly fighting and struggling. That’s the irony about what your saying. What you are trying to find in JQY, people successfully find at JONAH”. This statement is laughable. Reperative therapy teaches the opposite of acceptance. They teach that the feeling you have are not natural and you therefore must try to get rid of them. That is demoralizing to a person who now views himself as flawed when in essense hes not.
    And just becasue people from Jonah get married is no different than gay poeple who never did therapy choose to get married. It is not a proof to it working. Pitfalls and much struggle will come the way in that marriage and it can be done, but that doesnt make it right or healthy

  22. benjyunger
    April 2, 2010 at 11:17 AM #

    And heres the full APA ruling. It is blatant in its opposition to reperative thrapy from RESEARCH.

  23. Max
    April 2, 2010 at 12:07 PM #

    Being gay is not a behavioral choice or a disease! Enough of this nonsense about working through it and building beautiful straight families. Straight people: live your own life and leave others to theirs. And why do people keep commenting about being “associated with homosexuality,” as if it’s not just a part of who someone is? The only way I see that you can be “associated with homosexuality” is by having family members and friends who are gay.

  24. Yaacov
    April 2, 2010 at 12:52 PM #

    You keep asking Benjy to limit his negative assessments of JONAH to his personal experience, and allow that others have had positive experiences.

    Do you have a personal success story with JONAH, either regarding yourself or someone you know personally?

  25. Jonathan
    April 2, 2010 at 12:52 PM #


    But there are many people where reparative therapy did tons of good and no harm. Why is it so hard for you to admit they exist? Plain and simple, there are many people who have reaped benefits from JONAH. Yes, there are those did not find such benefits, and perhaps you are the fine example of such a person. But I don’t understand why you just ignore the many others who have seen really awesome success from what JONAH provided them.

    Being that these people exist, why do I have to think that is all just false because the APA (in 1997 according to your link) says reparative therapy is harmful? Especially when (how many times must I repeat this?) the APA is definitely motivated by political correctness and civil rights? Or when the APA used gay therapists to do the research into reparative therapy? (They used members from the GLBT organizations for goodness sake, you really want me to cling my opinion about reparative therapy based off what they say?). And also Benjy, research CHANGES. Just because an organization now such as the APA says one thing does not make it set in stone. It is a fundamental truth about scientific research that nothing is 100% true and you must always question everything in scientific research (hence what all “discussion” sections in the back of APA formatted research papers do).

    Here is some peer reviewed research for you about reparative therapy seeing that you really enjoy reading research so much: Karten, E. Y., & Wade, J. C. (2010). Sexual Orientation Change Efforts in Men: A Client Perspective. The Journal of Men’s Studies , 18 (1), 84-102. Look it up, it is really a fascinating peer reviewed article that studied 117 men who attended some of the current reparative therapies and concluded that for many men, it is very successful. I’d like you to find me some of the research articles that the APA uses today to determine why reparative therapy is so harmful. I’d like to see what methods of therapy the APA studied and WHO made the studies. I’d like to also know what are the confounding factors in the studies and should we worry about an research bias? If you want to take the research route to argue this, we have to ask ourselves all of these questions. Please also direct me to the studies that show homosexuality is clearly more in-born. But whatever you do, don’t just spit out random “facts” claiming it is backed by solid research without really understanding how the research was conducted and where it comes from.

    Moving past the research route though: I must stress again, there ARE MANY people who experience benefits from reparative therapy and have moved on to live happy lives the way they choose. And that is what is key here. Reparative therapy enables people to CHOOSE how they want to live. From the sounds of your posts though Benjy, you seem to think that people don’t have a choice. That your stuck and there’s nothing you can do about it but to be gay. You also seem to be just so annoyed by people living any other way. Yet, where have I ever cared about how you live your life? Where has it it bothered me so much that people are happy living gay to the same extent that it bothers you that people are happy with reparative therapy? And do you really want to take an approach around all of this that limits a person’s ability to choose?

    When will you open your eyes to the fact that reparative therapy is not just harmful for every single individual? That people continue to benefit from it to this day? That organizations like the APA and your own personal experiences can’t really change any of that?

    I don’t know where you got this notion that reparative therapy convinces people that they are straight and must then hide their same sex attractions from their wife. Even you know Benjy, that JONAH strongly advocates that telling your wife about this important part of your life is something extremely important to do before you marry her. That statement was just totally not true.

    Another completely wrong perception that you have about reparative therapy is that its only aim is to demoralize a person and see himself flawed. If you truly understand what the therapy is about, you will find that accepting and loving yourself is one of the most fundamental and important things a person must do to experience any true change or benefit from the therapy. Again, you may have found a way to do that in your world of JQY and I am honestly happy for you. But other people have found a way to do that in JONAH. You gotta stop seeing the experiences many people have in JONAH through your lenses.

    I think it is important for our community to recognize that gay people exist in our community, but again, what is the next step? Changing halacha to fit homosexual behavior? Or finding a way to help these gay individuals live according to their moral codes while living a fulfilling life? Again, the latter is JONAH’s approach, what approach would you like?

    You seem to think that the people who got married in JONAH did something that was not right or healthy thing for them. Do you have an inside look in these marriages to truly say that? Do you really know whats healthy for a person in the first place? Again, your posts just keep reeking of the fact that anything good that comes from JONAH has to be false because it never was good for you.

    Finally, I don’t need you to be wrong for me to be right. But I think for you, I need to be wrong for you to be right. If it is not clear to you enough already, everything you said about yourself I believe is 100% true for you. However, you don’t define what is right for other people or for myself for that matter. But it seems to be the opposite for you. In order for you to be correct, all of the people that stand opposite of what you experienced need to be false or just lying to themselves. Imagine how much better it would be if everyone could just accept people experience things differently.

  26. benjyunger
    April 2, 2010 at 2:11 PM #

    Ok this argument has obviously touched a nerve with jonothan and I have bno interest in getting into petty “nah nah nah nah kish kish” arguments but I will respon anyways.
    This is the thing that the reperative therapy movement loves to spew: That the gay “movement” is somehow biased and against choice because we think people cant change. Another laughable comment. Yes, there are things in life you cant change. You cant just change skin color (excuse me michael jackson). You cant just change your voice.You cant just change the fact that you like pizza. And yes, i believe orientation can not be changed. That doesnt make me biased. It makes me open to the fact that I am somebody that is gay and while it isn/t easy for me, i hav accepted that fact.
    I am not ignoring others who say it has worked, but truthfuly I have not seen them and for some reason neither has any one else outside the reperative therapy circle. Reperative therapy activists always mention these success stories, yet somehow theyre always hidden from the rest of the world. We just have to go by faith. What a way to show proof!
    And I dont know where you get this nonsense tht i need you to be 100% wrong to be right. This isnt a dick measuring contest (excuse that). I dont care if you think your right or wrong or if you end up having more women than tiger woods, I have my opinion (based on facts and logic) while you keep just going over the same nonsense how the APA is controlled by an agenda, and so are 99% of therapists. Where is your basis for that?? Your notion that the APA only used gay therapists in the study is ridiculous and another JONAH talking point. It’s funny how jonah always says that the gay movement is the most closed minded but the reperative therapy movement is truly a biased, polarizing, and quite irrational movement based on luring desperate people.
    And yes, my statement regarding gay people getting married is based on stories Ive seen and heard as well as logic. If a man can not love a woman like a man then she should know about it before marriage. A woman isnt a guinea pig for a selfish gay man because he wants a family. I have seen plenty of disaster stories from this.
    So to recap: I am basing my beliefs on not just my story, but many stories while you are basing it on imagINARY people who dont exist. I see the jonah list serve and it is an embarrassment.
    That case study is flawed also. Success for them meant ANY diminishment in same sex attraction. Just because that is true doesnt make it healthy and natural. I can diminish my love for steak if i truly worked on it, but that wouldnt be natural. and once again we go back to the point of desperate people can belive anything.
    Listen if you cant have a civil conversation then fine. I am not angry at all! I just have very deep beliefs that the reperative therapy movement is wrong and harmful and I would tell people not to pursue it. You can have your beliefs. Thats fine with me. Peace!!

  27. Jonathan
    April 2, 2010 at 2:53 PM #

    So far I think we have been having a very civil conversation, and I’m not sure where you have heard me speak otherwise. So lets continue that…

    First lets define “change” again because it is still not clear to you it seems: Change is NOT saying your gay and now straight. We already discussed how that itself is hard to define since sexuality is so fluid and never so black and white in the first place. So that is not how change works.

    What is change then? It is having the tools to manage SSA (diminish the SSA and increase the OSA) enough (if they’re sufficiently motivated and willing to stay the course) so that you’re provided the option to potentially live a life more in conformity with your religious or moral values.

    Is that clear? This is the third time I’ve said this, what is it about this statement that keeps failing to make sense to you?

    So far you have called the JONAH success stories as “false” and such people are really just “desperate” and have unhealthy marriages. You have called their marriages as men just using women as guinea pigs and not having real relationships with them. This may certainly be the case for some men. But I am here to say that it is definitely not like that for all men going through JONAH. I am here to say that the men do exist, have real awesome healthy marriages, and experience the profound change as I mentioned above.

    You probably have a lot of experience with the men in the first group who have gone through JONAH. That does not give you right to completely disregard the other group. It actually really is quite amazing (and arrogant I hate to say) how you feel you have the capability to define every man that walks through JONAH.

    To use the JONAH listserv as a measuring stick for this is really pathetic too, that really goes with out saying. And Benjy you know better than to do that.

    People in reparative therapy do not go by just faith alone. That is simply not true-that is another thing that you may have experienced, but can not in any way, be equated to everyone else.

    I never said 99% of the therapist or controlled by an agenda. But I think its quite clear the APA as an organization, which is run by a limited number of individuals has civil rights and political correctness on their minds when publicizing some of things they do, especially regarding homosexuality. I already have explained to you why I think this. And it is not a JONAH talking point. It is simply the facts which you seem to enjoy denying.

    The research study I quoted you was NOT a case study. A case study is a very individualized examination of a single individual to study behavior. This article here is a good example of three case studies on Jews who went through reparative therapy. The research I quoted is many levels above simple “case studies” because it uses many participants, is peer reviewed and analyzes data based off anonymous surveys handed to the participants. It is basically the same type of research the APA and other organizations do to measure the effectiveness of something like reparative therapy. In this case, the study discovered that a significant amount of men experience healthy and happy “change” (the way I defined it above). So I encourage you not to discredit it so quickly (reading the study might be a good idea too).

    As I’ve said a number of times, you are definitely welcome to your beliefs, and I believe every one of your experiences that you had in JONAH were not good for YOU. I also get the fact that you’ve seen disasters coming out of reparative therapy, and I will be the first to say they are true. But I guarantee, you are not going to get far with your goals here by trying to place everyone in your world, perception and very tight box. That is not an honest way to look at issues regarding this, especially when there is another world of men who DO exist in this world who continue to experience awesome help and fulfillment through JONAH’s help.

    Peace to you as well and may you experience nothing but true joy and fulfillment in all that you do…
    Also Happy Pesach to all and Good Shabbos.

  28. benjyunger
    April 2, 2010 at 3:07 PM #

    Ok we’ll agree to disagree. I am not blasting people who went through jonah, I am saying that reperative therapy in general is not a valid therapy and can be harmful. I am basing it on my experience and the facts I have seen. If you have different facts then great for you!! But I do not see your “facts” as any evidence to disclaim my points. I know countless people who have been throught reperative therapy and have tried hard to change and it didnt work for any of them, not just me. You keep bringing up these success stories yet these people are never revealed. Why are they so afraid to talk about their past sexuality?? If they are truly past it then it should be no problem? Perhaps they know if they thin about it thoughts and feelings might arise?
    In any case, contrary to what reperative therapy advocates say, I do not have an agenda not does JQY. We strongly disagree with JONAH based on our findings, but if someone truly decides to go into that then its ok with me. It’s almost like if a catholic parent really pushes his kid to be an alter boy then thats fine with me too, but I still will strongly advice against it in these times.
    One thing I forgot to mention was the JONAH response to the YU forum weeks ago. All it was was gay jews saying that we are here, yet JONAH decided to be vicious and attack these people and spew horrible lies about them and the forum. JONAH truly has an agenda.
    But like I said, we will agree to disagree and a good and happy pesach!!

  29. Jonathan
    April 2, 2010 at 3:34 PM #


    I am happy agreeing to disagree on this. And regarding why success stories just don’t come out into the public as readily as you and all the non-success stories do was because of what I said in my first post: It’s too risky for them if they want to do it without being labeled by a sexual orientation. When people go far in reparative therapy, the goal is to not become a spokesperson necessarily for change because too many people, especially in our religious Jewish community, will then see them quite differently simply because they have homosexuality. Those who go through the therapy and see success want to integrate and live normally in every day life. And in todays normal Jewish life, it would be very hard to do that after publicly labeling yourself as someone with homosexuality. Leading to the big problem that we both share which is the fact this whole thing is way too taboo and shoved under the rug in our community. A big problem that needs to be fixed.

    So don’t expect me to just reveal these people and don’t expect them to jump to the front of the lines in interviews about all of this.

    But remember what I said also in my first post? It’s not about the individuals, whether they have success or not. It is about the fundamentals of the therapy, how it can work, what its all about. That is what I encourage everyone to truly understand. Once the therapy is properly understood, the reason why people can benefit from it and how it can cause change then speaks for itself.

    Finally, JONAH (or really the therapy JONAH guides participants to) does NOT have an agenda. Arthur Goldberg may have one. But the therapy does not.

    Take care…

  30. Mordechai Levovitz
    April 2, 2010 at 5:59 PM #

    Great Article and wonderful discussion. Just a few points:

    1. this was the true story of three individuals who went through JONAH. This is immensely valuable because so few people who went through JONAH speak publicly about what goes on there and the level of their successes. I can tell you, that from my experience with JONAH and knowing many (over 40) guys who went through JONAH, I know no one who has succesfully transitioned from Homosexual to Heterosexual. In addition, from these accounts in this article we learn that JONAH therapists who themselves admit to having homosexual disires, engage in naked massages and touching exercises with their young susceptible patients. Being that this “therapy” is not APA aproved, it comes very close to a kind of sexual harrasment. I do know many people who were quite traumatized by their experience in JONAH (and I know one young Orthodox friend who committed suicide following the JONAH path), so as a former medical student myself, I have grave reservations about the organization and the kind of “therapy” they provide.

    I also know far too many JONAH ‘patients’ who have hid their sexuality from their wives, or secretly continue to sexually act out on their sexual desires unbenounced to their spouses. This is blatantly hurting the innocent, and must enequivacly be admonished. I have yet to hear an official statement from JONAH that demands that Gay Orthodox men must tell their wives that they struggle with this before entering marraige. Consequently, my advice to Jonathan, is instead of being disturbed by thers telling their meaninful personal stories, why not concentrate on telling your own?

    2. The Executive Director of JONAH, Arthur Goldberg (who himself has gone to Jail for pleading guilty to fraud charges), tells Rabbis, parents and community leaders that JONAH changes gay people straight. As Jonathan himself admits, this is not something that happens at JONAH. This kind of blatant lieing ends up hurting the kids more. Because parents then blame their gay kids for the lack of results. If a gay kid isnt “changing” Parents assume it is because he is not working hard enough. This creates more rifts in families. Also, there are many frum families who use JONAH and ‘change as an ultimatum. So when these kids can not change, they are punished and salt is poured on their wounds. This is not help.

    3. Jonathan wants to distance himself from the public words and views of Arthur Goldberg and the leaders of JONAH, but that says even less about the organization. Arthur and Elaine are the Executive directors and leaders of the org. Their words, actions, and past are representative of the org. If you don’t like them, start your own organization. But dont defend an org by saying that its leaders and creators of that org have nothing to do with what the org stands for. The three guys in this article were talking about their experience WITH JONAH. JONAH is represented by the public views of their executive directors and leaders. This is not an attack on everyone who has ever tried studied or researched reparative therapy. This has everything to do with Arthur Goldberg’s organization.

    4. JQY does promote tolerance in the Orthodox community of people who are gay. This is a huge goal. This is why we have been so intrumental in reaching out to rabbis. You say that JONAH does too, however, every time an Orthodox Rabbi shows tolerance, we have seen Arthur Goldberg (Exec Dir of JONAH), publicly blast that rabbi, and critisize that tolerance and compassion. In fact, Mr Goldberg has publicly came out against forums in which gay kids talk back to their communities about the abuse and isolation they felt growing up. This alone separates our goals from those of JONAH. Publicly and privately, JQY has never demanded or fought for the changing of Hallachot or acceptance of legitimizing sexual actions. The work we do, is to mend families, allow gays to not feel abused in their schools, shuls, and communities. If the day comes where there is no homophobia in the Orthodox world, then there will no longer be a need for JQY. There is no, “then what”. In a day when a gay orthodox kid can feel equal, comfortable, non isolated, and non abused, then we will exist only as the heroes in the past that have helped to make Jews lives better. However, we believe that accomplishing this goal does not neccesarily require changing thoasands of years of hallochot. Furthermore, JQY is a community that includes those who are in, or are interested in conversion therapy. We have even reached out to Jonathan to share his views and experience on the matter to our entire community. We believe that there isnt one way for everybody, but an opportunity for us all to learn from eachother’s different experiences. In this way, we do work on ourselves to be the best people we can be.

    5. You know someone is grasping at straws when he has to ask, “what is gay/straight anyway?” I am gay. I know that. and I know many people who know they are straight. Dont make already turbulent waters needlessly murky. Also, the argument of whether homosexuality is genetic, hormonal, or psychodynamicly developed is a complete red herring. It has nothing to do with anything. Saying the cause of an orientation is not genetic does not mean that it can be changed. There are many environmental phenominon that are unchangeable and permanent. Certainly, saying that homosexuality is not genetic does not ever imply that is a choice. This argument is always silly, frankly distracting. Thank God that Orthodox rabbis are finally starting to understand this.

    6.Finally, Jonathan’s strongest point was the fact that very little objective behavioral/biological data has been found on the subject of sexual conversion. The question is simple, not what is the cause of SSA or Homosexuality, but DOES CONVERSION THERAPY WORK IN CHANGING THE SEXUAL ARROUSAL RESPONSE IN GAY MEN. But this is somethign that could be objectively put to the test. The fact that neither side has yet to, is the real shame. So both sides, want objective biological data…We should do something about this. In the next couple of years I propose a study working with local hospitals to allow gays, and those who started out gay and are in reparative therapy, to take penile plethysmograph tests in order objectively measure sexual arrousal in response to male and female stimuli. Let’s see how sexual arrousal changes in response to reparative therapy! I hope that Organizations like JONAH and individuals like Jonathan will be willing and ready to encourage participation in undergoing these tests so that we can find some real data as to whether reparative therapy works or not. This would not require anyone coming out, or making public declarations of homosexuality. Unfortunately until now, reparative therapy orgs and reparative therapy patients have resisted undergoing these tests to measure their change, preventing finding any real changes in sexual arrousal with reparative therapy. This is the real shame. Science is our freind here. Let’s use it. Instead of arguing about who’s story is more true, let’s find some real data and know. So this is my challenge, will Jonathan and JONAH accept it? I hope.

  31. Jonathan
    April 3, 2010 at 11:11 PM #


    Thanks for nicely adding to this discussion. You brought up some good points that I look forward to addressing here…

    1. This is indeed a decent account of three individuals who went through JONAH. However, I honestly think measuring an organization simply from three individuals is not the smartest thing to do. I say this because it is just a way too small of a sample size. If this article spoke to 20 JONAH participants who had similar experiences, I’d be a bit more impressed. Even more so if we doubled that. But as of now we are just talking about three individuals, and I can guarantee you that I could round up three individuals who could speak about JONAH and say, from an honest place, the complete opposite. In fact these three individuals that I could find for you would feel all the exact same therapy these three individuals here experienced was beneficial for them. They’d also tell you having a therapist who experiences same-sex attractions is a benefit for them because then they can relate to their therapist much better and speak about experiences they both resonate with. But again, that would not be so impressive to me either. Because its just three people. And such is the reason why articles like these can/should be taken with a grain of salt, whatever point, good or bad about JONAH, they try to take.

    And where exactly have I been disturbed by what these individuals have said? I have said a number of times that I agree that for the people who spoke here, they legitimately did not benefit from what JONAH has to offer. That does not really disturb me. What disturbs me is when people then go onto take these testimonies from articles like this as absolute truth as what goes on in JONAH. Thus, it has been my goal to make it clear that doing so is not a fair way to evaluate the organization, and to make the important point, that individuals who experience the exact opposite of what these people experienced DO exist.

    Since you Mordechai have not met these individuals does not really negate the fact these individuals exist. In fact, I wonder, how much involvement have you allowed yourself to have with JONAH, particularly today? Have you attended any of their weekends, or the weekends they regularly send their participants to? Have you even met the therapists of JONAH before harshly judging them the way you do?

    Regarding JONAH not advocating others to tell their wives about their struggles before they marry, what makes you so sure this is true? Have you spoken to Arthur Goldberg about this? Or any of the therapists under JONAH? Because if you ever do any of these things, I guarantee you that they would tell you it is extremely important to marry a wife who understands and knows about this sacred part of a person’s life. What then, does it matter that JONAH has not made an official statement telling people to tell their wives before marriage when people who go through JONAH are constantly told to do that anyways?

    Regarding this therapy being APA approved… I challenge you first, do you really understand the therapy that JONAH guides it’s participants to? And if so, what parts of the therapy is the APA admonishing? And finally, do you honestly believe the APA, in the state of our society today, when civil rights are as important as they are (something I agree with too), would go around advocating reparative therapy as a viable option for homosexuals? And do you think this would really happen when the APA appointed gay therapists to do research in reparative therapy? Simple logic tells me no and I’d be surprised if you thought the opposite.

    Regarding sharing my own experiences, the answer to that should be self-explanatory in all my posts already. And that is, I don’t think its necessary. What power does my own word really have when I am just a single individual who may have experienced profound benefit from JONAH? In a discussion like this, I think it is way more imperative to encourage people to understand the therapy first before measuring its success based off “case studies” (which my experiences would simply be) and to then encourage people to be open to the fact that JONAH has had profound success in helping people.

    Another thing that prevents me from me to go out publicly is what I said before. In this day of age, in our Jewish society, other people place way too much of a label on anyone with homosexuality. This is something I’d love to see go away one day, but I don’t believe that I am in the right place to do that now. Speaking to JQY members is something I’ve considered, but there comes significant risk with that for me too. These are things we can discuss in private though, and it really has nothing to do with the points I have made already.

    2. Moving onto Arthur Goldberg and his fraud thing which I see is a very fun talking point already. The question I must ask first is, how much do you know about his charges and what really occurred many years ago? How much involvement are you are aware of that Arthur Goldberg had in the whole thing. And most importantly, does it really matter today with his involvement in JONAH? I think once you actually get to know the answers to these questions (as I have) it becomes quite laughable and truly grasping for straws to use it as something against JONAH and Mr. Goldberg.

    What happens at JONAH is that people find a way to successfully decrease their same-sex attractions to a point where acting out on it because more of an individual choice instead of it being something people feel is the only way they can sexually behave. That, combined with a very real and healthy rise in opposite sex attractions occurs and puts a man in a very viable place to go on and live the way he chooses. This allows a man to get married, and build and raise a beautiful family with a wife. Being honest about all of this with a wife is a vital part of the journey. This is what happens all the time in JONAH. Is that equivalent to changing from “gay” to “straight?” You tell me? And if it is not equivalent, how much does that matter?

    Is this the way Arthur and Elaine, the heads of JONAH, proclaim JONAH’s promise to their new individuals today? I am honestly not sure. They probably used to use the words “you are gay now, but we will make you straight.” But I don’t think they will say this any more. Regardless, both Arthur and Elaine are not the people participants go to to experience their therapy. Basically, the two of them send a participant to a therapist who knows the therapy, and a good therapist, which JONAH has many of, would tell their clients that they can expect exactly what I said. This “gay to straight” talk is not mentioned, and quite frankly, I don’t think it really matters.

    Regarding rifts in families: quite simply, that does not occur if a client is sent to the right therapy. This makes sense based off what I just said above. Also, most clients are taught to form a healthy relationship with their parents, one that is open and honest, and if that is done correctly, parents will not be throwing expectations on their children that could potentially make rifts in the family later on. The way you describe this all forces me again to ask, what experience do you really have with the therapy? How many rifts have you seen the therapy that I am talking about cause? And with this rifts between children and parents that you have seen, from what type of therapeutic approach did this come from? I can confidently assume what you saw did not come from the right therapy that JONAH directs its participants to today.

    3. I am, in no way, distancing myself from Arthur Goldberg or Elaine Berk. What I do distance myself from however, is some of the statements they may have made in the past which really have nothing to do with the therapy. Usually, these statements have more to do with politics and I am not a fan of that. But I am proud to align myself with many of the therapeutic approaches to reparative therapy that Arthur and Elaine of shed light on today. JONAH, as an organization that DIRECTS people to the right help is excellent at doing that. JONAH, as a political organization, is something I choose not to get involved in. That is why my main points throughout all of these posts have been about “the therapy,””the therapy,” “the therapy.” It is this aspect of JONAH that I will happily defend. That leads me to #4

    4. Here is the territory that I choose to stay away from. In my opinion, there is no need to really blast any one. There is no need for forum bashing, or to start all of the political fights. I respect that JQY’s main mission is to provide support and a place for individuals to find people like them. In fact, in the goals of JQY that you have stated, I’d be happy to see them come into fruition, and you can trust that I am doing my damnest in my own ways to see all of it occur.

    Here is the reason though why it is hard for JQY and JONAH to mesh so fast: Basically because, many members of JQY do practice homosexuality, something which all JONAH participants are trying hard not to do. It does not make sense for JONAH participants to quickly befriend people who have this really fundamental difference between them. JONAH participants want to find support from people working hard at the same goal to not practice homosexuality. It is not so easy for them to find that in JQY. The same can be said for religious practice. Many JQY members are not Orthodox whereas most JONAH members are. Now I am in no way saying that Orthodox Jews can’t be friends with non-religious Jews. But again, when it comes to finding support for a goal that involves a very intimate aspect of the lives of each individual, the best place to find that for Orthodox Jews is with other religious Orthodox Jews who keep Shabbos, Kosher and everything else. This is even harder to imagine when it is clear that many, if not most, JQY members look down on the reparative therapy that JONAH provides. Personally, I do enjoy the friendships that I can see myself making with JQY members, but it is impossible for me to find the support I need in my goal to be a religious Jew who wants to live a heterosexual lifestyle from the JQY community.

    So while JONAH and JQY may share many of the same goals, integrating the two organizations together is a very hard thing to do today.

    5. I do agree with you that the whole nature/nurture argument thing is really pointless, and I was not the one who brought it up in my posts above if you noticed. All that matters to me is that whatever the cause of homosexuality is, a person with homosexual desires can find ways to not be bound by them and go on to live a very healthy heterosexual lifestyle as well. While many individuals can attest to this, it is having a true understanding of the therapy that speaks this truth. That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance for people to really understand the therapy first, before taking into consideration what people who have gone through the therapy have to say. This has been my point all along.

    6. Your ways of determining whether the therapy works or not is an interesting one, and while the idea of penile plethysmograph tests is intriguing, it will be quite the challenge to round up enough men (probably on both sides of the coin) to have a large enough data set to prove one way or the other. Especially when on the JONAH side of things, the men who experience success really move on from the whole JONAH thing. They start dating, get married, raise families, and really just live a “normal” life away from any organization. And to me, that is how it should be. The goal of JONAH is to not really create a place for someone to identify and call home. Rather, the goal is to help individuals call home the community and environment they have always lived in. And that is never “JONAH.” Your challenge is a formidable one, but it’s not as simple as you make it, and for good reason.

    Finally, for the men who experience success in reparative therapy, no amount of research will ever really make a difference to them, whether supportive of the therapy or not. And that is because what matters most is the unique journey that each individual experiences. An experience of one individual can not change or effect another individual has. It would be nice to have research backing up reparative therapy, but honestly, it’s not a huge goal for a lot of men, because their individual experience is primarily what counts.

    If anything, the best research that you can find today at least will be in the form of survey research. And such research has been made to day showing that reparative therapy is indeed successful for many men, primarily because they interviewed many participants who have gone through proper reparative therapies. That which has not been the case in much of the other survey research already done, since they interviewed lot of subjects who attended bogus therapy that dealt with “praying the gay away” or shock treatments and other ridiculous suppression type methods. I quoted it already above, but I will cite it again here: Karten, E. Y., & Wade, J. C. (2010). Sexual Orientation Change Efforts in Men: A Client Perspective. The Journal of Men’s Studies , 18 (1), 84-102. If you look it up and give it a good read, you may find the results intriguing.

    Happy Holidays Mordechai, and take care 🙂

  32. Mordechai Levovitz
    April 4, 2010 at 7:50 AM #

    Here is a quick response to Jonathan, In general, Jonathan has my private email, so further correspondence will best be served through personal private emails or phone calls. But conversation is always good and important, I love venues for public discussion on this matter.

    1. The issue here is not that JONAH doesnt work for anybody. None of the interviewee’s claim that. In fact, they even point out that it helps some. The important consequence of the testimony of these Gay Jews in this article and many more is that JONAH, and reparative therapy does not work for many people. Worse yet, JONAH has actually served to hurt and traumatize people. In this article we read how a former JONAH patient now need therapy to deal with the trauma of his JONAH experience. We also read about a therapy involving naked massaging and inappropriate touching a patient. During the last Chanukah party another former JONAH member had a full blown nervous breakdown in public, when he saw one of his former JONAH mentors at the party.

    So I ask you Jonathan, you say, its all about numbers…JUST HOW MANY YOUNG ORTHODOX GAY JEWS HAVE TO BE HURT OR TRAUMATIZED BY THEIR EXPERIENCE AT JONAH FOR IT TO BE A SERIOUS PROBLEM THAT SHOULD BE ADDRESSED? You say that for the most part kids arent coerced by their parents to enter JONAH, well, I know many that were, in fact I know many who were told that if they dont go to JONAH, they will be kicked out of their homes. So, I ask you again, if its about numbers, HOW MANY KIDS NEED TO BE FORCED INTO A PROGRAM THAT FOR MANY DOESNT WORK, AND FOR SOME CAUSES HARM, FOR IT TO BE A SERIOUS PROBLEM THAT SHOULD BE ADDRESSED? Its very nice that for some JONAH is helpful, but the issue here is not that, the issue here is the negative effect it causes to real people. Why have you been ignoring that in all of your responses? If you need more numbers, tell me, I know many people who went through JONAH, tell me how many people you need to hear that were traumatized, lied to, and lost thoasands of dollars for treatment that yeilded no results, all because of this Organazation called JONAH.

    I believe that even if one persons life was made harder by an org, that its a serious issue. That’s what we are doing here. I am not sure why you try to belittle this by saying that there arent enough people interviewed. If even one gay orthodox jew was hurt,lied to, or traumatized its enough to worry and take concern.

    Furthermore, I happen to know too many cases of JONAH patients either cheating on their spouses via anonomous sex ads on craigslist, or entering into new marriages with out being truthfull about their sexuality. Again, this happens, that is not up for debate, the question is, Where is the concern? When I talk to JONAH guys now, they tell me that while JONAH therapists do say that it is ideal to tell your spouse, it is not stressed as a nessecity, and the fact that she is the innocent victim is not made priority. So again, I ask, How many of these cases do we need to document for you to admit that there is a problem here that needs to be addressed?

    2. Arthur ABBA Golberg’s (executive director of JONAH) case in which he went to Jail for pleading guilty to national and international fraud is public record. I know all the facts that were released to the public. Hey, every criminal claims he didn’t do it, but in this case, he actually plead guilty. In this country you tend not to get disbarred and sent to Jail for 11 months for “laughable” things. So on this one, I’ll trust the public record. In sentencing the court called it “fraud of spectacular scope ” But the issue is not one of character assasination, it is one of credibility.

    This man has a history of skewing the truth. In his own book, he expects the public to believe him about the “case studies” of successful JONAH patients that he represents. But Then blatantly lies about them. When he was approached by one of these “case studies” about the lies, Arthur responded that the case studies werent “actual people”, but conglomerations of many stories put into one. So basically he admitted to just making people up, Making people up, to promote his case, so that desperate parents will believe his fake stories and send their kids to his organization of which he gets paid through. I find this highly suspect. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    Could you imagine if someone wrote a book about treatments for Autistic kids, and he writes about a case study where he describes a specific autistic kid, claims that through his treatment, this kid has been cured, and it turns out that in fact this kid was not cured! And in defense, the author said that this kid was not an actual kid, but a conglomeration of many stories! well my brother has Autism, and if my mother found out that someone wrote a book like that, I think my mom would try to kill the author. And if she found out that the author had a history of Fraud, and even plead guilty and went to Jail for fraud, She would find the credibility of this person and any organization that he was executive director of, HIGHLY SUSPECT. This was my point. Again, if it is a numbers game, how many lies does this man have to tell for you to be concerned?

    3. You start by saying that you “are IN NO WAY distancing yourself from Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk (exec directors of JONAH), then you go on to say that you “do distance yourself from statements they have made” in areas that you call “politics”. OK, so you in NO WAY distance yourself from them, except in some ways 🙂 I’ll let you argue that out with yoruself. As for me, im not really sure what either Arthur or Elaine believes in terms of Politics. Im a democrat myself, either way, no one brought up politics. We are talking about the issues of Being Frum and Gay, and reparative therapy and JONAH. and Both Arthur and Elaine have lied to parents rabbis, and shulls regarding these issues. Arthur has even published a recent article in Arutz sheva, where he calls the 4 panelists who talked about how they were hurt and traumatized in their youth “not the real victims”. Who talks like this? If this is the Politics you speak of (even though im not sure who is getting elected here), then I dont blame you from distancing yourself.

    4. JQY ( is a group for Orthodox and formerly Orthodox GLBT youth. Everything in JQY is kosher, respectful and we make Orthodoxy a priority. While some in the community of JQY’ers are out of the closet, the vast majority are not. Many are in reparative therapy, most have tried. The whole point of JQY is that we learn from eachother’s stories. Its not smart to just surround yourself with people who agree with you. We can learn from eachothers differences. While you still may devalue it, your story is important, even though it’s just one case study. Your story is your greatest commodity. I invite you once again, to come and share it with us, and hear our stories too.

    We are one community, not trying to be straight, gay, or whatever, just trying to be the best people we can be. You do this, by not just focusing on what you WANT, or how you WANT your life to be, but by opening yourself up to different views, and learning through your interactions. You speak of the orthodox world still not being tolerant enough for you to be publicly truthful about yourself, you speak of the gay world not being tolerant enough for you to share your life with them either, but I ask you, what are you doing to combat this intolerance? This is an area where we agree on, let us be heroes, let us be brave, let us stand up for what is right, and let us do this together. We can change this. Stop being so afraid.

    5. I’m glad that you think the whole nature/nurture argument is pointless. So why do you and Arthur Goldberg keep going back to it. You say that you didnt start it (but that argument got old in kindergarten). However, then let me enlighten you and Arthur to something that I dont think you understand. When regular people say in conversation or in emails that “they were born this way”, they are not making an argument for genetic over uturine hormones, or psychodynamic psycho social development over cognitive learning sexual theory. They are simply saying that THEY DID NOT CHOOSE TO BE GAY. I am assuming that you agree that they did not choose to be gay, so stop jumping at the opportunity to argue against genetics. The only point is that they did not choose to be gay, and whatever the cause of sexuality is, does not tell us anything about whether it can be changed. Many environmental things can not be. Let’s just stop using this red herring.

    6. Again, you say that you wish there was hard scientific data, and with Penile plethysmograph testing, there could be. This tests objectively measures physical sexual arrousal, in response to visual stimulus. Your concern is that we wont get a big enough sample…Well, it starts person to person, if you help promote objective results testing among the reparative therapy circle, there could be. Dont you think, that people paying for a service would like to objectively know if they are getting any results? I think many many people who try reparative therapy would like to know if it can yeild objective results. I think we can get alot of people in this sample, if we work together.

    You say that for many who feel success, no amount of research would make a difference to them. So basically if the snake oil makes you feel like you are getting better, who cares if it actually works. Snake oil salesmen all over the world are rejoicing. This is a very dangerous and unethical clinical approach.

    Lastly you point to a specific study of survey research, where without any proof, efficacy or observation, we are supposed to trust people who already spoke out in favor of reparative therapy and already spent thoasands of dollars in that endeavor (like over 75% of spitzers sample) when they say that they are now heterosexual or ‘ex gay;. The greatest irony of your suggestion for me to read that specific article, is that I happen to know the author of that article who claims himself to be a “successful ex gay, via reparative therapy”, and is married to a woman, he still regularly puts up gay sex ads on Craigslist (when he comes back to new jersey), and cheats on his wife with men (my friends) from the gay jewish community. So he publishes an article on how he is not longer gay, and how reparative therapy works, at the same time, as he propositions men online and sleeps with men anonamously. HMMMM..I guess he’s a great person to tout the success of Reparative therapy 🙂 So basically you are asking me to trust this man, and others like him, when they tell us that their exprience with reparative therapy has been successful. I’ll start trusting them, when I stop finding there ads for sex on craigslist. Deal? Untill then, lets try aim a little higher. If so many ex-gays believe it is important to document their progress, then they should want to test their conversion objectively using a penile plethysmograph. I’ll do it, will you?

    Happy Pesach 😉

  33. Benjyunger
    April 4, 2010 at 10:53 AM #

    I’ll be the first to take the test 🙂

  34. Mordechai Levovitz
    April 4, 2010 at 11:19 AM #

    upon re-reading my comment, I dont think it is my place to make assumptions about the private behavior of anyone, especially someone with a wife and kids. I take back the accusation I made about the author of a specific article mentioned. Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, and it is certainly wrong and inappropriate for me to surmise such. These claims were unsubstantiated, and have nothing to do with my greater point, that real, testable, objective data is needed so we can come to conclusions about the efficacy of Reparative therapy models. I was wrong to even talk about the private lives of anyone in this public forum, I spoke out of passion and not reason or facts, and for that there is no excuse.

  35. Benjyunger
    April 4, 2010 at 12:07 PM #

    I personally don’t understand jonothans point that since it’s “only” three people, so you can’t prove anything from it. If there were only three people claiming that a rabbi was molesting his students, would that not be enough to do a serious investigation into him, even if other say he is a wonderful rebbe? If there were “only” three people saying a husband was abusing his spouse, should we ignore it until there are 20 ppl?? Here there are 3 people who say that reperative therapy does not work and is extremely harmful. That is MORE than enough to be a big case against reperative therapy and Jonah. And either way this is just a sample of people. There are waay more who have the same story. So even if it supposedly helped some people, the negatives of it are too large to ignore. If rebbe molests his kids but is also a great teacher, should he not be fired and thrown in jail??

  36. Jonathan
    April 4, 2010 at 6:41 PM #


    I do enjoy this type of discussion, but I am starting to feel that main points of my posts are being ignored. Particularly, that the way reparative therapy should be measured is not by individuals who go through it (including myself along with the three people interviewed here). But rather, the truth of it comes by gaining a profound and real understanding as to what the reparative therapy advocates. I will respond to each # again, and you will see better what I mean…

    1. You say JONAH members have been traumatized. I acknowledge that such has occurred and it something I would never ignore. However, what exactly about the THERAPY that JONAH offers has traumatized them? If you truly take the time to read about what the therapy is about, and to perhaps even speak yourself to the JONAH therapists and the participants who you may know who see success in JONAH (such as myself–give me a call anytime) so that you can better understand the therapy, you may be able to answer this question better. Understanding the fundamentals of the therapy makes it clear that the therapy itself is not the cause of trauma.

    Certainly, different methods of other reparative therapies have been extremely harmful. Also, there does exist many therapists who improperly try to help people in reparative therapy. But these things are all very different than the therapy JONAH directs individuals to. Once you take the time to understand the therapy, you will be able to see why.

    So to answer your question…how many individuals need to be traumatized through JONAH for it to be a serious problem that needs to be addressed? The answer is one. When any one person gets seriously hurt by JONAH, it should be addressed immediately. But how should these cases be addressed? Not by immediately thinking JONAH or the therapy is completely false, but rather understanding what parts of the therapy caused the harm. Leading me again to the question I’ve asked you before, what about the therapy harmed the individuals that you met? And how do you know that the way these individuals perceived the therapy they were given is equal to something that JONAH and the therapy advocates?

    If you think JONAH simply ignores the bad experiences individuals go through in their program, your wrong. I encourage you to see this for yourself by documenting the trauma you have witnessed in others from JONAH, and bringing those points to the many therapists under JONAH’s program and you will see why I can confidently say this.

    Regarding parents forcing kids into JONAH’s program… quite frankly, this is not JONAH’s problem. And this will become very clear to you when again, you take the time to understand better the therapy JONAH advocates. JONAH’s therapists strongly believe that ultimately, it is the individuals own choice to change and do the therapeutic work that matters, and not the desires parents and even religion that will help the individual. To bring this point home better, I know of one individual who went through JONAH who was only there because his mother wanted him to be, and he himself had no desire on changing. So what did the therapist do? He helped this man find the power in himself to make a decision without any of his mother’s influence and then went on to helping this man comfortably choose for himself to live the gay lifestyle.

    So really, again, once you gain a good understanding on what the therapy is about, you will then be able to understand that this problem of kid’s being forced to do something they don’t want to do and being pressured by parents to do it, is something that the therapy in JONAH highly discourages, and is really not JONAH’s issue afterall. I’d say this issue is more because of parents, and the ignorance many parents have around the whole topic of homosexuality in general.

    Which again, leads me to ask…how much of JONAH’s therapy do you really know about? What parts of the therapy that you know about traumatized kids and caused rifts in families? And how much of those parts of therapy are equal to the therapy you find in JONAH? I’d really like to know the answers to these questions.

    All the same can then again be said for husbands cheating on their spouses. I can’t stress enough how strongly the therapy advocates not getting married until a man has reached a sufficient level of opposite sex attraction to healthfully marry another woman, and how important it is to tell a wife about all of this. The fact that husbands cheat is not the therapies fault, and I’m sure that in each case when this did happen, they are cases that should be examined individually, not necessarily as something that defines the therapy. If woman are constantly getting hurt by men who have gone through JONAH, that would be an entirely different issue. However, there are currently many beautiful and healthy marriages that I have witnessed that exist thanks to JONAH. So while it is indeed an issue that some JONAH men have gone onto cheat on their spouse, the issue should be addressed, not by throwing JONAH out the window, but finding out what exactly about that case caused such an unfortunate thing to happen.

    A couple of more things… it is important to note that when people enter reparative therapy, there are other types of issues they may be dealing with that give them more of the propensity to experience trauma and/or factors that make it harder to change. These factors may have to do with sexual abuse, OCD, severe depression etc. and in the end may be totally unrelated to the therapy itself. And a lot of the times the trauma that I have seen from people dealing with SSA and don’t find success in JONAH is shame about oneself because of these other factors. The reparative therapy however, that I keep talking about, looks to take away any guilt and shame, because it is counterproductive to the success. In fact, the reparative therapy even helps people from feeling this toxic shame after they act out on homosexual desires. The main point is that it is important to realize that trauma is caused by many things, and when looking at people who have experienced trauma after JONAH, we must ask the question, was it really the therapy that caused it or other important factors that exist within the individual?

    Finally, change is not easy! It takes so much stubborn motivation and devotion for many people to experience it for what it is. It can take downfalls, and further challenges too. It can take more than just 6 months, a year or even years. It takes changing perceptions about oneself and about other men that have been a part of a person for most of his life. Not everyone can handle this type of work, and that is OK! But these are things to consider when it comes to judging JONAH based off the people it did not work for. I am not saying everyone who failed at JONAH did not have the motivation and determination for it, but it is something that must be considered regardless.

    This all makes it even more clear why judging the validity of reparative therapy should not be so strongly judged based off people’s experiences, but rather based off a good clear understanding of what the therapy is all about, what it does, and what it advocates. It is that which should ultimately speak the truth for reparative therapy.

    2. Here’s the scoop on Arthur ABBA Goldberg’s fraud allegations, and I say it because I know he would be happy himself to find a way to address the truth of the matter publicly himself: 19 years ago, Arthur was charged with something called a “misuse of a fund.” It was considered a reckless act because he did something thinking that a certain set of old rules still applied for the fund, when really they did not–and that was the “fraud.” He admits that he should have done more research as to whether the old law applied and know pleaded guilty to that mistake. If you read his plea, he acknowledges he made an illegal mistake, yet he also admitted that the this minimal fraud never gave him personal gain on his part. He was sentenced to 6 moths in jail and then another 6 months in a half way house. Again this was 19 years ago, and he has never had any issues since. He has also never denied his mistakes, and would be happy to talk about it with anyone.

    So if this is the fodder you want to use to label him a fraud selling business man regarding JONAH’s reparative therapy, good luck, cause it does not seem relevant to me at all. And speaking of business and JONAH, Arthur hardly makes a dime from running JONAH, nor does Elaine. If they were in this for the money, they should have given up on it years ago, because JONAH is no cash cow. If you want to know their true motives behind running JONAH, I encourage you to speak to them yourself. They are very easy to reach.

    Finally, I think it is strange that you try and pair these above fraud allegations to his case study that he wrote in his book. Again, knowing the facts of the case, I really don’t see how any of it is relevant. However, if I was writing a book, I don’t think I’d make up a person based off the experiences of many individuals combined. In fact, I would not even want to speak of case studies because I don’t get the point (it’s the therapy that counts, remember?). On the other hand, I think it is ironic you take issue with the fact he took the positive experiences of many individuals to create a single person, because that means that he is not writing about one person who benefited from JONAH, but many people who did. So he may have created a “false” single individual, but that does not mean the stories he took to create the person are false.

    Oy, such lies this man tells!

    3. I just don’t get why you are bothered that I choose to support Arthur and Elaine in some of the things they do, but not in others. I have a right to discern for myself that they have done a great service at directing Jewish individuals to the right reparative therapy, while at the same time disagreeing some of their public and political type statements they have made. And when I said “political” I obviously did not mean any one is running for office, democrat, republican, or anything like that. I was referring to, like I just said, their public statements against JQY, or other people that really have nothing to do with what the therapy advocates (cause it’s the therapy that matters, right?) As for them, they are entitled to their opinions, and some of their opinions can be quite wrong. But there are tons of things that they do and say which are very right.

    4. I don’t devalue my story at all, and I would still consider speaking to JQY members after some private deliberation about it with you. What I do devalue (as I said repeatedly before) is people using personal stories as a measuring stick for JONAH’s success before they truly took the time to understand what the therapy is all about. This is why I have not spoken about my personal experiences because I feel it is so important to drive home the point that first people must understand the therapy before understanding my story.

    I do agree there is value to hearing different experiences and perspectives, and perhaps JONAH could be more open to that. But again, for supporting one another in our journeys, JONAH participants can never turn to JQY members for that, as I tried hard to explain in my previous post. This is especially true when it seems that several members of JQY have nothing good to say about the efforts taken in reparative therapy guided by JONAH.

    So while it may be nice to one day arrange a JONAH/JQY get together to share perspectives, that is all I can really ever see happening. And quite frankly, for a lot of JONAH men, this is not a big priority to them when most would rather create these types of get-togethers to find other people to support them on their journey.

    Regarding what I am doing to battle intolerance- I am doing a heck of a lot of things, but perhaps not in the same way as you and JQY members. Feel free to talk to me about this in private.

    Finally on this topic, I get that JQY is Orthodox and all, but I can’t help but wonder what is the success rate at having members stay religious and halachic observant after they join JQY. I don’t want to sound offensive or anything, but in my experience with JQY members, for a lot of them, Shabbos observance was not the greatest deal, as well as Kashrut, and looking beyond halachic observance, I know several who happily attend gay bars, and a step further, act out on their homosexuality. I truly and honestly do not care that JQY members do this, and everyone has a right to choose how they want to behave (I hope you can adopt such a thinking too). But if you want to claim that JQY’s goal is to make “Orthodoxy a priority” as you said, it is important to make sure that is actually coming into fruition.

    5. You really did not enlighten me on anything because I totally understand that when people with homosexuality say they were born this way that comes from a place of feeling that they did not make the choice to be gay. In fact, I am outright puzzled at your points here. Benjy Unger wanted to claim that being gay is strictly nature, and that is why JONAH is bogus. I therefore responded back with some points that made it clear it is not so obvious that homosexuality is strictly nature. I clearly thought this was a red-herring argument on Benjy’s part to bring up. But I felt it was important to respond to his point regardless because he is not the only one who thinks that homosexuality is only biological. So why jump down my throat on this?

    6. Perhaps one day we will get Penile plethysmograph testing done. But I still think its very important that people understand the therapy regardless, specifically because of all of the points that I mentioned in segment 1 about the success of individuals. The therapy already exists, whereas the penile plethysmograph testing does not. So it really is imperative that anyone looking into this subject truly understands the therapy before judging it based off peoples experiences and their success.

    Lastly, I am glad you retracted your statements about the author of the study, because I really don’t want to take this discussion to a place of emotional person attacks on other individuals. Such talking points can be so irrelevant, hurtful and flat out wrong. I also don’t really understand why the word of 117 individuals needs to hinge on the actions of the author of that study (there were two authors of the study too by the way). But moving beyond that, I really hope to encourage you to move your definition of the success in reparative therapy away from just scientific evidence, to having a clear understanding on what the therapy is all about (sounding like a broken record here).

    In a quick response to Benjy–

    I am quite baffled by your comparison. It is much different to trust the allegations against a Rabbi from a couple of people than take individuals words as truth against a therapy model, especially when that therapy model has been show to work for others and when there are so many factors that can allow people not to find success in the therapy. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, and I am beginning to think that you really don’t read my responses, and if you do, you don’t understand them.

    Alright, gotta get ready for these last days of Passover.

  37. Jon
    April 6, 2010 at 12:00 PM #

    Jonathan – I’ve honestly been looking forever to talk with someone that supposedly benefited from JONAH. All I’ve heard in years are just negative experiences. I have some more personal questions for you though… I was wondering if there is some email address we could use to talk a bit?

  38. Jay L.
    April 6, 2010 at 12:56 PM #

    Reading this thread is interesting… these are my thoughts as someone who was part of JONAH and completed 5 years of reparative therapy and is now out and gay.

    I dont see the argument being around the efficacy of reparative therapy, the integrity of the leadership of JONAH or the nature/nurture debate of gays. What it comes down to is these two opposing sides co-existing in the Orthodox Jewish community.

    The gay orthos (or ‘once-upon-an-orthos’) want acceptance from their religious communities (ie families, rabbis, home cmmty).
    The JONAH guys (when i say JONAH guys, i dont nec mean the ‘organization’ – but the guys in the process of reorientation) want support from their religious communities (familes, rabbis, home cmmty).

    The gay orthos need support to live fulfilling lives and to remain (possibly) frum or even to remain in their family units or communities. They require acceptance in order for them to remain healthy and happy(estrangement from family and community can lead to negative consequences). Gay ortho Jews deserve to be able to come out and have that acceptance.

    The JONAH guys need support from their rabbis, families and communities as part of their “healing” process. In order to “heal” themselves, they need to “heal” family wounds (i believe this is the ‘actual therapy’ jonathan references), they need the support of people who know their situation (perhaps their rabbi), and they need the support of the community (ie the very women theyre going to possibly marry). Its important for the JONAH guys to have this support.

    So — it seems like both communities (the gay orthos and the JONAHs) are seeking support and acceptance from the SAME community. Agreed?

    Now – if we look at that ONE community — there’s obviously going to be MORE public support for the JONAHs, because its more consistent with values of torah and the orthodox community (and i use the term “ortho community” very lightly – but in this case, I really mean the more “frum” community, rather than the modern-ortho community”).

    So, when an organization like JONAH comes out – its going to receive the support of said ortho-community. However, i feel its almost impossible for that ONE community to support both stances. the frum yeshivishe community will automatically align with JONAH bec it is more in line with their definition of halacha — so even though the JONAH guys might be more “hidden” – it is them that the cmmty will support.

    At a time when gay orthos are seeking support and acceptance – which is essential for us in many ways – we have an organization like JONAH preaching to our families, communities, and rabbis that change is possible and they shoouldnt buy into the “gay agenda”. JONAH claims to want JONAH guys to be accepted in the orthodox community and that “change is possible”, but by doing that, it causes a reaction of NON acceptance to gay ortho Jews.

    I agree with Jonathan to the fact that reparative therapy and JONAH are two entirely different entities – however, it is the leadership of JONAH that represent reparative therapy and they do offer mistruths and false statistics to the public, so I dont find you can really separate the two. you could only do that if a fringe group of JONAH guys disassociate from JONAH and speak out to their experiences-but right now, Arthur acts as the voice of the many JONAH men who wont go public.

    At a time when gay orthos are seeking acceptance and making headway from the ortho community – you have the leaders of JONAH saying “well, they can change!” – its obviously going to make that community second guess the acceptance. JONAH does use words like “change” in their communication so people believe ppl can change their orientation (only when pressed further will they talk about “underlying needs”)

    I will be the first to say that reparative therapy was very helpful for me – it helped me “repair” childhood wounds (one of those wounds actually being cut off by my family bec i told them about dealing with this). I believe everyone can benefit from the therapy – and jonathan, ur right — the therapy is very different than the PR machine that is JONAH. In a recent interview with Arthur on Israel National News, Arthur stated that “1/3 of people change, 1/3 of people have significant change, and 1/3 dont” — this insinuates that about 2/3 of people “change” — however, the actual statistic used in all the rep therapy books is “1/3 change, 1/3 reduce their attractions and 1/3 dont” – its essential to note that middle stat is not the same as “significant” change. So, a lot of it is semantics.

    I never find “studies” to be relevant, bec u can pretty much find a population of people to sway the outcome in any way you want. I actually responded to Karten’s study (and even won the raffle incentive to fill it out – think $100 🙂 but ask me where i heard about his study? On the JONAH listserv – when I was still on it. Did Karten go to the ex-gay survivor conference and have them partake in his study? Id guess not – if i had to guess, his population was taken from members of change listservs like JONAH and JIM.

    Both opposing communities are seeking acceptance from one community — and the message of both communities sorta cancels the message of the other community – so the anger from the ortho gay community that wants to be public and accepted is obvious, and the need/want of the guys who want their ‘journey’ affirmed and accepted makes sense too (even in their tznius/modest way). but the two are bound to butt heads with each other.

    I personally believe that if the guys who want to change are not the ones that want to be public, then they can choose to remain hidden and “change” and live according to their religious beliefs. But then dont go out on a speaking circuit and say that “change is possible” – people will find JONAH even if it were just an underground org (i sure did) — the christians ex-gays are very public, so i understand their need…. but the jonah guys seem to discretely (discreetly? – i never know how its spelled 😉 want to change – so remain discrete, and let the ortho gays be out and in public and have community support.

  39. gayqueer
    April 7, 2010 at 12:39 PM #

    The only thing that Orthodox Jews need to be healed from is Judaism and religion in general.

    Been there, done that.

    While Judaism has its very positive good points, particularly Orthodox Judaism with all of its beautiful rituals, history and traditions kept intact, if you don’t fit into their mold, life will be very difficult.

    Gays for example. But there are also other marginalized groups in their community: older single women (and men too, but women suffer more, I think); divorcees; children of divorced parents; childless couples; and many others. “Baalei Tshuva” – those who “re” embrace orthodoxy, as well as converts from non-Jewish families (I mean orthodox converts) are treated all right in general, until it comes to marriage. I’ll walk with you, I’ll talk with you, I’ll learn with you, I’ll earn with you, I’ll tell you how amazing you are, but don’t even THINK of marrying into my family.

    Judaism is very hard to shake off without the guilt trip, though – I admit. But I’m SOOO glad that I’m not there any more.

  40. Steve
    April 10, 2010 at 11:42 AM #

    Hey everyone. I’m new here and decided to start my own blog a few days ago. I’m gay and having issues with it and having serious issues in my relationship with someone I really care about. I could use some help or at the least some feedback or maybe even some followers who can make me at least feel that someone is out there listening. By the way, how do I join your blog here?

  41. arthur
    April 22, 2010 at 6:49 AM #


    “Regarding sharing my own experiences, the answer to that should be self-explanatory…when I am just a single individual who may have experienced profound benefit from JONAH?”

    Truth be told, JONAH is a lucrative business. Aside from self righteousness, they’re making money off of this. I think the world would be better served if JONAH opened gyms for manly men. The monthly fees would be huge. Personal trainers don’t require degrees in counseling. Besides helping counselors feel smug, what JONAH cares about most is profits. Their motives are not pure.

  42. To Benjy Unger
    April 27, 2010 at 5:30 PM #

    Clearly you are trying to change something that cant be changed. you claim that a homosexual can never be changed to be a heterosexual no matter what therapy they undergo. You are a 23 yr old male, so correct me if i’m wrong you have been around for 23 years and claim you cant be changed but yet you would like to change a religion thats been around for thousands of years? It seems that on facebook and with your wonderful posts here you are really attention seeking. if you believe you are gay, be gay live with your boyfriend and no one would care; don’t strut out brooklyn and complain that people in the frum community arent accepting you. obviously you cant be accepted you believe in something that is against the torah. the torah says to be with a man like you would be with a woman, i dont see anywhere it says anything about anal sex. stop running around and flaunting your gayness when you know its not accepted in the frum community. here’s an idea why not convert if you want religion in your life so badly try catholicism, ohhh waiiitttt you cant because they wont accept you being gay. how about islam? wait i dont think that will work either im pretty sure they dont accept gays either. so 2 of the major religions in the world dont accept homosexuality, they both look at it as an abomination so why are you so busy blaming the yeshiva for kicking you out and the jews for not accepting you when the 2 most influential religions wouldnt accept you either. just because you were raised as a frum jew doesnt mean that frum jews need to accept you, as i have mentioned neither would catholics or muslims. i just want to make sure i understand this, you got kicked out of a yeshivah, an ALL boys yeshivah (one that follows halacha) for being gay and you seriously doubt their decision? your feelings were hurt how do you think the rest of the yeshiva feels? you dont think the majority of the guys there felt uncomfortable with an openly gay man with them everyday? you may be gay but that doesn’t mean that everything is about you. obviously you got kicked out out of a yeshiva that follows halacha because being gay is against halacha if you would have walked in and announced that you dont keep kosher or shaabos you would’ve been asked to leave as well. In addition, you clearly don’t want to be part of the frum world anymore gayness aside you dont keep shaabos anymore or kosher so why are you making a big deal that you were kicked out of a yeshiva? its not something you wanted to be a part of anyway. YU has openly gay students and yet they still learn and keep shaabos why didnt you go there? why not move to washington heights? instead you choose to remain in brooklyn and openly attack frum jews for not accepting you because you’re gay all i can say to that is DUH.

  43. DUH
    April 30, 2010 at 3:27 PM #

    If people go off the derech, those who are harsh and judgmental can take some of the credit. Congratulations.

    Yet, people are selective about what they condemn. Frum ganavim you can tolerate. There are minyonim with daf yomi in Federal penal institutions. Let’s brag about it.

    The argument is that self deception is wrong and that homophobia is also a problem.

    Would you want him back in yeshiva, not dissing Brooklyn and dating your daughter?


  44. To Benjy Unger
    April 30, 2010 at 5:32 PM #

    now thats hes gay obviously not….dissing brooklyn isnt the issue. his issue is attacking frumkeit. he sounds like a petulant child who didn’t get enough attention from his mommy and daddy and is seeking it now. self deception is wrong, if you want to be gay be gay no one would say anything but the fact is hes throwing it back in everyones face. you think hes the first frum gay guy out there? nope hes not. you he’s just the one who came out recently and decided a big deal about it….he feels he deserves a parade because hes gay. sorry he doesnt. instead he should be gay and move on with his life, let him live with his boyfriend and have many many children together but stop taking out his issues with frum jews everywhere.

  45. DUH
    May 1, 2010 at 11:32 PM #

    Let him gay to yu, you implied, as if once he’s left Brooklyn and moved across the river, the neighborhood will be improved upon. He may be a petulant little boy. Maybe he’s seeking attention, but what’s clear is that he’s left the frum community and that’s the problem many frum gay Jews face. It’s all or nothing for them because they’re treated badly when they’re honest about their problems. The frum community in Brooklyn is pretty insular, no? Let’s sweep all the problems under the rug, avoid chillul Hashem. But, he’s representative of a new era of permissiveness, rising levels of fanaticism and hedonism. He is probably pro-legitimizing gay marriage, the return of the dor hamabul.

    Our job is to match evil with righteousness which isn’t easy to do.

  46. Jean Lotu
    May 17, 2010 at 3:15 AM #

    God did not create men to be women and women to be men.

  47. lotumen
    June 9, 2010 at 1:30 PM #

    Same sex attraction has nothing to do with cross dressing, a fetish by itself. Men who are attracted to men and women who are attracted to women are not all transvestites. Not all lesbians are dykes. Not all men are turned on by women. This anyone who has had to deal with these feelings knows isn’t a situation they can easily change. Did God create you to love liver?

    Are religious Jews who happen to have same sex attractions to be stoned? Do you speak for God?

    nice to meet you.

  48. Domains Rule
    January 26, 2011 at 11:47 AM #

    Great site and great information. You gave me ambitionto write another blog post tonight. I like your style.

  49. understand
    December 30, 2011 at 2:46 AM #

    Please let me introduce myself.

    I as well grew up in the orthodox brooklyn culture and struggled with the issue of SSA. I never did partake in any reperative therapy (i had seen a psychologist in which we discussed my SSA)
    and I now today consider myself pretty much free of all sexual and emotional attraction to men (I am male!)

    My goal here is NOT to pass judgement on Benjy, Chaim, Mordechai or anyone else who is living a gay lifestyle. Rather my goal is to say to all of those with SSA who are struggling with the decision of either keeping up a long battle to fight their current sexual urges or to partake in the homosexual lifestyle that it is possible to emotionally and sexually feel like a heterosexual even though you currently do not feel that way.

    For me it was prbbly a 5 year long struggle until I was honestly able to look at myself and say I feel like a heterosexual. TO ALL THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER HAD THIS TEST – DONT EVER THINK YO CAN PASS JUDGEMENT ON SOMEONE WHO DID AND IN YOUR MIND FAILED. you could never imagine what its like to look at friends, chavrusas, rebbeim, yeshiva dorm mates, etc. and constantly wonder what it would be like to touch them, feel them, kiss them, etc. The constant struggle mixed with the shame of feeling that way is a feeling unmatched by any other I’ve had in my life.

    Again, I reiterate that my goal is not to castigate those who have accepted a homosexual lifestyle, but rather to offer encouragement to those who are involved in the struggle to not live one. It took a long time – approximately 5 painful years – but I now pretty much never have a sexual longing for men (I constantly do for women) To be completely honest, whenever I go through a tough time (stress, etc.) my mind momentarily flirts to a homosexual fantasy, but it is for brief seconds and is easily forgotten. I never actually fantasize about men anymore. The thought doesnt even pop into my head!

    All I could say is keep it up!
    it worked for me!


  1. Gay Marriage Watch » Blog Archive » Being Gay & Jewish in Brooklyn - April 1, 2010

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