Jason ermutigt an dieser Stelle ausdrücklich auch unsere jüdischen Brüder und Schwestern, mit uns Kontakt aufzunehmen. Gerne kommen wir auch in jüdische Gemeinden, sprechen mit den Verantwortlichen dort oder halten Vorträge / Seminare.
Wer als Jude an einer Jason-Gruppe teilnimmt oder den individuellen Kontakt mit uns sucht, muss keine Angst haben, dass wir in irgendeiner Weise versuchen werden, ihn oder sie zum Übertritt zum christlichen Glauben zu bewegen. Ebensowenig zwingen wir unseren Glauben denen auf, die sich als Atheisten bezeichnen. Wir haben Erfahrung darin, unser Programm an die individuellen Bedürfnisse der Ratsuchenden anzupassen.
Jason steht auch in Kontakt mit Arthur Goldberg von der jüdischen Ex-Gay Ministry Jonah. Eine Teilnahme von Menschen jüdischen Glaubens sowie beratende Tätigkeiten in jüdischen Gemeinden würden immer in enger Absprache mit ihm erfolgen.
Die Konversation kann in deutsch, englisch, französisch (teilweise auch mit einigen Wörtern Hebräisch wenn nötig) erfolgen. Einzelne Mitglieder von Jason haben Erfahrung im Umgang mit Juden aus Deutschland, den USA und Israel und sind vertraut mit den Grundlagen des jüdischen Glaubens. Ebenso haben wir über Jonah sowie privat Kontakte nach Israel.
Geben Sie sich einen Ruck und nehmen Sie doch einmal unverbindlich Kontakt mit uns auf!
Hinzufügen möchten wir auch, dass wir Links grundsätzlich aus Informationszwecken setzen. Die Tatsache, dass hier ein Link zu einer Organisation ist, heißt also nicht zwangsweise, dass diese uns auch unterstützt. Falls gewünscht, bitten wir um eine kurze Info (E-Mail) und wir werden den Link wieder entfernen.
For English-speaking visitors: Jason adds links to organisations that we consider helpful for our clients. The fact that those links are on our homepage does not necessarily mean those organisations also support JASON. If you want us to remove any of those links, please send us an email.
Judaism and the Modern Attitude to Homosexuality
JIFGA Overview: Introduction
The Seven Noahide Laws: A Blueprint for a Better World
The Jewish Institute for Global Awareness (JIFGA) teaches that by understanding, internalizing and following a set of Divinely-ordained moral imperatives and universal ethics known as the Seven Noahide Laws, the world can produce more just societies, which are better able to receive and retain G-d’s** Presence. We seek to inspire our fellow human beings, because we are all descendants of Noah who, together with his family, is described in the Hebrew Bible as the survivor of The Flood and who thus became the ancestor of all of humanity. However, not only do we seek to inspire everyone who follows the Abrahamic religions (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) to follow these Noahide laws but also those of every race, color, or creed.
Our foundation is rooted in Biblical principles and expresses a Biblical world-view. Some may refer to this code as representative of a “Judeo-Christian” worldview because it includes the moral values initially set forth in the Hebrew Bible (the Torah) and shared by the Christian traditions that historically shaped much of the western world. Given to us by G-d at the dawn of history, (as recounted in the book of Genesis and documented in the Talmud, Sanhedrin 56a-b -- the Oral Law), these seven principles, if followed, permit us to establish a harmonious world in which diverse peoples can live together peacefully.
JIFGA seeks to globally provide humanity with greater awareness of the existence of these universal values, principles that are dependent upon Biblical teachings. These are root ethical values that Jews, Christians and Muslims, who represent more than 50% of the world’s population, can act upon within their own religious traditions. The great Eastern religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, also have, at their root, a primordial link to these core values. In fact, going back to Noah, these values are part of a legacy for all humanity.
Jews Have a Special Obligation to Spread Knowledge of the Noahide Laws
Orthodox Jewish tradition states that these moral imperatives were given by G-d as a binding Code of Conduct for the children of Noah, i.e., for all of humanity; further, that Jews (as the original recipients of the tradition from Sinai) are obligated to teach people about the Code's existence and to encourage them to observe these laws.
Maimonides (1138-1204), a great rabbinic sage, said, ‘Moses, our teacher, instructed the Jewish people, having been authorized from the mouth of G-d, to bring all of the inhabitants of the world to observe the commandments given to the children of Noach [Noah]. It is the Jew’s duty to see to it that all peoples lead the righteous and decent life which comes from compliance with G-d’s Laws.”
Rabbi Daniel Levy currently from the United Kingdom explains: “The Jew has a crucial role to play. He cannot be a by-stander remaining aloof from the world’s conduct.”
And Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the revered deceased leader of the world-wide Chabad movement, in urging Jews to inform non-Jews about the Noahide Code of Conduct, said, “Every Jew has the obligation to ensure that all the peoples of the world observe the Seven Noahide Laws. The religious tolerance of today, and the trend towards greater freedom, gives us the unique opportunity to enhance widespread observance of these laws.”
Even though G-d charged the Children of Israel to serve as His "Light unto the nations" (Isaiah 49:6) at Mount Sinai, historical circumstances did not permit us to publicize Noahide laws, also reiterated at Sinai, until the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, revived this lost tradition in the early 1980s in an effort to prepare the world for a new era. Recent rabbinical support from a group of Modern Orthodox rabbis reaffirm “the fundamental ethical obligations that all people have before G-d [as] … taught [by Judaism] through the universal Noahide covenant.”
The Jewish Institute for Global Awareness, working with people of all three of the Abrahamic faiths, as well as any individual who has a potential affinity with these basic values, was thus formed to take upon itself this obligation by spreading awareness of the content of these commandments and to encourage adherence to them.
Any non-Jew who adheres to these seven Biblical Laws, and does so because they were commanded to Moses as part of the general revelation at Sinai, is considered a “righteous gentile” in G-d’s eyes and is thus assured of a place in the world to come (Olam Haba) -- the ultimate reward for the righteous. There is no imperative for such a person to become a Jew and Jews are mandated not to prostelyze religious conversion to Judaism but simply to make known to all of humanity the laws which humanity in general is commanded to follow.
- Christianity: Most Christian believers today see these 7 Noahide Laws as compatible with the main ethical tenets of their faith and advocate adhering to its Code of Conduct. The original intention of Jesus (the Nazarene) and Paul (Saul of Tarsus), according to the historical research of Rabbi Jacob Emden (1697-1776), was to convert non-Jews to the observance of the Seven Noahide Laws. Indeed, early Christian references to the essence of the Noahide Laws as a Code of Conduct is mentioned in the first century CE, Acts 15:1-31 when Paul agreed to admit gentiles into the Christian Church only after they accepted the substance of these principles. The New Testament, followed by Christians, incorporated the universal values of the Noahide Laws which in turn are part of the Old Testament that G-d gave at Mt. Sinai for all of humanity.
- Islam: Because Noah is recognized as a prophet in the Koran, there is Muslim support for and compliance with the spread of the Seven Noahide Laws. This fact is evidenced by its specific acceptance by many Muslim leaders. For example, the Mayors of several Israeli Arab communities such as the Mayor of the Galilean City of Shefa-Amar (Shfaram) and the Abu Gosh Mayor (Salim Jaber), both of whom signed a declaration in 2004 committing to establish a more humane world by adopting the values of the seven Noahide Laws. Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco, has expressed the view in 2012 that these values truly unite civilizations. The spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Mowafak Tarif (in 2004) likewise recognized these seven principles as fundamental values of society. And, Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, a leader of the Italian Muslim Assembly, unequivocally declared in 2006, “Islamic law holds within it the seven laws of Noah and can be taught correctly to the Muslims of the world.” It is hoped that acceptance of these common moral values can end the centuries old animosity between Muslims and Jews.
Belief in G-d and His Moral Values Essential
In order to transcend our innate selfishness and the subjectivity of our intellects, a key aspect of this universal moral code is an acknowledgement that society must be predicated on a belief in G-d. If we are to follow His commandments, we must recognize the existence of a Higher Power, one to whom we are responsible for our actions. Morality should not be altered to suit one’s personal whims or for his/her social convenience. Human beings cannot become the sole arbiters of right and wrong. If we do so, then "right" and “wrong” become relative rather than absolute. When this occurs, the “politically correct” view enforces one group’s standards, regardless of the consequences it may have to others who may disagree. On the other hand, G-d’s commandments as to what is “right” and what is “wrong” provide us with universal moral absolutes which have withstood the test of time over millennia.
Today’s world has lost touch with these moral absolutes and thus we find ourselves living in a time of great moral and social drift – without an objective or universal moral anchor. We need to rediscover these timeless laws and incorporate them into our daily lives, thereby enabling us, based upon G-d’s commandments, to structure an ethical code of conduct for human existence. By doing so, we can not only unify different cultures, societies, and traditions but also reverse the course of moral decay that is evident in western civilization.
Connection to the Ten Commandments
There is a clear connection between the seven Laws of Noah which were commanded to Noah sixteen generations earlier than the Ten Commandments which were given at Mt. Sinai to Moses as part of the Torah (Hebrew Bible) as an eternal inheritance (Deut. 33:4). At a minimum, five out of the Ten Commandments are specifically referenced in the Seven Noahide laws while the other five are implicitly included in the more generalized Seven Noahide laws, either through inference or by interpretation.
Rabbi Dr. Shimon Dovid Cowen, founder and director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization in Melbourne, Australia explains that both the Seven Laws of Noah and the Ten Commandments are at the core of a revelation communicated to Moses in its totality in the Five Books of Moses. “This [revelation] contained altogether 620 commandments, comprised of 613 commandments addressed to the Jewish people and seven commandments, the Noahide laws, addressed to humanity.” While the universal part of the revelation—the Noahide laws—was communicated to humanity prior to Sinai, its reiteration in the Sinai revelation fortifies the importance of Noahide law and the social order it commands.
Drawing upon the ancient Jewish tradition of gematria which assigns a number to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order to help us understand hidden meanings of words and phrases as well as capturing the spiritual association or connection between words and spiritual concepts, Rabbi Dr. Cowen points out the symbolism of “the fact that the Hebrew text of the Ten Commandments contained 620 letters,” precisely the same number of total commandments (613 plus 7) revealed at Mt. Sinai to the world, thereby evidencing G-d’s intent to connect the seven laws of Noah with the Ten Commandments.
Government Leaders Encourage Adherence to the Seven Noahide Laws
The universality of these principles and global import was recognized in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan when he spoke of “the eternal validity of the Seven Noahide Laws [as] a moral code for all of us regardless of religious faith” (Proclamation on the National Day of Reflection, April 4, 1982).
Seven years later, in 1989, President George H.W. Bush not only proclaimed that these “Biblical values are the foundation for civilized society” but he also recognized that “A society that fails to recognize or adhere to them cannot endure.”
He understood how these “principles of moral and ethical conduct that have formed the basis for all civilizations comes to us, in part, from the centuries old Seven Noahide Laws.” And, in doing so, he noted their origins: “The Noahide Laws are actually seven commandments given to man by G-d, as recorded in the Old Testament. …” (Proclamation 5956-Education Day, USA 1989 and 1990, 102 Stat. 3016, April 14, 1989)
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States Congress in 1991, on a bipartisan basis, further recognized how this “historical tradition of ethical values and principles…upon which our great Nation was founded … have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws.” The American Congress understood how “the most recent weakening of these principles … has resulted in crises that beleaguer and threaten the fabric of civilized society.” Thus, they warned us that “without these ethical values and principles the edifice of civilization stands in serious peril of returning to chaos.” (Public Law 102-14, 102d Congress, 1st session, H.J. Res. 104)
Other world leaders have joined the call for further observance and knowledge of these laws. For example, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Union wrote (in July, 2014) that he seeks greater “dissemination of the universal values known as the Noahide laws” and Major General Michael Jeffery, Governor General of Australia, lamenting family breakdowns and drug and alcohol abuse in modern society in a 2008 letter wrote that he believed that observing the fundamental values of the Noahide Laws can be an antidote to such ills of society.
We only need to look at the havoc in which we find ourselves today in order to recognize the validity of these truthful assertions.
Specifics of the Seven Laws of Noah
So what are these seven Laws of Noah? Depending upon the source utilized to ascertain these laws, the exact order--but not the substance--may vary somewhat.
ONE: Prohibition of Idolatry: by being ever mindful and aware of G-d’s Presence. We are to focus on the monotheistic concept of the unity of G-d and negate what is the opposite of a belief in G-d, i.e. idolatry of any sort. By having knowledge of G-d, we are able to imitate His G-dly qualities.
TWO: Reverence for G-d: includes a prohibition of blasphemy against G-d’s holy Name (the ultimate irreverence for G-d) and by positive concepts of serving G-d by revering Him in our speech and respecting His sacred texts. Likewise, since every human being is created in the image of G-d, he or she must be treated with respect and honor. In particular, this respect for G-d’s image within us is associated with honoring one’s parents, honoring one’s own words, being careful not to lie, and exercising the G-d given free will of humans, thus enabling us to choose ethical responses to life’s situations.
THREE: Prohibition of Homicide: not to kill [physical harm is included in the prohibition of theft – theft and material harm] a human being. As required by respect for the sanctity of human life, suicide, assisting suicide, elective abortion, and euthanasia are forbidden. By engaging in these acts, we metaphorically lessen G-d, for humans were created in the image of G-d. Phrased positively, this law requires us to respect human life.
FOUR: Prohibition of Theft/Robbery: includes not only stealing, lying, or cheating but extends to all kinds of harm to person or property. Overall affirmative respect for another’s personhood, rights and property are included.
FIVE: Prohibiting Sexual Deviations/Misconduct: We are commanded to forever protect and uphold the family unit by not committing any acts of sexual immorality (adultery, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, sexual abuse) as well as not engaging in promiscuous behaviors nor engaging in castration, pornography, and masturbation. It also includes the positive aspects of strengthening natural marriages and procreating. The sanctity of natural marriage reflects the oneness of G-d and his creations.
SIX: A Dietary Law Prohibition: not to eat flesh taken from an animal while still alive – is part of a broader prohibition on gratuitous cruelty to animals; we are also enjoined not to be heedlessly wasteful or unnecessarily destructive to G-d’s physical creation.
SEVEN: Create a Fair and Righteous Judicial System: to enforce the other six laws and all other laws consistent with them.
**It is traditional among many Jews, rather than spelling out the full word for the Supreme Being, to substitute the letters “G-d,” thereby treating G-d’s name with reverence and providing respect to Him as the Supreme Being. By doing so, we can erase or dispose of the writing without disrespecting Him or symbolically destroying His name.
JONAH'S Psycho-Educational Model for Healing
Author / Contributor :: ELAINE SILODOR BERK & ARTHUR A. GOLDBERG JONAH Co-Directors
Written By ELAINE SILODOR BERK & ARTHUR A. GOLDBERG, JONAH Co-Directors
Science and religion often clash, and rarely are they used to prove one another in modern times.
The authors wish to acknowledge the input of Martin Pressman, a facilitator in the JONAH program, for developing several of the concepts set forth in this article and for his help in editing this article.
"I continue to be amazed at what I experienced. The kindness, compassion and love from each man was apparent. All of them courageous - choosing to fight this battle. I can honestly say I slaughtered several of the demons inside of me which have been blocking my growth for years. I know that I am a different person now. I feel different. I think differently and one of the guys even told me that I look different. I am so certain that this battle can not only be fought but won."
(Response of a JONAH member after attending a Journey into Manhood Weekend, as reported on the JONAH @ shamash listserv.)
"I will be doing some mundane chore when I'll bust up laughing because I know I'm a man! This is such a powerful thing for me to realize. It's what I've lusted for in others for so long, and I now I have it myself. This is so-o-o cool! I am a man among men. NEVER did I think I could say that, or know it in the core of my being, but I'm there â€¦ and I LOVE IT! I welcome it and own it, and feel it."
(Response of a JONAH member after attending a New Warrior Training Adventure Weekend, as reported on the JONAH @ shamash listserv.)
These quotes are representative of similar sentiments expressed by our members who have participated in the gender-affirming processes ("GAP") espoused by JONAH. Gender empowerment, rather than homosexuality or androgyny, is the ideal we seek and although we are a relatively new organization, we believe that the results demonstrated by our members should be shared with the therapeutic community. We believe our experiences are not only replicable but will help others gain new insights and tools to help their clients.
JONAH, Jews offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, is the first organization dedicated to educating the world-wide Jewish community about the prevention, intervention, and healing of the issues surrounding homosexuality. While JONAH works closely with other religious and secular groups which share our viewpoint that same sex attraction (SSA) is treatable through a strategy of inner healing for those who are motivated to change, we are developing our own comprehensive psycho-educational healing strategy. We believe our model holds great promise for achieving the healing desired by our members or others who utilize it. Although Dr. Joseph Nicolosi has written about a number of these therapeutic procedures in Reparative Therapy for Male Homosexuality, and others have spoken about them at NARTH conferences, we have been fortunate to see how these strategies effectively interact when used as part of a comprehensive plan of healing SSA.
This holistic strategy of combining elements from several gender-affirming processes ("GAP:" a program designed to fill in the developmental gaps) has been praised by our members who noted a synergistic effect which in turn resulted in an acceleration of their healing. When these various aspects of the healing model are combined, particularly when compared to those who only received individual private therapy, we found a marked difference in the ability of the struggler to achieve changes in identity, behavior, arousals, and fantasies. In fact, the experiential, spiritual and emotional work done by the client outside of the therapist's office was reported to be critically important to implement the cognitive understandings he may receive during the therapy session. However, even at the cognitive level, a variety of additional resources (such as bibliotherapy or participation in support groups, whether in-person, teleconferenced, or e-groups) accelerated the recovery of the client.
In fact, this holistic approach to intervention resulted in accessing a member's inner drives, dismantling his defenses, intensifying his affective involvement in the treatment, identifying the transference patterns and projections as they arise, and unlocking the unconsciousness. Analogous to certain aspects of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP), as developed by Habib Davanloo and Patricia Coughlin Della Selva, this approach appears to shorten the time frame needed for a client to achieve an enduring change for his unwanted same-sex attractions.
Impressive progress in overcoming same-sex attractions and regaining masculine identity has been reported by several of our participating male members.(A separate article will report on which healing strategies our women members found most effective.) Since motivation is a key element in what traditionally has been a relatively long treatment process for healing SSA, the measurable and attainable progress as occurs within this "gap" approach is critical in sustaining the perseverance needed to continue the process.
The gender-affirming process is completed when a man comes to own his masculine power and takes his place as an equal in the world of men.
To encourage therapists and faith-based ministries to utilize these multiple healing strategies when treating men with homosexual attractions, we are providing brief descriptions of several facets of JONAH's gender affirming process for healing. For more detailed information, please feel free to contact our organization. For the purposes of this discussion, we have listed our healing strategies in alphabetical order:
Experiential Healing Weekends
Healing of the Family System
Jewish Spiritual Development
Masculinity Development and Empowerment
Networking, Support Groups, Daily Internet E-Mail Listserv
Overcoming Shame and Narcissism
Receiving Healthy Touch and Affection
We'd like to explain that through our in-take interviews, we were dismayed to find several clients who had either been in therapy for SSA for several years or who had participated in certain programs of other faith-based ministries but had no idea about the wealth of resources available.
All too often we found clients who were never informed about books which could help them understand the origins of their feelings or from which they could learn how others healed from many of the same wounds which precipitated their same-sex attraction. We also found a lack of knowledge about helpful websites, group support meetings, and mentoring programs. Most of them never participated in the experiential weekends nor did they even know of their existence.
In other cases, many religiously observant clients maintained an erroneous belief that faith alone, without any psychological assistance, would bring about the desired healing. Our observation is that in these cases, all too often, simply a repression of behavior occurred without an effective treatment of fantasies or arousals.
Our belief is that therapists working with those struggling with unwanted SSA should encourage their clients to avail themselves of the numerous resources now available in addition to individual therapy. We were surprised to learn from many of our members that numerous therapists (a) never informed them about available resources outside the therapy session nor (b) provided any encouragement to participate in those activities. Our experience has shown that strugglers experience an exponential leap forward when they use our psycho-educational model as a check list to assure themselves that they are doing everything possible to accelerate the healing process.
As Dr. Joseph Nicolosi points out in his book, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality:A New Clinical Approach (p.204), the therapeutic utilization of books, reading materials, tapes, video cassettes and other educational sources permits the individual struggling with SSA to gain several beneficial insights. These include: (a) The knowledge gained from biographical information of recovered homosexuals lends credence to their own struggle and prospects for recovery. Our members are inspired when they can relate their own experiences to those who have successfully resolved the underlying emotional issues which cause SSA and this simultaneously lessens the concern that they are alone in their struggle. (b) Reading material enables the individual to understand the causes, the healing strategies, and the basics of reparative therapy, thereby enabling them to apply this new-found knowledge to their own situation. (c) Finally, as Nicolosi says, bibliotherapy can offset the "demoralizing confusion created by gay propaganda and the popular media of our culture." (p. 204).
JONAH has found that reading about the issues underlying same-sex attractions is a vital part of the healing process. In fact, we not only encourage our members to read extensively about the subject but we also recommend that spouses, siblings, and parents read the same materials. Families need to be brought into the healing process, an approach strongly advocated by psychotherapist Richard Cohen in his book Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality.
The books provide a psychological framework and encouragement for the struggler through explanations of how others have healed. Often members report how they saw parts of themselves portrayed in the literature. Book discussions occur within the JONAH support groups as well as on the daily E-mail listserv. Some members who discussed these materials with their therapist reported that the literature provided their therapist with an opportunity to help the struggler dig deeper into his issues.
JONAH has a Book Order section on our web site [www. Jonahweb.org] which lists many recommended books and permits the viewer to order the book directly through our site.
Experiential Healing Weekends
JONAH refers our members to several experiential weekends, some of which contain a generic spiritual component involving a Higher Power unconnected to any particular religion. (Ultimately we hope to develop an experiential weekend specifically incorporating certain Jewish motifs.)
Weekends consist of discussions, psychodrama, journaling, and individual "drills" which enable participants to reach feelings not usually accessible in the short time frame of the typical therapeutic session.
The most popular and effective programs, as reported by our members, are three complimentary and synergistic weekends listed here:
Journey into Manhood (web site: peoplecanchange.com)
New Warrior Training Adventure (web site: mkp.org)Love, Sex, & Intimacy Seminars (web site: gaytostraight.org).
Describing the objectives and methodology of one of these weekend programs will illustrate why they are so effective. For example, here is a description of The Journey into Manhood weekend, principally designed by Ben Newman of Peoplecanchange, together with David Matheson, an associate of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi:
The objective of the Journey Into Manhood is to provide "an experiential weekend for men who experience unwanted homosexual feelings and are sincerely self-motivated to work to lessen homosexuality identity, attractions, and behaviors and to increase masculine identity and desires. The training is designed to teach these men, through words and processes, that mature heterosexual masculinity can be achieved through authenticity (or internal integrity), need fulfillment, masculine identity, and male bonding." (Peoplecanchange Journey into Manhood Protocol)
These objectives are accomplished by challenging men (1) to examine their beliefs, perceptions and judgments about themselves and others that may be producing a sense of gender inferiority (2) experience trusting and bonding with other men in non-sexual ways (3) process deep feelings related to their pasts, themselves and their relationships with others, and experience at least an initial release of those feelings that may be blocking growth into heterosexual masculinity and (4) become ready to embrace a new way of seeing themselves and of being in the world, particularly in the world of men.
As shown in the quotes set forth at the beginning of this paper, men return from these weekends nearly euphoric from the experience of accessing their inherent masculine power. For some, this is the first time in their lives they could sense ownership of their own masculinity and deal with deep personal issues (such as same-sex peer wounds, mother wounds, or father wounds) in a safe, supportive environment which encourages them to break down destructive behavior patterns to which they had clung for many years. These concentrated and intense emotional experiences yield significant results and give hope to many.
Additionally, our members report that when they become sufficiently comfortable in the New Warriors' community of men and have an opportunity to staff a weekend, they find the experience to be even more powerful than the initial weekend because of the leadership role they are able to assume.
Healing of the Family System
JONAH believes that homosexuality frequently can be viewed as a family system problem, not just an individual problem. When parents, in particular, can become a part of the healing process, it is extremely beneficial to the whole family system. Often, parents inadvertently contributed to the development of their child's SSA. Much has to do with the child's perception of the relationship between him and his mother and father. Once the parents understand the sources of their child's problem, we found many are able to assist their child in the developmental growth process required to overcome the condition.
Even when parents cannot be brought into the healing process because of physical or emotional abuse, extreme neglect, or emotional incapacity, there are siblings, extended family, or close family friends who can participate. Sometimes, just to openly discuss the issues with close family or friends brings immeasurable relief to an overcomer who has kept this part of his being hidden for so many years.
We encourage our members to openly discuss their issues with family members and to provide educational material to those in his "circle" who are willing to learn about the underpinnings of homosexual attractions. Several of our members have attended, together with the families, the Love, Sex, and Intimacy Seminars given by Richard Cohen of the International Healing Foundation. In doing so, they reported experiences which enabled them either to begin or to accelerate the process of peeling back their own defensive detachment from their father figure, untangling their mother enmeshment issues, and repairing the fractured relationships with siblings and other family members.
For those who are married, we often find that the struggler was leading a double life. Most wives who are informed of the homosexual condition by their husbands (which we strongly encourage) respond favorably and perform a major role in the healing process. Again, couples who have attended the Love, Sex, and Intimacy Seminars. and utilize appropriately trained reparative therapists for couples therapy in their follow-up work, reported favorable results.
Today's politically correct notion that homosexuality is merely an alternative lifestyle can complicate the healing process, particularly when the family member or spouse incorrectly believes the struggler was born that way or has a so-called "gay gene." Therefore, we must redouble our efforts to educate the entire community that homosexuality is a treatable condition.
Elizabeth Moberly expressed the importance of family in treating the homosexual condition. In a 1985 lecture given to the Royal Society of Health, she said, "The homosexual condition - although often an occasion for sexual expression - is in itself a state of unfulfilled developmental needs. For this reason, homosexuality may best be evaluated, not by comparison with sexuality in general, but by comparison with the parent-child relationship and facilitating of human maturation."
JONAH recognizes that support groups (for spouses, parents, family, and friends of those wishing to heal from SSA) are critical to the struggler's healing. Each group faces unique problems as they confront past issues which may have led to their loved one's homosexual attractions or to the construction of changed relationships, both in the present and reaching into the future, as their loved one accomplishes the human maturation Moberly spoke about.
JONAH wishes to make clear that we only work with members who either seek to grow out of their same-sex attractions or are ambivalent about such attractions. Should prospective members request to become more comfortable with their homosexual attractions or with the gay lifestyle, we will refer them elsewhere and make no value judgments about their choice.
However, for those who seek assistance, JONAH maintains a global referral list of therapists, both for in-person therapy and for phone therapy. Therefore JONAH is always seeking therapists who agree with and are skilled in reparative and directive therapy and will adopt the gender affirming healing processes advocated by JONAH. Those who are interested in being part of our referral service should call (201) 433-3444 and leave a message.
We believe that the type of therapist who can best help these men is not the classical emotionally-detached therapist. Such therapy, in the words of NARTH co-founder Joseph Nicolosi, "reactivates memories of earlier frustration from the cold and distant father." (Reparative therapy for Male Homosexuals, p.20) Nicolosi continues: "Withholding personal involvement merely frustrates the homosexual client, who particularly needs intimate male connectedness, and whose healing comes primarily through the therapeutic relationship." Thus, Nicolosi concludes, the therapist must be emotionally involved with his client, create a directive approach, exude an air of masculinity, "and, within therapeutic guidelines, permit dependency."
We believe that gender identity determines sexual orientation and that one sexualizes or eroticizes that with which he does not identify. To successfully treat someone with a homosexual condition, our experience shows that a directive and activist therapy program is critical in assisting a client to internalize his gender identity, demystify his romantic attractions to the same sex, and satisfy his unmet developmental needs for attention, affection, and approval from others of the same gender without sexualizing these needs.
Jewish Spiritual Development
Although JONAH is an outreach organization that works with all Jews, from the strictly observant Orthodox to the most secular of Jews, we stress certain aspects of our religious teachings. We blend lessons from the Torah (what Christians refer to as the Old Testament) with other Jewish sources in order to help individuals access their inner souls and thus recapture their G-d given inherent heterosexuality.
Part of the reason for this emphasis is to provide the person struggling with SSA with the ability to distinguish a moral right from a moral wrong in today's culture war. The Torah's eternal values integrate the principles of deferred gratification and the exercise of restraint in sexual activity into the human psyche. In doing so, we note how this view is antithetical to today's prevalent moral relativism in which the only factor to restrain human behavior is mutual consent. Simply stated, this attitude can be summed up as follows: "If two or more consenting adults want to _______ (fill in the blank), then no one else need be concerned."
When we understand that the homosexual cohabitation prohibited by Lev.18.22 and explained in the Talmud (Nedarim 51a) is a mistaken response to an unfilled emotional need, we are able to remove an oppressive guilt from the person who was mistakenly led (most often by forces initially beyond his/her control) into such activity.
By understanding the root causes, and the unfilled needs for which the behavior (or fantasy) attempts to compensate, a program of remediation becomes achievable. We find it is helpful to employ a combination of both the Jewish concept of "teshuvah" (a process of transforming one's inner being, commonly translated as "return" or "repentance") and the secular understandings of gender affirming therapies.
Jewish law creates a delicate balancing act: accepting the individual as a human being who deserves love and compassion but rejecting the homosexual activity in which he/she may participate. But this "love the person but not the behavior" principle is equally true of any illicit sexual behavior, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual. For example, we accept the community philanderer as a person but disapprove of his/her sexual brokenness. It is incumbent upon the community to understand the mentality and inner development of the persons who perpetrate the act and find a way to assist them in their healing.
JONAH makes special efforts to reach the Jewish community through synagogues and the large network of Jewish organizations in order to spread this message of hope and healing.
Masculinity Development and Empowerment
At its core, male homosexuality is a matter of undeveloped manhood. True healing requires a resumption of the journey into manhood. The boy who physically grew into an adult male but missed out on certain developmental stages will need to go through them now. Nicolosi points out, for example, that the pre-homosexual boy who missed out on rough and tumble play with his father and , later, did not take part in the physical competitions characteristic of his age often ended up removing himself from such competition and thereby diminished his own sense of masculinity. (Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality, p. 193)
A basic issue in healing SSA involves reconnecting the individual from the alienation he experienced from his own gender. To help SSA individuals take ownership of their G-d given masculinity is a formidable task, but we at JONAH have developed several tactics to assist in this regard. The person with same-sex attraction must learn how to experience trust and how to bond with other men in non-sexual ways. As discussed in the experiential weekend strategy section, The New Warrior Training Adventure (or the Sterling Men's Group) is particularly helpful in this regard.
To illustrate a program employed to assist men with their masculine development, it is useful to cite the two hour sports activity we developed following each support group. We utilize knowledgeable coaches to lead these activities. We receive outstanding feedback from group members as to the effectiveness of the sports therapy. They learn teamwork, including how to trust other men and bond with members of their team.
Men who are not able to attend our group meetings find that having a coach or a friend teach them a team sport, such as baseball or basketball, is invaluable in developing their masculine identity. We do not seek to make any of these men into athletic stars but rather use this exercise to reinforce their connection to other men. They are doing things that men do. In the process, they discover their own masculine strength which they had previously believed was lacking and receive affirmation of their inherent masculinity.
Since masculinity is connected to the use of the body, when men are not using their body, they often disconnect from it. Playing sports heals the disconnection with body from which our members suffer. Members report that playing sports and learning the skills helped them heal that disconnection while simultaneously increasing their sense of masculinity. As David Matheson, an associate of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, said to one of his clients who is also a member of JONAH, "Doing something you think you can't do is empowering. Gaining mastery over fear, ineptitude, and inadequacy is empowering."
In addition, playing sports helps our members overcome the problem of passivity. Men learn that the ball is not going to come to them unless they are in a position to catch it. This insight is a lesson of life. Healing from SSA will not happen unless the person does the work required to overcome it.
There is another aspect of engaging in sports activities as part of the strategy of resuming the growth into manhood. Many of our members report that their fear of sports stemmed from early childhood same-sex peer wounds and that learning how to play sports in a safe environment permitted them to overcome these wounds. They found themselves able to bond with other men, many for the first time in their lives. And, as Nicolosi makes clear, central to the repairing of homosexuality is the establishment of nonsexual intimate relationships with men (Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality, p.194). Being involved in traditional men's activities, such as sports, is a direct way to heal those wounds.
Individuals trying to heal from SSA need role models and guidance from heterosexuals of the same-sex in order to heal the wounds caused by defensive detachment from the same-sex parent and peers. Such a role model becomes a mentor who assumes a role originally designed for a father to have fulfilled for the boy as he was growing up. Qualities needed by a mentor include compassion, empathy, a non-judgmental attitude, and most importantly, knowledge about how to heal from SSA, or at least a strong desire to learn.
If the struggler is lucky enough to have parents willing and able to help, and the struggler is able to reconnect with the same-sex parent, this is the obvious first choice for a mentor. For those whose parents are unavailable, mentors can be sought from among clergy, teachers, members of social groups to which the struggler belongs or any other appropriate group. Some of our members report that the New Warrior experience (or the Sterling Men's group, a similar organization) provided them with a mentor with whom they could bond.
The importance of healthy male-to-male mentoring cannot be emphasized enough. It is not uncommon for strugglers to suffer from feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. The mentor is the role model that takes the mystery out of masculinity and supports the struggler's journey to his own masculine power.
Closely related is the need for same-sex non-sexual friendships. Nicolosi speaks of the importance of this relationship when he stated, "same-sex friendships have shown themselves to be therapeutic" (p.194). These friendships come both from
other men in recovery and from men who never had SSA.
Networking, Support Groups, Daily Internet E-Mail Listserv
Networking: Leaving behind one's same-sex attraction and achieving heterosexual attraction can be a long and difficult struggle. Essentially our gender affirming process enables members to create a totally new support structure in many different facets of their lives. Before finding our group, these strugglers often felt isolated and alone in their struggle. Alternatively, they felt that the gay lifestyle provided them with a circle of friends they could never find in the "straight" world. Thus, to create a feeling of belonging, we believe it is critical for our members to network with others in the process of recovery or with those who have completed their journey to sexual wholeness (often through the group support meetings, the daily E-mail listserv, mentoring or networking).
Members report that fellow journeyers on the road to recovery help them by sharing experiences, understanding their fears, and providing accountability and support. The benefits are immeasurable. The group support sessions and the daily E-mail listserv provide methods to make the connections so that strugglers can bond with others sharing similar concerns.
Although some therapists believe networking between those in recovery to be risky, Nicolosi encourages individuals within his support groups to network with each other outside the group sessions. Within the JONAH support network, to date we have never had a sexual liaison take place between our members. Instead we find the members provide each other with a social camaraderie that clearly outweighs any perceived risks. Our experience is thus similar to other self-help groups where affected individuals assist others who have not progressed as far as the person providing the assistance.
The person who was active in the gay lifestyle often found a sense of belonging among other gays which overcame his sense of alienation and loneliness. To replace that sense of belonging, it is critical for mentoring and networking to take place. Without it, it is difficult to establish non-sexual intimate relationships. We believe that the therapist who works individually with his patient and who does not recommend getting involved in group support and networking is doing his client a disservice. Our observable experience is that strugglers leap forward when they undertake the following processes: maintain communication with others who have healed or are in the process of healing from SSA, establish relationships with empathetic mentors, some in the process of recovery and others who have never had an SSA problem.
An interesting footnote to this process is the fact that many of our members who begin to help others heal found that they were able to strengthen their own healing process. Many have reported a greater sense of self-confidence and affirmation of their own value because their own past experiences helped others heal. In a spiritual sense, they felt good about the ability to perform the "mitzvah" (commandment) of helping others.
JONAH's gender-affirming processes enable a person to step into a totally new support structure. It provides both encouragement and direct assistance while the member travels the road to recovery. An important aspect of his masculine empowerment is the ability to connect to his brothers in recovery, thus overcoming the detachment and alienation he experienced from the world of men.
In addition to networking, our member support groups and daily E-mail listserv are additional tools to accomplish this goal.
Men's Support Groups: JONAH's men's support groups run weekly or bi-weekly for approximately 2 hours with discussions being led by facilitators who are well-versed in the issues involved in healing homosexuality. Our goal is to increase the number of groups for men (and parenthetically to do the same for women and family members).
For men who do not live near the three groups currently operating (See "more about JONAH" at the end of this article for group locations), we initially arranged teleconferencing into our in-person support groups. We found, however, that these combined groups were not as effective as unmixed in-person or teleconferenced groups. By separating the groups, we found that each group standing by itself can better maximize interpersonal relationships and significantly reduce the isolation and loneliness of the members. Teleconference support groups presently operate.
Daily Internet E-Mail Listserv: Men and woman from six different countries post messages on a private confidential JONAH listserv (hosted by Shamash.org, a service of the Hebrew College) and report how welcome they feel in our ever-growing healing community. Postings range from loving support of another's personal struggle to deep discussions on issues directly relevant to SSA.
The Daily E-Mail Listserv is an excellent method to reach strugglers with special needs: those in geographically isolated locations; those unable to afford private therapy; those who have just learned that a healing process for SSA is possible and seek to learn more about the "GAP" process; those who require daily support in their struggle.
Overcoming Shame and Narcissism
Special mention should be made of four interrelated underlying issues which therapists such as Andrew Morrison and Joseph Nicolosi have identified as pivotal to healing homosexuality but which traditional therapy has somewhat ignored. They are shame, narcissism, guilt, and grieving. Each of these issues contributed to the homosexual condition and each of our strategies has a component which addresses certain aspects of these issues.
Overcoming shame has become a major focus of faith-based groups dedicated to helping men heal from homosexuality. Phrases such as "coming out of shame" or "going past your shame" are consistently utilized by these groups when they develop their healing strategies. They have intuitively understood that shame underlies much of SSA.
According to Andrew Morrison, "Because shame is so often unspoken, many therapists have not appreciated its importance in analytic and therapeutic work. Frequently it is hidden behind the clearly defensive manifestations of distress, and these are usually investigated alone - often from the perspective of intrapsychic conflict and related dynamics - without appreciation of the underlying or accompanying shame." (See, "Shame, the Underside of Narcissism" pg. 5)
A key to appropriate treatment, according to Morrison, is the relationship narcissism bears to shame, for he believes, "that shame, in some form, is always present in narcissism and its various manifestations."
Gay activists preach that the way to overcome the issue of shame is to come out of the closet and loudly proclaim and affirm one's gayness. However, we believe there is another and preferred door leading from the closet of homosexuality. It is the door of healing - a healing which recognizes the shame and how it relates to the narcissism which underlies homosexuality.
Richard Fitzgibbons recognizes that "Narcissism is a very powerful disorder that fuels the homosexual behavior in many people. This personality weakness is not easily overcome because of the reluctance to give up a life of unchecked, irresponsible self-indulgence." When the therapist properly treats shame and narcissism (and when its recognition and overcoming is encouraged through support groups and networking), then a person's healing can progress. Fitzgibbons points out that when narcissism is not treated, "this clinical disorder is the major reason for failure in recovery from homosexuality." (See, The Truth About Homosexuality by Father John Harvey, Appendix I, by Fitzgibbons)
Our experience has been that as men look at the circumstances in which they found themselves during the process of growing up, they come to realize that they adopted a False Self (often originating from the "good little boy" syndrome) in order to cope with their situation. Much of the struggler's life was spent seeking a way to gain approval from others or trying to gratify and please.
In childhood, these men erected emotional barriers or walls which protected them from what they perceived as a harsh and unfriendly world. As adults, these same walls acted to imprison them, trapping their feelings, and preventing them from completing their journey into manhood. As men take down these walls and work through the profound grief they feel for never having been "seen" for the individuals they truly were, they can understand and mourn the loss of the "True Self" and move forward in their healing.
A therapeutic strategy needs to penetrate the two defenses of narcissism and the False Self. The client needs to be focused on fully feeling and expressing the "shamed-defective self." If he can't feel it, he can't heal it. But when he feels his inner emotions, says Nicolosi, the adult struggler discovers that "he need not fear the primal threat of abandonment-annihilation, and he can begin to surrender the defenses of homosexuality, narcissism and the False Self." (See, interview conducted by Linda Nicolosi in article entitled "Grief Work" (NARTH.com).
These issues need to be directly addressed by the therapist. Exercises to address these issues are being incorporated within the various experiential weekends referred to earlier and by our support group. However, the front line of treatment of these issues needs to come from the therapists who are conducting individual private therapy.
Receiving Healthy Touch and Affection
Many who struggle with SSA experience touch deprivation, an issue often overlooked in therapy. Ashley Montagu writes in his groundbreaking book Touching: "the communications we transmit through touch constitute the most powerful means of establishing human relationships, the foundation of experience."
As a result of defensive detachment, many men with SSA never received the healthy touch that can come from being in a healthy relationship with one's father and peers. Because many of these men never received healthy touch or did not receive the physical affection they needed from their fathers, the idea of receiving a non-sexual hug from a man as a sign of affection makes them uncomfortable.
We also have had members tell us that once they decided to stop their homosexual acting out, they missed the warmth or affection of another human being's touch. Others, even when they had opportunities to receive healthy touch and affection, such as non-sexual hugs or pats on the back, were confused as to the healthy boundaries for touch. Others, whose condition of SSA consisted of fantasy and pornography, reported a lack of physical contact over a period of years.
Many presently feel touch deprived because they did not receive physical affection in their childhood and experienced other unfilled emotional needs. We found several members who previously expressed an unquenchable need to sexually touch others or to be sexually touched either by others or by themselves (to a level where masturbation may become addictive). Such touch is the means for them to literally feel or fantasize their connection with other men, something they had yearned for all their lives.
The question of human touch is exacerbated when emotional or sexual abuse lurks in the background of a particular individual. For those who were sexually abused, intimacy stimulates painful memories. In order to avoid emotional intimacy, many sought physical gratification through anonymous sexual encounters.
Our experience in JONAH has been that as men bond with other men in a healthy non-sexual atmosphere, particularly through attendance at the experiential weekends, both the resistance to healthy touch and the need for inappropriate sexual touch dissipate. Healthy touching can be controversial, particularly if the situation is not well-controlled and the boundaries not clearly set forth. If a man has properly progressed in his healing processes and understands the proper boundaries of touch, we will then strongly encourage non-sexual hugs and affectionate gestures (like pats on the back) in our groups.
One advantage of our team sport events is the reinforcement of the cultural acceptability of victory celebrations by the players when they openly embrace and hug one another. Another culturally acceptable method of gaining appropriate touch is through regular therapeutic massages.
In order to experience safe and healing touch from another man, our members have used a number of therapeutic bodywork techniques. Among these are: massage, shiatsu and Feldenkrais. Men report touch therapy useful in releasing negative feelings and emotions stored within their bodies. The Feldenkrais method, for example, founded by the Israeli physicist Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais,has also helped men focus on how their bodies move. Through directed movements given by a practitioner, men learn new ways to use their bodies. Consequently, Feldenkrais has helped men feel connected to their bodies, improve their coordination and become more self-confident.
Having set forth the issue and the need for solutions, we believe that overcoming touch deprivation is an area in need of further development. We continue to examine practical ways of overcoming touch deprivation which exists for so many of our members.
These aspects of JONAH's healing paradigm are presented here to encourage the reader to explore the complex process undertaken when men and women begin to heal their same-sex attractions. There is no "magic bullet" for healing even though it is frequently wished for by those suffering from a same-sex attraction disorder (SSAD).
JONAH's multi-dimensional approach can be viewed as encompassing four processes which, if worked in tandem, can help facilitate in-depth healing. In our opinion, true healing occurs when an individual is able to heal at four different levels:
An incomplete healing occurs when fewer than the four levels are accessed.
While individual psychotherapy is critical to help individuals heal from SSAD, participating in private therapy, without these other experiences, may increase the time required for the healing process to occur. Obviously, it takes a longer period of time to access all four levels when a therapist is able to work with his client for only an hour or two a week. By increasing the time on task in a cost effective manner, the struggler can accelerate the time needed for healing. Moreover, by employing the multi-dimensional paradigm described in this paper, and thereby enlarging the daily and weekly amount of time in which a member delves into his head, heart, body, and soul, our reports indicate an important acceleration of the healing process.
Our purpose in setting forth our experience and findings is to share what we have learned from our members. JONAH happily acknowledges that many therapists and faith based groups have independently used parts of this model (including some of the live-in programs). Hopefully, for those readers from the therapeutic community who have not adopted aspects of this program they (a) will see the benefits of this more comprehensive approach to healing SSA and (b) will incorporate them within their treatment plans.
Interview with Arthur Goldberg
Statement of Rabbis
Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality
December 26, 2011
For Immediate Release
Therapy to Help Homosexuals Change Orientation:
Hundreds of Rabbis Say Its the Only Torah-Approved Way
A coalition of more than 150 Orthodox rabbis, community organizers and leaders, and respected mental-health professionals have released a statement declaring that, political correctness notwithstanding, the only Torah-approved course of action with regard to homosexuality is psychological therapy coupled with teshuva, or repentance.
The document, entitled Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality, seeks to clarify the theological understanding of the Biblically mandated prohibition. It also presents what the authors and signators see as a practical and achievable solution for those faced with same-sex attractions. Its position is that same-sex attractions can be modified and healed.
The concept that G-d created a human being who is unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a biblical prohibition is neither plausible nor acceptable, says the Declaration, which views same-sex attractions as any other behavior that can be controlled and altered, such as addictions or weight control.
The signators represent the broad spectrum of the Torah-observant world, including Modern Orthodox rabbis, ultra-Orthodox roshei yeshivas as well as some from Yeshiva University, pulpit rabbis, yeshivish and chassidish rabbis, organizational rabbis, Sephardic rabbis, rebbetzins, community organizers, and mental-health professionals.
The timing of the Declaration to coincide with Chanukah, which celebrates the Jews resistance to forced Hellenization, was not coincidental. Homosexuality was one of the hallmarks of ancient Greek culture.
The timeless and immutable Torah-based conviction regarding the unacceptability of homosexual behavior motivated the authors and signators of the Declaration.
Dismissing the modern trend, even in some religious circles, to view homosexuality as a permanent, unchangeable characteristic or trait, the statement emphatically rejects the notion that a homosexually inclined person cannot overcome his or her inclination and desire.
Behaviors are changeable. The Torah does not forbid something which is impossible to avoid, says the statement.
The Declaration, which was written by a 25-member committee consisting of rabbis, parents, strugglers (those still undergoing therapy), and success stories (those who underwent therapy and today are living heterosexual lives, many with spouses and children), rejects efforts by secularists and some in the religious community to downplay or deny totally the possibility of change. Further, the Declaration recognizes that those who dismiss the possibility of change are forcing individuals with same-sex attractions to live their lives as either homosexuals or celibates.
Abandoning people to lifelong loneliness and despair by denying all hope of overcoming and healing their same-sex attraction is heartlessly cruel, says the statement.
The treatment recommended in the statement is reparative or gender-affirming therapy, which the Declaration defines as reinforcing the natural gender-identity of the individual by helping him or her understand and repair the emotional wounds that led to its disorientation and weakening, thus enabling the resumption and completion of the individuals emotional development.
Teshuva, which the statement sees as a necessary component, is the Torah-mandated self-motivated process of turning away from any transgression or sin and returning to G-d and ones spiritual essence.
These processes are typically facilitated and coordinated with the help of a specially trained counselor or therapist working in conjunction with a qualified spiritual teacher or guide. There is no other practical, Torah-sanctioned solution for this issue, says the statement.
The statement goes out of its way to caution against castigation of the individual suffering from an unwanted same-sex attraction. The key point to remember is that these individuals are primarily innocent victims of childhood emotional wounds. They deserve our full love, support, and encouragement in their striving towards healing, says the Declaration.
Because so many of the committees members have either formerly dealt with the issue or are still undergoing therapy, the entire committee decided to keep its membership anonymous.
Our identity isnt important; our message is, said one of the members.
According to the member, the purpose of the Torah Declaration is to help Jews who have become confused on this issue and have become accepting of some false notions, including the concept that a person cannot control his nature and, therefore, should accept his prohibited inclination as something natural and normal that does not need to be worked on and healed.
The member said that many of the committees success stories are now married to women who are fully aware of their husbands backgrounds and are living family-oriented lives in the mainstream Orthodox community.
While the members of the committee have requested anonymity, the signators, many of them world-renowned, have gone public with the Declaration. Their names and affiliations, as well as the full Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality and other pertinent information, can be accessed at www.TorahDec.org.
For more information, members of the press can contact our press representative, who has agreed to field questions from the press, act as a liaison between members of the committee and the press, and, when possible, facilitate interviews with signators. Our press representative can be reached at [email protected]
AFTAH - Arthur Goldberg
Homosexuality and Judaism | 2001
Written by Rabbi Barry Freundel
Homosexuality, once a word whispered only with revulsion or derision, is now out in the open for all to see and hear. In fact, homosexuality and its attendant issues have become big news.
Whether it is the rapidly spreading, and ever-more frightening AIDS epidemic, or the increase in sympathetic "gay" characters in the theater and in literature, or the widening legal battles over the status of homosexuals, one cannot go very far in contemporary society with out confronting this once extremely closet-bound topic.
Traditional Judaism, too, has been forced to confront the issue as "gay" individuals and "synagogues" have appeared on the Jewish landscape, often appealing for support from the liberal segments of the Jewish community.
Certainly, an authentic Jewish response must begin with the biblical prohibition against homosexuality. The Bible unequivocally states that a homosexual act between two consenting adult males is a capital crime(1). Therefore, homosexuality is an activity that no traditional Jew can engage in, endorse, accept, or approve of (recent televised statements to the contrary notwithstanding)(2).
Despite this initial biblical negative, there is much to discuss regarding our attitude to the homosexual, the issue of the homosexual's place in the community, the question of approach and the treatment of the homosexual, and the problem of the homosexual's rights and acceptance in society. In addition, we must consider why the Bible and Jewish thought reject homosexuality keeping in mind as we do that female homosexuality, though forbidden, is not nearly as serious a crime as is its male counterpart(3).
Drawing the Right Picture
Our analysis of Judaism's approach to homosexuality begins with the question, "What is Judaism's view of the Jewish homosexual?" It is this author's contention that the only appropriate answer to this question is "there is no such individual(4)."
To explain this rather radical statement, one must go back to the structure that halacha places upon Jewish society. In this structure there are certain legal personalities who constitute the dramatis personae of the Jewish community. A Cohen is such a personality, as is a Levi. A woman is such a personality, as is a slave or a king. Other "characters" populate the Jewish landscape. The mamzer and the Cohen Gadol, the Katan and the gadol, the cheresh and the shoteh each has his place in the scheme of things(5). Lacking from this list is the homosexual. So much is he missing from the cast of characters of Jewish society that one is hard put to find a halachic term used specifically for him(6).
If one were, in fact, to apply a halachic category to this individual, it would be the general category of mumar l'teiavon (one whose desires put him in opposition to Torah law), specifically mumar l'mishkav zachor (one who because of his repeated involvement in homosexual activity is in opposition to Torah law). Such a category exists in halachic literature(7), is clearly defined, and places the homosexual on a equal footing with other mumarim who violate other laws.
It seems clear from this that halacha never viewed the homosexual as a member of a unique category or as different from the non-homosexual. He has no greater or lesser rights or obligations. He deserves no special treatment or concessions nor any special vilification. In fact, the term "homosexual" is an essentially inappropriate description for him. We should, rather, refer to this individual as a person engaged in homosexual activity. "Homosexual" is therefore not a noun that identifies and categorizes the individual but an adjective that describes his activity.
This approach has great intuitive appeal. It is hard to imagine Jewish thought accepting the premise the sexual desires and activities provide grounds by which to define an individual's place in the community. In addition, there are vast and important ramifications that emerge from this picture of the individual as a person involved in homosexual activity and not as a homosexual.
The first effect of this changed conceptualization is to alter and improve the individual's perception of himself. If one is labeled and defined by the term "homosexual", he is consequently different than the heterosexual. As such, he will struggle for minority status and for his rights as a member of that minority. He is, and should be, portrayed as a unique character type in movies, theater, and on television, and he should command an appropriate number of participants in any institution that constitutes itself along racial, ethnic, and religious lines. He agitates for gay pride and gay power, and if he is Jewish, he creates gay synagogues and other gay institutions.
On the other hand, If "homosexual" is a term that is limited to the description of an activity, then the individual practicing this activity remains an undifferentiated member of society, and if Jewish he is part of Jewish society. He need not feel excluded from the community. In the same way that the adulterer, the practitioner of pre-marital sex, the mechallel Shabbat(8) or the speaker of lashon harah all enter the synagogue and feel at home while individually dealing with whatever guilt they carry as a result of their sinful activities, so, too, the individual involved in homosexual activity can and should enter the synagogue and feel himself to be part of the community. He is still a human being and a Jew. He is most assuredly not part of a separate homosexual society or sub-society. (See below for a discussion of the Gentile homosexual.) Obviously, the adulterer, mechallel Shabbat, et al are duty-bound to change their ways - to do teshuva - and the mumar l'mishkav zachor has the same obligation(9).
The second implication of this approach concerns the community's dealings with the individual involved in homosexual activity. If the practitioner of homosexuality is considered a full fledged Jew (albeit a mummar), the community should welcome him as such. This is particularly true in our post-holocaust era, wherein our heightened awareness of the value of each Jewish soul has motivated many communities to make kiruv rechokim (attempts to bring non-observant Jews into the fold of Torah-observance) a hallmark of their activities. This Kiruv work should not and cannot be limited only to violators of halacha in ritual matters. Deviance from halachic norms in sexual matters is as much an area for concern, outreach, and proper education as anything else. Particularly in an area that is as difficult to control as sexual desire(10), the support of the community for one who might want to bring his lifestyle in line with halacha may be crucial to success.
At this point something should be said about the term "toeivah(11)" as used by the Torah in connection with homosexuality. Some may feel that its appearance in this context precludes treating the practitioner of homosexuality in the same way that one would treat an individual who is guilty of a different sin. The problem with this suggestion is that to be consistent we would require similarly negative treatment of the persons who eats non-Kosher food(12) the idolator(13), the unethical business man(14) and the individual who remarries a woman who, since her divorce from him, has entered and left (by death or divorce) another marriage to another man(15). All of these individuals are guilty of committing a toeivah, according to the respective verses that prohibit the particular activity. If we are going to ostracize the individual who commits homosexual acts, then we must ostracize these individuals as well. Since we do not take this approach in the other cases, we should not do so in dealing with the individual involved in homosexual activity.
How then to understand the toeivah designation? In an article in the Encyclopedia Judaica Yearbook, Dr Norman Lamm(16) defines toeivah in aesthetic terms. These actions are repulsive in and of themselves; no rationale or explanation is necessary. Rather, the divine aspect within the human being is automatically and instinctively repelled by these activities. The fact that any number of individuals are possessed of a deadened spiritual sensitivity that allows them to accept or even participate in the acts in question, does not mean that the spiritually sensitive individual allows his revulsion to be diminished nor does he apologize for that revulsion.
Further, it is important to note that the wording of the act in question indicates that this revulsion is directed only at the act and not at its perpetrator. The perpetrator is not to be ostracized. One who commits a toeivah is halachically and societally no different than one who commits a transgression of a non-toeivah law of equal severity.
Although it may be true that a leopard cannot change its sports, Judaism holds that a human being can change or control his activities(17). While we certainly recognize that many individuals have personality factors that would tend to promote certain sinful activities, our expectation is that these individuals will control these tendencies. We no more would accept the act of murder as legitimate because the perpetrator is prone to violence, then we should accept the act of homosexuality as inevitable because of the existence of biological, genetic, or environmental factors that may contribute to an individual's preference for homosexual acts. A rational individual can control himself, and no amount of apologetics, explanations, or rationalizations can change this fundamental fact. Simply put, the individual engaged in homosexual activity is wrong in what he is doing and is held responsible for having done it.
It is on this issue that the approach presented here parts company most completely with Dr.Lamm's view. Whereas Dr. Lamm(18) sees the homosexual as an anuss (an individual forced into heredity and/or environment into activity that the Bible forbids) this author sees him as mumar. Whereas Dr. Lamm effectively removes culpability from him (anuss rachma patrie(19)), this author insists that creating a sense of culpability is an integral part of the approach that Judaism should take in confronting the individual involved in homosexual activity. This sense of culpability may be just the push necessary for the individual to begin the teshuva process.
The view presented here seems more in keeping with biblical(20), talmudic(21) and other halachic sources(22). The consistent position taken by these sources is that the homosexual is ultimately subject to punishment for his actions. The halachic system fully expects that an individual properly warned, witnessed, and brought to trial for this act be killed. There is no indication anywhere in the literature that such individuals have a prima facie defense as anussim.
Dr. Lamm(23) supports his approach by arguing that present public policy and social reality preclude punishment of all offenders. We must, therefore, maintain our condemnation of the act while refraining from dealing punitively with the offender. In his view, this can best be done by treating the offender as an anuss.
However, there is nothing in his argument that prevents our labeling the individual as a mumar. We do not punish Sabbath violators, or those who eat treif. Environment/heredity is not enough to label the individual involved in homosexual activity an anuss. Rather label him a mumar, indicating that he is responsible for his actions.
Further, a stance such as Dr. Lamm's seems to carry with it the possibility of pushing the individual presently questioning his own sexual orientation over the wrong edge.
After all, if biology/upbringing is the cause, and the participant is only the victim of irresistible forces, he has a handy excuse and less of a reason not to succumb to his desires.
Labeling one a mumar does not necessarily mean that the community should respond with public condemnation and rejection or the individual. In an era which lacks a Sanhedrin and adequate Jewish communal structures we have long tolerated, worked with, and even welcomed and accepted violators of many halachot within our community. It is necessary, therefore, to couple our tolerance of the individual with disapproval of the activity. This must then be combined with an expectation and hope that the individual will change his behavior. Calling him a mumar, if handled correctly, strengthens the chances for change.
The subject of change brings us to our next point. Jewish thought would argue that homosexually oriented individuals can change their sexual orientation and can ultimately develop an interest in and derive pleasure from heterosexual activity. This conclusion is an obvious consequence of our discussion thus far. If a homosexual act is punishable, and if we expect he individual who has homosexual desires to avoid giving in to them, what then is the life situation of such and individual? There seem to be two possibilities. One: such and individual cannot change his feelings. If this is the case he is a prisoner trapped in a body which, while commanded to marry an procreate, has an emotional structures that finds such a concept at best unfulfilling and at worst a living purgatory. Two: change - and a normal, happy, fulfilled life marriage and heterosexual union are possible.
We are told by the Talmud(24) that G-d does not play tricks on His creations. Particularly as the area of sexuality is an area of such deeply personal implications to any individual, it is difficult imagine G-d creating a situation wherein those who feel themselves to possess a homosexual orientation cannot change and are consequently locked in a living prison with no exit and no key. Therefore, some method or methods must exist to successfully change the sexual orientation of motivated individuals. It's heartening to note that a recent study (25),indicates a 70% success rate among such individuals. It is unfortunate that the mass media and most mental health professionals publicly portray the goal "acceptance of one's orientation" as the optimum, while downplaying or denying the possibility of change. Our task must be to publicize the possibility of change, and the relevant statistics that now become statistics of hope. We also should encourage the mental health community to develop new and even more effective methods to alter the sexual orientation of those striving to live Torah-true lifestyle.
Perhaps one further support for the idea that homosexual orientation is at least preventable, if not totally changeable, is the anomalous fact that one community in which the percentage of homosexual preference is significantly lower than in the general population is the Orthodox Jewish community(26).
It is almost as if halacha rejects the notion of an individual called a homosexual, rejects the necessity of the homosexual act for any individual, rejects the idea of an irrevocable homosexual orientation, and then creates a society in which these ideals can, apparently quite successfully, be lived.
Judaism rejects the suggestions that homosexuality is either a form of mental illness or an "acceptable alternate lifestyle." Judaism's positions would be a third and as yet unconsidered option. Homosexuality is an activity entered into volitionally by individuals, who may be psychologically healthy, which is maladaptive and inappropriate. Depending on one's theory, it may indicate arrested development, poor family structure, early trauma, frustration of the purpose of creation, disruption of the basic family structure, unnatural behavior, etc.
But whatever the case it constitutes activity that will diminish an individual's capacity to fulfill, in his own life, G-d's expressed plan for creation. As such, this individual cannot achieve his full potential as a human being(27). Therefore, our task is to treat and redirect this individual to more appropriate and fulfilling activity.
One question not addressed directly in the previous section is, "Why does Judaism not recognize the existence of a homosexual sub-group within the Jewish community?"
Of course, one might answer that as the act of homosexuality is forbidden, Judaism would no more grant official status to those who practice it than it would grant such status to murderers, thieves, or adulterers. This answer may, in fact, be sufficient and perhaps we should simply turn to the next section and the discussion of the rationale for Judaism's negative approach to the entire issue of homosexuality.
However, there may be another more profound and far-reaching answer to this question. The Sifra states(28)
"I did not say this except for those laws inscribed for them [the Gentiles] their fathers' father. What did they [the Gentiles, as opposed to the Jews] do? Men would marry men, and women would marry women".
This seems to indicate a difference between homosexuality when it makes its appearance in the Jewish community. For the Gentile, homosexuality is a reality that is part of his heritage. For a Jew, homosexuality is a foreign incursion.
Additional support for this division along national lines can be adduced from the prohibition against female homosexuality. This prohibition, though not explicitly stated in the Bible, is derived from the same verse, Leviticus 18:2, that elicits the comment of the Sifra quoted above. The verse reads: "After the doings of the land Egypt wherein you lived you shall not do, and after the doings of the land of Canaan where I am bringing you, you shall not do, nor shall you walk in the statutes." This source provides a further indication that homosexuality is viewed as a foreign element in Jewish society. It may well be that this factor contributes to halacha's unwillingness to recognize a homosexual subgroup within Jewish society.
Statistics show significantly reduced levels of homosexual men in Orthodox Jewish circles as compared to all other segments of society. Further indication of this anomaly is provided by the dearth of questions relating to homosexuality and individuals involved in homosexual activity in halachic and responsa literature(29).
One obvious question remains. Does halacha recognize a homosexual individual who cannot change, and therefore a homosexual sub-community in the Gentile world?
The answer to this question seems unclear. On the one hand the Sifra quoted above indicates a belief that at least some Gentile homosexuals develop their sexual orientation because of a traditional cultural heritage. This would tend to support the idea the halacha acknowledges the possibility of a homosexual subgroup in Gentile society.
On the other hand, none of the stories from the Bible, such as the sin of Ham, the men of Sodom, or the Potiphar's true purpose in purchasing Joseph as his slave, portray any of the individuals as totally homosexual. All are either married (in the normal fashion) or are said to father children in the course of their lives. This would seem to indicate that pure homosexuality was considered an aberration even if found in Gentile circles.
Further, halacha prescribes the death penalty for homosexual acts committed between Gentile men(30). Our tendency would therefore be to deny that halacha recognizes a homosexual community among Gentiles. If we, in fact, did recognize such a community would we not be advocating genocide towards it? Such a position is obviously troubling.
Condemnation of Homosexuality - Why?
In discussions of the Jewish view of homosexuality, the question "Why does Judaism condemn a pleasurable, victimless act that tales place between two consenting adults?" often takes center stage. Although explanations are not lacking in the literature a truly consistent approach should also shed some light on why female homosexuality, though forbidden, is far less heinous a crime than male homosexuality(31).
In fact, a number of suggested answers suffer from a failure to adequately explain this last point.
One such approach centers around the primacy of family and children in our system of values. The practice of male homosexuality obviously frustrates the implementation of these values(32). But so does the practice of female homosexuality. Yet the two are not treated with equal severity.
A second approach argues that homosexuality is somehow unnatural. Our bodies are constructed to act in certain ways, and the practice of male homosexuality prevents these ways(33). Once again, female homosexuality seems to be every bit as unnatural as the male variety, yet we do not react to it in the same way.
Often, those who advocate these two approaches resort to the "hashchatat zera" (destruction of seed) argument(34). Since male homosexuality involves hashchatat zera and female homosexuality does not, the prohibition as violated by the man is more stringent.
There are two problems with the treatment of the male participant. Hashchatat xera in other contexts does not entail the death penalty(35).
However, males involved in homosexual activity (as opposed to females) are subject to capital punishment. Hashchatat zera, therefore, does not appear to be a significant enough factor to explain this severe reaction of the part of Torah law.
Second, the biblical prohibition concerns the homosexual act and not hashchatat zera. In Jewish law, homosexual activity, if consummated, is a capital crime even if there is not hotzaat zera, yet male physical contact, even if it results in hotzaata zera, is not punishable in this way unless actual sexual consummation occurs(36). For these reasons, the approaches cited seem unable to serve as complete explanations for the Torah view of this issue.
However, one variation of the "unnatural"theme seems to fare better in dealing with our question. This position takes its definition of natural, not from physiology and nature as studied in the laboratory, but from nature as defined in the Torah. The Torah says:
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife and they shall be as one flesh(37)".
The Torah has, in the verse, defined "natural" as man and women united in heterosexual union. Any person engaged in homosexual activity acts against G-d's natural order of things, and is therefore culpable. However, women involved in homosexuality are less in violation of the "natural" then men as it says: "He shall cleave ..and they shall be as one flesh", can be accomplished by males in homosexual union but not by females. This explanation seems to deal neatly with the various facets of the problem(38).
One other approach to the question of why Judaism has such antipathy to homosexuality deserves mention(39). This approach expands on the argument "And he shall cleave and they shall be as one flesh...", reintroduces the centality of the family in Judaism to the discussion of homosexuality, and treats the halachic differences between male and female homosexuality in a rather interesting way. This explanation argues that homosexuality, when it did occur at all in the Jewish community, usually occurred in a bisexual context and not as an exclusively homosexual orientation on the part of the individual. Individuals raised in the Jewish community usually possessed a strong sense of family as part of their tradition and heritage. This, coupled with the desire to find personal continuity into the next generation and with communal pressure to marry, would naturally lead almost everyone to establish a marriage relationship. Unfortunately, some individuals might seek additional companionship elsewhere. This outside companionship could possibly be homosexual in nature. Such an outside relationship might then be devastating to the special intimacy between husband and wife and to the family, the fundamental building block and most important religious institution in Jewish society
Many rabbinic discussions allude to homosexuality in a strongly negative tone(40). The Talmud(41) discusses the meaning of the term "toeivah" as used the context of homosexuality. Says Bar Kapparah, "toeivah" means "to'eh ata ba", "your have strayed from her." This phrase is explained by Tosafot as meaning:
"That they leave their wives to follow homosexuality."
This statement seems to embody the essence of the proposed explanation.
Whether because of different emotional needs on the part of women, their status in society, or because of the physiological impossibility of "He shall cleave ...and they shall be as one flesh", on the part of women, male homosexuality is considered a far more serious danger in this context and is, therefore, treated with greater severity.
Our discussion to this point leads to the following conclusions:
Homosexuality is an activity, not a state of being. Put another way, "homosexual" is an adjective, not a noun.
Homosexual activity is wrong.
Homosexuality may be a foreign incursion into Judaism.
The perpetrator of homosexual activity is held responsible for the activity.
We expect individuals involved in such activity to make every attempt to stop the activity and to alter their sexual orientation.
No greater halachic stigma attaches to the practitioner of homosexuality than the Sabbath violator or the violator of many other divine commandments.
In light of these conclusions the traditional Jewish community should agree on the following goals:
The primary goal should be to create an environment that is most conducive to motivating the practitioner of homosexuality to want to change his orientation.
In the absence of this motivation or during a period when initial attempts to change are unsuccessful, our task is to keep this individual within the Torah community. We must create a situation which offers a positive alternative to the "gay synagogue" and to the even worse choice of complete abandonment and assimilation.
It would seem that these goals can best be realized by implementing the following agenda:
All unnecessary negative stigma must be removed from the individual involved in homosexual activity. Such an individual must be encouraged to see himself as someone with a problem that he is responsible to overcome, and not as a person who has been defined by his sexual orientation.
At the same time that the individual is told of his responsibility to change, he must also be told, with great compassion, that we recognize the difficulty of his task and that we are willing to help in any way possible.
This is similar, in general terms, to the way in which we treat others such as the alcoholic.
Specific programs of outreach to those participating in homosexual activities should be implemented so that those best able to respond to the questions of these individuals will have a chance to work with them. Contemporary Jewish organizations do Kiruv (outreach) work with individuals who violate many commandments. We must do the same with those whose failures are sexual areas. This is particularly true because of the all-pervasive nature of sexual desire and because of the constant encounter with sexual imagery that pervades our society.
Mental health professionals must be encouraged to develop new and better therapeutic techniques to alter sexual orientation. Methods that are even partly successful must be highlighted and publicized to offer hope to those who would want to change.
The issue of homosexuality is an extremely sensitive, difficult, and emotional one. It is a topic that creates a sense of discomfort and even revulsion not only in those who may have been personally involved in such activity, but also in many who have never had any personal contact with it at all. Stereotyping and personal doubts about one's sexuality tend to maintain and reinforce these reactions and the AIDS scare has given them new impetus. Our response as Torah-true Jews must be to reject these prejudical and counter-productive reactions. On the other hand, we cannot equivocate in our opposition to homosexual activity. This is particularly true in light of the media's continuing portrayal of homosexuals as positive role models and the increasing acceptance of the homosexual as a minority group with "legitimate" civil rights.
The program described above entails walking a difficult tightrope between condemnation of an act and acceptance of the perpetrator as a Jew worth saving. We cannot close our eyes and pretend that a problem of this magnitude will go away. It is our task to present a legitimate Jewish response, balancing our opposition to homosexual activity with our concern for the human beings involved.
JONAH (jewish): http://jonahweb.org - JONAH is a non-profit international organization dedicated to educating the world-wide Jewish community about the prevention, intervention, and healing of the underlying issues causing same-sex attractions. If you are confused by same-sex attractions or know someone who is and desire help, please contact us for resources and professional confidential assistance.
For information about Judaism and homosexuality, click here.
Reading is always a great start -- I've stayed up a couple of nights reading everything I could find on the JONAH ( www.jonahweb.org ) and NARTH ( www.narth.com ) web sites. Exchanging ideas and experiences with list members has also been immensely valuable. Just knowing that I am not alone and that there are others facing the same issues is comforting. I've come a long way during my 10 months with JONAH, in terms of having a crisp, lucid and deep understanding of my condition -- What a difference compared to the vague hunches, shame, confusion and isolation I was living with for so many years. Based on my experience, I strongly encourage others to overcome whatever shyness and shame we may have had about the subject and to discuss specific issues on the JONAH List Serve. By doing so, we learn more about ourselves and find others who respond as brothers by both accepting me and understanding my value as a person. What a rewarding and healing experience!
While there are many other things we can do to continue our growth into full masculine maturity, it is my belief that reading and gaining support from others is an important tangible start.
A JONAH MAN TALKS ABOUT HIS BISEXUALITY
This essay is prompted by questions posed to me on the JONAH E-Mail List Serve. In an earlier post, I stated that even though I've always identified myself as a heterosexual man, my sexual arousal pattern was very strongly oriented toward the same sex since puberty, that is, age 12 or so. The questions posed: How is this contradiction possible? Why doesn't this fact simply confirm the gay pride propaganda about internalized homophobia? Therefore, they would argue I should give into these same- sex attractions of mine and identify as gay?
I always suspected that my homoerotic desires were simply manifestations of some other need. After all, my same-sex attraction (SSA) would really flare up when I felt alone or rejected; on the other hand, it all but disappeared when I was hanging out with good
friends and feeling accepted. I recognized a sobering fact: this sexual attraction to other boys was totally unlike my attraction to women, which is independent of my social situation or mood. My attraction to women was constant regardless of my mental state or emotional feeling. I remember even telling myself, at a fairly young age (15? 16?) -- "You don't really desire these guys sexually, you want them to like you, you want them to think you're cool, you want to be part of their group."
Rather than pursuing this early-on (and correct!) insight, I embarked on a self-contradictory process of suppression and denial. I refused to deal with my issues by simply denying them. Sometimes I would grind my teeth and mutter to myself, "No! You are NOT attracted to that man!" -- which was, of course, a lie. At other times, I would accept that I had unwanted attractions, but would tell myself that as long as I didn't act on them, it's as if they didn't exist; indeed, plenty of willpower and a fear of the consequences kept me from acting out for some 15 years. I accepted the SSA as a permanent fixture, as something I'm stuck with and can't do anything about.
Since I refused to admit that I had a problem, I wasn't looking for a real solution -- certainly not one attacking the root causes of the SSA. The homoerotic fantasies and urges got stronger and stronger until the dam broke. I began to act out homosexually last year.
About the same time that the acting out began, I was fortunate enough to discover JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality. They provided me with the necessary tools to formalize and crystallize the insight I had early on but lost along the way while in my process of denial. I also discovered that the best psychiatrist is the one who tells you something you intuitively already knew about yourself. JONAH helped me analyze what I really wanted out of life.
In truth, I was repelled by the dominant gay culture, the stereotypical mannerisms learned by gay men, and the whole idea of being sexually tender with another man. The gay world was diametrically opposed to my personal goals of having a traditional family, wife and children. Moreover, I always had Opposite Sex Attractions (OSA), an attraction totally different >from my SSA attractions. I never had a problem being attracted to women, or having meaningful, emotional relationships with them, including satisfying sexual relationships.
My identity was always strongly heterosexual. Perhaps my identity actually became hyper-masculine to compensate for the SSA (the martial arts, the physical and social "aggressiveness", etc.). So what then are the differences between my feelings of OSA and SSA?
I see attractive women all the time (I am attracted to several types, which more or less conform to most other men's judgment of female beauty). Of course, the attraction is never based on appearance alone -- there must be an emotional and intellectual connection as well. But my fantasies regarding women are always part of a complete story. I see us holding hands, talking, cuddling on a couch, making passionate
love while looking into each other's eyes, that kind of stuff. The women to whom I am attracted are ones with whom I can visualize myself raising a family and being my best friend. When I experience intercourse with a loving woman who fits the model above, it has a wholesome, manhood-affirming, empowering effect. It makes me proud to be a man, proud to be able to please my woman.
Contrariwise, the SSA had a totally different feel to it. I'd see a man, and feel a certain pang of hunger. I wouldn't want to talk to him, nor get to know him, or even to be his friend. I would picture us in various very specific, very graphic sexual scenarios. And, as soon as the fantasy would be over, I'd want him gone -- out of sight and out of mind. These scenarios describing my SSA and OSA are total opposites.
I realize that I tend to be attracted to younger, boyish or innocent-looking, slim athletic men. For a long time I thought it was simple aesthetics, but in light of what I've learned about myself through the JONAH programs and intensive reading, it's not that
simple. What I subconsciously looked for in SSA encounters, strangely enough, are friendships reminiscent of the friendships I desperately sought as a younger boy. It's a very strange realization because I have no shortage of very good friends now, and by no means do I presently feel lonely or isolated. But SSA doesn't work on rationality, it feeds on scars formed long ago during one's formative years. As a child, I lacked deep meaningful friendships and healthy male affection due to a fear that I did not measure
up. The men I'm attracted to now in some ways remind me of the friends I would have wanted years ago. In effect, I am trying to repair earlier same-sex peer wounds by a totally inappropriate means. After all, none of the homosexual encounters felt wholesome or manhood-affirming. Rather, like taking a drug, it had medicated my pain, albeit temporarily. What I experienced was an intense euphoric "high" followed by guilt, shame, depression, and a compulsive urge to seek more. (On the other hand, it should be pointed out that real life situations that provide negative responses often have an opposite effect as well: In my case, the isolation >from my peers during adolescence created a self-reliance that to this day is one of my strongest character traits.)
Heterosexual relationships and sex are a hefty effort -- going out, talking, the slow progress of intimacy, the foreplay, worrying about the possibility of premature pregnancy, etc. The homosexual encounters, on the other hand, took the essence of sexual gratification and packaged it in a cheap, easily accessible container. You can get right to the point without wasting any emotional effort -- most of my encounters lasted only an hour or so (without knowing anything about the other person involved). It's the
ultimate instant gratification, and I found it extremely addictive.
Since I have always had both SSA and OSA, in a very real sense I made a choice regarding my orientation. There were many reasons for rejecting the gay (or bi) lifestyle: religious, ethical, and pragmatic. Ultimately, I always believed that only a wife and children can bring true happiness to a man; any man who claims to be happy otherwise is, I believe, simply coping (perhaps effectively) with a pathology.
When I traced my SSA history as a product of years of legitimate unmet needs, it all started to make sense. Of course those encounters would be so euphoric: they were tapping into those needs -- bottled up, pressurized (and deformed under pressure), explosive. Of course once exposed that emotional scar tissue would be particularly sensitive and raw. It's all so simple in my mind now, but for many months I was
greatly distressed and confused. If the SSA experiences were so much more intense than the OSA ones, then what is my "real" orientation? The messages I heard on TV and read in the newspapers tried to convince me to think I should identify as "gay." But my inner self said "au contrair".
In this battle, I formerly viewed my effort to be straight as one of a painful sacrifice, one of "toughing it out" requiring me to give up the physically addictive high intensity for the greater ideal of having a normal family. Now I see how that thinking was all misguided. Those men could not possibly give me what I need -- there is no "sacrifice" to grieve over. If I fulfill my need for healthy authentic male connection in intimate non-sexual ways, I can be and in fact am at peace with my inner self and my physical drives. I can
finally enjoy my OSA feelings without my former SSA feelings impinging upon them.
This essay cannot be complete without a comment on the disservice done to me by the education system, media, and prevailing culture. Starting from high school and all through college, I was bombarded by gay-affirming messages and offered countless resources in the form of counselors and straight-gay-transgender alliances. Not a single mention was ever made of how to deal with unwanted same-sex attractions. The popular culture also sent out a very clear message that a person is defined by his urges ("obey your thirst"); this conveniently makes any internal struggle pointless at best and harmful at worst. If a man chooses to give into his same-sex attractions and lead a homosexual lifestyle, that is certainly his legitimate choice. If only the gay activists would afford me the same recognition of legitimacy!
My desire to free myself of my same-sex attractions is being attacked by the gay activists as an illegitimate denial of my "true" orientation and a capitulation to society's homophobia. The fact that even the few friends I've told about my SSA take more or less this stance is a testament to the massive victory of gay activism. When I think of the
pain (and dangers) I could have been spared, had I had the opportunity to speak with groups like JONAH in my adolescence, I am filled with anger. All those years of pain, confusion (even fleeting thoughts of suicide) -- all inflicted on me, not because there isn't an alternative voice to the gay propaganda, but because this alternative is being viciously stifled, censored and de-legitimized. I will do everything in my power to help groups like JONAH disseminate their message, in the hope they will reach the thousands of adolescents like myself who struggle with the shame, confusion and loneliness of unwanted same-sex attractions.
FRIENDS OF JONAH
Our adventure started when we arrived in Orlando on June 28th and checked into our hotel. We met with the founder of the Ex-Gay Teachers Caucus, Ms. Jeralee Smith and her group comprised of many ex-gays and many dedicated people like ourselves. She is an amazing woman, committed and convicted that this battle is worthwhile, as we all are. I learned a lot from her and look forward to a long lasting, mutually rewarding relationship with her and her group.
The convention started with us setting up on Thursday (6/29) afternoon. Afterwards we all met to discuss strategy and prepare for any hostile interactions. It was an edifying and wonderful experience that closed in prayer. Everyone gave a synopsis of their life and situation and we all bonded with one mind. Great stuff!!
Friday we were ready for battle! While many people came up to us asking what is ex-gay, how can that be, they were not really hostile. Many listened, accepted our literature and said they would think about what we had to say. Many agreed with us but felt there was nothing they could do about it, we quickly counteracted that with information and resources. Of course, there were those that told us that ex-gay is impossible, that they dont believe it, and some asked us why we were even there. Our answer was that they were right, this issue shouldnt be intertwined in the educational process, however, it is and if one side is presented, then certainly we had the right to present the other side of the issue. Fair and balanced was our mantra, and it seemed to diffuse those that were opposed to us. We left Friday night to go out to dinner with the group feeling like we had accomplished good things.
Saturday, things and attitudes did change somewhat. We found out that Wayne Besen was on site, that he had given a press conference saying that we had no right to be at the convention. We were thankful when one of the reporters at the press conference came over to interview Jeralee and at least hear our side of the story. Of course when the article came out in the Orlando Sentinal, it was one sided and definitely did not print what Jeralee said at all (I have a copy if you want it). That was a whole other issue that we now had to contend with.
We felt that a few of the people that stopped by were sent by Wayne as they were difficult and extremely unreceptive. Of course that was our feeling, we really did not know for sure. In the afternoon, when Jeralee went to a budget meeting and Greg Quinlan and David left the booth, Wayne showed up, stood in the middle of the floor in front of our booth and started attacking us. I immediately called David to come back with Greg and they did. Wayne went at it with Greg, but Greg did not let him score any points at all. Actually, Wayne looked and acted like the aggressor and we decided to call security in to see if we could get him taken away. Security came along with two state troopers and after a little more heated discussion, the state troopers escorted him away from us. Amazingly, after that many people came up to us (the man in the booth across from us and others) to tell us that we did nothing wrong and that he was very aggressive and just plain wrong! Greg was amazing, so was Janet Boynes (one of our ex-gays at the booth). All in all, it was a very precarious situation and we are thankful it turned out all right for us. We continued working, spreading the word and getting feedback that was not negative at all. One girl from the University of Nebraska stopped by and told us that in her Human Behavior class they had a speaker from the gay movement telling the class that people are born that way, accept it, etc. She wondered why we didnt have speakers at the universities sharing our philosophy. She was right, something to think about. She said she did not agree with them and that it was being shoved down our throats. Interesting!
Saturday night we met around the pool, each of us shared why we were there, our most memorable moment of the weekend and exchanged all our demographic information. It was an atmosphere of friendship and trust. Great times!
Sunday was calm, without incident and at 11:00 am the booth closed and we went our separate ways. All in all, in my opinion, it was a positive, rewarding experience and David and I would be more than glad to get more involved and become active in the ex-gay movement.
On a personal note, I would love to share this with all of you. One man stopped by the booth, took some literature, appeared to not want to really talk about anything and left. About 10 minutes later he came back, asked for help and told us that his son was gay and had not come out to him yet but that he didnt know what to do. It was touching to see David speak to him, share with him and help him. While resolution never came, just the sharing and exploration they shared was touching for all of us. Every one has a purpose, every one can help. While the body is made up of many parts, it is difficult for it to work as intended without all of them. That is what we do; we each have something to offer to a troubled world. Thank G-d.
Our experience is that people are starved for more information, they do not know there is an alternative, and they do not know there are people fighting for them. Somehow, we all have to get together to become more powerful as the opposition has done.
If you need more information from me, please let me know. Once again, thank you so very much for this wonderful opportunity. This battle can be won if we call stay strong and united.
NEA: Ex-Gay Caucus or Should I say Ruckus
Undercover Eagles had a difficult time gaining access to this years NEA Conference in Orlando, Florida. Press passes were denied to qualified members of the press. Why, you ask? The answer is quite simple; these particular reporters were dedicated Eagles and true advocates for the American families who send their children to public schools in every state of our nation. Speaking for myself and for Marguerite Cavanaugh, I can honestly say that we were fortunate to be able to bypass the NEA militia that worked diligently to keep us out of the conference. I will not reveal how we were able to gain access, for obvious reasons, but I will relay a report on what we witnessed first hand.
We entered the OrlandoConvention center, early on June 30, 2006 and were immediately assaulted by the propaganda espoused by the NEA; everywhere we looked we saw an assault on good old fashioned American values. This years conference drew an estimated 9,000 12,000 delegates and participants. We walked around, our eyes drawn in multiple directions, and wondered what has happened to our education system, who were these God-less educators in charge of our children, and how do we fight back? We noticed that there were hundreds of booths and exhibitors, but only four conservative booths at the NEA conference. We saw two pro-life booths, one creationism booth, and one Ex-Gay booth. I want to discuss the Ex-Gay Teachers Caucus, because there is much to say. Marguerite and I met some wonderful people at this booth. They consisted of ex-gay teachers and/or their spouses. We learned so much from them; not just that being a homosexual is a choice, but that being one in God and walking in His path is a bumpy road, yet full of His love and mercy. I stood there and watched as teacher after teacher came up to this booth and verbally assaulted these people, these ex-gay educators, who quietly responded to these assaults in a dignified manner. Their sole purpose was to inform and spread the word, that yes, Dorothy, you do have alternate choices. You can choose to lead a celibate, or a heterosexual lifestyle. I have a tremendous respect and admiration for these individuals who stayed there, day after day, and peacefully spread their message to anyone who was willing to listen.
We had the pleasure of meeting Gregory Quinlan, President and CEO of the Pro-Family Network, located in Dayton, Ohio. Greg, an ex-gay teacher, married to an ex-lesbian talked to passersby about the realization he had come too, that the lifestyle he was leading was a choice he had made; he testified that he had a choice and once he realized that, he chose to live as a heterosexual. A common mission amongst the members of the ex-gay teachers caucus was to educate children that they do have a choice; they can choose to be heterosexual. Gregs website is www.profamilynetwork.org. Janet was another member we spent time with. She is an ex-lesbian who has started her own ministry called Janet Boynes Ministries. Her website is www.JanetBoynesMinistries.com. She travels around the country, spreading the word and sharing her story. She is an intelligent and articulate woman who has dedicated her life to God, who joyfully spreads the good news, that you too, can be called out of the darkness and into the light. I personally witnessed Janet keeping her composure in the face of a hostile and aggressive attack on her and the other members of the Ex-Gay Teachers Caucus.
An agitator, Wayne Besen showed up at the ex-gay booth. He is gay man, whose sole mission is to spread the homosexual agenda, not just to adults, but also to our children. When I visited his website, I was appalled to discover that he had placed a call out for help, asking for donations and for gay men and women to show up at the conference to protest the appearance of the Ex-Gay teachers caucus. He claimed he needed their help, in order to protect their children from the propaganda being spread by these individuals. I am fully aware that homosexuals are able to adopt children in most states in our country, but I was not aware that our children had become their children. We cannot allow this to continue. We must take a strong and united stand; we have to keep the homosexual agenda out of our school system and away from our children. It cannot and should not be taught that homosexuality is a normal and acceptable lifestyle. We now know that there are choices for those who are willing to make a conscious choice, thanks to people like Greg and Janet. When Wayne showed up at the booth, he came with one purpose in mind and that was to cause trouble. He repeatedly tried to engage Greg in a physical altercation, poking his finger centimeters from Gregs face while calling him insulting names. Wayne hurled expletives at Greg and the others; trying to tempt them into a confrontation and a fight. I am proud to say that our new friends managed to maintain their composure under difficult and trying circumstances. I watched as they looked out for each other, careful not to let anyone lose their temper. Eventually, security arrived, quickly followed by deputies from the Sheriffs department. After an initial investigation, the deputies removed anti Ex-gay activist, Wayne from the convention floor and arrested him for being disorderly.
The Ex-gay Teachers Caucus Booth ended with success, they were pleased that aside >from the usual angry passersby, so many more were given hope for themselves, a friend, a family member, or students in the classroom. There should never be a time when a teacher should talk about students sexuality, however since the NEA makes sure that sex education is here to stay, at least, maybe the curriculum will include choices.
For further information, please visit the Ex-Gay Teachers website: www.nea-exgay.org
JONAH's Mission Statement
JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, is a non-profit international organization dedicated to educating the world-wide Jewish community about the prevention, intervention, and healing of the underlying issues causing same-sex attractions.
Our Rabbinical sages explain that because mankind has been endowed by our Creator with a free will, everyone has the capacity to change. Furthermore, the Rabbis emphasize that parents, teachers and counselors have a special responsibility to educate, nurture, and provide an opportunity for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions to journey out of homosexuality.
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.
Support Group for Wives of Men in Healing
Session Dates: March 16, March 23, April 13th and April 20th
Time & Format: Time to be determined upon the group's composition and will be decided in coordination with Mary Jane and the group. They will be 90 minute sessions via conference call
Leader: Mrs. Mary Jane Morgan
Description of Support Group: The trained facilitator who is familiar with the issues confronting SSA wives will help the wives:
Learn about husband's transformation,
create peace in the home,
grapple with family and marital issues in the context of their husband's journey.
Number of Participants and Cost: The group will be capped at 8 Participants. If the Monday night group gets oversubscribed, we will also schedule a 4 session group on Tuesday's during the day time. The cost for the initial four sessions is $140.00 USD.
How To Enroll: To register, please respond to JONAH at [email protected] with a cc: to [email protected]. We ask that the cost of $140.00 be paid prior to the first meeting. You can easily make payment directly on the JONAH website at www.jonahweb.org through the donation function.
*Upon receipt of the fee, sign-on information for the conference call will be sent to you.*
Please note: The facilitator understands first-hand the issues facing a woman whose husband is in the process of healing and changing from past thoughts and/or behaviors. If you or someone you know is interested in participating, please act quickly as there are only 8 spaces available. Please be prepared to commit to the above four Monday evenings. As we respect your anonymity, please understand that you do not have to use your full name or your actual name during these phone sessions.
A Message from the Co-Director of JONAH :: Arthur Goldberg
"Is it possible to set an ideal standard of behavior without becoming judgmental?"
Is it possible to be compassionate towards people without becoming permissive?"
"Can Judaism help those individuals choosing to leave the homosexual lifestyle?"
To answer these questions in the affirmative, we not only need to respect the dignity and humanity of every individual created in the image of G-d, whether or not they choose to follow a Torah-sanctioned path, but also need to understand that change from homosexual to heterosexual is possible, that homosexuality is a learned behavior which can be unlearned, and that healing is a lifelong process.
In 1986, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachum Schneerson, addressed the issue of whether homosexuality was a "right" or an "ill" and determined that because "it is a case of healing a malady" an individual choosing "this form of relationship" must be motivated "to correct it."
His foresight, that "despite the misguided way of the past, everyone has the power to change" their sexual orientation, foreshadowed what is today known as "reparative therapy." The basic premises of reparative therapy (also known as reorientation or change therapy ) are that a person tends to eroticize that with which they do not identify and therefore an internal sense of incompleteness of one's own gender becomes the essential foundation for a homoerotic attraction. However, through therapy and spiritual counseling an individual conflicted about homosexual desires can reclaim their wholeness in terms of their gender identity. Since an individual's perception or recollection of past events shapes their response to new situations, appropriate reorientation counseling assists the homosexual struggler to break down old patterns of avoidance and defensive detachment from their own sex.
JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, is an umbrella worldwide Jewish organization which helps those Jews conflicted by same-sex attraction issues. Their central office in Jersey City, New Jersey, houses counseling rooms, a library, and staff offices. JONAH is the first Jewish organization assisting strugglers and their families to understand and heal the emotional wounds causing the behavior patterns which result in same-sex attraction. JONAH maintains a confidential hotline number (201-433-3444) for those troubled by same-sex attractions and for those who love them. Referrals are made to pre-approved therapists, Rabbis, and counselors for psychotherapy, religious counseling, and support groups.
One of JONAH's primary missions is community outreach and public education. Their Speaker's Bureau offers a wide range of topics related to the education, prevention, intervention, and healing of the issues involved in homosexuality. JONAH seeks to educate the Jewish community about the hope for healing by addressing individuals and groups within synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, and other Jewish organizations. In addition, training seminars are offered by JONAH for Rabbis, teachers, mental health professionals, the community, and those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions.
Seven is the classic Jewish number representing wholeness. Since JONAH's mission includes preparing the road for the journey into wholeness, we have assembled the following seven items as the commencement of your journey:
The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Sicha: On Healing Homosexuality
Our Stories: Testimonials by Jewish Recovered Homosexuals
Root Problems, Homosexual Symptoms: Discussion from the web site: www.PeopleCanChange.com
Definitions and Causes of Same-Sex Attractions: Discussion of risk factors and/or variables that may led to same-sex attractions. Initially appeared on the web site of International Healing Foundation--www.comingoutstraight.com
The Three Myths About Homosexuality: Discussion from the web site of the National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality: www.narth.com
JONAH's Online Library: Contains articles discussing same-sex attractions.
"Homosexuality: JONAH Offers Choice," The Jewish State (November 9,2007). This article by Seth Mandel describes the gender affirming process of JONAH and its philosophies.
After reviewing the information listed above, we hope you will be interested in finding out more about how we can help those seeking a choice to leave the homosexual lifestyle.
Arthur Goldberg, Co-Director, JONAH
Seasons of Transformation
The Weekend Training is usually 60 hours long and conducted in a safe, protective environment, away from outside distractions. We journey together through the Jewish calendar, exploring the appropriate lessons each holiday reveals, in regard to relationships in particular. We then strive to experience the essence of these lessons through interactive exercises.
By the end of the workshop, we have differentiated and utilized a broad spectrum of practical interpersonal tools. We have become a circle of vibrant, creative individuals, as well as responsible, compassionate members of a community. This seminar introduces individuals to the possibility of experiencing relationships that are vulnerable and safe, powerful and compassionate. This workshop is gender specific in order to create the appropriate and optimal environment for personal transformation. This is an experiential workshop that literally transforms unconscious, constricted behavior into joyous and powerful ways of being.
For more info, click here: http://www.calloftheshofar.org/programs.php
FALLING MADLY IN BED
[Introduction from Elaine Silodor Berk and Arthur Goldberg, JONAH's Co-Directors: The following article is an E-mail we received that contains valuable insights from two men who were actively involved in a gay lifestyle but who ultimately chose to leave that lifestyle. The dialogue below reflects what these men see as the differences between their former existence as active gay-identified men and their new found lives as men who are growing out of unwanted same-sex sexual attractions (SSA).
Based upon reports from several others in recovery programs, we believe these sentiments (as set forth in their dialogue) reflect the majority of men who are unhappy feeling or experiencing SSA. Those who are happy being gay may not share their feelings. However, since we rarely hear first-hand voices of those with unwanted SSA, we believe that the pain and sexual confusion expressed in this article needs to be heard. Permission was granted by Roger to reprint his E-mail as well as the conversation he had with his friend. Roger's intent in granting permission is to prevent others from falling into the traps that he and his friends had previously fallen into.]
Having been on homosexual web sites and forums for a while, I find a tendency by those still in the lifestyle to romanticize their actions. This applies whether a man has been in the lifestyle, or has just had an unwanted same sex sexualized attraction. The common refrain is, "if I just had a man that would love me like I need, then I would be OK and be satisfied ... and, my masculine needs would be met and affirmed."
Well. . . in talking with other guys who were in the lifestyle and who subsequently abandoned it due to actually realizing the nature of it, I thought it useful to share some observations with those of you who might still harbor fantasies of about the "joys" of a homosexual lifestyle and what the reality might be like. Now, there may be exceptions, but I sincerely doubt it because there is a great deal of denial and wishful thinking in the homosexual thought processes.
First of all, most homosexual relationships start by two guys meeting, being physically attracted, or just being horny, then falling madly in bed with each other. This can be minutes, hours, or a day or two after they meet. If they date, usually they will end up in bed, or in a car, or a hallway, alley, or even in bushes, etc. Usually this is a one night stand where they simply each use each other to masturbate themselves to climax and achieve an erotic high and then tell themselves it is love. If they do decide to continue the relationship, it almost always ends up essentially being a series of one night stands with the same person until the novelty is gone. Then it is onto the next one night stand or series of one night stands.
If by some strange twist of fate or pheromones, these two guys become a couple, it is seldom monogamous. I know almost no sexually monogamous homosexual couples. Even if they choose to be faithful to each other, they will not be giving themselves to each other like God designed a man and woman to do, but rather will still be essentially using each other's body as a vehicle for masturbation. Homosexual sex is an act of taking - not an act of giving.
My friend "S" and I were talking about dating with our present girlfriends, which is something totally new to him, but not to me. The main difference "S" felt in this relationship is his desire to give, to please, and to cherish without regard to what he might get from it. In doing so he is receiving much more satisfaction than he ever thought was possible in a relationship, because in his other relationships with his boyfriends he always felt like he was taking something, instead of giving. To "S", the sex act was more like a rape than true love-making, even though those words were never used.
I too felt the same thing in my relationship with "D" (a former boyfriend). While I thought I really cared for him, I recognized I was entering into the sexual act for what I could get, not for what I could give. If he was pleasured, I was happy, but it certainly was not a requirement for me.
Below is some of our conversation . I believe it is most informative and have been granted permission to share it with you. I quote:
- S: "I lived with him for so long (in gay terms), but now I wonder how I did that. I mean in reality, there was NO love in that relationship, it was narcissistic and it was all about what I or he could get from each other."
- R: "Yes indeed, what D and I thought was love was also something much baser.
- S: "YES! and now with my girlfriend, it's all about me giving of myself to her. I offer myself to her in a fully loving way, so our relationship isn't about me or my 'needs' at all. Rather it is about my desire to make her happy."
- R: "And oddly, by giving, we receive all that we previously felt we simply were grasping for in our former gay lives. This is so much more satisfying."
- S: "Yeah it's like it happens in a way where it's just natural and automatic. With [my former BF], I felt like I was always sneaking around, always trying to get something more out of it, you know?"
- R: "Yes, and you had to pull it out of the relationship because it was unnatural."
- S: "Good point. I guess it's a kind of emotional and sexual rape because we're stealing from the other."
- R: "And inside of us, we can feel that we are stealing something and we know we should not be having to do that. It is instinct."
- S: "Yes, I think maybe that's what those deep unsatisfying feelings of wrongness and dirtiness are that we felt after the sex, you know what I mean?"
- R: "Yeah, we are taking, when instincts and souls tells us we should be giving instead."
- S: "Maybe that's why both guys involved are so insecure about the relationship and why we become so possessive, because both guys feel the relationship is on shaky ground?"
- R: "Gay relationships are always on shaky ground. My boyfriends knew how we met. They knew that if I would pick him up (or he picked me up) and we immediately had sex, I would be just as susceptible to doing that with someone else. We did not date, or get to know each other or the other's families like a real couple. We just met, had sex, and left for home."
- S: "Do you think ANY homosexual couples get to know each other, truly?"
- R: "All the ones I know met, were physically attracted, thought the other guy was "hot" and thus fell madly in bed together and then started trying to salvage their dignity with dating."
- S: "Oh man, I love that expression - fell madly in bed - so, so, so accurate, and the post sex, after that first encounter, is all just downhill. All the dating after is an attempt to back pedal that fails totally."
- R: "I think so. There is immediate regret and maybe some wishful thinking that even though it started out as more or less a mutual MB with each other's body, that maybe it might be someone I can love??"
- S: "Yeah it's like at that point that the wishful thinking starts. Saying to yourself, this is more than just sex, right??? Oh please, let this be more than just a one night stand. And the fact that we're in a relationship all of a sudden is like a continual on-going accident when in reality what we are basically dealing with is a long string of one night stands with the same person."
- R: "Oh, that is a good description, I like that."
- S: "I spoke with "X" the other day, he was also in the lifestyle (like both of us) and some of what he said ties right into what you and and I went through, too. He connected with our observations here."
- R: "Cool, I do not know him but I am glad there are more guys like us."
- S: "Yes, he was very active in the lifestyle in the late 80's and 90's, activist type, "out and proud" and all that crap, but realized how empty it was and therefore got out of it a while ago. He has done a lot of work to help others come out of the lifestyle. He was talking about what gay sex really is, and how the word sex shouldn't even really be applied because sex involves two people interacting with each other in a real way."
- R: "Good point."
- S: "MB is self love and isn't that what homosexuality is essentially?"
So from a couple of guys who have really been there, done that, and looked at our relationships with other men, this is what we have concluded. Homosexuality is not what it is advertised to be. It never was and it never will be. It is selfish and ego-centric and therefore doomed to die an unpleasant death. And it will take any of us down with it if we chose to go there.
(Source: http://www.jonahweb.org/article.php?secId=315. Used with permission)
The Torah Declaration
The Torah Declaration is a public statement signed by 212
Rabbis, Community Leaders, and Mental Health Professionals
Declaration On The Torah Approach To Homosexuality
Societal Developments On Homosexuality
There has been a monumental shift in the secular worlds attitude towards homosexuality over the past few decades. In particular over the past fifteen years there has been a major public campaign to gain acceptance for homosexuality. Legalizing same-sex marriage has become the end goal of the campaign to equate homosexuality with heterosexuality.
A propaganda blitz has been sweeping the world using political tactics to persuade the public about the legitimacy of homosexuality. The media is rife with negative labels implying that one is hateful or homophobic if they do not accept the homosexual lifestyle as legitimate. This political coercion has silenced many into acquiescence. Unfortunately this attitude has seeped into the Torah community and many have become confused or have accepted the medias portrayal of this issue.
The Torahs Unequivocal And Eternal Message
The Torah makes a clear statement that homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle or a genuine identity by severely prohibiting its conduct. Furthermore, the Torah, ever prescient about negative secular influences, warns us in Vayikra (Leviticus) 20:23 Do not follow the traditions of the nations that I expel from before you
Particularly the Torah writes this in regards to homosexuality and other forbidden sexual liaisons.
Same-Sex Attractions Can Be Modified And Healed
From a Torah perspective, the question whether homosexual inclinations and behaviors are changeable is extremely relevant. The concept that G-d created a human being who is unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a biblical prohibition is neither plausible nor acceptable. G-d is loving and merciful. Struggles, and yes, difficult struggles, along with healing and personal growth are part and parcel of this world. Impossible, life long, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable solutions are not.
We emphatically reject the notion that a homosexually inclined person cannot overcome his or her inclination and desire. Behaviors are changeable. The Torah does not forbid something which is impossible to avoid. Abandoning people to lifelong loneliness and despair by denying all hope of overcoming and healing their same-sex attraction is heartlessly cruel. Such an attitude also violates the biblical prohibition in Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:14 and you shall not place a stumbling block before the blind.
The Process Of Healing
The only viable course of action that is consistent with the Torah is therapy and teshuvah. The therapy consists of reinforcing the natural gender-identity of the individual by helping him or her understand and repair the emotional wounds that led to its disorientation and weakening, thus enabling the resumption and completion of the individuals emotional development. Teshuvah is a Torah-mandated, self-motivated process of turning away from any transgression or sin and returning to G-d and ones spiritual essence. This includes refining and reintegrating the personality and allowing it to grow in a healthy and wholesome manner.
These processes are typically facilitated and coordinated with the help of a specially trained counselor or therapist working in conjunction with a qualified spiritual teacher or guide. There is no other practical, Torah-sanctioned solution for this issue.
The Mitzvah Of Love And Compassion
It requires tremendous bravery and fortitude for a person to confront and deal with same-sex attraction. For example a sixteen-year-old who is struggling with this issue may be confused and afraid and not know whom to speak to or what steps to take. We must create an atmosphere where this teenager (or anyone) can speak freely to a parent, rabbi, or mentor and be treated with love and compassion. Authority figures can then guide same-sex strugglers towards a path of healing and overcoming their inclinations.
The key point to remember is that these individuals are primarily innocent victims of childhood emotional wounds. They deserve our full love, support and encouragement in their striving towards healing. Struggling individuals who seek health and wellness should not be confused with the homosexual movement and their agenda. This distinction is crucial. It reflects the difference between what G-d asks from all of us and what He unambiguously prohibits.
We need to do everything in our power to lovingly uplift struggling individuals towards a full and healthy life that is filled with love, joy and the wisdom of the Torah.
FAQ Frequently Asked Questions on the Torah Declaration
1. How do we know that G-d did not create someone with a homosexual orientation that can not be changed?
2. What about individuals who claim that they have sincerely tried to heal through reparative therapy but were unsuccessful?
3. Why is teshuvah necessary? What if a person never acted on his desires?
4. Why dont we hear more from people who have successfully gone through the process of reparative therapy?
5. If people are not born homosexual, what is the cause of their homosexual inclinations?
6. There are some that claim that Halacha only prohibits one homosexual act and that everything else is permitted. Is this true?
7. Why should Jewish people care about homosexual issues such as gay marriage for non-Jews?
8. Is the Torah Declaration implying that one who has gone to therapy will never struggle with this issue again?
9. How does the Torah Declaration define the words Change and Overcome?
It states in the Declaration, The concept that G-d created a human being who is unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a biblical prohibition is neither plausible nor acceptable. [Difficult struggles are part of this world, but] Impossible, life long, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable solutions are not.
How can you know for sure what G-ds plan is for someone? People have all kinds of difficult lifelong struggles, how can you be sure that being an unchangeable homosexual is not part of G-ds plan? Perhaps Hashem wants such a person to have a difficult life and nevertheless obey His commandments and stay celibate his entire life? How do you know that this is not one of the many difficult nisoyens (trials) that G-d sets out for people?
This is a very crucial question because it touches upon our core understanding of Hashems relationship with us. It also brings up the question of how much we can actually understand about suffering in this world. In order to have clarity on this issue we have to define the kinds of suffering we are talking about and break them into separate categories.
Let us start with two categories:
Difficult situations where there is no desire that would violate Torah law, even if one falters due to his or her difficult circumstances.
Difficult situations where if one falters there is a direct Torah violation.
Examples of situation 1 would be someone who was born blind, without a leg or perhaps has cancer (Hashem yerachim). Those are truly tragic and difficult circumstances that can affect a persons entire life and greatly limit some of the things that many of us take for granted. However, as difficult as such a life may be, there is no inconsistency with living a Torah lifestyle. In fact there are special dispensations within halacha to deal with the blind, disabilities and the terminally ill that take into account their circumstances and to guide them halachicly.
In these situations there is no question of a compulsion to violate Biblically prohibited law. All the special circumstances are dealt with in a halachic framework. (I.E. doing a melacha (prohibited work) on Shabbos for a person with a medical emergency is not a Torah violation but rather a mitzvah, etc.)
Situation 2 would encompass someone born with a nature that will only be satisfied by committing a Biblically forbidden act. That could be someone born with an unchangeable murderous bloodthirsty nature or hypothetically if we say a person is born homosexual and can not change, then in both situations the person seemingly can ONLY find satisfaction by violating a Biblical prohibition.
We know this to be factually not possible based on the following Gemaras:
T.B. Avoda Zora 3a. Because the Holy One, blessed be He, does not deal imperiously with His creatures. The Gemara explains that Hashem does not play cruel tricks on His creatures and create impossible situations that would cause Torah violations.
The Chofetz Chaim uses this Gemara as an example why someone can not say that their desire for loshen hora is so strong that it can not be overcome. Hashem does not create impossible Torah situations that lead to violations.
So how do we explain someone who was born with a bloodthirsty nature? How is that not a cruel trick being played on a person? The following Gemara explains how that works:
T.B. Shabbos 156a
If one was born under Mazal Mars, he will spill blood;
Rav Ashi: He will be a bloodletter, bandit, slaughterer or Mohel. (He can channel his disposition for something neutral, for Aveiros, (negative) or for Mitzvos (positive).)
The Vilna Gaon in Even Shelaima 1:7, building on T.B. Shabbat 156a, implies that every [inborn] drive has some form of outlet that is acceptable within Torah.
[This Vilna Gaon quote is from Nishma.org]
The following is a direct quote from a public letter written on July 4th 2008 by Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky regarding homosexuality:
Our Sages teach us that every human being is capable of changing for the better. Those who make the false claim that human beings cannot change their tendencies are comparing them to animals. Indeed it may be very difficult to change ones nature, but it is definitely possible if one so desires.
From these sources we see that situation 2, where someone is born with an inborn unchangeable drive to violate Biblical law is not possible. Hashem does not play tricks by saying something is forbidden, and then creating people with a drive that only can be expressed with what He has forbidden to them. However, other struggles like situation 1 are possible and do not cause impossible Torah situations.
Can everyone change their homosexual inclinations? What about individuals who claim that they have sincerely tried to heal through reparative therapy but were unsuccessful?
Not everyone succeeds with their current therapy, but everyone is capable of healing. This statement is true for most struggles that humans deal with. Whether it is drug or alcohol addiction, weight loss, anorexia, depression or any other human struggle. There will always be individuals who dont succeed with their therapy, but its not because they are not capable of healing, rather they may just not be in the right space to achieve healing yet. For some it requires hitting rock bottom to be in that space. For others they may just not have yet been in a space to release certain blocks.
This is not about blame in any way, but rather the reality of why some people succeed and some people dont. The fact that a person has not yet achieved healing, even after major effort, is not proof that they cant eventually achieve healing, or that they should stop trying.
For example there is one individual who was 100 pounds overweight for most of his life. He struggled for 40 years with diets but was never able to successfully keep any weight loss beyond a short period of time. Then at 50 he finally lost the 100 pounds and 10 years later he has still kept the weight off.
This individual sincerely wanted to lose weight all his life. His not succeeding for 40 years does not mean he is not capable of success. It means that he was not in the right emotional/mental space to fully deal with the blocks that he had that were preventing success.
Each of these situations are unique and may be different than Same-Sex Attraction (SSA). However, all issues that require healing or therapy have in common that many people succeed in achieving their goals and others dont.
To bring it back to SSA, one person struggled through therapy for SSA for seven years before achieving success. Can he have said after 5 years of major struggle that he is one of those individuals who can never change? At what point can we say that a person cant deal with SSA successfully and should give up therapy? Perhaps an extended break is warranted or trying different techniques, but how can we tell the world that it is okay for some people to give up trying? How can there be any other message than everyone is capable of healing?
When it comes to homosexuality from a Torah perspective there is no other option other than healing. The Torah commands us to seek health and wellness and to repair, refine and elevate any aspect of ourselves that conflict with the Torah. For some it may be a short term struggle, for others a longer term struggle. Either way no one is exempt from continuously striving for healing and living a kosher Torah lifestyle.
The Declaration states that the process of healing is therapy and teshuvah. However, someone who has same-sex attractions but has never acted on it has done nothing wrong. Doesnt including teshuvah imply that he has done something wrong, just by having those feelings?
The Declaration is very sensitive to this concern and specifically worded it very carefully. The main focus in the declaration of the concept of teshuvah is as a holistic process of reintegration. Within the concept of teshuvah it is a two part process. The first as it states is, turning away from any transgression or sin. If someone has committed a transgression then the first step is to stop that activity. If someone has not committed any transgressions then this part does not apply to him at all.
The second and most crucial part of teshuva is healing as the document states about the process of teshuvah, This includes refining and reintegrating the personality and allowing it to grow in a healthy and wholesome manner. Teshuvah is about a process of returning to ones true self and that is what is emphasized in the declaration. This applies to anyone who has same-sex attractions, regardless if they have acted upon it or not.
This fits well with Rabbi Yosef Serebryanskis explanation of the roots of Teshuvah:
The word Tshuvah is composed of two words, Tashuv and the letter Hey. This means returning to Hashem. It has nothing to do with negative or bad, it is simply each person restoring their open connection and flow directly with Hashem - the source of all life and existence.
We asked over twenty individuals who have struggled with this issue how they feel about the Process of healing paragraph and not one had an issue with it. They understood that this is not about blame but rather about a process of personal reintegration and returning to ones true nature.
In fact in the final section we specifically stressed that someone struggling with this is an innocent victim. As the Declaration states, The key point to remember is that these individuals are primarily innocent victims of childhood emotional wounds.
Why dont we hear more from people who have successfully gone through the process of reparative therapy?
In the Torah Observant world there is a whole network of frum individuals who have gone through reparative therapy and have overcome their same-sex attractions. Many of these brave individuals are now married with their wives full knowledge and support and are upstanding members of Klal Yisrael living lives filled with kedusha and consistent with the Torah. These individuals are just like everyone else. Why would they want to publicize a difficult and private struggle in their lives?
Despite this, many of these brave souls know how important it is to bring awareness to this subject and are willing to privately share their personal struggles, the healing and therapeutic techniques and the joy and equanimity that successful change has brought to their lives. They have agreed to speak privately with anyone who is either struggling themselves with this issue or with a Rabbi, teacher, or community leader who needs more information about this issue.
If you fit into either of these two categories and would like to speak to someone who has successfully overcome their SSA, please email us with your specific situation and we can have someone contact you to discuss it further.
If people are not born homosexual, what is the cause of their homosexual inclinations?
The Gemara in Nedarim 51a states that Toeivah (abomination) translates as Toeh attah bah you are mistaken or being misled with this (in our case with homosexual inclination).
The most widely accepted theory, among those with the most experience in helping individuals heal, as to the root cause of homosexuality is that something has gone awry in childhood development. There are many possibilities and combinations of factors that may lead to same sex attraction. From emotional or sexual abuse, to having a sensitive nature while not being able to properly bond with a father figure or male peers. There may be other issues as well, but the underlying factor is that this developmental deficiency with male bonding may manifest in a desire to connect with males in an inappropriate sexualized way.
One of the standard lines from homosexual activists is that they would never choose this voluntarily. They are correct in the sense that it was not a conscience choice to develop same sex attractions, but it is a conscience choice whether one chooses to heal from the underlying issue. No one consciously chooses to be overweight, but it is a choice and a possibility to lose weight and to deal with the emotional factors that lead to overeating. Just because one does not consciously choose a struggle or difficulty, does not mean that one cant choose to heal from it.
For more information you can watch this excellent 16 minute video that gives a detailed and easy to understand explanation of some of the root causes of homosexuality and how it develops in childhood.
There are some that claim that Halacha only prohibits one homosexual act and that everything else is permitted. Is this true?
According to the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch prohibited homosexual activity includes any non-platonic physical contact; even yichud (seclusion) with someone of the same gender is forbidden for homosexually active individuals.
Rambam Hilchos Isurei Biah 21:1,2; 22:1,2. See also Shulchan Aruch Even HoEzer 24
Why should Jewish people care about homosexual issues such as gay marriage for non-Jews?
Homosexuality is forbidden for all people, including non-Jews, by the Seven Noahide Laws. The Rambam (Maimonides) is explicit that the prohibition of sexual immorality in the Noahide laws specifically includes homosexuality.
Rambam, Mishneh Torah, in Sefer Shoftim, Hilkhoth Melakhim uMilhamotheihem 9:7- 11
9:7 There are six types of sexual acts forbidden to a ben Noah: Intercourse with ones mother, with ones fathers wife (who is not ones mother, i.e.: step mother), with another mans wife, with ones sister who has the same mother, with another male, with an animal
Another Torah source that explicitly mentions homosexual marriage is the Midrash Rabba which states that homosexual marriage was the straw that broke the camels back and brought the Great Flood to the world:
Rabbi Huna said in the name of Rebbi: The generation of the flood were not wiped out from the world until [men] were writing marriage contracts to males and to beasts. (Midrash Rabba Breishis 26:5)
Is the Torah Declaration implying that one who has gone to therapy will never struggle with this issue again?
Deeply ingrained psychological or emotional issues are the root cause of people acting out in various unhealthy ways, be they addictions, alcoholism, obesity, or homosexuality, all of which are difficult to overcome. Being committed to healing the underlying issue with the help of therapy and supportive family and friends is a major step in the healing process.
However, ALL psychological issues, even after successful therapy, require continued emotional health and stability to maintain. As a person goes through life and he or she is subjected to trying or difficult times, some of those feelings may resurface. That is why, for example, an alcoholic may attend a support group or have a personal sponsor even after being sober for 10 years.
Paying proper attention to our emotional and mental health, which includes appropriate dietary habits, sleeping patterns and a network of supportive friends and family, is important for everyone and particularly crucial for those who have undergone therapy for major life issues. Without a commitment to continued mental and emotional health and well being, anyone who has undergone therapy for ANY issue is at risk of recidivism.
The following relevant excerpt comes from Dr. Bentzion Sorotzkin Psy.D. website:
The fact that overcoming SSA [Same-Sex Attraction] is indeed difficult and is often only achieved imperfectly is also cited as evidence of the unchangeable nature of sexual orientation thus making the apparent change not authentic. This claim is absurd! All psychological problems are difficult to change. Is it easy to help someone improve his self-esteem? Or to develop confidence? Or to overcome years of abuse? When the person makes progress, do we belittle his progress because he is still struggling? And if he improves with his issue 90%, do we not see this as a tremendous success even though vestiges of his problem remain? Why is the treatment of SSA held to such ridiculous and illogical and dramatically different standards than other areas of psychotherapy? Only because of a political agenda, it seems.
How does the Torah Declaration define the words Change and Overcome?
In terms of the word Overcome the following is the dictionary definition:
Succeed in dealing with (a problem or difficulty).
To get the better of [a difficulty] in a struggle or conflict
To succeed in dealing with or to get the better of any kind of struggle does not necessarily mean that the issue with which one is dealing has been wiped away forever. The definition of the word overcome does not contradict that one may still have to deal with the issue in difficult times throughout life. How one is able to overcome an issue is totally dependent upon the depth of the initial wounds and his/her ability to take care of him/her self in the future. In this context, the word overcome simply means that with therapy people can overcome their block in an area of life that would otherwise prevent them from achieving their goals. Moreover, it will enable them to live a Torah-true lifestyle, with a supportive spouse and children.
The same applies to the dictionary definition of the word Change:
Any variation or alteration; a passing from one state or form to another; as, a change of countenance; a change of habits or principles.
To be altered; to undergo variation; as, men sometimes change for the better.
Reparative therapy or Gender affirming processes involves changing ones inner sense of gender identity and changing the response patterns that may lead to a desire to act out in ways that are forbidden by the Torah.
Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky explains that everyone is capable of overcoming an inclination that is prohibited by the Torah. (Hakirah: The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought, Volume 12, Fall, 2011, p. 33.) The Rosh Yeshiva went on to explain the concept of change and how two separate and distinct types of change relevant to mishkav zachar [homosexuality] may occur:
virtual elimination of the thoughts, feelings, and behavior, or
significant decrease of the desire, combined with knowledge of the tools necessary to redirect one's feelings if the desire returns.
He recognized that every person faces challenges of one sort or another but as humans we have been given by our Creator the capacity to overcome them. (Hakirah, p. 33)
In other words, changing ones life does not necessarily mean that one will never struggle with this issue in the future. It doesnt mean that one has to resolve all his/her inner gender conflicts before he/she can be considered changed. That process may take time, patience, and continued work. What does change more immediately, however, is ones outlook on life and ones ability to maintain healthy heterosexual relationships.
To sum up, an alcoholic who has been sober for a number of years has overcome their destructive patterns and changed their lifestyle to a productive and healthy one. The same understanding applies to obesity, other addictions and same-sex attractions.
(Source: The Torah Declaration: http://www.torahdec.org/FAQs.aspx#Q3. Used with permission)