Orthodox Therapists Battle Ban On Gay 'Conversion' Treatment

Nefesh, Agudah Claim N.J. Law Infringes On Free Speech

Not OK: Rabbi Benzion Sorotzkin says it’s a myth that some people are born gay.
Courtesy of Benzion Sorotzkin
Not OK: Rabbi Benzion Sorotzkin says it’s a myth that some people are born gay.

By Nathan Guttman

Published February 25, 2014, issue of February 28, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Ultra-Orthodox mental health professionals are pushing back against efforts to restrict so-called gay “conversion” therapy, a controversial practice that aims to curb or reverse patients’ same-sex attraction.

Amid a growing wave of legislation banning conversion therapy for teenagers, a group known as Nefesh has joined with the ultra-Orthodox umbrella group Agudath Israel of America to challenge a New Jersey law prohibiting use of this therapy with minors.

Rabbi Mordechai Biser, Agudath Israel’s general counsel, said his organization swung into action after receiving requests from Orthodox therapists who “pleaded with us to take whatever steps we could to prevent this legislation from being enacted.”

But even some members of the group supporting the challenge are glum about their prospects.

“I cannot say I’m terribly optimistic,” said Nathan “Nosson“ Solomon, a New York therapist and former president of Nefesh, which brings together Orthodox Jewish mental health professionals. “People are scared, the atmosphere is very hostile.”

Nefesh and the Agudah supported an appeal challenging the New Jersey state ban in an amicus brief they filed January 22 with the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Similar legislation has also become law in California. Under these laws, a licensed therapist who subjects minors to conversion therapy can lose his license and face other penalties. Bills of this kind have also been introduced in Massachusetts, New York and Ohio.

In California, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the state’s ban on conversion therapies in a ruling issued in early February. The California law, the court found, merely regulates “professional conduct” and thus was not protected by the First Amendment. The plaintiff’s lawyers have announced their intention to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In their briefs against the New Jersey law, Nefesh and the Agudah argued that the ban “impermissibly infringed” on the right of free speech. The law, which bans therapists from offering counseling to minors that seeks to “eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings towards individuals of the same sex,” singles out one “particular viewpoint on that subject,” for restriction the two groups argued, “namely that sexual orientation, behavior or identity can change.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.