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

(page 2 of 3)

Over the past several decades, many medical and mental health professional associations have rejected conversion therapy as ineffective, harmful or both. They have also disavowed the view that homosexuality is a pathology requiring a remedy, as has most of the organized Jewish community.

For Orthodox groups, though, homosexual behavior remains a violation of biblical prohibition. Nevertheless, the Rabbinical Council of America, the country’s largest association of Modern Orthodox rabbis, acknowledged in a November 2012 statement “the lack of scientifically rigorous studies that support the effectiveness of therapies to change sexual orientation.” In that statement, the RCA withdrew its support of a Jewish group called JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing. The group, which is unrelated to Nefesh, allegedly employed coercive techniques through which it claimed to reduce homosexual urges or even change homosexual individuals into heterosexuals.

In an ongoing lawsuit, several former JONAH clients say counselors from the group sometimes ordered them to remove all their clothing and touch their genitals. In other sessions, they were allegedly told to beat effigies of their mothers with tennis rackets or were subjected to homosexual slurs, according to the complaint.

JONAH clients would pay a minimum of $100 for weekly individual counseling sessions and another $60 for group therapy sessions.

JONAH has denied it employed abusive or coercive techniques.

Nefesh activists have distanced themselves from these practices. The campaign against the new law instead stresses therapists’ desire to use conventional therapies to provide their adolescent patients with the option of seeking to live a heterosexual life that “will enable them to live healthy Torah lives,” as stated in a recent Nefesh and Agudah press release.

“As a matter of policy, Nefesh International does not endorse any particular form of psychotherapy,” the organization’s president, Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, said in a written statement. “We do strongly oppose any effort to limit or restrict access of patients to any form of mental health services offered by duly qualified practitioners.”

According to Feuerman, who is a licensed clinician, the New Jersey law will inhibit patients who themselves have concerns about their sexual orientation “from exploring the possibility of focusing on heterosexual desires, which are consonant with their own chosen religious and social goals.”


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!
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life 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.