RCA repudiates position on reparative therapy for queer Jews

Posted on December 28, 2011 by

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Rabbinical Council of America president Rabbi Schmuel Goldin issued a statement on Monday dispelling allegations that the RCA has taken a stand on reparative therapy for Jews with unwanted same-sex attraction.

The RCA website has previously listed an organization called JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) as a therapy resource for Jews with unwanted same-sex attraction. Goldin’s statement comes as a response to JONAH’s claim that the link and a blurb in an RCA newsletter from 2004 are an endorsement of JONAH’s services.

JONAH is an organization that denies that genetic factors play any role in determining sexual orientation and asserts that the “free will” granted to humanity by God guarantees the possibility of conversion.

As the widely accepted umbrella organization for centrist Orthodox rabbinical authority, an RCA endorsement of JONAH would, to many, be tantamount to an official Orthodox position in favor of reparative therapy. Many in the Jewish and LGBT communities strongly advise against reparative therapy because of the psychological harm and abusive methods they believe to be involved and the theological precedents upon which those methods are based.

“We want it taken down. [JONAH] said it was a letter of support, but if you read the letter it is not. They took an informational statement and reprinted it, and the use of that as an endorsement is an error,” said Rabbi Goldin.

In fact, the RCA’s official policies of homosexuality and reparative therapy were articulated earlier this month on the rabbinic organization’s website.

“On the subject of reparative therapy, it is our view that, as Rabbis, we can neither endorse nor reject any therapy or method that is intended to assist those who are struggling with same-sex attraction. We insist, however, that therapy of any type be performed only by licensed, trained practitioners. In addition, we maintain that no individual should be coerced to participate in a therapeutic course with which he or she is acutely uncomfortable.”

Mordechai Levovitz, co-executive director of JQY (Jewish Queer Youth) — a social support group for “frum/formerly frum” LGBT-identified Jews based in New York — lauded Rabbi Goldin’s clarification, declaring it “indicative of a shift in consciousness, sensitivity and understanding that Orthodox rabbis have about gay people growing up in their communities.

“People are going to be comforted by the RCA dealing with this community in a welcoming way; that’s what was missing. I applaud the RCA and Rabbi Goldin for their courage in standing up against pressuring gay youth into these kinds of therapies.”

Posted in: Jewish Society