JONAH

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JONAH International logo

Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), formerly Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality,[1] is a Jewish non-profit organization which offers conversion therapy and other regimens that purport to change the sexual orientation of individuals who experience unwanted same-sex attraction. JONAH describes itself as "dedicated to educating the world-wide Jewish community about the social, cultural and emotional factors which lead to same-sex sexual attractions (SSAs)." JONAH works directly with those struggling with unwanted same-sex sexual attractions (SSA) and with families whose loved ones are involved in homosexuality.[clarification needed][2] JONAH's leaders disagree with the consensus of mainstream science and the world's major mental health organizations who say that homosexuality is a matter of genetics and not a disorder.[3][4][5]

History[edit]

JONAH was created in 1999 in Jersey City, New Jersey by Theodore and Elaine Berk and Arthur and Jane Goldberg. The organization was created after each family had a son who turned out to be homosexual. Arthur Goldberg is a former secretary-treasurer of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality.[1] In 2000, JONAH provided literature and outreach to gay and bisexual Jews, and their families of all denominations, from the tri-state area with supposed methods of reducing and eliminating homosexuality. JONAH eventually became a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Since then it has expanded to include members in the United States, Israel, Canada, and various European nations. In 2010, JONAH adopted its current logo.[1]

Methodology[edit]

JONAH emphasizes[6] the Talmudic understanding of homosexuality as "being led astray" (Nedarim 51a), and therefore of being able "to return", consistent with the Jewish principle of repentance (teshuvah). According to JONAH, same-sex attractions may be mitigated and potentially eliminated.[7] JONAH employs the techniques of Richard Cohen[citation needed], a Jewish a psychotherapist and prominent conversion therapist,[8][9] who was formerly a licensed professional counselor.[citation needed]

Controversy[edit]

In July 2010, a video published by the organization Truth Wins Out features two former participants of JONAH, Ben Unger and Chaim Levin, alleging that Alan Downing, a JONAH counselor, demanded that his participants strip off all of their clothing in front of a mirror and touch their genitals in his presence. Downing released a statement in response denying the charges.[10] After emails were sent to the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists linking to the video, the organization initially rescinded a previous invitation to Goldberg to speak at their annual convention, but later allowed him to speak. Dr. Yael Respler of the Jewish Press printed a letter by Goldberg about the incident and noted in response that she herself had engaged in reparative therapy.[11]

In November 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against JONAH, Goldberg, and Downing on behalf of Unger, Levin, two other participants, and two of the participants' mothers for fraudulent practices which are illegal under New Jersey's consumer protection laws.[12] The Southern Poverty Law Center has noted that the lawsuit is "groundbreaking" insofar as it is "the first time a conversion therapy provider has been sued for fraudulent business practices."[13] In 2014 Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso ruled that JONAH and its co-defendants could have to pay three times the cost paid by the participants for therapy they said they needed because of JONAH's conversion therapy. [14]

On November 29, 2012, the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America issued a statement clarifying that "based on consultation with a wide range of mental health experts and therapists who informed us of the lack of scientifically rigorous studies that support the effectiveness of therapies to change sexual orientation, a review of literature written by experts and major medical and mental health organizations, and based upon reports of the negative and, at times, deleterious consequences to clients of some of the interventions endorsed by JONAH," the organization did not meet their standards, and thus clarified that they could not endorse JONAH's methods.[15]

In February 2015, Hudson County, New Jersey superior court judge Peter Bariso Jr ruled that JONAH's claims of gay conversion therapy that describe homosexuality as a curable mental disorder were illegal based on the state’s Consumer Fraud Act. Bariso also said it’s fraudulent to offer “success statistics” because “there is no factual basis for calculating such statistics”.

“This is the principal lie the conversion therapy industry uses throughout the country to peddle its quackery to vulnerable clients,” David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said of homosexuality being described as a mental disorder. “Gay people don’t need to be cured, and we are thrilled that the court has recognized this.” Bariso also ruled that Jonah could not call on proponents to testify that homosexuality is an illness.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "JONAH's History". JONAH. Retrieved 2011-06-28. [dead link]
  2. ^ Arthur Goldberg. "Jonah Mission Statement". JONAH. Retrieved 2011-05-10. [dead link]
  3. ^ R. L. Spitzer, "The diagnostic status of homosexuality in DSM-III: a reformulation of the issues", American Journal of Psychiatry 138 (1981): 210–15.
  4. ^ "An Instant Cure", Time; April 1, 1974.
  5. ^ "JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality". Jonahweb.org. Retrieved 2014-06-03. [dead link]
  6. ^ Goldberg, Arthur. Light in the Closet. Red Heifer Press, 2008, p. 13.
  7. ^ Ben Newman (2003). "Is Change Really Possible?". JONAH. Retrieved 2011-06-28. [dead link]
  8. ^ Cohen, Richard (2007-07-20). "Born gay? No way!". New Statesman. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  9. ^ Mark Simkin (August 22, 2006). "USA - Gay Conversion". ABC TV. Retrieved February 13, 2007. 
  10. ^ Steve Lipman (2010-07-27). "Controversy Over Therapy For ‘Curing’ Homosexuals". Jewish Week. Retrieved 2011-06-28. 
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ "N.J. Lawsuit Alleges JONAH Gay Conversion Therapy Fraud - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. 2012-11-27. Retrieved 2014-06-03. 
  13. ^ http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/news/splc-files-groundbreaking-lawsuit-accusing-conversion-therapy-organization-of-frau
  14. ^ http://www.nj.com/jjournal-news/index.ssf/2014/06/hudson_judge_allows_gay_conver.html
  15. ^ "Rabbinical Council of America (RCA)". Rabbis.org. 2012-11-29. Retrieved 2014-06-03. 
  16. ^ "New Jersey judge rules 'gay conversion therapy' is consumer fraud". theguardian.com. 2015-02-15. Retrieved 2015-02-16. 

External links[edit]