Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), formerly Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, is a 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 operates within the weltanschauung[buzzword] of Orthodox Judaism. 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] JONAH's leaders disagree with the consensus of mainstream science and the world's major mental health organizations who say that homosexuality is not a disorder.
JONAH was created in 1999 in Jersey City, New Jersey by Theodore and Elaine Berk and Arthur and Jane Goldberg. The organisation 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. 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.
JONAH emphasizes 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. JONAH employs the techniques of Richard Cohen, a formerly licensed counselor who has become a prominent conversion therapist.[third-party source needed] In addition to therapy, JONAH employs "mentoring and coaching services, group support, weekend retreats, seminars, and outreach" for its participants.
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. 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.
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. 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."
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.
- "JONAH's History". JONAH. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
- Arthur Goldberg. "Jonah Mission Statement". JONAH. Retrieved 2011-05-10.
- R. L. Spitzer, "The diagnostic status of homosexuality in DSM-III: a reformulation of the issues", American Journal of Psychiatry 138 (1981): 210–15.
- "An Instant Cure", Time; April 1, 1974.
- Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts
- Goldberg, Arthur. Light in the Closet. Red Heifer Press, 2008, p. 13.
- Ben Newman (2003). "Is Change Really Possible?". JONAH. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
- Elaine Silodor Berk; Arthur A. Goldberg. "JONAH'S Psycho-Educational Model for Healing". JONAH. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
- Steve Lipman (2010-07-27). "Controversy Over Therapy For ‘Curing’ Homosexuals". Jewish Week. Retrieved 2011-06-28.