The Rabbinical Council of America has taken steps to re-iterate a statement made last year, in which it said it did not support the “conversion therapy” provided by a New Jersey based group.
The RCA today released a statement saying that, since 2004, its position on Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing, or JONAH, a group which advertises “therapy” to “reverse” homosexuality, had changed, and that it did not endorse its practices.
According to its website, JONAH is: “the only Jewish based organization dedicated to assisting individuals with unwanted same sex attractions move from gay to straight.”
Earlier this week, four gay men in New York filed a lawsuit accusing the New Jersey-based group of falsely offering “conversion therapy”, which was not effective, and should not be advertised as a “cure” for being gay.
The JONAH website displays a letter from the RCA, written in 2004, claiming it as an endorsement of its practices, however the RCA said it had attempted numerous times to have the letter taken down, as its position had changed, and furthermore that the letter was not actually an endorsement at all.
Today’s statement from the RCA, which serves 1000 Orthodox Rabbis, read:
“As rabbis trained in Jewish law and values, we base our religious positions regarding medical matters on the best research and advice of experts and scholars in those areas, along with concern for the religious, emotional, and physical welfare of those impacted by our decisions. Our responsibility is to apply halakhic (Jewish legal) values to those opinions.
“Despite numerous attempts by the RCA to have mention of that original letter removed from the JONAH website, our calls, letters, and emails remain unanswered.”
The statement went on to say that Rabbi Dr Norman Lamm, Chancellor of Yeshiva University and author of the 1974 Encyclopedia Judaica Year Book article, “Judaism and the Modern Attitude to Homosexuality,” had originally commended the work of JONAH, but had changed his stance once negative reports about the practice of “conversion therapy” began to come out.
This was also mentioned in a 2011 statement by the RCA’s president, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in which he said:
“We want [the letter] 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.”
The four men who filed the lawsuit against JONAH attended sessions in Jersey City, and spoke at a press conference in Manhattan on Tuesday about their experiences.
Some had been told to strip naked, others were asked to take baseball bats to effigies of their mothers. The group advertised in various publications, and claimed to be able to “cure” homosexuality.
Earlier this year, a state funded Jewish school in North London, JFS, was accused by the Jewish Chronicle of showing students the logo and central message of JONAH. The chief rabbi of Amsterdam was suspended from his position after he signed a document alleging homosexuality could be “modified and healed”.