Many people, even those involved in countering the ex-gay movement, have probably never heard of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality). In a field that is dominated by Evangelical Christianity, JONAH seems to stand alone as the only ex-gay group targeted specifically at Jews.
First, I feel I should explain a little bit about Judaism and homosexuality:
- There are 4 main “flavors” of Judaism, which I list here from most liberal to most conservative: Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox (which also includes what are known as Chasidic communities).
- Reconstructionist and Reform Judaism fully accept GLBT members and ordained rabbis. Conservative Judaism came to a compromise solution: Homosexuality is both accepted and rejected; it is up to the individual synagogue to decide. GLBT Rabbis are ordained. Orthodox and Chasidic communities outright reject homosexuality.
- The Torah (first five books of the Jewish Bible, the “law” or the teachings of Moses) does not define any form of sexuality as an identity. Homosexual acts are condemned- not the homosexual identity.
In what I call our own version of “love the sinner, hate the sin,” Jews who oppose homosexuality insist that God does not condemn the homosexual orientation, only homosexual acts. This means, of course, that in their eyes there are two options for gay Jews: be celibate, or go straight- achieving the latter possibly with JONAH’s help.
But JONAH’s credentials seem less than reassuring. At a time when it seems nearly all ex-gay groups are purging their websites of any mention of ex-gay, ex-Moonie, and ex-licensed reparative therapist Richard Cohen, JONAH refuses to jump ship. Cohen has his own page in their online library, featuring three of his articles. In JONAH’s page for suggested questions for a Prospective Therapist or Counselor, six questions from Cohen’s book “Coming Out Straight” are prominently presented.
Oh, and by the way, Cohen is also an ex-Jew.
Because JONAH is a minority as a Jewish ex-gay organization and not a Christian one, it has become very close to the “secular” ex-gay think-tank NARTH. Pseudo-science from NARTH’s own library is what fills out JONAH’s. One example is an interview of Jungian Psychotherapist and ex-lesbian Diane Eller-Boyko, R.N., L.C.S.W. by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. Nicolosi says his male clients want to connect and bond,
“But they want to have that bonding in a more exciting, physical kind of way. The masculine approach is more like, ‘We’re going to go climb a mountain and wrestle together.’”
“…some of the women I know– writers, movie makers–are finding this connection through the women’s movement. There is something there that is offering them richness. If we’re going to work with women, we have to understand why they’re so pulled to this movement, instead of pooh-poohing it as being nothing more than a group of man-haters.”
So apparently when you climb aboard with JONAH, you subscribe not only to the outdated theories about gender identity touted as “science” by ex-gay groups – you find yourself on the opposing side of Feminism. (And, in an aside, I think that Nicolosi should use caution when one of his struggling gay clients tells him that he’s going to bond with other men in an “exciting, physical way” by deciding to go “wrestle together.”)
I also want to note that even with its associations with “secular” NARTH, JONAH seems to be lacking in research and documentation conducted by Jewish doctors and scientists. Even the Jewish authors in the online library quote extensively from research conducted by Evangelical Christian colleagues. Upon reading featured therapist Janelle Hallman’s article, you would never know she is a devout Christian. However, a link to her personal website is provided, and upon arrival you are immediately greeted with the tagline “A private practice in Christian counseling, pastoral ministry, public speaking, resources, and education.” Even roundly discredited Evangelical Christian propagandist Dr. Paul Cameron is cited, as I mentioned in a previous article.
Jews who come to JONAH in the hopes of finding a purely Jewish response to homosexuality will no doubt be met with some disappointment.