Maybe it’s the name.

Ever since ex-gay, ex-licensed, ex-Moonie, and ex-Jewish “therapist” Richard Cohen made his disastrous appearance in “The Daily Show,” (see the video here), virtually every major ex-gay organization dropped him like a hot potato. Cohen, described by Wayne Besen only a few years ago as “the future of the ex-gay industry” (Anything But Straight p. 159), was the star that burned out quicker than he rose to fame.cohen_dailyshow.png

Well, he almost burned out. Cohen may have evaporated from every mainstream Christian ex-gay organization, but he continues to rain down on us because the secular – and vicariously, the Jewish – reparative therapy groups remain loyal. NARTH, although reported by XGW to have rid themselves of Cohen’s stain, still mention him in numerous articles and resources provided, and JONAH cites his research in their online library. They even quote from his book “Coming Out Straight” in order to guide those who are seeking out a reparative therapist. You can also order the book at their online bookstore. In fact, not only has JONAH not wiped clean their connections to Cohen, they continue to enthusiastically endorse him, as evidenced by this email recently sent out:

Dear Colleagues,

I want to call your attention to the International Healing Foundation (IHF) and their many resources for parents, family members and friends who have loved ones dealing with homosexuality.

There are teleconferencing classes, workshops, weekends, etc., and an excellent quarterly Newsletter that Richard Cohen, Director of the IHF, sends out that you can sign up for from the web site. In particular, a new Parents Monthly Support Group begins in October 2007.

For more information, and to sign up to receive Richard’s updates by E-mail and snail mail, please go

Shalom, Elaine

In NARTH’s case, it’s no surprise that washing themselves of Cohen would be a daunting task – with so few medical professionals actually involved in the ex-gay movement, there aren’t very many “officials” to quote and very few “scientific” documents to cite. The same people tend to be mentioned over and over – and Cohen is one of them.

So why do I say “maybe it’s the name?” Because the name “Cohen” is a very distinctive and important Jewish name. It is literally the Hebrew word for “priest” and anyone who carries it inherits the rights and responsibilities associated with the Jewish temple priesthood, which will return when the Messiah comes and the Third Temple is built. So maybe the Jewish ex-gay groups hesitate to abandon one of their own – and an heir to the priesthood, no less!

Though I find ALL shades of reparative therapy to be despicable, I expect better from my people. This is not simply bias or arrogance — JONAH and Jewish ex-gays take the “scientific” route for gay-to-straight conversion, seeking out therapists through NARTH or Cohen’s International Healing Foundation. The Orthodox Jewish approach to religious study is one of intense complexity, and so a similar approach to healing same-sex attraction would be a natural step. The complex psychoanalytic gymnastics that take place in sessions with these counselors might end up being a futile endeavor, but at the time it feels like you’re going somewhere – uncovering some deep-seeded secret that provides the reason you turned gay. Unfortunately, these sessions provide no real intelligent insight into one’s sexual identity, only excuses and places to lay blame. Cohen’s tactics are nothing but new-age mind games repackaged as novel, effective counseling, when in reality they are none of these things. Intelligent, studious Orthodox Jews are seeking an effective scientific solution, but they will never find one. It is obvious that one does not exist, yet they will continue to delude themselves into thinking this IS a real solution, endorsed by science and blessed by HaShem.

So maybe Jewish ex-gays and ex-gay groups cling to Cohen because they feel they have a great Jewish ally in their struggle (never mind the fact that Cohen converted to Christianity years ago, with a detour through the Unification Church of all places). Having a cohen on your side can potentially make for a match made in hashamayim (Hebrew for “Heaven”).

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