The JONAH scandal has ignited debate in the Jewish Community over “ex-gay” therapy and acceptance of homosexuality. Here are a few articles addressing the topic.
Goldberg, however, does try to provide an answer. Through his organization, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH), he promotes the idea that homosexuality can be overcome through therapy. But the nature of this therapy has come under scrutiny after a video featuring two young Orthodox Jewish men was posted online in late July by Truth Wins Out, a group that battles what it calls the “ex-gay movement.”
The two men, Ben Unger and Chaim Levin, described to the Forward how they had struggled with their sexual identity. Unger told of being sent to therapists who recommended shock therapy, and to rabbis who told him to visit the mikveh (ritual bath) five times a day. He even contemplated suicide.
Unger and Levin both turned to JONAH around the same time, and were referred by Goldberg to a “life coach” named Alan Downing. Both men described a series of psychotherapeutic experiments they were asked to carry out that felt increasingly strange and uncomfortable.
“He told me take a pillow and beat it with a racket,” Unger said, referring to Downing. “He told me my mother is the reason for me being into guys, and I should beat the pillow as if it is her. He said that my dad was not man enough, that he didn’t show me proper masculinity, as if he knew my parents. I actually began to hate my mother. He convinced me it was her fault. But I was completely into it. I was desperate. There was no way out.”
The incident that made Unger and Levin each decide to leave the program involved standing in the mirror with Downing nearby, and taking off articles of clothing until they were naked. Unger said he took off only his shirt. Levin said he took off all his clothes and Downing told him to touch himself.
Contacted by the Forward, Downing said that there was nothing unusual about his methodology, which he referred to as “body work.” He said he works with a number of different “modalities,” including “psychodrama” and “guts work.” But he did say that the two men mischaracterized him as having “malicious intent.” All he wanted, he said, was “to eliminate shame.”
Jack Drescher, a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association who has written extensively on the “ex-gay movement,” said, “This is a marketing movement, not a science movement. Most of the people who do these kinds of approaches are the least trained of mental health professionals. ‘Life coach’ is not a licensed profession.”
The Jewish Week
A controversial treatment that is supposed to “cure” gays of their same-sex feelings — which has credence in parts of the Orthodox community — took another step toward respectability this week when it received apparent approval from a group of Orthodox scientists.
A recently posted YouTube video of two young Orthodox-raised men who complain of psychological abuse at the hands of a “reparative therapy” practitioner originally played a role in causing the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists to cancel the appearance last weekend of Arthur Goldberg, a leading advocate of reparative therapy, at the organization’s annual convention.
But, in a sudden reversal, the AOJS let Goldberg speak, in the convention’s final session on Sunday. Goldberg’s views apparently were not challenged — either from members of a hastily arranged panel or from the more than 100 people in the audience. And no mention was made of the contents of the video.
In the video, posted on YouTube two weeks ago by the gay activist group Truthwinsout.org, Ben Unger and Chaim Levin allege that Alan Downing, a “life coach” who serves as a therapist for JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), had them remove their clothes in front of a mirror — with Downing standing behind them — as part of therapy to change from gay to straight. Levin also states that Downing encouraged him to touch his own genitals “to increase my masculinity.”
The Jewish Star
That public rebuttal coincides with allegations of misconduct by JONAH, Jews Offering a New Alternative to Homosexuality, the most prominent organization offering reparative therapy in the Jewish community.
Truth Wins Out, a group that combats what its founders consider to be false information about homosexuality, produced a video about Jonah, of two Jewish teenagers describing the therapy they underwent with life coach Alan Downing, who considers himself a former homosexual.
In the video, that has been widely viewed on YouTube, Ben Unger speaks about how during a one-on-one therapy session with Downing, he was asked to undress while repeating the statement, “‘I feel less masculine,’ and every message was a layer of clothing,” Unger said. “Till I was standing there without clothes.” Afterwards, Downing asked Unger to touch himself.