I have tremendous sympathy for those challenged by temptations and unkosher desires. As you do with cancer, you never stop trying to find a better treatment to cure yourself. If all therapies fail, as a last resort you use chemicals to stop the urge to act in a forbidden manner. (This resolution is ordered by European courts for offenders and it works.) Unpleasant, surely; but better than committing adultery, homosexuality or incest. Rabbi Yehuda Levin Brooklyn, NY
Torah Declaration’s Stance As the press representative for the Committee for the Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality, I am writing to express the committee members’ combination of sadness and dismay at Chaim Levin’s article. Because at least half of the 25 members of the Committee who wrote the Torah Declaration have themselves undergone gender-affirming therapy for unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA), they know, first-hand, that healing is not easy. They therefore express regret at Mr. Levin’s personal unsuccessful experience in trying to overcome his SSA.
The Committee knows that individuals undergoing therapy for any issue will have varying results, but the Committee recognizes that SSA, like many other unwanted behaviors, such as alcoholism or even obesity, can be controlled, altered, and healed. They key word is “unwanted.” Contrary to Chaim Levin’s suggestion, no one is proposing that anyone be forced into any kind of therapy. Members of the Committee, however, are living proof that, through a combination of gender-affirming therapy and the process of teshuvah, it is possible to heal from the emotional wounds that caused SSA and live – with Torah-sanctioned love and intimacy – lives in harmony with their Orthodox Jewish beliefs and values.
Committee members who, before therapy, felt no attraction to women whatsoever, today report that they have been able to overcome or manage their inclinations to the degree that they are now very attracted to them. Those who have married have wives who knew about their struggles with SSA and were able to see past it, giving their husbands love and support as striving human beings and Jews.
The complete Declaration, with its list of more than 200 signators (leading Orthodox rabbis from across the religious and political spectrum, community leaders, and mental-health professionals), is available at www.TorahDec.org, along with the Committee’s full response to Chaim Levin. The rabbis – who represent members of the chassidish, yeshivish, Chabad, Sephardic, and Modern Orthodox/Yeshiva University communities – include R’ Yisroel Belsky, R’ Moshe Green, R’ Shmuel Kamenetsky, R’ Sam Kassin, R’ Avrohom Y. Nelkenbaum, R’ Yisroel Neuman, R’ Steven Pruzansky, R’ Yisroel Reisman, R’ Hershel Schachter, R’ Moshe Soloveichik, R’ Moshe Dovid Tendler, and R’Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
Many of them signed on because the Torah Declaration demands respect for all people and says those with SSA who yearn to live in consonance with the Torah must receive the loving, compassionate support of the Jewish community while they engage on the path toward healing. The message from the Committee and the Torah Declaration’s signators is that life-saving change is possible.
The Committee hopes that, after reading the full Declaration, other rabbis, community leaders, and mental-health professionals will consider signing as well, thereby making a significant difference in this important struggle to protect the Torah way of life.
Susan L. Rosenbluth