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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Surviving Bullying, Silencing And Torment For Being Gay In The Frum Community


Chaim-Levin-012712

Photo Credit: © Katja Heinemann/Aurora Select, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center

It’s been more than six months since The Jewish Press published an op-ed titled “Orthodox Homosexuals and the Pursuit of Self Indulgence.” In the article, the writer, while not mentioning my name, calls me shameless and self-indulgent and suggests that I learn to suffer in silence. He was referring to an anti-suicide video I made for the “It Gets Better” project. In the YouTube video I talk about the endless bullying in my childhood, the trauma of reparative therapy and my suicide attempt as a result of a frum community that seemed to not want me to exist simply because I was gay.

My message was that, with time, with understanding friends and with self-acceptance, it gets better. I hoped to tell other kids who may be on the brink of suicide to stick it out, because life gets better; even for gay Jews growing up in the Orthodox community. This video never talks about private behavior, never mentions any assur activity, and certainly does not divulge anything about what I do behind closed doors. However, simply because I talk about how I was bullied for being gay, the author tried to make me feel horrible for simply sending a message of hope. He succeeded in embarrassing me and making me feel unwanted by this community.

I wish I could say that this is the exception. But the truth is that despite the fact that I would never talk publicly about private personal behavior or engaging in sin, the frum world seems to see me as part of a “gay agenda” simply because I won’t stay quiet.

My name is Chaim Levin. I grew up in a heimishe family in Crown Heights. I love my mother, my father and my family. I had always felt different and was the subject of relentless bullying by other boys for “seeming” gay. When I was 17 I confided to a friend that I was attracted to men and not sexually attracted to women at all. When it came out, I was thrown out of yeshiva. For the longest time I felt so alone because I truly believed that I was the only person battling this secret war. My older siblings were getting married and having kids, and all I ever wanted was to be a part of the beautiful world my parents had raised me in. My dream was to marry a woman and live the life my family hoped and dreamed for me. I would never have chosen to be gay; I could not imagine anyone growing up in the Orthodox world who would choose to be someone who doesn’t fit into the values and norms of everyone around them.

So do I think that I was “born gay”? I don’t know and I am not sure how important that is. What is important is that it certainly is not something that I chose or had anything to do with. And I felt immense pressure to somehow change who I was.

After much time and research I found a well-known organization that “specialized” in reparative therapy. This organization had endorsements from a wide range of rabbanim and I was sure that it was the answer to all my problems. The organization’s executive director told me that he believes everyone can change if they simply put in the hard work. I would have done anything to change, and this message was just the hope I was looking for. I spent two years attending every group meeting, weekend, and individual life coaching sessions they offered. My parents and I paid thousands of dollars. Every day, every session, I was working and waiting to feel a shift in my desires or experience authentic change. That moment never came. I didn’t change, I never developed any sexual desire for women, and never stopped being attracted to men. Instead, I only felt more and more helpless because I wasn’t changing. The organization and its staff taught us that change only comes to those who truly want it and are willing to put in the work. So if I wasn’t changing, I was seen as someone who either really didn’t sincerely want it, or would not put in the necessary work. In other words, there was no one to blame but myself.

The worst part of my experience in reparative therapy came at the end. In a locked office, alone with my unlicensed “life coach,” I was told to undress, stand in front of the counselor and do things too graphic to describe in this article. I was extremely uncomfortable, but he said that I must do this for the sake of changing and that if I didn’t remove my clothing I wouldn’t be doing the work it takes to achieve change. I would do anything to change, and so I did what he asked me to do. It was probably the most traumatizing experience of my life.

About the Author: The author can be reached at magazine@jewishpress.com


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208 Responses to “Surviving Bullying, Silencing And Torment For Being Gay In The Frum Community”

  1. Arie Mirmanas says:

    Absolutely Mr. Dweck, God loves us all equally and suffer when we take the wrong choices. Homosexuality is one of the biggest opportunities for a man to become whole and stronger and grow spiritually by overcoming it. It is very interesting, Mr.Dweck, how my messages were all along misunderstood and interpreted wrongly by you despite being written in perfectly correct English. I also think exchanging words with people who completely misunderstand me over and over is a total waste of time, indeed :) And well I don’t need your false blessings, I am already blessed by having this insane resiliency, keep your blessings for yourself you need them more. cheers! Arie

  2. Mark says:

    Are you sure that Chaim has given up, what is giving up.
    Are you sure he goes to the gay clubs and the pride marches.
    Are you sure he is sexualy involed publicly.
    Are you even sure he is sexualy involved with another man.
    Is Chaim asking people to give up or is he just giving them a life line for support, if they have lost there way, and saying its okay if you have these feeling your not on your own.
    Infortunatly there are many who give up and end up taking their life as they feel there is no one out there to help.
    I think is great that we have groups like JONAH that are there ready to help those who wish to give up or help deal with there SSA but for those who can’t continue is it not better that someone like Chaim is there to help.
    I to am not giving up, each day is a struggle, but I respect people like Chaim who did try.

  3. Joe says:

    A major issue has been overlooked in all these millions of comments: Together with the empathy we should have for anyone who is grappling with difficult issues, what about the very proactive movement that attempts to tell pre-teens and early teens that any slight attraction they might feel at any given moment for a same-sex member is perfectly OK, that G-d created them that way, that there are groups out there to support and encourage them – when in reality they are not gay at all!!

    In the rush to show understanding for those who have tried everything and now pronounce themselves officially “gay,” what about those who have tried nothing yet – yet are told by all these great “understanders” that they are fine, “Come join us, we will love you, etc. blah blah” – and have thus now just been pronounced “gay” for the rest of their lives?

    Yes, I am oversimplifying and generalizing – but the point I am raising is genuine. In our rush to prevent thoughts of suicide, we are causing many people to consider themselves gay – no great picnic no matter how many support groups they have!

    Even the famous gay orthodox rabbi who was the first to “come out” – wrote that as a teenager he felt a “tingling” when showering with or near his friends. I’m sure he didn’t think then that he was gay, but later, he wrote that this was the first sign. BUT THIS tells all boys who have or ever had such a “tingling” – who make up a great percentage, if not ALL, of heterosexual men – that in actuality, they are gay!

    So I’m here to say straight out: Not every tingling, or sexual arousal around boys, means you are gay! We all undergo trillions of sensations and feelings in our lives, and not all of them are “us”! No matter what, homosexual feelings are not the norm – so you can generally assume that you are “of the majority.” No need to say, “Hey, I once had a tingling – perhaps I’m gay?…”

  4. Cyndy says:

    “Judaism has always emphasized community over individual spirituality. It’s been said – and, I think, with justification – that it’s impossible to be a Jew in isolation. If one is rejected by the community, it impacts one’s ability to function as a Jew, to fulfill the mitzvot.
    It is true ,than Rejection ‘kasha mimavet’is harder than Death’,& it is another saying’or chebruta or mitutah’or friendship or death’,but i could say for sure that it is still possible to be a jew & to keep mitzvos EVEN while isolated or not welcoming by the Community.Many baal thsuva or Gerim had or have issues regarding as being accepted warmly by the Orthodox Community.(for that matter if you are a little different in terms of Hashkafa etc you are already laveled as outcast’).
    the fact that you have a support of the Community helps a lot but if you are not that lucky,you have still an obligation with Mitzvos & getting close to Hashem.it is always healthy to get along nicely with others,be part of a group etc but if is not possibly the person shouldn’t give up on Hashem’s mercy.
    what i’m trying to say is Gays are not the only group that are not welcome by Orthodox Jews..

  5. Rich Dweck says:

    These comments are painful to read! Enough is enough! The ignorance is beyond rediculous! I guess people come out and are really straight… Really go learn something. I hate to act hateful, but your comments are going to lead to young homosexuals committing Suicide! Stop already, please just do something to keep busy..

    Good luck!
    Yes
    Richdweck.blogspot.com

  6. Joe says:

    How about responding to the points itself?
    Do you or do you not agree that “tingling” does not mean that one is gay? And since you agree that it does not, then how about condemning those who actively attempt to make teenage boys think that their “tinglings” mean that they are gay??

  7. Rich Dweck says:

    Joe,

    With all do respect, you need to get some help and work on your anger. Noone is perfect, but you are very vulgar and disrespectful and I’m calling to end this conversation now. I am not having a debate with you or going to allow you to be responsible for someone to hate themselves, create more homophobia and possibly suicide by words. Trust me, work on some other issues and leave people alone. We all have our relationship with our higher power and is not for someone else to judge. Focus on you and how you can be the best human being you can. Again, I wish you the best, but this convo is over. May God bless you with knowledge and happiness!

    Richdweck.blogspot.com

  8. Joe says:

    OK, I can respect that not everyone wants to grapple with this point.

    Anyone else out there who can help us figure out how we can help and empathize with people like Chaim while not, at the same time, actively encourage others who are actually not in his situation to become like him?

    (I remind you that at a recent gay pride event in Jerusalem, there was active recruitment for the cause amongst teenagers passing by, in the form of printed pamphlets obviously prepared in advance and the like.)

  9. A says:

    You notice how every discussion of frum Jews dealing with SSA always comes down to “bullying”? That’s a clever device, but it’s growing old. Can we all agree, once and for all, that bullying is wrong?

    Now that we’ve roundly condemned every bully out there, how come I don’t see anyone else taking Chaim to task for violating a signed written contract of confidentiality? Does being a homesexual exempt one from legally binding contracts or common decency?

    There are several things in Chaim’s article that are misleading to the point of outright lie. He writes about JONAH (not explicitly by name but it’s obvious) in an article titled “Surviving Bullying, Silencing And Torment For Being Gay In The Frum Community”, thus smearing the organization in an underhanded way. Tell us Chaim — what bullying, tormenting, or silencing did you ever experience at JONAH’s hands?

    Chaim’s failure to mention his childhood abuse is another sin of omission — it makes it sound as though JONAH is responsible for his problems, when in fact he was already a very deeply troubled man when he approached the organization.

    But Chaim’s biggest distortion is his failure to acknowledge the numerous men that he personally knows who benefitted immensely from JONAH. It is mind-boggling to me that a man so outwardly obsessed with truth and compassion can dissemble so brazenly. Chaim personally knows dozens of men whom JONAH helped overcome their SSA and who have gone on to have happy married lives with wives and children. Chaim witnessed their change and healing as it was taking place. Not even a sentence acknowledging that yes, change is real and possible for some? Not even a symbolic gesture of compromise, something like “try it and see if it works for you”?! Shameful, disgraceful, pathetic.

  10. Joe says:

    First of all, it would be helpful if people would write to whom their response is addressed. Too often it says “you are not sensitive” or “i can’t accept your argument” and “you don’t know better than G-d” (that seems to be a favorite of Mr. Dweck, even though we do happen to have G-d’s Torah which tells us much of what He likes and what He doesn’t like…) – but we don’t know who the “you” is.

    Secondly, regarding Yossi’s analogies: ??? I couldn’t find anything in common between couples experiencing problems with taharat hamishpacha and homosexuals, nor between agunot and homosexuals. The couples know that in two weeks their problems will be over, while those who are gay do not. On the other hand, the former do not go around demanding our acceptance in their new classification as “sinners”, while some of the latter do.

    Furthermore:
    Yossi asks: “If you happen to know an Agunah who you know is dying for companionship, who tells you that she wishes that hallacha was different, and who wont stay quiet about it, would you call her low and a sexual perversion?” Of course not! For she is not in violation of any Torah commandments! Whereas a practicing homosexual most definitely is! What kind of comparison is that?!

    In short, once again, the issue is not whether or not we should be nice to people who do not keep all the mitzvot, for whatever reason.
    The issue is whether we should allow this sort of behavior to become institutionalized, officially acceptable, and even encouraged – as I mentioned above – by some of those who practice it. I believe the answer is no.

    Yes to being nice, No to allowing the Biblical commandment against homosexuality to go the way of sacrificial offerings (i.e., irrelevant these days) !

  11. Lisa Liel says:

    Yael Dvora, the issue isn’t “promoting”. I think this is one of the main misunderstandings that’s going on here. Chaim isn’t “promoting” being gay. I mean, a person who is attracted to members of the opposite sex can choose rightly, and limit themselves to one person, who they are married to. So someone saying, “Accept my infidelity or incest” is not only sinning, they’re sinning l’hach’is. But a person attracted to members of the same sex doesn’t that that option. For the heterosexual, all that’s forbidden is individual members of the class of people of the opposite sex. But for gays and lesbians, the problem is the entire class of people.

    Saying, “Don’t treat us like sinners just for *being* gay” is not promoting anything. After all, even if you don’t believe that people are born gay or not, you must realize that we do believe that. So clearly we aren’t going to waste our time trying to “recruit”, or such nonsense, because we don’t believe it’s possible.

    Saying, “I’m gay, but I’m not willing to let that distance me from Hashem and the Torah” is not promoting anything except Torah observance. I don’t think you’re aware of the number of frum kids who have gone off the derekh because contending with the hostility in the frum community is too much for them to handle. When you stand before Hashem at 120, and He asks you, “Why did you drive My children away when they so obviously wanted chizuk to keep My Torah,” what are you going to answer?

    Saying, “Please don’t send me away because of something that I have no more control over than my bloodtype or the color of my eyes” isn’t promoting anything. No one is asking for you to say, “Hey, gay sex is okay.” We really aren’t stupid. We know what’s permitted and what’s forbidden, and we don’t do things that are forbidden. If some people go off the derekh due to the unending pressure and hostility, that’s a tragedy. One which bothers those of us who are both frum and gay even more than it bothers you, I’d wager. But it doesn’t mean that those of us maintaining our frumkeit against all odds are “promoting” anything when we ask you to treat us like you would any other frum Jew.

    We have control over our actions. We have no control over our orientation. Please don’t try and set us up on shidduchim with members of the opposite sex and then accuse of “flaunting our lifestyle” when we politely explain that we aren’t interested because we’re gay.

    Rav Ashi was giving a shiur on those who have no chelek in Olam Haba. One of those he mentioned was King Menashe, who worshipped idols in the Beit HaMikdash. That night, Menashe came to him in a dream and asked him a halakhic question which stumped Rav Ashi. Menashe explained the question, and Rav Ashi was amazed. “With such a mind for Torah, how *could* you? How could you have done the things you did?” Menashe answered, “Ashi, if you’d lived in my generation, you would have lifted up the edges of your cloak and run after me.” See, Rav Ashi was judging Menashe, who did horrendous things, but he didn’t get the yetzer hara that Menashe faced. Menashe failed; imagine the achievement of those who lived in his generation and did *not* fail. Then ask yourself whether, if you were gay, you’d have the strength to remain frum.

  12. TH says:

    Reading this article gave me a lot of insight into a very controversial topic that I have wondered about in the past, but never really investigated.
    Thank you to both Chaim and the Jewish Press.
    I am an Orthodox Jew, and while I am not gay, I have a gay relative who is not Orthodox and tends to flaunt his gayness to the Orthodox in our family. Since what he is doing is actually sinful, it’s always an extremely awkward conversation in our home.
    One thing that I’ve always wondered is why being gay has to define someone.
    Here Chaim talks about how he was bullied and abused for having a different sexual orientation and I don’t understand why.
    If he was raised in a frum home and wants to live a frum lifestyle, which means not giving in to his taiva, why do we define him as gay? Why would we box him in and group him with people like my relative, when he is clearly different?
    We are in galus.
    That’s the only answer – in galus, people are on a lower level, do not have the same clarity as generations past, and make bigger mistakes.
    In a world where we are exposed to “gay pride” all the time, where gay marriage is being instituted state by state, where we are aware that this is the reason Hashem destroyed the world at the time of Noach and we can see that this is happening again, we are so quick to judge.
    And we shouldn’t be.
    Everyone has a yetzer hara for something. Why condemn someone who is being strong and not giving in?
    If he is staying away from his taivas and living as frum a life as the next person, then bullying and hating him is completely sinas chinum.
    And that’s what destroyed the Bais Hamikdash.
    And that’s what’s keeping the BHM”K from being rebuilt in our days.

    Chaim, may Hashem grant you the strength to continue on fighting this battle, and living your life the way HE wants you to, and not how WE want you to.

  13. TH says:

    I’m just wondering why you feel the need to leave a comment that shows you know so much about Chaim’s life, and yet the name you choose to comment with is “A”.

    That’s cyberbullying, which is just another form of bullying.

  14. TH says:

    I don’t know how true that is.

    Yes, what’s going on in society is what went on then and Hashem is against it and destroys the civilizations that accepted it, but what they accepted were the illicit ACTIONS. Having feeling for someone of the same gender is one thing, having those feelings and acting on them in an aveira way is another.

    Here Chaim is just explaining that he has those feelings, does NOT act on them, and should not be condemned for trying to live a frum life with this challenge.

    If your response was towards some of the comments, then I would have to agree with you. But if it’s in response to the article, I vehemently disagree.

  15. TH says:

    Well said.

  16. Arie Mirmanas says:

    I would like to hear what Chaim has to say about this new document which challenges his assertions about healing from unwanted SSA.

    Web zine for Response to Levin: An Open Letter To Chaim Levin
    and Other “Gay Orthodox” Advocates

    http://www.torahdec.org/OpenLetter.aspx

  17. A says:

    I did not reveal anything about Chaim that he himself did not state numerous times in a public forum — and unlike him, I never signed a confidentiality agreement. I am still waiting for someone here to say something about how it’s wrong to violate signed contracts between consenting adults — but all I hear is crickets chirping…

    I think I have amply explained in comments above my reasons both for remaining anonymous and for bringing up details from Chaims life. The anonymity is to protect my family from gay activist attacks; I’ve learned from experience that these can be vicious. The details from Chaim’s life are crucial to the story in which distorts facts to smear JONAH.

    Finally, regarding your allegation of cyber-bullying. The purpose of my comments here is not to bully Chaim into silence — quite the opposite! I’d like for him to speak up and respond. In particular — Chaim, if you’re reading: during your time with JONAH did you see anyone benefit from the organization and go on to live a happy heterosexual life?

  18. Yossi says:

    What is so sad about the Torah Dec (JONAH’s) response letter is that it doesnt even deny or mention chaim’s main point…that Chaim was abused at JONAH! I mean, he claims an unlicenced “ex gay” life coach pressured him into undressing and touching himself!!! this is sick, irresponsible and harm. Not only that, but others have come forward with the same experience at JONAH and at reparative therapists. This is the crux of Chaim’s point, and the Torah dec just ignores it. Very Telling.

    It doesnt matter if JONAH helped other people, you can not help one on the backs of hurting another…this is FIRST DO NO HARM. Something JONAH would know if the counselor was a licensed professional.

    Plus the problem with the Torah dec is not that it says some people can change…but erroneously asserts that ALL PEOPLE CAN AND MUST CHANGE (in reparative therapy). This is what is so harmful.

    It is no wonder that so many of the signers of this Dec have now come out publicly against it, and want their name off it. My own rabbi is one of those people, and the Torah Dec people (JONAH) refuses to take any names off. This is the shandah. So instead this Dec is being publicly ridiculed and ignored…what a chillul hashem.

    Thank you Chaim and the Jewish Press for your bravery and standing up for what is so obvioudly real yiddishe values. Truth, Compassion, and menshlichness.

    Shame on JONAH and their silly Torah Dec. The RCA statement and the Statement of Principles are much more logical and helpful.

  19. A says:

    JONAH does not deny that some of the therapeutic processes involve undressing. This is also the case for other programs such as The New Warriors, which are not affiliated with JONAH and not geared specifically towards healing SSA. As for touching himself, I don’t know exactly what transpired and I certainly wouldn’t put it past Chaim to exaggerate or outright lie, given the other liberties he has taken with the truth.

    Calling Chaim’s experience “abuse” is about as accurate as calling an unwanted stare “rape”. As a consenting adult, Chaim entered into a therapeutic process which he terminated unilaterally as soon as it didn’t proceed as he wished. This is abuse?!

    Show me a direct quote from the Torah Declaration that says “ALL PEOPLE CAN AND MUST CHANGE (in reparative therapy)”. We are dealing with a touchy subject where passions burn intensely, so you must be very careful with your claims. Who is your rabbi? Where has he publicly come out against the Torah Declaration?

    As they say, put up (some factual information) or shut up.

  20. Arie Mirmanas says:

    Another ivery important factor that Chaim has also not taken into account is that, usually, to grow and become healthier, we do need to go through “growing pains”, and feel discomfort; Discomfort is not necessarily bad, it can lead to understand and become aware of new things and move on. I feel discomfort when I started going to the chiropractor a few years back when my back pains were excruciating; He showed to me a chart and he warned me I was going to be in more deep pain for the next months but then gradualy things were going to become better; My emotional, spiritual and psychological journey has been similar. I see it so many times, the guy who going into SSA healing (aka. reparative therapy) and instead of keep coming and feel the pain, they freak out and leave, then they go out to the world (such as Chaim) crying they were abused, it didn’t worked and it won’t work for anyone and gay is the only way to live. Well, I see that as totally wrong. I am completely convinced that if Chaim continued his healing he was going to see the light, and maybe it was going to take 3 monre years of constant work, maybe he had to change psychotherapists, maybe he had to go to a New Warriors weekend, maybe he needed a mentor or join a sports team, who knows, there are so many htings to do there… I totally empathize with his bulying pain as my own bullying was soooo terrible, truly painful, but, through reparative therapy I truly start feeling like a real, heterosexually-challenged man, like any other human being with a challenge, not a sad victim, not feminine, not different. My brothers in New Warriors and in JONAH had been of invaluable support for me, and I wouldn’t change their friendship for anything. I repeat myself: definitely, if not because of JONAH and NARTH I would probably have killed myself once and for all years ago. I thank them infinitely, don’t have enough words to d this, because, despite still suffering from some same-sex attraction, it is not even close to where it was, I am alive, I am a happy man and still on my journey, which so many others give up in no time…

  21. yossi says:

    I think this convo finally started to get honest.

    Here we really have one Org: JONAH (Torah Dec) believing in unlicensed ex-gay life coaches pressuring clients to undress and touch their genitalia in locked rooms while the coach looks on. They believe that this is an acceptable way to try to change ones orientation. Some commentators even mitigated this by saying its “necessary discomfort”.

    As an MSW and a father and an Orthodox Jew I am appalled by this practice. It has not place in a professional therapeutic environment. It definitely harms some, and thus goes against the basic tenant of “first do no harm”. It also is the height of irresponsibility, and frankly is just disgusting. The fact that some people can pretend that this is not a big deal, or blame the victims of this terrible process (reported by multiple Jonah survivors) is just reprehensible.

    Even if some say they have been helped by this, the professional approach is not to help some on the backs of hurting others.

    Even more disturbing is the “Torah Dec” saying that the ONLY acceptable approach to homosexuals is change therapy. and on the bottom of every web page of the Torah Doc it says Change is MANDATED by the Torah. This runs directly in the face of science and thousands of experiences who testify that change is not possible for them when it comes to orientation. While it may be an option for some with a more fluid sexuality, saying that there is one approach to everyone is misguided and bad therapy.

    Luckily, many Rabbis and Therapists have publicly said that they do not agree with the whole Torah Doc as written and regret signing it as presented: Rabbi Fuerman, Dr Sorotzkin, Rabbi Fuerst, Rabbi Feiner, Rabbi Twersky and many more.

    What is more encouraging is that dealing with my sons Yeshiva and frum therapist, it was assured to me that this TorahDec is being seen as a cynical political posturing and not something being taken seriously in the Frum world. This can probably explain why it had almost no coverage by mainstream Orthodoxy or it’s press. Unlike the RCA statement on the matter or the Statement of Principles.

    But I am actually not that surprised by the TorahDec, It was spearheaded by the same Rabbi who paskened that Victims of abuse should go to rabbis before the police. This view has been repudiated by mainstream Orthodoxy. The TorahDec thinks along the same lines.

    So far I have not found one of the Signers who say that what happened to Chaim (and Benjy and others) at JONAH is acceptable or should be tolerated. Furthermore, I dont know many people who would want their sister, or daughter to unsuspectingly marry someone struggling with SSA. Though of course there are a few exceptions. We just have to be realistic and honest with our expectations. If my son wanted to become a Pro-Football millionaire…I wouldnt crush his dreams, but I’d have a realistic conversations.

    The Jewish Press is Awesome for allowing this honest discussion on the matter. The more the issue is discussed in the Frum community, the more Orthodox Jews become welcoming and understanding. I am so thrilled that being gay in the Frum community is becoming less a taboo and more understood. It is keeping my family and countless other Frum families together.

    Boruch Hashem, I would have never guessed that this discussion would have been enabled by the Jewish Press 5 years ago. How far we have come!!! Yasher Koach to us.

  22. A says:

    Where has Rabbi Twersky (I presume you mean Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski) publicly come out against the Torah Declaration? Do you have a link or a book/newspaper/recorded speech reference?

    And why do you automatically believe every detail of Chaim’s story? By his own admission, he is disclosing details that he agreed in writing to keep confidential. Doesn’t that taint his trustworthiness just a little bit?

    >>It definitely harms some, and thus goes against the basic tenant of “first do no harm”. It also is the height of irresponsibility, and frankly is just disgusting. The fact that some people can pretend that this is not a big deal, or blame the victims of this terrible process (reported by multiple Jonah survivors) is just reprehensible.

    I disagree vehemently that JONAH has harmed anybody. Take any of these “Jonah survivors” (I am only aware of two who have come out against JONAH publicly — and, oddly enough, simultaneously and via the same video). When a deeply disturbed individual such as Chaim claims to have been harmed by JONAH, how can you tease apart whatever issues he had before coming to JONAH from whatever harm JONAH supposedly caused him? Have you heard of “selection bias”? The more injured a person is to begin with, the harder it will typically be to heal, and therefore his chances of succeeding are smaller. Thus, these “JONAH survivors” as you call them were likely quite a mess to begin with — that’s just basic common sense.

    Notice again the hypocrisy and the double standard in your comment. A man touching himself in front of a life-coach is “disgusting”, while two gay men engaging in mutual masturbation is — what? A holy expression of love?

    Your statement, “Even if some say they have been helped by this, the professional approach is not to help some on the backs of hurting others” is even more curious. If you concede that JONAH has some non-zero success rate, then shouldn’t every man be encouraged to at least try change? …Even at the risk of whatever “harm” that might come about?

    As for “I dont know many people who would want their sister, or daughter to unsuspectingly marry someone struggling with SSA” — JONAH encourages men to discuss their issues with prospective wives. I told my wife about my issues before we got married, as did all the strugglers I personally met.

  23. Yossi says:

    Yes Abraham…ask him yourself, I did, in front of a whole chevrah. In most of my conversations with RAbbis and Therapist who signed this statement, when they heard about the harm that JONAH has caused, and how it will harm more people by having the approach that everyone must change (and that the Torah Mandate’s it), even when so many people can not, have expressed remorse. I encourage you to talk with these rabbis and you will see quite a different approach.

    I am happy that you told your wife about your SSA. This is very important. My nephew was at JONAH a few years ago and did not tell his wife. He subsequently got divorced and soon after committed suicide. I am forever disappointing in myself that I did not speak up and try to help him.

    There is a problem that you can not seem to admit or see the harm that this therapy has caused. Certainly, Chaim speaks about it here, and in further research I have heard personally in front of Rav Bentzion Twerski 5 boys who were pressured to do the same naked touching at JONAH.

    A non-licensed ex gay life coach armed with the pressure of the whole frum community and the false hope of changing ones orientation, has no right to pressure a young man to disrobe and touch himself under the guise of “therapy”. This is the worst kind of manipulation. IT is nothing like anything consensual between 2 adults that may have hallachic problems. It is like comparing “borer” to “gezeyla”. The latter hurts the most vulnerable, and that is why it is disgusting.

    As long as JONAH (Torah Dec) promotes this kind of irresponsible unaccountable reprehensible and harmful behavior, it matters little that they help others. I remember Rabbi Kolko in Torah Temimah…he was a Rebbe loved by sooo many. But then 6 boys finally came out and said that he sexually abused them. It doesnt matter that he was a good rebbe to some, if he prayed on the most vulnerable.

    The point is that responsible proven therapy with a licensed mental health professional can be used to explore sexual fluidity, as long as expectations are reasonable and no one is pressured to engage. The Torah Dec an JONAH put parents up against their children, many times forcing kids to engage in these dangerous processes, or risk losing their families or homes. This is the real Toevah.

    The only message to our gay kids is that we love them and we are on their side. We can not judge, and Boruch Hashem there are now so many wonderful Frum Rabbeim who they can go to for divrei chizuk and feeling of belonging. Gay men who marry women who know about them beforehand, should also not receive any prejudice…no one should. This is the Gadlus of Am Yisrael.

  24. A says:

    Every prominent SSA therapist (including Nicolosi) is VERY clear and up-front about one thing: you cannot force or pressure someone into therapy. Interpret that at every possible level, in particular: (1) it is unethical (2) it cannot be effective. Successful healing from SSA requires enormous desire, effort and committment from the struggler. There is simply no chance it will work with a reluctant participant.

    I don’t know a single Rav, or anyone at JONAH, who believes anyone should be forced into therapy. JONAH exists ONLY for men who voluntarily want to change. The organization could not be any more up-front about this.

    Your comparison of JONAH to a Rav who does a lot of chesed but also molests some boys on the side is completely inappropriate. JONAH only works with consenting adults. Anyone who is not happy with the therapeutic processes is free to leave.

    What you say about the 5 boys sounds like unreliable heresay. I only know of two men who complained about JONAH publicly. Look, for better or worse, the “secret” is out: some of the SSA therapy processes involve getting undressed and having one’s envelope pushed in other ways. These processes have been examined by professional, licenced psychiatrists, so they cannot be wholly without merit. And I repeat: if at any point the client believes that the therapist has “gone too far”, he is certainly free to walk out.

    Do you understand that without JONAH I might still be meeting strangers for sex as opposed to raising children with a beautiful loving wife?

  25. Yossi says:

    Im certainly glad that you are not meeting strangers for random encounters. However, I dont think you need a wife for that. There are all to many married frum men who still cheat, with men…Just look on Craigslist. There are many out gay men, who would never engage in promiscuity. In my practice, I have discovered that anonymity usually breeds promiscuity. When you have a face and a name to live up to, you expect more from yourself. It is the dark world of secrets and double lives and shame that breeds casual sexual encounters, not homo or hetero sexuality.

    I’m glad that you do not think anyone should be pressured into reparative therapy! But honestly, do you not think that the Torah Dec pressures people into this therapy? Saying things like “the Torah mandates change” and “the only appropriate response to homosexuals is change therapy”. This is exactly the problem. I agree with Nicolosi, if there was no pressure, and people just wanted to go to their own responsible licenced mental health providers…more power to them. It is the pressure, especially the religious, communal and familial pressure that is hurting our children. It is bullying them into therapies that could harm them!

    Furthermore, there is no research what so ever that specifically validates asking patients to get naked and touch their genitalia. This is snake oil. Furthermore, this kind of behavior practiced by non-licenced much older ex-gay life coaches, who use the pressure to change to encourage young men to get naked and touch themselves in front of them is plain wrong, dangerous, harmful, and indefensible.

    with respect to Rav Bentzion Twerski and the 5 boys who said that this kind of sexual misconduct was pressured upon them at JONAH, I was there. I told him about my nephew who unfortunately took his own life after his trauma at JONAH and his failed marriage.

    I was a frum mental health professional at the Nefesh conference where many rabbis and therapists (including many who signed the Jonah Torahdec) expressed remorse and concert that this torahdec could cause more harm than good. Some of My colleagues contacted Arthur Goldberg (an ex con convicted of Fraud, who is the Director of JONAH, and person behind The Torah Dec -even though never frum), and Arthur refused to take any of the names off…even those who asked to be removed in the Press). This is very disturbing behavior and a big chillul hashem.

    I guess just like any community, there are more rightwing fundamental fringes that we shouldnt judge all of Orthodoxy from. The TorahDec is really very fringe and not mainstream or accepted by the community. It is similar to the Psak by Rav Kaminetzky that abuse victims go to rabbi’s before the police, and similar to some of the crazy anti women behavior we saw in Bet Shemesh. Please do not judge Orthodoxy from these misguided approaches.

    The RCA and the STatement of Principles do a much more respectable job pointing out that there are behaviors that are hallachically problematic, but there is not reason Gay Jews should feel any shame, any less welcome, or any pressure to engage in therapies that they may find harmful. This seems true Daas Torah. I know at Nefesh, most took this approach. I am also working with many Yeshivos who take a similar approach to their gay yeshiva students.

    Chaim’s article, the outpouring of love for him here, and the heroism of the Jewish Press is the greatest sign that it really is getting better for gay people in the Orthodox community. It is the pressure, the bullying, the false hope, the silencing and the shame that is hurting our kids. Unfortunately JONAH and the TorahDec only help to perpetuate that. I vowed after my Nephew took his life to make sure that this vulnerable population know that they have allies in the straight frum world.

    You seem like a nice person A, and I wish you and your wife the best. I hope that you will stay true to her, even late in the marriage when SSA may be more of a struggle. I am glad that responsible licenced therapists are there for you that will help you every step of the way. But it sounds like you agree with me, no one should be pressured to make the choice that you did. No one should be pressured into a therapy that does not work for them, and NO ONE should feel pressured to ever have to strip and touch themselves in front of a nonlicenced life coach so that they can fill the Torahdec irresponsible mandate that everyone must change. This is just evil.

    We must understand that what is right for you, may be harmful for someone else. It is with this approach that I support your decision, but I ask to you support Chaim and the thousands of other Jews who grew up Orthodox that are not able to change. They deserve love, acceptance, respect and welcoming. This is the path to Moshiach.

    Be well,
    Yossi

  26. A says:

    Yossi,

    I am sure you are a good mental health professional. Yet, your suggestion that I “look on Craigslist” is a bit similar to suggesting that a recovering alcoholic go have a look in a bar. An honest slip-up, perhaps — I’ll give you the benefit of doubt.

    If only you’d give the same benefit of doubt to Arthur Goldberg, a holy man who’s saved countless lives. His legal issues are of no relevance to his JONAH work. Why engage in loshen hara and mention his conviction? To undermine his credibility? Yet Chaim Levin continues to enjoy full credibility in your eyes, even though his disclosure of confidential processes is a legally actionable offense.

    We are dwelling on this alleged “getting undressed and touching genitalia” way too much. First, Chaim’s credibility is shaky at best — I would not at all put it past him to embellish, exaggerate, our outright lie. Second, getting naked is a very small part of therapy, and only for certain individuals with certain issues (typically, body-image problems). I myself never went through this process. But I have struggler friends who did. One of them told me how it took several sessions before he was ready to undress. In other words, at first he wasn’t comfortable and the therapist left it at that. All the strugglers I know besides Chaim who went through this process describe it as frightening, unsettling, but ultimately beneficial. I don’t know what your qualifications are, but “no research what so ever” and “snake oil” are pretty strong claims for a soft field like psychology where the established facts are few and constantly changing. I repeat: renowned, licenced (even famous) psychiatrists have vetted these processes. You dismiss them as snake-oil, and then go on to tell me to go surf the men4men section of craigslist. I think I’ll stick with the JONAH-approved professionals, thankyouverymuch.

    I am very sorry about your nephew, may he rest in peace. But how can you in good faith blame JONAH for that? A troubled man takes his life; we should mourn the tragedy rather than conducting a witch-hunt among his previous contacts. Do you know for a fact that it was JONAH that caused him to kill himself and not clinical depression? Childhood abuse? That’s a very irresponsible claim, one that I am surprised to see made by a mental health professional.

    Let’s talk about the bottom line. A young man comes to you and confides that he is struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions. He desperately wants to change, wants a wife and children. What do you advise him? Do you tell him about JONAH? Or do you say, “sorry bud, nothing you can do, you’re stuck with this”?

    My struggler friend called me a couple of days ago to tell me he’s gotten engaged (his fiancee knows about his issues). What excitement, what joy! And how gratifying to hear him thank me for the support I’ve given him through the years. Was I doing him a disservice? Should I have told him to leave this dangerous, unprofessional JONAH organization and tough it out on his own?

  27. Yossi says:

    The fact that Arthur Goldberg (Jonah’s Director) is a convicted felon who plead guilty to Millions of Dollars in Fraud and has a criminal background is very relevant when credibility is concerned. This is public knowledge and public record.

    I only used the craigslist example to exemplify how many married men still cheat with men in secret. Certainly, i do not recommend you go there. The point is that according to these 5 JONAH survivors and as seen on craigslist, JONAH and reparative therapy clients seem to tell their therapists and wives one thing, then in secret go proposition other men. This is very disturbing. Just because Men with SSA are telling us that they have changed, means nothing if they are still using craigslist and the like to act out, many times cheating and putting their wives at risk.

    With respect to Chaim and the other boys, Patients are not under confidentiality to keep the abuse of their counselors a secret. Certainly, if their non licenced JONAH therapist pressured them into getting naked and touching their genitalia while in therapy, they are not required to keep this a secret. How you can want Chaim and the other victims to stay quiet about this is really disturbing and telling.

    The more you mitigate and dismiss other people’s harm and suffering, because something worked for you, you exemplify the height of selfishness. This is very apparent.

    With respect to a young gay man who wanted to work on his sexual fluidity or marry a woman, I would never send him to an ORG like JONAH that engages in such unprofessional and irresponsible behavior. I would refer him to licenced colleagues of mine who can work through talk therapy to explore the patients sexual repertoire and concentrate on how to prioritize commitment over desire. This therapy would be contracted under realistic expectations would be about what works for the specific client. There are more than enough licenced frum therapists around.

    The real issue here, as you have pointed out, is that there should not be a PRESSURE in the frum community for gay people to have to go to these kinds of reparative therapies. They certainly are not right for many people, and can be harmful for some. So this is the real problem with the TorahDec (JONAH), by mandating that “all must change” and “the only approach is change therapy”, it perpetuates a damaging notion that all should be pressured into this kind of therapy. Certainly, as you have repeated from Nicolosi, pressuring people into reparative therapy is not helpful. This pressure can be used to exploit gay people and their parents. In JONAH’s case this pressure is used to exploit Frum families out of thousands of dollars. In some cases this pressure has been used by some “ex gay” JONAH life coaches to pressure young clients into getting naked and fondling their genitalia. I’m glad that finally parents are finding out that this is what is really going on at JONAH.

    Chaim’s story as well as countless others show us that we must develop a way of welcoming and respecting gays in the frum community who reparative therapy is not a helpful option to. Boruch Hashem, I think we are on our way.

  28. me llamo ramon vazquez garcia direccion tampico tam andador peru edif 107 dep no 9 infona arenal tel casa 1165304 mi amigo espero que te encuentres bien de salud en compañia de toda tu familia esto que te boy a decir no es de religion ni de metaficica nosticos ni de ninguna enceñansa de verdad quieres entender porque te comportas asi y cual es la solucion espero tu respuesta amigo yo no te boy hacer que agas algo vergonzoso de lo que te hicieron sino boy ha darte datos como esta hecho tu cuerpo divina mente y como trabaja mente cuerpo y espiritu dentro y fuera de toda la jente hasta luego amigo.

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