GLAAD Web Article Treats JONAH Fairly
by Elaine Silodor Berk, Co-Director of JONAH ( Posted Oct 2011 )
The article below, He'bro Founder Discusses Orthodox Jewish "Ex-Gay" Program, is unusual in that it gives JONAH hope there are gay activists who will not automatically denigrate the work done by the "ex-gay movement." Acceptance of diverse views is a two-way street and it is refreshing to read an article that doesn't demonize the work we do . We have minor points of disagreement with the contents of the article, but overall it confirms our belief that same-sex attracted men and women, and their families, are well served by a healthy and respectful dialog between gay-identified individuals and the ex-gay movement, so that our message of hope and healing can be heard by those who feel unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA). I believe many more SSA men and women would choose to attempt counseling if they understood that it can have beneficial results such as He'bro's founder Jayson Littman reports, i.e., an increase in self-confidence, even if Jayson ultimately chose to remain gay identified.
Jayson Littman, who was involved with JONAH for 5 years, is featured in the article. JONAH gratefully thanks Jayson and Miriam Lazewatsky, GLAAD's Faith & Campaigns Fellow, for their courage and honesty. Too often, gay activists trash the ex-gay movement with false, misleading information rather than providing honest reporting.
JONAH's program involves conventional counseling focusing on the underlying emotional wounds that led the individual to feel SSA in the first place. The results our clients achieve are similar to the results of any effective therapeutic counseling: some clients reach their highest goals, some clients don't see much change, and some clients fall somewhere in the middle so that at the end of the process they feel better about themselves while also gaining greater insight into their issues.
Additionally, our door is always open to someone who wants to go further on their journey out of unwanted SSA after they have taken a break for a while. It's not unusual, and it often works very well, for a client to stop and restart counseling as they mature or as they find that being involved in homosexuality did not work out for them. In fact, one of our clients recently got married after 10 years of stopping and restarting counseling - and he's thrilled to now be married to a woman who understands and accepts his past SSA issues.
One issue spoken of in the article needs to be addressed. JONAH's outreach is not only to Orthodox Jews, although we have many Orthodox Jews among our clients. JONAH reaches out to all Jews and to all non-Jews alike because The Jonah Institute, which is our clinical and research division, works with men and women of all religions, or no religion. Our program focuses on traditional therapeutic and coaching techniques which work effectively with anyone who sincerely wants to grow out of homosexuality.
We want to also stress that most of JONAH's successful clients are not in a position to speak out publicly because they have wives, children, and other family members who could become victims of vicious gay activism. The ex-gay movement is at an extreme disadvantage when we attempt to get our message out to the public and to those who need our services. Our prayer is that this GLAAD article is an important first step in an honest dialog which helps JONAH get the truth out to the public that growing out of unwanted SSA is an alternative to accepting one's SSA as inborn and unchangeable. Further, that the therapeutic assistance provided by ex-gay organizations can positively impact the lives of those who go through the process even if they don't reach all the goals which brought them into counseling in the first place.
He'bro Founder Discusses Orthodox Jewish "Ex-Gay" Program
Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 5:53pm by Miriam Lazewatsky, GLAAD's Faith & Campaigns Fellow
When most people think of so-called "ex-gay" ministries they associate them with socially conservative Christian groups, like Exodus International and People Can Change. The vast majority of these ministries are affiliated with conservative Christianity, but a recent article in Heeb Magazine by He'bro founder Jayson Littman shines a light on JONAH, an "ex-gay" program aimed at Orthodox Jews.
JONAH, which stands for "Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality," is a fairly small player in the "ex-gay" world. Jews make up just shy of two percent of the United States' population and only 10% of American Jews are Orthodox, so the demand for Jewish "ex-gay" programs is very small. In the article, Littman discusses other reasons that Orthodox Jewish "ex-gay" programs are different from their Christian counterparts, differences he experienced firsthand. When Littman started JONAH's program at the age of 21, it was so small that they could not afford their own retreat space and joined People Can Change's Journey Into Manhood retreats. There, Littman realized that his desire to change his sexual orientation stemmed from a different place than that of his Christian friends:
Although People Can Change professes no religious connection, it is clear from Littman's experience that the vast majority of Journey Into Manhood attendees are Christian and seek to change their sexual orientation because they believe that being gay is in direct conflict with their religious faith.
It took five years of trying to make JONAH's program work for Littman to realize that it hadn't. It was, however, the self-confidence he had gained through five years of therapy that allowed him to "proudly come out as a gay man." Littman's experience of "ex-gay" programs from an Orthodox Jewish perspective is very different from the portrayals in conservative Christian spheres. Although he ultimately rejected the "transition" that JONAH claims to encourage, Littman believes that the Orthodox Jewish community has taken some steps towards accepting gay and lesbian Jews; acknowledging that one can be both gay/lesbian and an Orthodox Jew is a first step.
After leaving JONAH's program, Littman founded He'bro, an organization that creates and promotes events aimed at bringing together LGBT Jews at all levels of observance and affiliation. His mission is to "bring his background in Jewish and gay activism together to create a community where LGBT Jews will feel comfortable at any level of involvement." He'bro events usually center on important Jewish holidays and are tailored to acknowledge the place of LGBT people within the greater Jewish community. JONAH first allowed Littman to see that he could be gay and still be Jewish, but it could not help him live openly as a gay man and an Orthodox Jew. In contrast, He'bro celebrates the LGBT community's place in Jewish culture.