Several months ago, He’bro founder Jayson Littman wrote a moving piece for Heeb Magazine about his experience with the Jewish so-called “ex-gay” program, JONAH. Littman received many responses from a broad audience; among those responses was one alerting him to an ultra-Orthodox anti-LGBT “Torah Declaration on Homosexuality.” This past week, Littman published a piece in the Huffington Post, in which he exposed the rabidly anti-LGBT declaration being passed around the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. The declaration appears to be a reaction to the Modern Orthodox Statement of Principles on LGBT people signed in July of 2010, which, above all else, recognizes the humanity and dignity of LGBT people and their right to reject so-called “reparative therapies.” Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia has endorsed the ultra-Orthodox declaration. Rabbi Kamenetsky is often referenced as a religious advisor to JONAH, the Jewish so-called “ex-gay” program that Littman attended.
The Orthodox community is not unified behind Rabbi Kamenetsky’s anti-LGBT position. Littman notes that Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, who is both an ultra-Orthodox rabbi and author of the book “Judaism and Homosexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View,” does not believe that so-called “ex-gay” therapies are a viable choice for ultra-Orthodox LGBT Jews. Rabbi Rapoport argues that he is not required to believe in a debunked “therapy” simply because it is more in line with his theological beliefs; instead, he supports a position akin to that of the Modern Orthodox movement. Several LGBT organizations, including Eshel and the Gay & Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni Association, provide support and community to LGBT Jews who want to accept themselves while still remaining religiously observant.
Rabbi Kamenetsky’s declaration is a dangerous misuse of religion that lacks any scientific or medical backing and advocates in favor of “treatments” that are known to be harmful to the overall health and well-being of LGBT people. In assuming that all LGBT people are “victims of childhood emotional wounds” that need to be “healed,” Rabbi Kamenetsky violates one of the most basic tenets of Jewish law: Kavod Haberiyot, or human dignity. One cannot love or respect another human being while telling them that some part of who they are is inherently wrong.
GLAAD is saddened that Rabbi Kamenetsky’s “Torah Declaration on Homosexuality” shows such a blatant disregard for the genuine well-being of LGBT people. His insistence that LGBT people pursue “reparative” therapy, despite the fact that it has been discredited by all major medical and psychological organizations in the United States and has been shown to cause depression among people who have gone through these types of programs, shows no compassion or respect for the dignity of LGBT people. Instead, Rabbi Kamenetsky demonstrates the danger of ignoring medical and scientific findings in favor of dogmatic adherence to theology that has been shown to be harmful. We ask that our readers alert us to any ongoing coverage of this story that fails to portray it accurately and inclusively.