Media Release: Aleph Melbourne disappointed in unsatisfactory resignation letter of Rabbi Zvi Telsner




Aleph Melbourne acknowledges the overdue resignation of senior rabbi Zvi Telsner from the Yeshiva Centre in Melbourne but is disappointed with the unsatisfactory letter written in his name.

Whilst his resignation letter claims remorse for his actions, his apology falls short of addressing his claims that homosexual people can be cured of what he believes is an ailment.

To demonstrate genuine remorse for his harmful words Zvi Telsner must undertake secular education on homosexuality and strongly distance himself from any notion that homosexuality can either be cured or is abnormal.

As a senior religious leader in his community his authority combined with his ongoing intolerance of homosexuality will feed into the self-destructive outcomes that same-sex attracted people experience due to intolerance of their sexuality.

Homosexuality has not been considered an illness by mental health professionals for over 40 years and is now affirmed as a normal expression of human sexuality.  For any person to consider it curable demonstrates gross ignorance.

Victims of child sexual abuse who experience same-sex attraction will benefit by seeking support for their abuse from accredited mental health professionals, whilst avoiding any form of sexual orientation change efforts, such as reparative therapy.

The Australian Psychological Society and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists can provide referrals to suitably qualified practitioners.

Contact Michael Barnett on 0417-595-541 for further comment.


Letter from Rabbi Zvi Telsner:

י”ז אלול תשע”ה
1st September, 2015

Dear Yeshivah Community Members, Friends and Supporters,

As a senior Rabbi at the Yeshivah Centre I acknowledge and endorse its values, policies and message of continued support and compassion for victims of Child Sexual Abuse, their families and all of the community. Elul is a time to reflect on ones values and behaviours as we prepare to herald in the New Year.

I recognise that my conduct towards victims and their families did not demonstrate these values or behaviour to the extent necessary of a Rabbi in my position. Accordingly, I have decided to stand down from my position as Rabbi at the Yeshivah Centre, effective immediately.

We all must be aware of how our words and actions impact on others and therefore would like to take this opportunity to apologise for my conduct and urge everyone to show compassion and support towards victims and their families throughout the moised and broader community.

I wish the community all the best for a Ksiva Vechasima Tova, and a year full of blessings.

Yours Sincerely,
Rabbi Z. Telsner

Chaim Levin responds to Eli Nash’s defense of Dr Norman Goldwasser

Chaim Levin has supplied Aleph Melbourne with his response to Eli Nash’s defense of Dr Norman Goldwasser.  Eli’s comments appear in block-quoted italics below and his original post is on Facebook is here.  Chaim’s original post on Facebook is here.

Eli Nash, a powerful and important advocate for survivors of sexual abuse recently declared his frustration and concern that Doctor Norman Goldwasser was disinvited to speak at an upcoming event hosted by Tzedek in Australia about issues of sexual abuse. I’ve written this in response and am posting it here as well as on this thread. I believe that this conversation is long overdue but it’s crucial that we keep it respectful and honest.


Dear Eli,

I wanna start out by saying thank you for everything you have done for us survivors on a big scale and on a small scale. Just a few months ago you stepped in to personally assist me through something that I probably wouldn’t have survived without your generous help. Please know that there isn’t a day that goes by where I am not grateful for your unrelenting support.

That being said, you might understand why I’ve been very very hesitant to throw myself into this debate with you.  I realize that I most likely won’t change yours and your supporters’ minds on this issue but that isn’t my goal anymore. I want the thousands reading this thread see that there are two sides to every coin. There’s the way you’re presenting it based solely on your personal experiences, but then there’s the clinical and scientific side which is ultimately what needs to be adhered to the most.

Firstly, I’d like to address your full post section by section. Your initial post is separated into sections and in quotes in Italic, my response are in regular font. After that, there’s a list of reasons why despite all the praise you have given this person, he is not the right guy to be lecturing anyone about healing sexual abuse.

“Tsedek decision to cancel Dr Goldwasser is as tragic as it is predictable. Perhaps the most challenging feat for any organization is to stay true to their mission in the face of pressure, criticism and intimidation. In canceling Dr Goldwasser, they failed to demonstrate true commitment to their stated mission of providing advocacy and support to Jewish victims/survivors of sexual abuse.

The few in the LGBT community that were vocal and outspoken against Dr Goldwasser, in a combined effort with websites who view Jewish Orthodoxy as a failure or anonymously publicize what they consider to be the “foolish” aspect of Jewish orthodoxy, would like you to believe that by allowing Dr. Goldwasser to speak, they are hurting victims and survivors of sexual abuse who identify as LGBT. They assert that the suggestion that sexual orientation is in any way influenced by abuse or that they can be “fixed” is damaging and offensive. By Tsedek supporting a Doctor who has said both these things, they are not staying true to their mission of supporting survivors.”

So far, I haven’t heard anyone in this debate refer to orthodoxy as foolish and I’m not quite sure what this anonymous aspect is that you refer to. So far, on our side of this conversation we have all been using our real names and have been respectful and fair. We choose to focus on the facts and information while many of you have resorted to personal attacks. By telling people that this is a conspiracy to “have you believe”, you are implying that we are trying to make people believe something that isn’t true, this is where your first problem is. The only thing we would like people to believe are the facts and the data. I don’t need to try and convince people to believe us that this hurts LGBT survivors, we are telling you that it hurts us but you are continuing to categorically ignore it for your own personal reasons that have nothing to do with the date, science and the facts in this matter.

The suggestion that orientation is influenced by abuse is not offensive as much as it is ignorant. There are no studies that prove anything of the sort. The suggestion that we can and need be fixed is offensive and rightfully so. Using people’s abuse as a means to convince them that they are broken is cruel and irresponsible especially when these theories were born out of your own logic and personal experiences/understanding of this.

“This is what they would have you believe.”

Because a doctor who says these things is not someone who should be telling abuse survivors how they can heal when his philosophy is clearly rooted in something other than legitimate science.

“In actuality though, Tsedek would be wise not to take their cues on mission from groups whose own mission is to shame the constituents Tsedek is there to serve. If Tsedek intends to accomplish their stated mission of supporting and advocating for Jewish victims of sexual abuse, being dragged into a debate for the political or agenda-driven benefit of some will not allow them to do so. This is especially so considering the fact that those most vocal on this matter also take issue with Orthodox Judaism’s view on homosexuality.”

We are not trying to shame anyone, especially not orthodox survivors of abuse. Where you got this conclusion from is as mysterious as the rest of what you believe but you’re entitled to your opinion. Personally, I do not take issue with orthodoxy’s view on homosexuality. There are many issues that many orthodox Jews  themselves have with the Torah but this isn’t about debating the Torah. Yes, I take issue with the homophobia that’s been created as a result of this view but it’s not my mission to change the Torah.

“There are many clear and obvious reasons why the LGBT community does not want to be told their condition can be fixed or is the cause of abuse. They are understandable goals and continuing to push this can and will have obvious benefits to many in the LGBT community. LGBT’s have suffered from horrible discrimination. By advocating the above in other instances, they have helped to improve the lives of many who identify as LGBT and their families.”

Being LGBT isn’t a condition.

“In this case, sadly, their argument was hijacked, distorted and used for subversive means.

As an example, while there are survivors who are offended when one asserts that abuse can result in sexual confusion, there are also many survivors who are hurt by the fact that some would have them believe that their struggles with sexuality are NOT a result of their abuse. A young woman I know was repeatedly abused by older men and women as a child. To this day, while the woman considers herself to be straight, she feels a compulsive urge to have sex with older men and women. The few times she does engage in this behavior results in uncontrollable bouts of self loathing, depression and more.

Were we to suggest to this young woman that she was born with a compulsive urge to have sex with older men and women (by her own words they are people that she does not find beautiful or physically attractive) and that the abuse played no part in it, she too would be offended and hurt.

Several months ago, I spoke before a group at an in-patient recovery center about my story of child sexual abuse and the continuing healing process. After I finished my story, a young man heavily addicted to drugs, stood up and told everyone in the crowd how a relative of his performed anal sex on him when he as a young boy. To this day, he reported, he has an obsession with viewing pornography similar to his abuse experience. While he identifies as gay, he is unable to engage in certain sexual behaviors that remind him of the abuse although he derived pleasure from viewing it.

To somehow suggest to him that his experiences in no way shaped his future struggles (specifically unable to engage in certain behaviors) would be offensive and hurtful to him – a card carrying member of the LGBT community.

On and on we can go. What one finds comforting, another will find hurtful”.

You are using anecdotal evidence to support claims that have zero basis science. We don’t use anecdotal evidence to help people with medical and psychological issues. While these examples are indeed sad, you’re again missing the point. Your highlighting the TYPES of people are attracted to within those gender groups, not on the fact that they’re attracted to the people of those genders. You are comparing the type of man or woman someone is attracted to, rather than the fact that they are attracted to a man or a woman or both. It’s different to analyze and to try and discover parts of our attractions but this conversation is about the actual gender which is completely different and again, impossible to be changed. We don’t use anecdotal evidence to cure health issues, and we should absolutely not use anecdotal evidence for psychological issues either. Unsurprisingly, groups like JONAH rely purely on anecdotal evidence to support their claims.

Lots of facts surrounding these issues are indeed terribly painful for many different people based on their experiences. But what you’re suggesting is that we should disregard  facts, science, and the research in order to make people more comfortable. Yes, people should feel safe, respected and more comfortable, but we can’t appeal to people who don’t feel safe by lying to them and telling them that they can in fact change when we know they can’t.

I fully agree that these patients should address the issues surrounding their sexuality and intimacy with professionals but I do not agree that you can make such a bold claim based on experiences of a few and expect that to speak for everyone else. Yes, being sexually abused causes serious issues with sexuality in many ways, but the issue of who we are attracted to is not one of those issues. We need to focus on how the abuse affected our capacity to be intimate and feel safe while having intimate encounters in our adult life. One detail, the detail of the gender of who those encounters are with is not nearly as important as the rest of them. But to be clear, I’m not saying that someone struggling with who their attracted to shouldn’t be addressed, but it certainly shouldn’t be addressed by lying to them and offering them false hope that this can be cured or fixed.

Finally, even if we accept the premise that one knows that his orientation of whom he’s attracted to was impacted by abuse, that does not mean that they can alter it and I have yet to see anyone prove otherwise.

“Some of the arguments proposed by those demanding of Tsedek to disassociate from Dr Goldwasser, is that science is clearly on their side. But these same proponents of science today and the absolute infallibility of the reports they quote, were the same that railed against science when homosexuality was included in the DSM. Science can not be used as one desires to support a claim and Tsedek need not involve themselves in these studies that others feel are politicized and agenda driven.”

Yes, 40 years ago scientists believed many things that we know to be true today. That logic isn’t enough not to listen to science today.

“There are no doubt many areas where the LGBT community disagree with Orthodox Judaism. Tsedek should not allow those differences to be highlighted but instead continue to focus on the areas where we all agree: children should not have to experience sexual abuse.”

Correct, and survivors who were already sexually abused should not be manipulated into a situation where they will be abused again by those claiming to help the.

“To add to the complexity of human sexuality, Dr. Goldwasser’s beliefs are understandably influenced by his religion. After all, he is an Orthodox Jew. While I find his beliefs in this particular area to be extremely nuanced allowing for the complexity of human sexuality, human behavior, religious beliefs, the right of self determination, and many other considerations, there is no doubt he advocates for a belief that some in the LGBT community find threatening. What they won’t tell you though is that anyone he were to be replaced with, others who also happen to be survivors would find threatening. With subjects as divisive and complex as human sexuality and religion, is there anyway for one person to appeal to everyone?”

Maybe not but it’s possible to feature someone who isn’t as offensive and controversial as Doctor Goldwasser is.

I hope this sufficiently addresses your grievances with the recent cancellation of Doctor Goldwasser. The truth is that many of the things you expressed are more of a sideshow and ignore the substance of the concerns that many of us have had for a long time. Most people involved in this conversation can’t fully debate science because we are not doctors and aren’t involved in the scientific research that goes into these arguments.

We know that there are other professionals with vast experience dealing with trauma who exist and who the frum communities trust. Why must you insist that Doctor Goldwasser is the only one to deliver this message? Isn’t the fact that this issue has already caused so many problems for many supporters of JCW enough to reconsider? That engaging in this protracted debate is damaging to your cause? Meyer Seewald couldn’t be more accurate this morning when he told me by text that he would much rather be facing criticism for organizing an anti abuse event in Williamsburg or Lakewood and I agree with that. While this is a legitimate conversation that is long overdue, the us against you nature of the way this conversation has turned is toxic and divisive. I can only assume that the insistence to defend someone with so many issues comes from ego and not from logic. Logic would say that we should do our best to keep everyone happy within reason. Doctor Goldwasser not speaking until he publicly clarifies his positions and commits to never saying and doing such things again is very much within reason. Defending every action of his and trying to portray this as some type of agenda driven problem is not within reason.

So far Eli, you have accused me and others of having an agenda even though you fail to clarify what that agenda is. In a phone call a few months ago you said to me that your only concern is to keep children safe and you accused me of not sharing that concern. Others have resorted to personal attacks against us and yet NO ONE has addressed these glaring issues that would be enough to get anyone else under any other circumstances fired and disinvited from speaking publicly about such serious issues:

  1. License/suspension issues: No matter what the reasons behind them are, the fact is that this happened and he was disciplined on more than one occasion. Maybe by itself these are things that can eventually forgotten but this is just the first in a long list of problems with Doctor Goldwasser. When someone has a long list of separate issues that many find unappealing it would be wise to stay away from controversy and use someone whose message won’t be distorted by the many different problems that people have with them.
  2. Recent remarks about gay people: Doctor Goldwasser’s recent remarks at JCW events highlighted that he still does not only believe in this, but practices it himself. His snarky references to his patient from South beach was inappropriate and didn’t belong in a speech about sexual abuse. Moreover, Doctor Goldwasser himself said that this patient was “convinced” that he couldn’t change and that it was too late for Doctor Goldwasser to help him in this aspect. Those are not the words of someone who distanced himself from these things.
  3. Issues raised by previous patients: More than one former patient of Doctor Goldwasser have recounted some very concerning issues with him during their course of treatment with him. The fact that there are multiple people making these claims, some of whom are survivors of abuse, should be more than enough reason not to give Doctor Goldwasser a platform as has been done for quite some time. The fact that the people who gave him this platform have been alerted to these concerns and have still failed to act is what’s even more perplexing. Just because some and maybe even many people had good experiences with him, that isn’t the standard that we set for professionals who we entrust to treat the most vulnerable. By answering these claims of people with your current logic, that you know over 30 people who have been helped by him, once again you are ignoring the more important aspect of this which is that the first rule of medicine is “Do no harm”. If there have been complaints about Doctor Goldwasser in the past and you continue to support him you are telling those people that their experiences don’t matter as much as your own. In my opinion, that is not the way to reach survivors and those who care about us.
  4. Association with conversion therapy. Despite what you would like to have the world believe, by his own admissions, Doctor Goldwasser’s is still very much engaged in this practice. As I’ve told you and others at JCW privately over a year ago, it is not on us to guess his current position after he’s made that position clear and public over the course of many years. By writing articles in favor of groups like JONAH and their affiliates, by signing the Torah declaration and not since removing his name, and by making comments such as the one mentioned above as recently as 3 months ago, he is proving that you are you are lying for him.

To dig a little deeper though, conversion therapy has been decried as a form of sexual abuse. While I’m doing my best to make this conversation less personal about me, I can safely say that I was sexually abused in conversion therapy. In other words, the folks who Doctor Goldwasser endorses told me that they have the answers for survivors of abuse and the tools to heal us. And yet, instead of helping us, they retraumatized us in more ways than one. Are you telling me that you’re comfortable being that closely associated with something that in itself is considered a form of abuse? Are you saying that even the perception that you endorse this isn’t enough to make you fully denounce this and any association to Doctor Goldwasser? Rational thought would say that this in itself should be problematic enough for you to accept that this was maybe a mistake on Goldwasser’s part and the most you can do now is be quiet and accept that all actions have consequences, not even Doctor Goldwasser is immune to that.

I’d really love it if you can explain how even though these concerns about retraumatization and nudity have been made public, did Doctor Goldwasser signing a document that states unequivocally that the only answer for Jewish LGBT people is exactly those things. How can he as a supposed professional ever justify saying that the only answer for survivors of abuse it to be placed into an environment where unlicensed professionals conduct human experiments based on junk science that has been condemned over and over again. I have yet to receive a straight answer to this question and now would be a really good time.

JONAH has been exposed to have treated sexual predators and pedophiles. They have admitted under oath that they “treat” pedophiles in their groups and on their weekends. Yet at the same time, they target survivors of abuse and lure them into using their services. How can anyone ever justify putting survivors and abusers in the same therapeutic group? If you need proof that JONAH does this just ask Meyer about the time that the head of JONAH contacted him and tried convincing him to list JONAH on JCW’s website as a resource for survivors of abuse. What’s worse, these organizations never bothered reporting any of this. Can you explain how it is that you’re willing to overlook such a problematic detail? One would think that your claim to be advocating first and foremost for victims of abuse should make you want to distance yourself as far as possible from being associated with this by any extension, unless you think that survivors and abusers in the same group is acceptable. At this point I’m starting to think that this is your opinion because you’ve repeatedly failed to address this. And while I recognize that this is more of an issue for Doctor Goldwasser, you’ve made it your mission to defend and support him so these are things that you are now personally on the line for.

They say that with great power comes great responsibility. You were granted great power to speak to and for many of us who were victims of abuse. However at this point you have taken that power and used it to promote something that’s evil and dangerous. You have made this conversation about the few that are being helped by this and disregarded the many others who were hurt. You are ignoring the scientific evidence and the data that states unequivocally that trying to change one’s orientation can result in disastrous consequences.

Some people on this thread have correctly pointed out that the Tzedek event wasn’t about conversion therapy. While that’s very true, Doctor Goldwasser’s remarks have turned it into just that. If he would’ve not said those things and the most recent events during April, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation now. So yes, this isn’t about conversion therapy but it’s been turned into that by Doctor Goldwasser and his supporters.

I will not continue to comment on this and go back and forth with others. I have no intention of addressing petty comments about who is a better advocate and who has done more, those are side issues and aren’t relevant to the bottom line. We can have a pissing contest over who has done more but at the end of the day we all have the same goal in mind and that is to protect children. We need to make sure that the children we protect aren’t only the ones who sexual orientation fit within the parameters of one belief system over another. Remember, that words in the hands of a psychologist can be like a scalpel in the hands of a surgeon. If a psychologist isn’t careful with that scalpel he can cause long term irreversible damage. That’s what this is about, that’s what this has always been about and that’s what this will continue being about.

In closing, I think that Tzedek’s decision was not only the right one, but exemplified what true leadership looks like. The ability to admit that you made a mistake and to accept other people’s feedback in order to accommodate everyone is one that eludes many others involved in this debate. I truly hope that we can learn by example from Tzedek and make sure that no one is ever given a platform to disseminate such harmful, inaccurate and cruel messages about certain abuse survivors as long as they are nice to the rest of them.


Tzedek Australia cancels “gay cure” therapy advocate Dr Norman Goldwasser

Further to Aleph Melbourne’s article (Aug 10) Tzedek Australia engages gay cure advocate Dr Norman Goldwasser as keynote speaker and hot on the heels of Sydney Morning Herald’s article (Aug 13) Doctor who tried to cure homosexuality to speak at Australian child sex abuse victim event, both exposing the connection between Dr Norman Goldwasser and his beliefs that people’s sexual orientation can be changed, Tzedek Australia has issued a statement advising they are cancelling him as a speaker at their Community Education Forum in September.


Statement Regarding Tzedek bringing Dr. Goldwasser to Australia by Josh Bornstein, President of Tzedek:

“Tzedek’s mission statement is to support and advocate for victims of sexual abuse in the Jewish community. Several months ago, a decision was made by Tzedek to invite Dr Goldwasser to speak at the Jewish Community Education Forum in Melbourne on 6 September. The decision was made because of his considerable experience dealing with the dynamics of sexual abuse in the Jewish community.

More recently, we have become aware of other matters and controversies relating to Dr Goldwasser. Amongst other things, we have taken on board concerns raised by the LGBTI community. As a result we have reviewed the matter and decided that it is no longer appropriate for Dr Goldwasser to speak at the forum.

We wish to make clear that Tzedek does not in any way endorse or condone what has been described as “reparative therapy”. Such “therapy” has been completely discredited.

Our forum will proceed on September 6th and we encourage all members of the community to attend. “

20150814 Tzedek Australia announces cancellation of Dr Norman Goldwasser

Aleph Melbourne welcomes Tzedek’s cancellation of Dr Norman Goldwasser as a speaker at their forum.  We ask they to go one step further and develop a policy to assist educate the community that sexuality cannot be changed by therapy and that attempts to do so, especially on victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, may have damaging consequences.

For reference, the Australian Psychological Society has a statement on the use of therapies that attempt to change sexual orientation and the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists has a position statement on sexual orientation change efforts.  Both organisations warn against the use of such therapies.

Tzedek Australia engages gay cure advocate Dr Norman Goldwasser as keynote speaker

Tzedek Australia is an organisation that assists Jewish victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.  They are currently promoting Dr Norman Goldwasser as keynote speaker for their Community Education Forum on September 6 2015:

Tzedek forum promoting Norman Goldwasser as Keynote

Dr Goldwasser has a controversial past, as outlined on Failed Messiah article “Why Is This Man On The Board Of An Organization That Claims To Fight Child Sex Abuse And Help Survivors?”.

Amongst the many concerns over Dr Goldwasser’s reputation is the persistence of his profile on Coming Out Loved listing him as practicing sexual orientation change therapies:

Norman Goldwasser on Coming Out Loved

Increasingly across the USA organisations and practitioners that claim to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation, with Exodus and JONAH being two high-profile examples, are being discredited and the use of such practices on minors are being criminalised.

An updated Failed Messiah article expresses further concerns about Dr Norman Goldwasser, including that he is still listed as practicing reparative therapy: “Why Is A Psychologist Who Supports A Dangerous And Discredited Therapy Speaking To A Jewish Group About Child Sex Abuse?”.

Of particular concern to Aleph Melbourne is Dr Norman Goldwasser’s current claim that he treats people for “unwanted bisexuality”:

Norman Goldwasser - unwanted bisexuality

Claiming to treat “unwanted bisexuality” is admission of a sexual orientation change therapy.  It is also a preposterous term he uses to avoid saying “unwanted homosexual attraction” given that bisexual people ordinarily do not have unwanted heterosexual attraction.

The Australian Psychological Society has a statement on the use of therapies that attempt to change sexual orientation.  The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists has a position statement on sexual orientation change efforts.  Both organisations strongly warn against the use of such therapies.

Tzedek Australia has built a good reputation due to the rigorous standards set by its founder Manny Waks.  With Manny Waks no longer connected to the organisation this apparent lapse in judgement on the inclusion of Dr Norman Goldwasser is concerning and places its reputation at substantial risk.

To allow a keynote speaker with a less-than-exemplary reputation and a deeply questionable professional approach toward human sexuality to engage on a topic as sensitive as child sexual abuse is of significant concern.

Tzedek Australia must set the absolute highest standards for the practitioners they engage with.  If they allow Dr Norman Goldwasser to speak as advertised, whilst he still has his name listed in support of any sexual orientation change therapy, and whilst he has not issued an unambiguous public statement acknowledging the harm done by such therapies, it will be to the detriment of Tzedek Australia’s reputation and ultimately to the community they represent.

UPDATE: August 12 2015

Aleph Melbourne has just been made aware of the presence of Dr Norman Goldwasser’s signature on the document “Declaration On The Torah Approach To Homosexuality”.

This document prominently claims “Same-Sex Attractions Can Be Modified And Healed”:

TorahDec gay cure claimIronically Dr Norman Goldwasser’s signature is cozied up next to that of Dr Miriam Grossman, whose presence in Melbourne in 2012 similarly attracted controversy:

TorahDec Goldwasser signatureThe footnote on the TorahDec site claims:

Actively speaking up is vital in order to prevent the terrible harm and suffering to individuals who may erroneously conclude that if they have Same-Sex Attractions (SSA) there is no hope or possibility for them to change and live a Torah sanctioned life. Change is possible and mandated by the Torah.

In the words of Tzedek Australia:

Tzedek motto
Enough! No more silence.

Rabbi Is Out Of Line & Out Of Touch With The Community | JCCV

Rabbi Is Out Of Line & Out Of Touch With The Community

16 February 2015

Jewish Community Council of VictoriaMuch of the evidence presented at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse over the past two weeks has been seriously disturbing, appalling and distressing. One of the lows was the statement made by Rabbi Zvi Telsner, a senior rabbi in the Yeshivah community, that homosexuals can be ‘cured’.

This is repulsive, ignorant and insulting, demonstrating a serious departure from the views of the mainstream Jewish community.

Rabbi Telsner also linked paedophilia and homosexuality in his testimony. Any such linking is disturbing and indeed toxic. Those comments are poisonous to people of diverse sexual preference, their families and friends.

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) signed up to the ‘No To Homophobia’ campaign in 2013, the first and possibly only faith community to do so and we urged our affiliates to do likewise.  26 Jewish community organisations have also signed up to the campaign, including the Australian Union of Jewish students (AUJS), Progressive Judaism Victoria, Jewish Care, Jewish Aid, the Jewish Holocaust Centre and the Jewish Museum. Obviously Rabbi Telsner, whose organisation is not affiliated to JCCV, did not sign up.

View Related Article in “Star Observer”

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When faith and sexuality collide | The Age

When faith and sexuality collide | The Age.

PHOTOS: Activists Launch Guerrilla Anti-Conversion-Therapy Campaign In Israel’s Orthodox Jewish Neighborhoods | Queerty

PHOTOS: Activists Launch Guerrilla Anti-Conversion-Therapy Campaign In Israel’s Orthodox Jewish Neighborhoods | Queerty.

Testimony of Mordechai Levovitz to the NJ Senate

Testimony of Mordechai Levovitz, Co Executive Director, JQY
New Jersey State Senate, Trenton NJ

My name is Mordechai Levovitz. I come from a very religious Jewish community and grew up in an Orthodox family. I have both personal experience with being sent to therapists as a minor to try to change my orientation and gender expression, and experience dealing with this issue as the co executive director of JQY, a non profit org that helps support LGBT Jews and their families in the Orthodox Community. I have seen and felt the harmful consequences of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, and the risks that this process poses to minors.

When I was about six years old my parents brought me to a therapist because they were concerned that I was acting too feminine. I played with Barbie’s, wanted cabbage patch kids, pretended I was a princess, and told people that I was really a girl. My parents, devout Orthodox Jews were horrified, confused and embarrassed. They wanted desperately for someone to tell them that I could be changed into a quote unquote “normal boy”. In their search for answers, they were told by religious leaders and even some doctors that I was a “Pre-Homosexual” and that “detecting” this early, is actually a good thing, because this was the time (when I was six) that “therapy” could be effective. Therapy to them, meant preventing me from ever turning gay, and making me into a normal masculine boy. So from the age of six I was sent to Dr after Dr. in the hopes of curing me from my “femininity” and wrong gender identification.

Obviously these forced interventions did not end up working. I am now gay man, I am still feminine, and sometimes I still pretend that I’m a princess. But there was one message that was made clear to me when being sent to these therapists. This was that the ‘professional mental health’ opinion was that there was something very wrong with who I was. I was made to feel by doctors there was something wrong with me. I was made to think that for me to be healthy, I must play sports, speak in a low voice, and keep my wrist from going limp. I didn’t want to do any of this. I was happy with the way I was. But in the name of professional mental health and the licensure of the state, I was made to feel shame and engage in a fruitless labor that left me sad and broken.

As I became an adult I promised that I could not stand idly by while this happened to other youth. I met other LGBT people who came from Orthodox communities like mine, many who also had the experience of being pressured into so called “reparative therapy”. We decided that we had to be there for each other. We started a group called JQY. JQY is a safe space where Jewish youth can come and feel support and acceptance for who they are. JQY now has over 700 members. As JQY grew, more and more Orthodox Jewish youth came forth to tell their stories.

What I heard and saw were many kids being pressured by their parents, schools and other therapists into organizations like JONAH and Journey into Manhood, that promise to change gay people straight. Often these minors were given ultimatums to engage in sexual orientation change efforts, or else they would be stripped of social privileges, or worse,  kicked out of their homes, schools and communities.

What was obvious is that there certainly was no real consent. These kids weren’t just targeted for therapy because of the rhetoric that early intervention is the supposed best time to treat homosexuals. They are targeted because they are easy targets. They have no choice, and they have no power. What is worse, is seemingly nobody to protect them.

I thought “Protection from harm” is the essence of professional health intervention. And make no mistake, Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, especially those forced on minors by therapists, can cause real harm. The truth is that there is no best practice or standards for what is mistakenly called “reparative” therapy. There are only therapists literally making things up in the name of this arbitrary process.

JQY members report being pressured to do terrible things by their therapists in these efforts. Some like Jon were asked to repeat biblical verses and punishments in therapy. Some were shown pictures of AIDS victims and made to read CDC statistics and symptom descriptions of things like Anal Cancer. Those who were sent to weekends like Journey Into Manhood report being pressured into strange behaviors like naked wrestling, name calling, forced red-rover, and the beating of effigies meant to symbolize ones parents.

More horrific were the reports from kids who were sent to an organization called JONAH, where they were sent to therapists who pressured their clients to undress and touch their genitals in front of their therapists. JONAH calls this practice “body work”, and defends it based on mental health principles. But their clients are left traumatized. They come to JQY depressed and sometimes suicidal. I worry most about the ones who don’t make it to JQY. I know of to many young people who have taken their lives after years of orientation change efforts that never worked, and caused irreparable harm.

I remember one of the worst feelings associated with being a minor in reparative therapy, was being blamed when the therapy does not work. For the message was that you can only change if you are truly committed to the process. It only works if you really work hard enough at it. So when it does not work, the implication is simply that you didn’t put the work in. Parents and schools get the impression that the youth is not really serious about change. In fact, he refuses to put in the effort in that is required. Because if not, he wouldn’t still be gay! This causes the worst harm because it tears families apart. It positions mothers and fathers against their children, and strips youth of the allies that they need most.

Honorable State Senators of the Great State of New Jersey,  I currently work for the United Nations NGO Committee for Human Rights. Freedom and rights are important to me. I respect the rights of adults who want to explore their orientation in non-traditional ways to engage in Consensual Sexual Orientation Change efforts. I respect the rights of an adults to seek a mental health professional for support in reconciling faith and desire. However, sending a minor to a therapist to work on changing orientation or gender identity is not a right. It is not consensual. It is not even an intervention. It is simply using professional licensure to tell perfectly healthy youth that there is something wrong with them.

As Toikko Kleppe from the United Nations Office of  the High Commissioner stated in an event at the UN last month on SOCE. “Professionalized Sexual Orientation change Efforts aimed at Minors is a violation of international Human rights.” It violates our medical ethics of “first do no harm”. It violates our values of informed consent, scientific integrity, professional responsibility, and any semblance of accountability.  It continues to violate minors in my Orthodox community, and it violated me. Please vote today to stop this violation. May we build a world where no child is made to feel like there is something wrong with them because of who they are.

Thank you,

“Acceptance and Inclusion Can Only Bring Gay Jews Closer” by Rich Dweck

“Acceptance and Inclusion Can Only Bring Gay Jews Closer” by Rich Dweck.