Homosexuals Anonymous

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Judaism and the Modern Attitude to Homosexuality

Dr. Norman Lamm is the former President of Yeshiva University. He originally published the following article in 1974.

Popular wisdom has it that our society is wildly hedonistic, with the breakdown of family life, rampant immorality, and the world, led by the United States, in the throes of a sexual revolution. The impetus of this latest revolution is such that new ground is constantly being broken, while bold deviations barely noticed one year are glaringly more evident the year following and become the norm for the "younger generation" the year after that.

Some sex researchers accept this portrait of a steady deterioration in sex inhibitions and of increasing permissiveness. Opposed to them are the "debunkers" who hold that this view is mere fantasy and that, while there may have been a significant leap in verbal sophistication, there has probably been only a short hop in actual behavior. They point to statistics which confirm that now, as in Kinsey's day, there has been no reported increase in sexual frequencies along with alleged de-inhibition to rhetoric and dress. The "sexual revolution" is, for them, largely a myth. Yet others maintain that there is in Western society a permanent revolution against moral standards, but that the form and style of the revolt keeps changing.

The determination of which view is correct will have to be left to the sociologists and statisticians -or, better, to historians of the future who will have the benefit of hindsight. But certain facts are quite clear. First, the complaint that moral restraints are crumbling has a two or three thousand year history in Jewish tradition and in continuous history of Western civilization. Second, there has been a decided increase at least in the area of sexual attitudes, speech, and expectations, if not in practice. Third, such social and psychological phenomena must sooner or later beget changes in mores and conduct. And finally, it is indisputable that most current attitudes are profoundly at variance with traditional Jewish views on sex and sex morality.

Of all the current sexual fashions, the one most notable for its militancy, and which most conspicuously requires illumination from the sources of Jewish tradition, is that of sexual deviancy. This refers primarily to homosexuality, male or female, along with a host of other phenomena such as transvestism and transexualism. They all form part of the newly approved theory of idiosyncratic character of sexuality. Homosexuals have demanded acceptance in society, and this demand has taken various forms -from a plea that they should not be liable to criminal prosecution, to a demand that they should not be subjected to social sanctions, and then to a strident assertion that they represent an "alternative life-style" no less legitimate that "straight heterosexuality. The various forms of homosexual apologetics appear largely in contemporary literature and theater, as well as in the daily press. In the United States, "gay" activists have become increasingly and progressively more vocal and militant.
Legal Position

Homosexuals have, indeed, been suppressed by the law. For instance, the Emperor Valentinian, in 390 C.E., decreed that pederasty be punished by burning at the stake. The sixth-century Code of Justinian ordained that homosexuals be tortured, mutilated, paraded in public, and executed. A thousand years later, Gibbon said of the penalty the Code decreed that "pederasty became the crime of those to whom no crime could be imputed". In more modern times, however, the Napoleonic Code declared consensual homosexuality legal in France. A century ago, anti-homosexual laws were repealed in Belgium and Holland. In this century, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland followed suit and, more recently, Czechoslovakia and England. The most severe laws in the West are found in the United States, where they come under the jurisdiction of the various states and are known by a variety of names, usually as "sodomy laws". Punishment may range from light fines to five or more years in prison (in some cases even life imprisonment), indeterminate detention to a mental hospital, and even to compulsory sterilization. Moreover, homosexuals are, in various states, barred from licensed professions, from many professional societies, from teaching, and from the civil service -to mention only a few of the sanctions encountered by the known homosexual.

More recently, a new tendency has been developing in the United States and elsewhere with regard to homosexuals. Thus, in 1969, the National Institute of Mental Health issued a majority report advocating that adult consensual homosexuality be declared legal. The American Civil Liberties Union concurred. Earlier, Illinois had done so in 1962, and in 1971 the state of Connecticut revised its laws accordingly. Yet despite the increasing legal and social tolerance of deviance, basic feelings toward homosexuals have not really changed. The most obvious example is France, where although legal restraints were abandoned over 150 years ago, the homosexual of today continues to live in shame and secrecy.

Statistically, the proportion the proportion of homosexuals in society does not seem to have changed much since Professor Kinsey's day (his book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, was published in 1948, and his volume on the human female in 1953). Kinsey's studies revealed that hard-core male homosexuals constituted about 4-6% of the population: 10% experienced "problem" behavior during a part of their lives. One man out of three indulges in some form of homosexual behavior from puberty until his early twenties. The dimensions of the problem become quite overwhelming when it is realized that, according to these figures, of 200 million people in the United States some ten million will become or are predominant or exclusive homosexuals, and over 25 million will have at least a few years of significant homosexual experience.
The New Permissiveness

The most dramatic change in our attitudes to homosexuality has taken place in the new mass adolescent subculture - the first such in history - where it is part of the whole new outlook on sexual restraints in general. It is here that the fashionable Sexual Left has had its greatest success on a wide scale, appealing especially to the rejection of Western traditions of sex roles and sex typing. A number of different streams feed into this ideological reservoir from which the new sympathy for homosexuality flows. Freud and his disciples began the modern protest against traditional restraints, and blamed the guilt that follows transgression for the neuroses that plague man. Many psychoanalysts began to overemphasize the importance of sexuality in human life, and this ultimately gave birth to a kind of sexual messianism. Thus, in our own day Wilhelm Reich identifies sexual energy as "vital energy per se" and, in conformity with his Marxist ideology, seeks to harmonize Marx and Freud. For Reich and his followers, the sexual revolution is a machina ultima for the whole Leninist liberation in all spheres of life and society. Rebellion against restrictive moral codes has become, for them, not merely a way to hedonism but a form of sexual mysticism: orgasm is seem not only as the pleasurable climatic release of internal sexual pressure, but as a means to individual creativity and insight as well as to the reconstruction and liberation of society. Finally, the emphasis on freedom and sexual autonomy derives from the Sartrean version of Kant's view of human autonomy.

It is in this atmosphere that pro-deviationist sentiments have proliferated, reaching into many strata of society. Significantly, religious groups have joined the sociologists and ideologists of deviance to affirm what has been called "man's birthright of unbounded ambisexuality." A number of Protestant churches in America, and an occasional Catholic clergyman, have plead for more sympathetic attitudes toward homosexuals. Following the new Christian permissiveness espoused in Sex and Morality (1966), the report of a working party of the British Council of Churches, a group of American Episcopalian clergymen in November 1967 concluded that homosexual acts ought not to be considered wrong, per se. A homosexual relationship is, they implied, no different from a heterosexual marriage: but must be judged by one criterion -"whether it is intended to foster a permanent relation of love." Jewish apologists for deviationism have been prominent in the Gay Liberation movement and have not hesitated to advocate their position in American journals and in the press. Christian groups began to emerge which catered to a homosexual clientele, and Jews were not too far behind. This latest Jewish exemplification of the principle of wie es sich christelt, so juedelt es sich will be discussed at the end of this essay.

Homosexual militants are satisfied neither with a "mental health" approach nor with demanding civil rights. They are clear in insisting on society's recognition of sexual deviance as an "alternative lifestyle," morally legitimate and socially acceptable.

Such are the basic facts and theories of the current advocacy of sexual deviance. What is the classical Jewish attitude to sodomy, and what suggestions may be made to develop a Jewish approach to the complex problem of the homosexual in contemporary society?
Biblical View

The Bible prohibits homosexual intercourse and labels it an abomination: "Thou shalt not lie with a man as one lies with a woman: it is an abomination" (Lev. 18:22). Capital punishment is ordained for both transgressors in Lev. 20:13. In the first passage, sodomy is linked with buggery, and in the second with incest and buggery. (There is considerable terminological confusion with regard to these words. We shall here use "sodomy" as a synonym for homosexuality and "buggery" for sexual relations with animals.)

The city of Sodom had the questionable honor of lending its name to homosexuality because of the notorious attempt at homosexual rape, when the entire population -"both young and old, all the people from every quarter"- surrounded the home of Lot, the nephew of Abraham, and demanded that he surrender his guests to them "that we may know them" (Gen. 19:5). The decimation of the tribe of Benjamin resulted from the notorious incident, recorded in Judges 19, of a group of Benjamites in Gibeah who sought to commit homosexual rape.

Scholars have identified the kadesh proscribed by the Torah (Deut. 23:18) as a ritual male homosexual prostitute. This form of healthen cult penetrated Judea from the Canaanite surroundings in the period of the early monarchy. So Rehoboam, probably under the influence of his Ammonite mother, tolerated this cultic sodomy during his reign (I Kings 14:24). His grandson Asa tried to cleanse the Temple in Jerusalem of the practice (I Kings 15:12), as did his great-grandson Jehoshaphat. But it was not until the days of Josiah and the vigorous reforms he introduced that the kadesh was finally removed from the Temple and the land (II Kings 23:7). The Talmund too (Sanhedrin, 24b) holds that the kadesh was a homosexual functionary. (However, it is possible that the term also alludes to a heterosexual male prostitute. Thus, in II Kings 23:7, women are described as weaving garments for the idols in the batei ha-kedeshim (houses of the kadesh): the presence of women may imply that the kadesh was not necessarily homosexual. The Talmudic opinion identifying the kadesh as a homosexual prostitute may be only an asmakhta. Moreover, there are other opinions in Talmudic literature as to the meaning of the verse: see Onkelos, Lev. 23:18, and Nachmanides and Torah Temimah, ad loc.)
Talmudic Approach

Rabbinic exegesis of the Bible finds several other homosexual references in the scriptural narratives. The generation of Noah was condemned to eradication by the Flood because they had sunk so low morally that, according to Midrashic teaching, they wrote out formal marriage contracts for sodomy and buggery - a possible cryptic reference to such practices in the Rome of Nero and Hadrian (Lev. R. 18:13).

Of Ham, the son of Noah, we are told that "he saw the nakedness of his father" and told his two brothers (Gen. 9:22). Why should this act have warranted the harsh imprecation hurled at Ham by his father? The Rabbis offer two answers: one, that the text implied that Ham castrated Noah: second, that the Biblical expression is an idiom for homosexual intercourse (see Rashi, ad loc.). On the scriptural story of Potiphar's purchase of Joseph as a slave (Gen. 39:1), the Talmud comments that he acquired him for homosexual purposes, but that a miracle occurred and God sent the angel Gabriel to castrate Potiphar (Sotah 13b).

Post-Biblical literature records remarkably few incidents of homosexuality. Herod's son Alexander, according to Josephus (Wars, I, 24:7), had homosexual contact with a young eunuch. Very few reports of homosexuality have come to us from the Talmudic era (TJ Sanhedrin 6:6, 23c: Jos. Ant., 15:25-30).

The incidence of sodomy among Jews is interestingly reflected in the Halakhah on mishkav zakhur (the Talmudic term for homosexuality: the Bible uses various terms- thus the same term in Num. 31:17 and 35 refers to heterosexual intercourse by a woman, whereas the expression for male homosexual intercourse in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 is mishkevei ishah). The Mishnah teaches that R. Judah forbade two bachelors from sleeping under the same blanket, for fear that this would lead to homosexual temptation (Kiddushin 4:14). However, the Sages permitted it (ibid.) because homosexuality was so rare among Jews that such preventive legislation was considered unnecessary (Kiddushin 82a). This latter view is codified as Halakhah by Malmonides (Yad, Issurei Bi'ah 22:2). Some 400 years later R. Joseph Caro, who did not codify the law against sodomy proper, nevertheless cautioned against being alone with another male because of the lewdness prevalent "in our times" (Even ha-Ezer 24). About a hundred years later, R. Joel Sirkes reverted to the original ruling, and suspended the prohibition because such obscene acts were unheard of amongst Polish Jewry (Bayit Hadash to Tur, Even ha-Ezer 24). Indeed, a distinguished contemporary of R. Joseph Caro, R. Solomon Luria, went even further and declared homosexuality so very rare that, if one refrains from sharing a blanket with another male as a special act of piety, one is guilty of self-righteous pride or religious snobbism (for the above and additional authorities, see Ozar ha-Posekim, IX, 236-238).

As is to be expected, the responsa literature is also very scant in discussions of homosexuality. One of the few such responsa is by the late R. Abraham Isaac Ha-Kohen Kook, when he was still the rabbi of Jaffa. In 1912 he was asked about a ritual slaughterer who had come under suspicion of homosexuality. After weighing all aspects of the case, R. Kook dismissed the charges against the accused, considering them unsupported hearsay. Furthermore, he maintained the man might have repented and therefore could not be subject to sanctions at the present time.

The very scarcity of halakhic deliberations on homosexuality, and the quite explicit insistence of various halakhic authorities, provide sufficient evidence of the relative absence of this practice among Jews from ancient times down to the present. Indeed, Prof. Kinsey found that, while religion was usually an influence of secondary importance on the number of homosexual as well as heterosexual acts by males. Orthodox Jews proved an exception, homosexuality being phenomenally rare among them.

Jewish laws treated the female homosexual more leniently than the male. It considered lesbianism as issur, an ordinary religious violation, rather than arayot, a specifically sexual infraction, regarded much more severely than issur. R. Huna held that lesbianism is the equivalent of harlotry and disqualified the woman from marrying a priest. The Halakhah is, however, more lenient, and decides that while the act is prohibited, the lesbian is not punished and is permitted to marry a priest (Sifra 9:8: Shab. 65a: Yev. 76a). However, the transgression does warrant disciplinary flagellation (Maimonides, Yad, Issurei Bi'ah 21:8). The less punitive attitude of the Halakhah to the female homosexual than to the male does not reflect any intrinsic judgment on one as opposed to the other, but is rather the result of a halakhic technicality: there is no explicit Biblical proscription of lesbianism, and the act does not entail genital intercourse (Maimonides, loc. cit.).

The Halakhah holds that the ban on homosexuality applies universally, to non-Jew as well as to Jew (Sanh 58a: Maimonides, Melakhim 9:5, 6). It is one of the six instances of arayot (sexual transgressions) forbidden to the Noachide (Maimonides, ibid).

Most halakhic authorities - such as Rashba and Ritba - agree with Maimonides. A minority opinion holds that pederasty and buggery are "ordinary" prohibitions rather than arayot - specifically sexual infractions which demand that one submit to martyrdom rather than violate the law - but the Jerusalem Talmud supports the majority opinion. (See D. M. Krozer, Devar Ha-Melekh, I, 22, 23 (1962), who also suggests that Maimonides may support a distinction whereby the "male" or active homosexual partner is held in violation of arayot whereas the passive or "female" partner transgresses issur, an ordinary prohibition.)
Reasons of Prohibition

Why does the Torah forbids homosexuality? Bearing in mind that reasons proffered for the various commandments are not to be accepted as determinative, but as human efforts to explain immutable divine law, the rabbis of the Talmud and later Talmudists did offer a number of illuminating rationales for the law.

As stated, the Torah condemns homosexuality as to'evah, an abomination. The Talmud records the interpretation of Bar Kapparah who, in a play on words, defined to'evah as to'eh attah bah. "You are going astray because of it" (Nedarim 51a). The exact meaning of this passage is unclear, and various explanations have been put forward.

The Pesikta (Zutarta) explains the statement of Bar Kapparah as referring to the impossibility of such a sexual resulting in procreation. One of the major functions (if not the major purpose) of sexuality is reproduction, and this reason for man's sexual endowment is frustrated by mishkav zakhur (so too Sefer ha-Hinnukh, no. 209).

Another interpretation is that of the Tosafot and R. Asher ben Jehiel (in their commentaries to Ned. 51a) which applies the "going astray" or wandering to the homosexual's abandoning his wife. In other words, the abomination consists of the danger that a married man with homosexual tendencies may disrupt his family life in order to indulge his perversions. Saadiah Gaon holds the rational basis of most of the Bible's moral legislation to be the preservation of the family structure (Emunot ve-De'ot 3:1: cf. Yoma 9a). (This argument assumes contemporary cogency in the light of the avowed aim of some gay militants to destroy the family, which they consider an "oppressive institution.")

A third explanation is given by a modern scholar, Rabbi Baruch Ha-Levi Epstein (Torah Temimah to Lev. 18:22), who emphasizes the unnaturalness of the homosexual liaison: "You are going astray from the foundations of the creation." Mishkav zakhur defies the very structure of the anatomy of the sexes, which quite obviously was designed for heterosexual relationships.

It may be, however, that the very variety of interpretations of to'evah points to a far more fundamental meaning, namely, that an act characterized as an "abomination" is prima facie disgusting and cannot be further defined or explained. Certain acts are considered to'evah by the Torah, and there the matter rests. It is, as it were, a visceral reaction, an intuitive disqualification of the act, and we run the risk of distorting the Biblical judgment if we rationalize it. To'evah constitutes a category of objectionableness sui generis: it is a primary phenomenon. (This lends additional force to Rabbi David Z. Hoffmann's contention that to'evah is used by the Torah to indicate the repulsiveness of a proscribed act, no matter how much it may be in vogue among advanced and sophisticated cultures: see his Sefer Va-yikra, II, p. 54.).
Jewish Attitudes

It is on the basis of the above that an effort must be made to formulate a Jewish response to the problems of homosexuality in the conditions under which most Jews live today, namely, those of free and democratic societies and, with the exception of Israel, non-Jewish lands and traditions.

Four general approaches may be adopted:1) Repressive: No leniency toward the homosexual, lest the moral fiber of the rest of society be weakened. 2) Practical: Dispense with imprisonment and all forms of social harassment, for eminently practical and prudent reasons. 3) Permissive: The same as the above, but for the ideological reasons, viz., the acceptance of homosexuality as a legitimate alternative "lifestyle." 4) Psychological: Homosexuality, in at least some forms, should be recognized as a disease and this recognition must determine our attitude toward the homosexual.

Let us consider each of these critically.
Repressive Attitude

Exponents of the most stringent approach hold that pederasts are the vanguard of moral malaise, especially in our society. For on thing, they are dangerous to children. According to a recent work, one third of the homosexuals in the study were seduced in their adolescence by adults. It is best for society that they be imprisoned, and if our present penal institutions are faulty, let them be improved. Homosexuals should certainly not be permitted to function as teachers, group leaders, rabbis, or in any other capacity where they might be models for, and come into close contact with, young people. Homosexuality must not be excused as a sickness. A sane society assumes that its members have free choice, and are therefore responsible for their conduct. Sex offenders, including homosexuals, according to another recent study, operate "at a primate level with the philosophy that necessity is the mother of improvisation." As Jews who believe that the Torah legislated certain moral laws for all mankind, it is incumbent upon us to encourage all societies, including non-Jewish ones, to implement the Noachide laws. And since, according to the halakhah, homosexuality is prohibited to Noachides as well as to Jews, we must seek to strengthen the moral quality of society by encouraging more restrictive laws against homosexuals. Moreover, if we are loyal to the teachings of Judaism, we cannot distinguish between "victimless" crimes and crimes of violence. Hence, if our concern for the murder, racial oppression, or robbery, we must do no less with regard to sodomy.

This argument is, however, weak on a number of grounds. Practically, it fails to take into cognizance the number of homosexuals of all categories, which, as we have pointed out, is vast. We cannot possibly imprison all offenders, and it is a manifest miscarriage of justice to vent our spleen only on the few unfortunates who are caught by the police. It is inconsistent because there has been no comparable outcry for harsh sentencing of other transgressors of sexual morality, such as those who indulge in adultery or incest. To take consistency to its logical conclusion, this hard line on homosexuality should not stop with imprisonment but demand the death sentence, as is Biblically prescribed. And why not the same death sentence for blasphemy, eating a limb torn from a live animal, idolatry, robbery -all of which are Noachide commandments? And why not capital punishment for Sabbath transgressors in the State of Israel? Why should the pederast be singled out for opprobrium and be made an object lesson while all others escape?

Those who might seriously consider such logically consistent, but socially destructive, strategies had best think back to the fate of that Dominican reformer, the monk Girolamo Savonarola, who in 15th-century Florence undertook a fanatical campaign against vice and all suspected of venal sin, with emphasis on pederasty. The society of that time and place, much like ours, could stand vast improvement. But too much medicine in too strong doses was the monk's prescription, whereupon the population rioted and the zealot was hanged.

Finally, there is indeed some halakhic warrant for distinguishing between violent and victimless (or consensual and non-consensual) crimes. Thus, the Talmud permits a passer-by to kill a man in pursuit of another man or of a woman when the pursuer is attempting homosexual or heterosexual rape, as the case may be, whereas this is not permitted in the case of a transgressor pursuing an animal to commit buggery or on his way to worship an idol or to violate the Sabbath, (Sanh. 8:7, and v. Rashi to Sanh. 73a, s.v. al ha-behemah).
Practical Attitude

The practical approach is completely pragmatic and attempts to steer clear of any ideology in its judgments and recommendations. It is, according to its advocates, eminently reasonable. Criminal laws requiring punishment for homosexuals are simply unenforceable in society at the present day. We have previously cited the statistics on the extremely high incidence of pederasty in our society. Kinsey once said of the many sexual acts outlawed by the various states, that, were they all enforced, some 95% of men in the United States would be in jail. Furthermore, the special prejudice of law enforcement authorities against homosexuals - rarely does one hear of police entrapment or of jail sentences for non-violent heterosexuals - breeds a grave injustice: namely, it is an invitation to blackmail. The law concerning sodomy has been called "the blackmailer's charter." It is universally agreed that prison does little to help the homosexual rid himself of his peculiarity. Certainly, the failure of rehabilitation ought to be of concern to civilized men. But even if it is not, and the crime be considered so serious that incarceration is deemed advisable even in the absence of any real chances of rehabilitation, the casual pederast almost always leaves prison as a confirmed criminal. He has been denied the company of women and forced into society of those whose sexual expression is almost always channeled to pederasty. The casual pederast has become a habitual one: his homosexuality has now been ingrained in him. Is society any safer for having taken an errant man and, in the course of a few years, for having taught him to transform his deviancy into a hard and fast perversion, then turning him loose on the community? Finally, from a Jewish point of view, since it is obviously impossible for us to impose the death penalty for sodomy, we may as well act on purely practical grounds and do away with all legislation and punishment in this area of personal conduct.

This reasoning is tempting precisely because it focuses directly on the problem and is free of any ideological commitments. But the problem with it is that it is too smooth, too easy. By the same reasoning one might, in a reductio ad absurdum do away with all laws on income tax evasion, or forgive, and dispense with all punishment of Nazi murders. Furthermore, the last element leaves us with a novel view of the Halakhah: if it cannot be implemented in its entirely, it ought to be abandoned completely. Surely the Noachide laws, perhaps above all others, place us under clear moral imperatives, over and above purely penological instructions? The very practicality of this position leaves it open to the charge of evading the very real moral issues, and for Jews the halakhic principles, entailed in any discussion of homosexuality.
Permissive Attitude

The ideological advocacy of a completely permissive attitude toward consensual homosexuality and the acceptance of its moral legitimacy is, of course, the "in" fashion in sophisticated liberal circles. Legally, it holds that deviancy is none of the law's business; the homosexual's civil rights are as sacred as those of any other "minority group." From the psychological angle, sexuality must be emancipated from the fetters of guilt induced by religion and code-morality, and its idiosyncratic nature must be confirmed.

Gay Liberationists aver that the usual "straight" attitude toward homosexuality is based on three fallacies or myths: that homosexuality is an illness; that it is unnatural; and that it is immoral. They argue that it cannot be considered an illness, because so many people have been shown to practice it. It is not unnatural, because its alleged unnaturalness derives from the impossibility of sodomy leading to reproduction, whereas our overpopulated society no longer needs to breed workers, soldiers, farmers, or hunters. And it is not immoral, first, because morality is relative, and secondly, because moral behavior is that characterized by "selfless, loving concern."

Now, we are here concerned with the sexual problem as such, and not with homosexuality as a symbol of the whole contemporary ideological polemic against restraint and tradition. Homosexuality is too important - and too agonizing - a human problem to allow it to be exploited for political aims or entertainment or shock value.

The bland assumption that pederasty cannot be considered an illness because of the large number of people who have or express homosexual tendencies cannot stand up under criticism. No less an authority than Freud taught that a whole civilization can be neurotic. Erich Fromm appeals for the establishment of The Sane Society - because ours is not. If the majority of a nation are struck down by typhoid fever, does this condition, by so curious a calculus of semantics, become healthy? Whether or not homosexuality can be considered an illness is a serious question, and it does depend on one's definition of health and illness. But mere statistics are certainly not the coup de grâce to the psychological argument, which will be discussed shortly.

The validation of gay life as "natural" on the basis of changing social and economic conditions is an act of verbal obfuscation. Even if we were to concur with the widely held feeling that the world's population is dangerously large, and that Zero Population Growth is now a desideratum, the anatomical fact remains unchanged: the generative organs are structured for generation. If the words "natural" and "unnatural" have any meaning at all, they must be rooted in the unchanging reality of man's sexual apparatus rather than in his ephemeral social configurations.

Militant feminists along with the gay activists react vigorously against the implication that natural structure implies the naturalness or unnaturalness of certain acts, but this very view has recently been confirmed by one of the most informed writers on the subject. "It is already pretty safe to infer from laboratory research and ethological parallels that male and female are wired in ways that relate to our traditional sex roles... Freud dramatically said that anatomy is destiny. Scientists who shudder at the dramatic, no matter how accurate, could rephrase this: anatomy is functional, body functions have profound psychological meanings to people, and anatomy and function are often socially elaborated" (Arno Karlen, Sexuality and Homosexuality, p. 501).

The moral issues lead us into the quagmire of perennial philosophical disquisitions of a fundamental nature. In a way, this facilitates the problem for one seeking a Jewish view. Judaism does not accept the kind of thoroughgoing relativism used to justify the gay life as merely an alternate lifestyle. And while the question of human autonomy is certainly worthy of consideration in the area of sexuality, one must beware of the consequences of taking the argument to its logical extreme. Judaism clearly cherishes holiness as a greater value than either freedom or health. Furthermore, if every individual's autonomy leads us to lend moral legitimacy to any form of sexual expression he may desire, we must be ready to pull the blanket of this moral validity over almost the whole catalogue of perversion described by Krafft-Ebing, and then, by the legerdemain of granting civil rights to the morally non-objectionable, permit the advocates of buggery, fetishism, or whatever to proselytize in public. In that case, why not in the school system? And if consent is obtained before the death of one partner, why not necrophilia or cannibalism? Surely, if we declare pederasty to be merely idiosyncratic and not an "abomination," what right have we to condemn sexually motivated cannibalism - merely because most people would react with revulsion and disgust?

"Loving, selfless concern" and "meaningful personal relationships" - the great slogans of the New Morality and the exponents of situation ethics - have become the litany of sodomy in our times. Simple logic should permit us to use the same criteria for excusing adultery or any other act heretofore held to be immoral: and indeed, that is just what has been done, and it has received the sanction not only of liberals and humanists, but of certain religionists as well. "Love," "fulfillment," "exploitative," "meaningful" - the list itself sounds like a lexicon of emotionally charged terms drawn at random from the disparate sources of both Christian and psychologically-orientated agnostic circles. Logically, we must ask the next question: what moral depravities can not be excused by the sole criterion of "warm, meaningful human relations" or "fulfillment," the newest semantic heirs to "love"?

Love, fulfillment, and happiness can also be attained in incestuous contacts - and certainly in polygamous relationships. Is there nothing at all left that is "sinful," "unnatural," or "immoral" if it is practiced "between two consenting adults?" For religious groups to aver that a homosexual relationship should be judged by the same criteria as a heterosexual one - i.e., "whether it is intended to foster a permanent relationship of love" - is to abandon the last claim of representing the "Judeo-Christian tradition."

I have elsewhere essayed a criticism of the situationalists, their use of the term "love," and their objections to traditional morality as exemplified by the Halakhah as "mere legalism" (see my Faith and Doubt, chapter IX, p. 249 ff). Situationalists, such as Joseph Fletcher, have especially attacked "pilpolistic Rabbis" for remaining entangled in the coils of statutory and legalistic hairsplitting. Among the other things this typically Christian polemic reveals is an ignorance of the nature of Halakhah and its place in Judaism, which never held that law was totality of life, pleaded again and again for supererogatory conduct, recognized that individuals may be disadvantaged by the law, and which strove to rectify what could be rectified without abandoning the large majority to legal and moral chaos simply because of the discomfiture of the few.

Clearly, while Judaism needs no defense or apology in regard to its esteem for neighborly love and compassion for the individual sufferer, it cannot possibly abide a wholesale dismissal of its most basic moral principles on the grounds that those subject to its judgments find them repressive. All laws are repressive to some extent - they repress illegal activities - and all morality is concerned with changing man and improving him and his society. Homosexuality imposes on one an intolerable burden of differentness, of absurdity, and of loneliness, but the Biblical commandment outlawing pederasty cannot be put aside solely on the basis of sympathy for the victim of these feelings. Morality, too, is an element which each of us, given his sensuality, his own idiosyncracies, and his immoral proclivities, must take into serious consideration before acting out his impulses.
Psychological Attitudes

Several years ago I recommended that Jews regard homosexual deviance as a pathology, thus reconciling the insights of Jewish tradition with the exigencies of contemporary life and scientific information, such as it is, on the nature of homosexuality (Jewish Life, Jan-Feb. 1968). The remarks that follow are an expansion and modification of that position, together with some new data and notions.

The proposal that homosexuality be viewed as an illness will immediately be denied by three groups of people. Gay militants object to this view as an instance of heterosexual condescension. Evelyn Hooker and her group of psychologists maintain that homosexuals are no more pathological in their personality structures than heterosexuals. And psychiatrists Thomas Szasz in the U.S. and Ronald Laing in England reject all traditional ideas of mental sickness and health as tools of social repressiveness or, at best, narrow conventionalism. While granting that there are indeed unfortunate instances where the category of mental disease is exploited for social or political reasons, we part company with all three groups and assume that there are significant number of pederasts and lesbians who, by the criteria accepted by most psychologists and psychiatrists, can indeed be termed pathological. Thus, for instance, Dr. Albert Ellis, an ardent advocate of the right to deviancy, denies there is such a thing as a well-adjusted homosexual. In an interview, he has stated that whereas he used to believe that most homosexuals were neurotic, he is now convinced that about 50% are borderline psychotics, that the usual fixed male homosexual is a severe phobic, and that lesbians are even more disturbed than male homosexuals (see Karlem, op. cit., p. 223ff.).

No single cause of homosexuality has been established. In all probability, it is based on a conglomeration of a number of factors. There is overwhelming evidence that the condition is developmental, not constitutional. Despite all efforts to discover something genetic in homosexuality, no proof has been adduced, and researchers incline more and more to reject the Freudian concept of fundamental human biological bisexuality and its corollary of homosexual latency. It is now widely believed that homosexuality is the result of a whole family constellation. The passive, dependent, phobic male homosexual is usually the product of an aggressive, covertly seductive mother who is overly rigid and puritanical with her son - thus forcing him into a bond where he is sexually aroused, yet forbidden to express himself in any heterosexual way - and of a father who is absent, remote, emotionally detached, or hostile (I. Bieber et al. Homosexuality, 1962).

Can the homosexual be cured? There is a tradition of therapeutic pessimism that goes back to Freud but a number of psychoanalysis, including Freud's daughter Anna, have reported successes in treating homosexuals as any other phobics (in this case, fear of the female genitals). It is generally accepted that about a third of all homosexuals can be completely cured: behavioral therapists report an even larger number of cures.

Of course, one cannot say categorically that all homosexuals are sick - any more than one can casually define all thieves as kleptomaniacs. In order to develop a reasonable Jewish approach to the problem and to seek in the concept of illness some mitigating factor, it is necessary first to establish the main types of homosexuals. Dr. Judd Marmor speaks of four categories. "Genuine homosexuality" is based on strong preferential erotic feelings for members of the same sex. "Transitory homosexual behavior" occurs among adolescents who would prefer heterosexual experiences but are denied such opportunities because of the social, cultural, or psychological reasons. "Situational homosexual exchanges" are characteristic of prisoners, soldiers and others who are heterosexual but are denied access to women for long periods of time. "Transitory and opportunistic homosexuality" is that of delinquent young men who permit themselves to be used by pederasts in order to make money or win other favors, although their primary erotic interests are exclusively heterosexual. To these may be added, for purposes of our analysis, two other types. The first category, that of genuine homosexuals, me be said to comprehend two sub-categories: those who experience their condition as one of duress or uncontrollable passion which they would rid themselves of if they could, and those who transform their idiosyncrasy into an ideology, i.e., the gay militants who assert the legitimacy and validity of homosexuality as an alternative way to heterosexuality. The sixth category is based on what Dr. Rollo May has called "the New Puritanism", the peculiarly modern notion that one must experience all sexual pleasures, whether or not one feels inclined to them, as if the failure to taste every cup passed at the sumptuous banquet of carnal life means that one has not truly lived. Thus, we have transitory homosexual behavior not of adolescents, but of adults who feel that: they must "try everything" at least once or more than once in their lives.
A Possible Halakhic Solution

This rubric will now permit us to apply the notion of disease (and, from the halakhic point of view, of its opposite, moral culpability) to the various types of sodomy. Clearly, genuine homosexuality experienced under duress (Hebrew: ones) most obviously lends itself to being termed pathological especially where dysfunction appears in other aspects of personality. Opportunistic homosexuality, ideological homosexuality, and transitory adult homosexuality are at the other end of the spectrum, and appear most reprehensible. As for the intermediate categories, while they cannot be called illness, they do have a greater claim on our sympathy than the three types mentioned above.

In formulating the notion of homosexuality as a disease, we are not asserting the formal halakhic definition of mental illness as mental incompetence, as described in TB Hag. 3b, 4a, and elsewhere. Furthermore, the categorization of a prohibited sex act as ones (duress) because of uncontrolled passions is valid, in a technical halakhic sense, only for a married woman who was ravished and who, in the course of the act, became a willing participant. The Halakhah decides with Rava, against the father of Samuel, that her consent is considered duress because of the passions aroused in her (Ket, 51b). However, this holds true only if the act was initially entered into under physical compulsion (Kesef Mishneh to Yad, Sanh. 20:3). Moreover, the claim of compulsion by one's erotic passions is not valid for a male, for any erection is considered a token of his willingness (Yev, 53b; Maimonides, Yad, Sanh, 20:3). In the case of a male who was forced to cohabit with a woman forbidden to him, some authorities consider him guilty and punishable, while others hold him guilty but not subject to punishment by the courts (Tos., Yev, 53b; Hinnukh, 556; Kesef Mishneh, loc. cit.: Maggid Mishneh to Issurei Bi´ah, 1:9). Where a male is sexually aroused in a permissible manner, as to begin coitus with his wife and is then forced to conclude the act with another woman, most authorities exonerate him (Rabad and Maggid Mishned, to Issurei Bi´ah, in loc). If, now, the warped family background of the genuine homosexual is considered ones, the homosexual act may possibly lay claim to some mitigation by the Halakhah. (However, see Minhat Hinnukh, 556, end; and M. Feinstein, Iggerot Moshe (1973) on YD, no. 59, who holds, in a different context, that any pleasure derived from a forbidden act performed under duress increases the level of prohibition. This was anticipated by R. Joseph Engel, Atvan de-Oraita, 24). These latter sources indicate the difficulty of exonerating sexual transgressors because of psycho-pathological reasons under the technical rules of the Halakhah.

However, in the absence of a Sanhedrin and since it is impossible to implement the whole halakhic penal system, including capital punishment, such strict applications are unnecessary. What we are attempting is to develop guidelines, based on the Halakhah, which will allow contemporary Jews to orient themselves to the current problems of homosexuality in a manner articulating with the most fundamental insights of the Halakhah in a general sense, and consistent with the broadest world-view that the halakhic commitment instills in its followers. Thus, the aggadic statement that "no man sins unless he is overcome by a spirit of madness" (Sot. 3a) is not an operative halakhic rule, but does offer guidance on public policy and individual pastoral compassion. So in the present case, the formal halakhic strictures do not in any case apply nowadays, and it is our contention that the aggadic principle must lead us to seek out the mitigating halakhic elements so as to guide us in our orientation to homosexuals who, by the standards of modern psychology, may be regarded as acting under compulsion.

To apply the Halakhah strictly in this case is obviously impossible; to ignore it entirely is undesirable, and tantamount to regarding Halakhah as a purely abstract, legalistic system which can safely be dismissed where its norms and prescriptions do not allow full formal implementation. Admittedly, the method is not rigorous, and leaves room to varying interpretations as well as exegetical abuse, but it is the best we can do.

Hence there are types of homosexuality that do not warrant any special considerateness, because the notion of ones or duress (i.e., disease) in no way applies. Where the category of mental illness does apply, the act itself remains to’evah (an abomination), but the fact of illness lays upon us the obligation of pastoral compassion, psychological understanding, and social sympathy. In these sense, homosexuality is no different from any other social or anti-halakhic act, where it is legitimate to distinguish between the objective itself including its social and moral consequences, and the mentality and inner development of the person who perpetrates the act. For instance, if a man murders in a cold and calculating fashion for reasons of profit, the act is criminal and the transgressor is criminal. If, however, a psychotic murders, the transgressor is diseased rather than criminal, but the objective act itself remains a criminal one. The courts may therefore treat the perpetrator of the crime as they would a patient, with all the concomitant compassion and concern for therapy, without condoning the act as being morally neutral. To use halakhic terminology, the objective crime remains a ma’aseh averah, whereas a person who transgresses is considered innocent on the grounds of ones. In such case, the transgressor is spared the full legal consequences of his culpable act, although the degree to which he may be held responsible varies from case to case.

An example of a criminal act that is treated with compassion by the Halakhah, which in practice considers the act pathological rather than criminal, is suicide. Technically, the suicide or attempted suicide is in violation of the law. The Halakhah denies to the suicide the honor of a eulogy, the rending of the garments by relatives or witnesses to the death, and (according to Maimonides) insist that the relatives are not to observe the usual mourning period for the suicide. Yet, in the course of time, the tendency has been to remove the stigma from the suicide on the basis of mental disease. Thus, halakhic scholars do not apply the technical category of intentional (la-da’at) suicide to one who did not clearly demonstrate before performing the act, that he knew what he was doing and was of sound mind, to the extent that there was no hiatus between the act of self-destruction and actual death. If these conditions are not present, we assume that it was an insane act or that between the act and death he experienced pangs of contrition and is therefore repentant, hence excused before the law. There is even one opinion which exonerates the suicide unless he received adequate warning (hatra’ah) before performing the act, and responded in a manner indicating that he was fully aware of what he was doing and that he was lucid (J.M Tykocinski, Gesher ha-Hayyim, I, ch. 25, and Encyclopaedia Judaica, 15:490).

Admittedly, there are differences between the two cases: pederasty is clearly a severe violation of Biblical law, whereas the stricture against suicide is derived exegetically from a verse in the Genesis. Nevertheless, the principle operative in the one is applicable to the other: where one can attribute an act to mental illness, it is done out of simple humanitarian considerations.

The suicide analogy should not, of course, lead one to conclude that there are grounds for a blanket exculpation of homosexuality as mental illness. Not all forms of homosexuality can be so termed, as indicated above, and the act itself remains an "abomination". With few exceptions, most people do not ordinarily propose that suicide be considered an acceptable and legitimate alternative to the rigors of daily life. No sane and moral person sits passively and watches a fellow man attempt suicide because he "understands" him and because it has been decided that suicide is a "morally neutral" act. By the same token, in orienting ourselves to certain types of homosexuals as patients rather than criminals, we do not condone the act but attempt to help the homosexual. Under no circumstances can Judaism suffer homosexuality to become respectable. Were society to give its open or even tacit approval to homosexuality, it would invite more aggressiveness on the part of adult pederasts toward young people. Indeed, in the currently permissive atmosphere, the Jewish view would summon us to the semantic courage of referring to homosexuality not as "deviance" with the implication of moral neutrality and non-judgmental idiosyncrasy, but as "perversion" - a less clinical and more old-fashioned word, perhaps, but one that is more in keeping with the Biblical to’evah.

Yet, having passed this moral judgment, we cannot in the name of Judaism necessarily demand that we strive for the harshest possible punishment. Even where it was halakhically feasible to execute capital punishment, we have a tradition of leniency. Thus, R. Akiva and R. Tarfon declared that had they lived during the time of the Sanhedrin, they never would have executed a man. Although the Halakhah does not decide in their favor (Mak., end of ch. I), it was rare indeed that the death penalty was actually imposed. Usually, the Biblically mandated penalty was regarded as an index of the severity of the transgression, and the actual execution was avoided by strict insistence upon all technical requirements - such al hatra’ah (forewarning the potential criminal) and rigorous cross-examination of witnesses, etc. In the same spirit, we are not bound to press for the most punitive policy toward contemporary lawbreakers. We are required to lead them to rehabilitation (teshuva). The Halakhah sees no contradiction between condemning a man to death and exercising compassion, even love, toward him (Sanh. 52a). Even a man on the way to his execution was encouraged to repent (Sanh. 6:2). In the absence of a death penalty, the tradition of teshuva and pastoral compassion to the sinner continues.

I do not find any warrant in the Jewish tradition for insisting on prison sentences for homosexuals. The singling-out of homosexuals as victims of society's righteous indignation is patently unfair. In Western history, anti-homosexual crusades have too often been marked by cruelty, destruction, and bigotry. Imprisonment in modern times has proven to be extremely haphazard. The number of homosexuals unfortunate enough to be apprehended is infinitesimal as compared to the number of known homosexuals; estimates vary from one to 300.000 to one to 6.000.000!. For homosexuals to be singled out for special punishment while all the rest of society indulges itself in every other form of sexual malfeasance (using the definitions of Halakhah, not the New Morality) is a species of double-standard morality that the spirit of Halakhah cannot abide. Thus, the Mishnah declares that the "scroll of the suspected adulteress" (megillat sotah) - whereby a wife suspected of adultery was forced to undergo the test of "bitter waters" - was cancelled when the Sages became aware of the ever-larger number of adulterers in general (Sot. 9:9). The Talmud bases this decision on an aversion to the double standard: if the husband is himself an adulterer, the "bitter waters" will have no effect on his wife, even though she too be guilty of the offense (Sot. 47b). By the same token, a society in which heterosexual immorality is not conspicuously absent has no moral right to sit in stern judgment and mete out harsh penalties to homosexuals.

Furthermore, sending a homosexual to prison is counterproductive if punishment is to contain any element of rehabilitation or teshuva. It has rightly been compared to sending an alcoholic to a distillery. The Talmud records that the Sanhedrin was unwilling to apply the full force of the law where punishment had lost its quality of deterrence; thus, 40 (or four) years before the destruction of the Temple, the Sanhedrin voluntarily left the precincts of the Temple so as not to be able, technically, to impose the death sentence, because it had noticed the increasing rate of homicide (Sanh. 41a, and elsewhere).

There is nothing in the Jewish law's letter or spirit that should incline us toward advocacy of imprisonment for homosexuals. The Halakhah did not, by and large, encourage the denial of freedom as a recommended form of punishment. Flogging is, from a certain perspective, far less cruel and far more enlightened. Since capital punishment is out of the question, and since incarceration is not an advisable substitute, we are left with one absolute minimum: strong disapproval of the proscribed act. But we are not bound to any specific penological instrument that has no basis in Jewish law or tradition.

How shall this disapproval be expressed? It has been suggested that, since homosexuality will never attain acceptance anyway, society can afford to be humane. As long as violence and the seduction of children are not involved, it would best to abandon all laws on homosexuality and leave it to the inevitable social sanctions to control, informally, what can be controlled.

However, this approach is not consonant with Jewish tradition. The repeal of anti-homosexual laws implies the removal of the stigma from homosexuality, and this diminution of social censure weakens society in its training of the young toward acceptable patterns of conduct. The absence of adequate social reproach may well encourage the expression of homosexual tendencies by those in whom they might otherwise be suppressed. Law itself has an educative function, and the repeal of laws, no matter how justifiable such repeal may be from one point of view, does have the effect of signaling the acceptability of greater permissiveness.
Some New Proposals

Perhaps all that has been said above can best be expressed in the proposals that follow.

First, society and government must recognize the distinctions between the various categories enumerated earlier in this essay. We must offer medical and psychological assistance to those whose homosexuality is an expression of pathology, who recognize it as such, and are willing to seek help. We must be no less generous to the homosexual than to the drug addict, to whom the government extends various forms of therapy upon request.

Second, jail sentences must be abolished for all homosexuals, save those who are guilty of violence, seduction of the young, or public solicitation.

Third, the laws must remain on the books, but by mutual consent of judiciary and police, be unenforced. This approximates to what lawyers call "the chilling effect", and is the nearest one can come to the category so well known in the Halakhah, whereby strong disapproval is expressed by affirming a halakhic prohibition, yet no punishment is mandated. It is a category that bridges the gap between morality and law. In a society where homosexuality is so rampant, and where incarceration is so counterproductive, the hortatory approach may well be a way of formalizing society's revulsion while avoiding the pitfalls in our accepted penology.

For the Jewish community as such, the same principles, derived from the tradition, may serve as guidelines. Judaism allows for no compromise in its abhorrence of sodomy, but encourages both compassion and efforts at rehabilitation. Certainly, there must be no acceptance of separate Jewish homosexual societies, such as - or specially - synagogues set aside as homosexual congregations. The first such "gay synagogue", apparently, was the "Beth Chayim Chadashim" in Los Angeles. Spawned by that city's Metropolitan Community Church in March 1972, the founding group constituted itself as a Reform congregation with the help of the Pacific Southwest Council of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations some time in early 1973. Thereafter, similar groups surfaced in New York City and elsewhere. The original group meets on Friday evenings in the Leo Baeck Temple and is searching for a rabbi - who must himself be "gay". The membership sees itself as justified by "the Philosophy of Reform Judaism". The Temple president declared that God is "more concerned in our finding a sense of peace in which to make a better world, than He is in whom someone sleeps with" (cited in "Judaism and Homosexuality" C.C.A.R. Journal, summer 1973, p. 38; five articles in this issue of the Reform group's rabbinic journal are devoted to the same theme, and most of them approve of the Gay Synagogue).

But such reasoning is specious, to say the least. Regular congregations and other Jewish groups should not hesitate to accord hospitality and membership, on an individual basis, to those "visible" homosexuals who qualify for the category of the ill. Homosexuals are no less in violation of Jewish norms than Sabbath desecrators or those who disregard the laws of kashrut. But to assent to the organization of separate "gay" groups under Jewish auspices makes no more sense, Jewishly, than to suffer the formation of synagogues that care exclusively to idol worshipers, adulterers, gossipers, tax evaders, or Sabbath violators. Indeed, it makes less sense, because it provides, under religious auspices, a ready-made clientele from which the homosexual can more easily choose his partners.

In remaining true to the sources of Jewish tradition. Jews are commanded to avoid the madness that seizes society at various times and in many forms, while yet retaining a moral composure and psychological equilibrium sufficient to exercise that combination of discipline and charity that is the hallmark of Judaism.

Source: Norman Lamm, “Judaism and the Modern Attitude to Homosexuality” in Encyclopedia Judaica Yearbook 1974 (194-205). Jerusalem: Keter.

JONAH'S Psycho-Educational Model for Healing
Author / Contributor :: ELAINE SILODOR BERK & ARTHUR A. GOLDBERG JONAH Co-Directors


Science and religion often clash, and rarely are they used to prove one another in modern times.

The authors wish to acknowledge the input of Martin Pressman, a facilitator in the JONAH program, for developing several of the concepts set forth in this article and for his help in editing this article.

"I continue to be amazed at what I experienced. The kindness, compassion and love from each man was apparent. All of them courageous - choosing to fight this battle. I can honestly say I slaughtered several of the demons inside of me which have been blocking my growth for years. I know that I am a different person now. I feel different. I think differently and one of the guys even told me that I look different. I am so certain that this battle can not only be fought but won."

(Response of a JONAH member after attending a Journey into Manhood Weekend, as reported on the JONAH @ shamash listserv.)

"I will be doing some mundane chore when I'll bust up laughing because I know I'm a man! This is such a powerful thing for me to realize. It's what I've lusted for in others for so long, and I now I have it myself. This is so-o-o cool! I am a man among men. NEVER did I think I could say that, or know it in the core of my being, but I'm there … and I LOVE IT! I welcome it and own it, and feel it."
(Response of a JONAH member after attending a New Warrior Training Adventure Weekend, as reported on the JONAH @ shamash listserv.)


These quotes are representative of similar sentiments expressed by our members who have participated in the gender-affirming processes ("GAP") espoused by JONAH. Gender empowerment, rather than homosexuality or androgyny, is the ideal we seek and although we are a relatively new organization, we believe that the results demonstrated by our members should be shared with the therapeutic community. We believe our experiences are not only replicable but will help others gain new insights and tools to help their clients.

JONAH, Jews offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, is the first organization dedicated to educating the world-wide Jewish community about the prevention, intervention, and healing of the issues surrounding homosexuality. While JONAH works closely with other religious and secular groups which share our viewpoint that same sex attraction (SSA) is treatable through a strategy of inner healing for those who are motivated to change, we are developing our own comprehensive psycho-educational healing strategy. We believe our model holds great promise for achieving the healing desired by our members or others who utilize it. Although Dr. Joseph Nicolosi has written about a number of these therapeutic procedures in Reparative Therapy for Male Homosexuality, and others have spoken about them at NARTH conferences, we have been fortunate to see how these strategies effectively interact when used as part of a comprehensive plan of healing SSA.

This holistic strategy of combining elements from several gender-affirming processes ("GAP:" a program designed to fill in the developmental gaps) has been praised by our members who noted a synergistic effect which in turn resulted in an acceleration of their healing. When these various aspects of the healing model are combined, particularly when compared to those who only received individual private therapy, we found a marked difference in the ability of the struggler to achieve changes in identity, behavior, arousals, and fantasies. In fact, the experiential, spiritual and emotional work done by the client outside of the therapist's office was reported to be critically important to implement the cognitive understandings he may receive during the therapy session. However, even at the cognitive level, a variety of additional resources (such as bibliotherapy or participation in support groups, whether in-person, teleconferenced, or e-groups) accelerated the recovery of the client.

In fact, this holistic approach to intervention resulted in accessing a member's inner drives, dismantling his defenses, intensifying his affective involvement in the treatment, identifying the transference patterns and projections as they arise, and unlocking the unconsciousness. Analogous to certain aspects of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP), as developed by Habib Davanloo and Patricia Coughlin Della Selva, this approach appears to shorten the time frame needed for a client to achieve an enduring change for his unwanted same-sex attractions.

Impressive progress in overcoming same-sex attractions and regaining masculine identity has been reported by several of our participating male members.(A separate article will report on which healing strategies our women members found most effective.) Since motivation is a key element in what traditionally has been a relatively long treatment process for healing SSA, the measurable and attainable progress as occurs within this "gap" approach is critical in sustaining the perseverance needed to continue the process.
The gender-affirming process is completed when a man comes to own his masculine power and takes his place as an equal in the world of men.

To encourage therapists and faith-based ministries to utilize these multiple healing strategies when treating men with homosexual attractions, we are providing brief descriptions of several facets of JONAH's gender affirming process for healing. For more detailed information, please feel free to contact our organization. For the purposes of this discussion, we have listed our healing strategies in alphabetical order:

Experiential Healing Weekends
Healing of the Family System
Individual Psychotherapy
Jewish Spiritual Development
Masculinity Development and Empowerment
Networking, Support Groups, Daily Internet E-Mail Listserv
Overcoming Shame and Narcissism
Receiving Healthy Touch and Affection

We'd like to explain that through our in-take interviews, we were dismayed to find several clients who had either been in therapy for SSA for several years or who had participated in certain programs of other faith-based ministries but had no idea about the wealth of resources available.

All too often we found clients who were never informed about books which could help them understand the origins of their feelings or from which they could learn how others healed from many of the same wounds which precipitated their same-sex attraction. We also found a lack of knowledge about helpful websites, group support meetings, and mentoring programs. Most of them never participated in the experiential weekends nor did they even know of their existence.

In other cases, many religiously observant clients maintained an erroneous belief that faith alone, without any psychological assistance, would bring about the desired healing. Our observation is that in these cases, all too often, simply a repression of behavior occurred without an effective treatment of fantasies or arousals.

Our belief is that therapists working with those struggling with unwanted SSA should encourage their clients to avail themselves of the numerous resources now available in addition to individual therapy. We were surprised to learn from many of our members that numerous therapists (a) never informed them about available resources outside the therapy session nor (b) provided any encouragement to participate in those activities. Our experience has shown that strugglers experience an exponential leap forward when they use our psycho-educational model as a check list to assure themselves that they are doing everything possible to accelerate the healing process.


As Dr. Joseph Nicolosi points out in his book, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality:A New Clinical Approach (p.204), the therapeutic utilization of books, reading materials, tapes, video cassettes and other educational sources permits the individual struggling with SSA to gain several beneficial insights. These include: (a) The knowledge gained from biographical information of recovered homosexuals lends credence to their own struggle and prospects for recovery. Our members are inspired when they can relate their own experiences to those who have successfully resolved the underlying emotional issues which cause SSA and this simultaneously lessens the concern that they are alone in their struggle. (b) Reading material enables the individual to understand the causes, the healing strategies, and the basics of reparative therapy, thereby enabling them to apply this new-found knowledge to their own situation. (c) Finally, as Nicolosi says, bibliotherapy can offset the "demoralizing confusion created by gay propaganda and the popular media of our culture." (p. 204).

JONAH has found that reading about the issues underlying same-sex attractions is a vital part of the healing process. In fact, we not only encourage our members to read extensively about the subject but we also recommend that spouses, siblings, and parents read the same materials. Families need to be brought into the healing process, an approach strongly advocated by psychotherapist Richard Cohen in his book Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality.

The books provide a psychological framework and encouragement for the struggler through explanations of how others have healed. Often members report how they saw parts of themselves portrayed in the literature. Book discussions occur within the JONAH support groups as well as on the daily E-mail listserv. Some members who discussed these materials with their therapist reported that the literature provided their therapist with an opportunity to help the struggler dig deeper into his issues.

JONAH has a Book Order section on our web site [www. Jonahweb.org] which lists many recommended books and permits the viewer to order the book directly through our site.

Experiential Healing Weekends

JONAH refers our members to several experiential weekends, some of which contain a generic spiritual component involving a Higher Power unconnected to any particular religion. (Ultimately we hope to develop an experiential weekend specifically incorporating certain Jewish motifs.)

Weekends consist of discussions, psychodrama, journaling, and individual "drills" which enable participants to reach feelings not usually accessible in the short time frame of the typical therapeutic session.

The most popular and effective programs, as reported by our members, are three complimentary and synergistic weekends listed here:

Journey into Manhood (web site: peoplecanchange.com)

New Warrior Training Adventure (web site: mkp.org)

Love, Sex, & Intimacy Seminars (web site: gaytostraight.org).

Describing the objectives and methodology of one of these weekend programs will illustrate why they are so effective. For example, here is a description of The Journey into Manhood weekend, principally designed by Ben Newman of Peoplecanchange, together with David Matheson, an associate of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi:

The objective of the Journey Into Manhood is to provide "an experiential weekend for men who experience unwanted homosexual feelings and are sincerely self-motivated to work to lessen homosexuality identity, attractions, and behaviors and to increase masculine identity and desires. The training is designed to teach these men, through words and processes, that mature heterosexual masculinity can be achieved through authenticity (or internal integrity), need fulfillment, masculine identity, and male bonding." (Peoplecanchange Journey into Manhood Protocol)

These objectives are accomplished by challenging men (1) to examine their beliefs, perceptions and judgments about themselves and others that may be producing a sense of gender inferiority (2) experience trusting and bonding with other men in non-sexual ways (3) process deep feelings related to their pasts, themselves and their relationships with others, and experience at least an initial release of those feelings that may be blocking growth into heterosexual masculinity and (4) become ready to embrace a new way of seeing themselves and of being in the world, particularly in the world of men.

As shown in the quotes set forth at the beginning of this paper, men return from these weekends nearly euphoric from the experience of accessing their inherent masculine power. For some, this is the first time in their lives they could sense ownership of their own masculinity and deal with deep personal issues (such as same-sex peer wounds, mother wounds, or father wounds) in a safe, supportive environment which encourages them to break down destructive behavior patterns to which they had clung for many years. These concentrated and intense emotional experiences yield significant results and give hope to many.

Additionally, our members report that when they become sufficiently comfortable in the New Warriors' community of men and have an opportunity to staff a weekend, they find the experience to be even more powerful than the initial weekend because of the leadership role they are able to assume.

Healing of the Family System

JONAH believes that homosexuality frequently can be viewed as a family system problem, not just an individual problem. When parents, in particular, can become a part of the healing process, it is extremely beneficial to the whole family system. Often, parents inadvertently contributed to the development of their child's SSA. Much has to do with the child's perception of the relationship between him and his mother and father. Once the parents understand the sources of their child's problem, we found many are able to assist their child in the developmental growth process required to overcome the condition.

Even when parents cannot be brought into the healing process because of physical or emotional abuse, extreme neglect, or emotional incapacity, there are siblings, extended family, or close family friends who can participate. Sometimes, just to openly discuss the issues with close family or friends brings immeasurable relief to an overcomer who has kept this part of his being hidden for so many years.

We encourage our members to openly discuss their issues with family members and to provide educational material to those in his "circle" who are willing to learn about the underpinnings of homosexual attractions. Several of our members have attended, together with the families, the Love, Sex, and Intimacy Seminars given by Richard Cohen of the International Healing Foundation. In doing so, they reported experiences which enabled them either to begin or to accelerate the process of peeling back their own defensive detachment from their father figure, untangling their mother enmeshment issues, and repairing the fractured relationships with siblings and other family members.

For those who are married, we often find that the struggler was leading a double life. Most wives who are informed of the homosexual condition by their husbands (which we strongly encourage) respond favorably and perform a major role in the healing process. Again, couples who have attended the Love, Sex, and Intimacy Seminars. and utilize appropriately trained reparative therapists for couples therapy in their follow-up work, reported favorable results.

Today's politically correct notion that homosexuality is merely an alternative lifestyle can complicate the healing process, particularly when the family member or spouse incorrectly believes the struggler was born that way or has a so-called "gay gene." Therefore, we must redouble our efforts to educate the entire community that homosexuality is a treatable condition.

Elizabeth Moberly expressed the importance of family in treating the homosexual condition. In a 1985 lecture given to the Royal Society of Health, she said, "The homosexual condition - although often an occasion for sexual expression - is in itself a state of unfulfilled developmental needs. For this reason, homosexuality may best be evaluated, not by comparison with sexuality in general, but by comparison with the parent-child relationship and facilitating of human maturation."

JONAH recognizes that support groups (for spouses, parents, family, and friends of those wishing to heal from SSA) are critical to the struggler's healing. Each group faces unique problems as they confront past issues which may have led to their loved one's homosexual attractions or to the construction of changed relationships, both in the present and reaching into the future, as their loved one accomplishes the human maturation Moberly spoke about.

Individual Psychotherapy

JONAH wishes to make clear that we only work with members who either seek to grow out of their same-sex attractions or are ambivalent about such attractions. Should prospective members request to become more comfortable with their homosexual attractions or with the gay lifestyle, we will refer them elsewhere and make no value judgments about their choice.

However, for those who seek assistance, JONAH maintains a global referral list of therapists, both for in-person therapy and for phone therapy. Therefore JONAH is always seeking therapists who agree with and are skilled in reparative and directive therapy and will adopt the gender affirming healing processes advocated by JONAH. Those who are interested in being part of our referral service should call (201) 433-3444 and leave a message.

We believe that the type of therapist who can best help these men is not the classical emotionally-detached therapist. Such therapy, in the words of NARTH co-founder Joseph Nicolosi, "reactivates memories of earlier frustration from the cold and distant father." (Reparative therapy for Male Homosexuals, p.20) Nicolosi continues: "Withholding personal involvement merely frustrates the homosexual client, who particularly needs intimate male connectedness, and whose healing comes primarily through the therapeutic relationship." Thus, Nicolosi concludes, the therapist must be emotionally involved with his client, create a directive approach, exude an air of masculinity, "and, within therapeutic guidelines, permit dependency."

We believe that gender identity determines sexual orientation and that one sexualizes or eroticizes that with which he does not identify. To successfully treat someone with a homosexual condition, our experience shows that a directive and activist therapy program is critical in assisting a client to internalize his gender identity, demystify his romantic attractions to the same sex, and satisfy his unmet developmental needs for attention, affection, and approval from others of the same gender without sexualizing these needs.

Jewish Spiritual Development

Although JONAH is an outreach organization that works with all Jews, from the strictly observant Orthodox to the most secular of Jews, we stress certain aspects of our religious teachings. We blend lessons from the Torah (what Christians refer to as the Old Testament) with other Jewish sources in order to help individuals access their inner souls and thus recapture their G-d given inherent heterosexuality.

Part of the reason for this emphasis is to provide the person struggling with SSA with the ability to distinguish a moral right from a moral wrong in today's culture war. The Torah's eternal values integrate the principles of deferred gratification and the exercise of restraint in sexual activity into the human psyche. In doing so, we note how this view is antithetical to today's prevalent moral relativism in which the only factor to restrain human behavior is mutual consent. Simply stated, this attitude can be summed up as follows: "If two or more consenting adults want to _______ (fill in the blank), then no one else need be concerned."

When we understand that the homosexual cohabitation prohibited by Lev.18.22 and explained in the Talmud (Nedarim 51a) is a mistaken response to an unfilled emotional need, we are able to remove an oppressive guilt from the person who was mistakenly led (most often by forces initially beyond his/her control) into such activity.

By understanding the root causes, and the unfilled needs for which the behavior (or fantasy) attempts to compensate, a program of remediation becomes achievable. We find it is helpful to employ a combination of both the Jewish concept of "teshuvah" (a process of transforming one's inner being, commonly translated as "return" or "repentance") and the secular understandings of gender affirming therapies.

Jewish law creates a delicate balancing act: accepting the individual as a human being who deserves love and compassion but rejecting the homosexual activity in which he/she may participate. But this "love the person but not the behavior" principle is equally true of any illicit sexual behavior, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual. For example, we accept the community philanderer as a person but disapprove of his/her sexual brokenness. It is incumbent upon the community to understand the mentality and inner development of the persons who perpetrate the act and find a way to assist them in their healing.

JONAH makes special efforts to reach the Jewish community through synagogues and the large network of Jewish organizations in order to spread this message of hope and healing.

Masculinity Development and Empowerment

At its core, male homosexuality is a matter of undeveloped manhood. True healing requires a resumption of the journey into manhood. The boy who physically grew into an adult male but missed out on certain developmental stages will need to go through them now. Nicolosi points out, for example, that the pre-homosexual boy who missed out on rough and tumble play with his father and , later, did not take part in the physical competitions characteristic of his age often ended up removing himself from such competition and thereby diminished his own sense of masculinity. (Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality, p. 193)

A basic issue in healing SSA involves reconnecting the individual from the alienation he experienced from his own gender. To help SSA individuals take ownership of their G-d given masculinity is a formidable task, but we at JONAH have developed several tactics to assist in this regard. The person with same-sex attraction must learn how to experience trust and how to bond with other men in non-sexual ways. As discussed in the experiential weekend strategy section, The New Warrior Training Adventure (or the Sterling Men's Group) is particularly helpful in this regard.

To illustrate a program employed to assist men with their masculine development, it is useful to cite the two hour sports activity we developed following each support group. We utilize knowledgeable coaches to lead these activities. We receive outstanding feedback from group members as to the effectiveness of the sports therapy. They learn teamwork, including how to trust other men and bond with members of their team.

Men who are not able to attend our group meetings find that having a coach or a friend teach them a team sport, such as baseball or basketball, is invaluable in developing their masculine identity. We do not seek to make any of these men into athletic stars but rather use this exercise to reinforce their connection to other men. They are doing things that men do. In the process, they discover their own masculine strength which they had previously believed was lacking and receive affirmation of their inherent masculinity.

Since masculinity is connected to the use of the body, when men are not using their body, they often disconnect from it. Playing sports heals the disconnection with body from which our members suffer. Members report that playing sports and learning the skills helped them heal that disconnection while simultaneously increasing their sense of masculinity. As David Matheson, an associate of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, said to one of his clients who is also a member of JONAH, "Doing something you think you can't do is empowering. Gaining mastery over fear, ineptitude, and inadequacy is empowering."

In addition, playing sports helps our members overcome the problem of passivity. Men learn that the ball is not going to come to them unless they are in a position to catch it. This insight is a lesson of life. Healing from SSA will not happen unless the person does the work required to overcome it.

There is another aspect of engaging in sports activities as part of the strategy of resuming the growth into manhood. Many of our members report that their fear of sports stemmed from early childhood same-sex peer wounds and that learning how to play sports in a safe environment permitted them to overcome these wounds. They found themselves able to bond with other men, many for the first time in their lives. And, as Nicolosi makes clear, central to the repairing of homosexuality is the establishment of nonsexual intimate relationships with men (Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality, p.194). Being involved in traditional men's activities, such as sports, is a direct way to heal those wounds.


Individuals trying to heal from SSA need role models and guidance from heterosexuals of the same-sex in order to heal the wounds caused by defensive detachment from the same-sex parent and peers. Such a role model becomes a mentor who assumes a role originally designed for a father to have fulfilled for the boy as he was growing up. Qualities needed by a mentor include compassion, empathy, a non-judgmental attitude, and most importantly, knowledge about how to heal from SSA, or at least a strong desire to learn.

If the struggler is lucky enough to have parents willing and able to help, and the struggler is able to reconnect with the same-sex parent, this is the obvious first choice for a mentor. For those whose parents are unavailable, mentors can be sought from among clergy, teachers, members of social groups to which the struggler belongs or any other appropriate group. Some of our members report that the New Warrior experience (or the Sterling Men's group, a similar organization) provided them with a mentor with whom they could bond.

The importance of healthy male-to-male mentoring cannot be emphasized enough. It is not uncommon for strugglers to suffer from feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. The mentor is the role model that takes the mystery out of masculinity and supports the struggler's journey to his own masculine power.

Closely related is the need for same-sex non-sexual friendships. Nicolosi speaks of the importance of this relationship when he stated, "same-sex friendships have shown themselves to be therapeutic" (p.194). These friendships come both from
other men in recovery and from men who never had SSA.

Networking, Support Groups, Daily Internet E-Mail Listserv

Networking: Leaving behind one's same-sex attraction and achieving heterosexual attraction can be a long and difficult struggle. Essentially our gender affirming process enables members to create a totally new support structure in many different facets of their lives. Before finding our group, these strugglers often felt isolated and alone in their struggle. Alternatively, they felt that the gay lifestyle provided them with a circle of friends they could never find in the "straight" world. Thus, to create a feeling of belonging, we believe it is critical for our members to network with others in the process of recovery or with those who have completed their journey to sexual wholeness (often through the group support meetings, the daily E-mail listserv, mentoring or networking).

Members report that fellow journeyers on the road to recovery help them by sharing experiences, understanding their fears, and providing accountability and support. The benefits are immeasurable. The group support sessions and the daily E-mail listserv provide methods to make the connections so that strugglers can bond with others sharing similar concerns.

Although some therapists believe networking between those in recovery to be risky, Nicolosi encourages individuals within his support groups to network with each other outside the group sessions. Within the JONAH support network, to date we have never had a sexual liaison take place between our members. Instead we find the members provide each other with a social camaraderie that clearly outweighs any perceived risks. Our experience is thus similar to other self-help groups where affected individuals assist others who have not progressed as far as the person providing the assistance.

The person who was active in the gay lifestyle often found a sense of belonging among other gays which overcame his sense of alienation and loneliness. To replace that sense of belonging, it is critical for mentoring and networking to take place. Without it, it is difficult to establish non-sexual intimate relationships. We believe that the therapist who works individually with his patient and who does not recommend getting involved in group support and networking is doing his client a disservice. Our observable experience is that strugglers leap forward when they undertake the following processes: maintain communication with others who have healed or are in the process of healing from SSA, establish relationships with empathetic mentors, some in the process of recovery and others who have never had an SSA problem.

An interesting footnote to this process is the fact that many of our members who begin to help others heal found that they were able to strengthen their own healing process. Many have reported a greater sense of self-confidence and affirmation of their own value because their own past experiences helped others heal. In a spiritual sense, they felt good about the ability to perform the "mitzvah" (commandment) of helping others.

JONAH's gender-affirming processes enable a person to step into a totally new support structure. It provides both encouragement and direct assistance while the member travels the road to recovery. An important aspect of his masculine empowerment is the ability to connect to his brothers in recovery, thus overcoming the detachment and alienation he experienced from the world of men.

In addition to networking, our member support groups and daily E-mail listserv are additional tools to accomplish this goal.

Men's Support Groups: JONAH's men's support groups run weekly or bi-weekly for approximately 2 hours with discussions being led by facilitators who are well-versed in the issues involved in healing homosexuality. Our goal is to increase the number of groups for men (and parenthetically to do the same for women and family members).

For men who do not live near the three groups currently operating (See "more about JONAH" at the end of this article for group locations), we initially arranged teleconferencing into our in-person support groups. We found, however, that these combined groups were not as effective as unmixed in-person or teleconferenced groups. By separating the groups, we found that each group standing by itself can better maximize interpersonal relationships and significantly reduce the isolation and loneliness of the members. Teleconference support groups presently operate.

Daily Internet E-Mail Listserv: Men and woman from six different countries post messages on a private confidential JONAH listserv (hosted by Shamash.org, a service of the Hebrew College) and report how welcome they feel in our ever-growing healing community. Postings range from loving support of another's personal struggle to deep discussions on issues directly relevant to SSA.

The Daily E-Mail Listserv is an excellent method to reach strugglers with special needs: those in geographically isolated locations; those unable to afford private therapy; those who have just learned that a healing process for SSA is possible and seek to learn more about the "GAP" process; those who require daily support in their struggle.

Overcoming Shame and Narcissism

Special mention should be made of four interrelated underlying issues which therapists such as Andrew Morrison and Joseph Nicolosi have identified as pivotal to healing homosexuality but which traditional therapy has somewhat ignored. They are shame, narcissism, guilt, and grieving. Each of these issues contributed to the homosexual condition and each of our strategies has a component which addresses certain aspects of these issues.

Overcoming shame has become a major focus of faith-based groups dedicated to helping men heal from homosexuality. Phrases such as "coming out of shame" or "going past your shame" are consistently utilized by these groups when they develop their healing strategies. They have intuitively understood that shame underlies much of SSA.

According to Andrew Morrison, "Because shame is so often unspoken, many therapists have not appreciated its importance in analytic and therapeutic work. Frequently it is hidden behind the clearly defensive manifestations of distress, and these are usually investigated alone - often from the perspective of intrapsychic conflict and related dynamics - without appreciation of the underlying or accompanying shame." (See, "Shame, the Underside of Narcissism" pg. 5)

A key to appropriate treatment, according to Morrison, is the relationship narcissism bears to shame, for he believes, "that shame, in some form, is always present in narcissism and its various manifestations."

Gay activists preach that the way to overcome the issue of shame is to come out of the closet and loudly proclaim and affirm one's gayness. However, we believe there is another and preferred door leading from the closet of homosexuality. It is the door of healing - a healing which recognizes the shame and how it relates to the narcissism which underlies homosexuality.

Richard Fitzgibbons recognizes that "Narcissism is a very powerful disorder that fuels the homosexual behavior in many people. This personality weakness is not easily overcome because of the reluctance to give up a life of unchecked, irresponsible self-indulgence." When the therapist properly treats shame and narcissism (and when its recognition and overcoming is encouraged through support groups and networking), then a person's healing can progress. Fitzgibbons points out that when narcissism is not treated, "this clinical disorder is the major reason for failure in recovery from homosexuality." (See, The Truth About Homosexuality by Father John Harvey, Appendix I, by Fitzgibbons)

Our experience has been that as men look at the circumstances in which they found themselves during the process of growing up, they come to realize that they adopted a False Self (often originating from the "good little boy" syndrome) in order to cope with their situation. Much of the struggler's life was spent seeking a way to gain approval from others or trying to gratify and please.

In childhood, these men erected emotional barriers or walls which protected them from what they perceived as a harsh and unfriendly world. As adults, these same walls acted to imprison them, trapping their feelings, and preventing them from completing their journey into manhood. As men take down these walls and work through the profound grief they feel for never having been "seen" for the individuals they truly were, they can understand and mourn the loss of the "True Self" and move forward in their healing.

A therapeutic strategy needs to penetrate the two defenses of narcissism and the False Self. The client needs to be focused on fully feeling and expressing the "shamed-defective self." If he can't feel it, he can't heal it. But when he feels his inner emotions, says Nicolosi, the adult struggler discovers that "he need not fear the primal threat of abandonment-annihilation, and he can begin to surrender the defenses of homosexuality, narcissism and the False Self." (See, interview conducted by Linda Nicolosi in article entitled "Grief Work" (NARTH.com).

These issues need to be directly addressed by the therapist. Exercises to address these issues are being incorporated within the various experiential weekends referred to earlier and by our support group. However, the front line of treatment of these issues needs to come from the therapists who are conducting individual private therapy.

Receiving Healthy Touch and Affection

Many who struggle with SSA experience touch deprivation, an issue often overlooked in therapy. Ashley Montagu writes in his groundbreaking book Touching: "the communications we transmit through touch constitute the most powerful means of establishing human relationships, the foundation of experience."

As a result of defensive detachment, many men with SSA never received the healthy touch that can come from being in a healthy relationship with one's father and peers. Because many of these men never received healthy touch or did not receive the physical affection they needed from their fathers, the idea of receiving a non-sexual hug from a man as a sign of affection makes them uncomfortable.

We also have had members tell us that once they decided to stop their homosexual acting out, they missed the warmth or affection of another human being's touch. Others, even when they had opportunities to receive healthy touch and affection, such as non-sexual hugs or pats on the back, were confused as to the healthy boundaries for touch. Others, whose condition of SSA consisted of fantasy and pornography, reported a lack of physical contact over a period of years.

Many presently feel touch deprived because they did not receive physical affection in their childhood and experienced other unfilled emotional needs. We found several members who previously expressed an unquenchable need to sexually touch others or to be sexually touched either by others or by themselves (to a level where masturbation may become addictive). Such touch is the means for them to literally feel or fantasize their connection with other men, something they had yearned for all their lives.

The question of human touch is exacerbated when emotional or sexual abuse lurks in the background of a particular individual. For those who were sexually abused, intimacy stimulates painful memories. In order to avoid emotional intimacy, many sought physical gratification through anonymous sexual encounters.

Our experience in JONAH has been that as men bond with other men in a healthy non-sexual atmosphere, particularly through attendance at the experiential weekends, both the resistance to healthy touch and the need for inappropriate sexual touch dissipate. Healthy touching can be controversial, particularly if the situation is not well-controlled and the boundaries not clearly set forth. If a man has properly progressed in his healing processes and understands the proper boundaries of touch, we will then strongly encourage non-sexual hugs and affectionate gestures (like pats on the back) in our groups.

One advantage of our team sport events is the reinforcement of the cultural acceptability of victory celebrations by the players when they openly embrace and hug one another. Another culturally acceptable method of gaining appropriate touch is through regular therapeutic massages.

In order to experience safe and healing touch from another man, our members have used a number of therapeutic bodywork techniques. Among these are: massage, shiatsu and Feldenkrais. Men report touch therapy useful in releasing negative feelings and emotions stored within their bodies. The Feldenkrais method, for example, founded by the Israeli physicist Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais,has also helped men focus on how their bodies move. Through directed movements given by a practitioner, men learn new ways to use their bodies. Consequently, Feldenkrais has helped men feel connected to their bodies, improve their coordination and become more self-confident.

Having set forth the issue and the need for solutions, we believe that overcoming touch deprivation is an area in need of further development. We continue to examine practical ways of overcoming touch deprivation which exists for so many of our members.


These aspects of JONAH's healing paradigm are presented here to encourage the reader to explore the complex process undertaken when men and women begin to heal their same-sex attractions. There is no "magic bullet" for healing even though it is frequently wished for by those suffering from a same-sex attraction disorder (SSAD).

JONAH's multi-dimensional approach can be viewed as encompassing four processes which, if worked in tandem, can help facilitate in-depth healing. In our opinion, true healing occurs when an individual is able to heal at four different levels:

Cognitive: Head
Experiential: Body
Emotional: Heart
Spiritual: Soul

An incomplete healing occurs when fewer than the four levels are accessed.

While individual psychotherapy is critical to help individuals heal from SSAD, participating in private therapy, without these other experiences, may increase the time required for the healing process to occur. Obviously, it takes a longer period of time to access all four levels when a therapist is able to work with his client for only an hour or two a week. By increasing the time on task in a cost effective manner, the struggler can accelerate the time needed for healing. Moreover, by employing the multi-dimensional paradigm described in this paper, and thereby enlarging the daily and weekly amount of time in which a member delves into his head, heart, body, and soul, our reports indicate an important acceleration of the healing process.

Our purpose in setting forth our experience and findings is to share what we have learned from our members. JONAH happily acknowledges that many therapists and faith based groups have independently used parts of this model (including some of the live-in programs). Hopefully, for those readers from the therapeutic community who have not adopted aspects of this program they (a) will see the benefits of this more comprehensive approach to healing SSA and (b) will incorporate them within their treatment plans.

A Letter on Homosexual Pornography - excerpted from "The Treatment of Sexual Orientation"
Written By: Dror Zandman, Clinical Psychologist

(Posted March 2012)

[ NOTE from the JONAH Directors: This letter was written by "R.L.", a former client of Israeli Psychologist Dror Zandman, and was written in two parts, one immediately prior to R.L's marriage and the second part 5 months after his marriage. It was written to encourage men dealing with unwanted SSA. This letter is part of a soon-to-be-published book in Hebrew by Israeli Psychologist, Dror Zandman, entitled: “The Treatment of Sexual Orientation”.]

My Dear Friend,
I am writing this letter a few hours before my chupah [wedding canopy & ceremony].I want to tell you about what I’ve been through in these past 10 years. I know that you are suffering great pain and are going through many crises growing up. Life feels much harder for you than it seems to be for most of your friends. You are constantly fighting your sexual feelings; you are attracted to men, but you are also religious. You live with a tremendous inner contradiction. You struggle desperately between wanting to satisfy your “natural” desires, and your emunah [faith] in the Ribono shel Olam [Master of the Universe], who seems to be cruelly torturing you by having placed you in the position in which you find yourself.
I know exactly how you feel.
I have been dealing with this exact problem since my early adolescence; from the time when I was 12 years old. I “always” knew that I was different. I wasn’t attracted to girls. (not that there were many girls around - I studied in various national religious schools where for many good reasons, the sexes are kept separate). I was attracted to men. I found men to be very sexually exciting, and I felt like I just had to find a man who I could lean on, who would protect me.
I spent years looking at magazines and then on the Internet searching for more and more pictures of sexy men. Naked men. More recently, in high school, I “graduated” to spending hours with homosexual pornography. Many, many hours. And all the time, my emunah [faith] in the Ribono shel Olam grew stronger and more profound, and I believed, deep in my heart, that He created me just as I am, with a goal and a purpose in this world.
I knew perfectly well that homosexuality is not compatible with the Torah, and that the “gay” lifestyle is deeply, and diametrically, opposed to the Jewish vision of life. The homosexual lifestyle consecrates the material world, it worships the bodily passions, and it destroys the most important basis of Jewish life - the family. Relationships between men, as wonderful as they can ever be (also between straight men, by the way), can’t even begin to approach in any way the deep connection between a man and a woman. G-d created the world in such a way that every man is missing something; a man needs a woman, and a woman needs a man. There is no other way to realize our potential or to achieve real satisfaction in any field of life, without the intimate partnership of man and wife.
It was my great good fortune, which I understand as Divine Providence, that in 9th grade, my Rav [Rabbi] noticed that something was troubling me. After many heart-to-heart talks with him, he gained my trust and I opened up and told him what I was going through. He supported me; he helped me to understand that I was not sick, that G-d didn’t hate me. He explained to me that every person has different challenges in his life, some less, some more, and that every man is given the strengths that are necessary to achieve the goals and overcome the challenges that G-d places in his path.
The rest of my high school years, and the beginning of my days in a “hesder yeshiva" [religious Zionist program combining yeshiva studies with military service], went by in the same way - but with my secret helper, my Rav, who supported me and helped me to maintain my sanity, along with a healthy and constantly developing relationship with the Ribono shel Olam [Master of the Universe].
It was a very, very hard time: in high school, in the yeshiva, and in the army. I was always surrounded by men, and at the same time surrounded by a world of Torah and religious belief. I was living a life of intense and constant contradiction.
Baruch Hashem, [blessed be G-d] I never had any sexual contact with another man, Heaven forbid. I never met another man like me - neither a religious nor a secular one. Everything I did was between me and myself; it was me and the Internet, me and the pictures, me and the masturbation, just me by myself.
Somewhere during my army service, during a very difficult time of profound despair, my Rav (with whom I have kept up a very important and meaningful relationship to this day) recommended that I see a psychologist who could help me, because he felt that he himself did not have the tools with which to move me forward, despite his enormous desire to assist me. The psychologist who helped me was Dror Zandman.
(The continuation of this letter was written 5 months after my marriage)
It was worth everything: all the suffering, all the constant coping, all the frustrations, all the crises. It is impossible for me to describe the enormous happiness, the emotional, spiritual and sexual satisfaction that I have experienced with my wife. Yes, yes, with my wife.
It is infinitely deeper, satisfying, fulfilling, and empowering; way beyond any fantasy that I ever had with men.
You can believe it! It is possible!
I was in therapy with Dror for over three years. It was standard, verbal psychological therapy, with the addition of some sex therapy. Together, we tried to ascertain the reasons behind my homosexual feelings. What was I missing? Why was I attracted to men? Why wasn’t I attracted to women? What was I attracted to in the men I desired? The therapy also included work with initiating conscious, directed arousal towards women. I learned how to redirect the amazing power of sexual imagination – which until then had only been utilized for fantasies about men - into fantasies about women. Imagining her body. Imagining a relationship with a woman. And I am telling you – all of that pales a million times when compared with the real thing – relations with a real woman.
Throughout all the time I was in therapy I would experience regressions - mostly with the Internet. (It’s unbelievable how much sickness and evil are so instantly accessible there!). But Schelomo HaMelech [King Solomon] was right when he said: “A tzadik [righteous man] will fall seven times and then rise up” (Proverbs, 24:16). Do not lose hope!
This is a very difficult struggle. Sometimes it can seem insurmountable. But it is possible! You can fight and be victorious over this accursed inclination. If you work hard, you will find a woman with whom you can fall in love, and build a “bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael!” [a home faithful to Jewish Tradition.] And even if this “problem” won’t entirely disappear (as in my case – this “false lust” for men is still there on occasion, but I have learned how to live with it or redirect it and to handle it one day at a time) – you can achieve a beautiful marriage with a woman.
Dror helped me to understand this. He pushed me; he guided me, like a blind man in the darkness. In his merit I have come to where I have always wanted to be, to where HaKodosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, Blessed be He) wanted me to be.
Thank you, Ribono shel Olam for the “nisayon” [test] that you placed me in, and for my incredible wife. Thank you Dror for being a faithful emissary for the Creator, Yisborach [may He be blessed]. Thank you to my wife, for the love, the support, and the total acceptance [of me, with knowledge of the issues I've overcome].
Best of luck to you in your life! Believe in Hashem [G-d, literally "The Name."]!
“Blessed is the man who trusts in G-d” (Yermiahu, 17:7)

A Long, Hard Road: How Reparative Therapy Saved My Life
Written By: Daniel Meir Horowitz [1]
(Posted May 2012)

There has been much ado in the Jewish media about the idea of Orthodoxy and homosexuality. I have decided to share my personal story for the purpose of letting others know that, despite what so many people claim to “know,” there are options and there is a way out of Same Sex Attraction (SSA).
I was raised in a modern-Orthodox, frum family. I clearly remember in 8th grade being among other boys discussing which girls in our class they had crushes on. At the time I had absolutely no attraction to women and, to avoid embarrassment, I blatantly lied and said that I did indeed have a crush on a certain female classmate. But inside I was tormented: “When will I feel these feelings like the other guys?” I asked myself. I kept hoping that someday I would just wake up and be “normal.” Unfortunately, that time never came. By 10th grade I had already come to the conclusion that something was wrong, and also admitted to myself that I was instead attracted to other boys in my class. I recall praying and crying to G-d to “take it away” and heal me. One summer I spent every day saying the entire book of Tehillim (Psalms) in the hope that I could earn enough merit to make my homosexuality go away. But it didn’t.
After graduation, I dutifully spent a year in an Israeli yeshiva. Being in a dormitory situation was a complete nightmare. I felt trapped in a prison that I could not escape, tempted by things that I could never act upon, dangled in front of me constantly. By the end of that year I was almost non-functional, and finally mustered up the courage to discuss my situation with the Rosh Yeshiva. I was sure that I would be summarily cast away and shamed, but felt I didn’t have a choice since I was suffering so much. I needed to talk to someone. Instead, I received compassion, advice, and a recommendation to see a local psychologist.
When I returned home at the end of the year, I began immediately seeing a religious psychologist to try to work through these issues while I stayed in yeshiva. Over the next seven years I cycled on and off seeing a total of three different psychologists and one psychiatrist, spending at least twenty thousand dollars. These were highly recommended professionals, some of whom are rather well known. They all assured me that they could help me with my SSA. Yet after all of my time and money, I accomplished absolutely nothing. I still was embroiled in attraction to other men, and felt no attraction to women. All of my friends were getting married and having children, while I just spun my wheels.
During those years I became depressed and hated my life. I often contemplated suicide. Multiple times while driving home from the therapist’s office, frustrated at our lack of progress, I would think: “Just turn the wheel a little to the left and slam into the divider on the freeway. No one will know it wasn’t just an accident.” I would have to consciously switch to the right lane so I could be sure I wouldn’t give in to the temptation. Part of me truly wanted to die, though, and I regularly wished that a car would hit me when I was crossing the street.
In utter desperation I began searching the Internet for possible alternative treatments. I was willing to try almost anything if I thought it would work. I discovered a weekend retreat for men struggling with SSA. After consulting with one of my rabbeim and my therapist, I signed up for the next available open slot, bought my plane tickets to Utah and set out. The retreat changed my life. I met other men who had struggled with SSA and had moved through it. I was taught about reparative therapy and that there was hope. Soon after that weekend I started seeing a licensed reparative therapist regularly, and within a year began to slowly see signs of progress. I don’t remember exactly when, perhaps 18-24 months into the therapy, but I was reading a magazine and an attractive woman in an ad caught my attention. I found myself staring at the photograph. Then it struck me: I was actually interested in looking at the woman! I felt such exhilaration at the experience. I had instinctually done what I never would have done before. Something had changed.
Anyone who says that working through homosexual desires and feelings is an easy, quick process is lying. It is a long, hard road with many challenges, pitfalls, and setbacks. But it is possible. I wish I could say there is a “cure” for SSA, but I believe there is no such thing. SSA is something I will struggle with for the rest of my life. But now, I am in control of it. It no longer tortures me. When I am diligent and follow the game-plan provided by those who understand reparative therapy, it fades to the faintest whisper in the background and therefore no longer controls me. And I am attracted to women, when I never was before.
Why was I so tortured? Why did it hurt so much? What drove me to become suicidal? Being a frum person with SSA felt like being trapped in a prison with no escape. If I have homosexual desires, urges to do what the Torah blatantly forbids, I have only three options:

A) To give in to those desires, and violate the Torah. Many have taken that path, often eventually abandoning all Torah observance. I truly believed, and believe, that G-d gave us the Torah, and so giving in to my desires was not an acceptable course of action for me.

B) To “white-knuckle,” to try to resist these temptations with sheer willpower and live a “normal” life despite them. This was an unbelievably depressing prospect. It meant getting married with no real desire for a woman. It meant having desires that could never be fulfilled. It meant being trapped in the closet all alone, suffering. (To say nothing of how wrong doing so would be to the woman I would have married.)

There were those who would tried to offer me a variant of this option: Accept myself as a homosexual and identify as gay, and stay single, all the while refraining from violating the Torah. While on the one hand, it sounded brave, I knew it to be a fallacy and an empty dream. Firstly, I would still have to suffer a lifetime of unfulfilled yearnings. The reality is, however, that despite firm initial convictions, every single person that I know who tried this, eventually succumbed and ended up violating the Torah. This always devolved back into option A.

C) To try and change the desires, or at least mitigate them until they become a mere nuisance. This seemed to be the only viable approach to me. And I tried for many years, floundering along through therapy, even taking extra jobs to pay for it. I remember thinking at one point: “What more can G-d possibly want from me? I’m doing everything I can!!” Yet, I persevered and eventually found a treatment that helped.

The reparative therapy approach is what led me to where I am.
There are those who will wish to silence me, and protest the publication of my story. They will describe reparative therapy as a sham. I can only say that I wish someone had told me about it earlier. There are no guarantees for any treatment of any illness. But I would rather have tried mightily and failed, than to have had someone stifle me by censoring those who would have given me options and hope.
Of course, no one should ever be forced into therapy if they don’t want it. And no one can experience any change unless they want to. No matter how supportive and well-meaning family and friends are, changing sexual orientation or growing out of SSA will not occur if the person does not wish to do it for himself and find the proper therapeutic approach that works for him. For those who choose to work through their SSA, there are several alternative paths for them to take. And, by doing so, they can lead truly fulfilled lives.
Even if after spending time (and money) with one therapist is found not to be helpful, that does not in any way mean that another won’t be helpful. If, G-d forbid, someone was diagnosed with cancer and a certain treatment wasn’t working, he wouldn’t give up. He would seek out another doctor with a different method, or try alternative medicines or modalities. I spent almost ten years trying different therapy methods, and eventually one worked for me. So if one doesn’t work for you, who knows? Some other treatment might.
I want to shout to all those plagued by SSA who wish they were not: Don’t give up. Please. Despite what you read and hear in our secular culture about the false idea that change is impossible, a ray of light might be just around the corner. Keep looking and know that the help you seek is out there. You only need to find it.
[1] This is a pseudonym. Certain other identifying details have been changed as well. I truly wish that I felt safe enough to use my actual name and identify myself. However, as someone still searching for his soul mate, I am keenly aware of how careful I must be to explain these details about me at the right time and in the proper context.

Affection Between Men
Torah Study Program: Hazon - Our Universal Vision

I would like to discuss the issue of affection between men. But before I discuss the issue in a broad sense, I will attempt to respond to the question that was raised whether, according to halacha (Torah law), two men can engage in erotic hugging, kissing, and touching, as long as they do not have intercourse.

There is a general Torah prohibition against engaging in any erotic touching with someone whom one is forbidden to sleep with, and this prohibition also includes erotic touching of a homosexual nature. The source for this prohibition is found in Leviticus 18:6 which states: "Any man shall not approach his close relative to uncover nakedness; I am Hashem." The Oral Torah interprets the phrase "shall not approach" to refer to any erotic touching which can lead one to have any form of intercourse which is forbidden by the Torah. This prohibition is discussed by Maimonides in his Sefer HaMitzvos (Prohibition 353), and it is also discussed in the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzva 188). The Sefer HaChinuch states that this prohibition applies to both men and women.

There is a major halachic difference, however, between the Torah's prohibitions against forbidden forms of intercourse, and the Torah's prohibition against erotic touching: Unlike the prohibitions against intercourse, the prohibition against erotic touching does not bring "kares" (the soul being cut off) or the dealth penalty. Even if one violated one of the Torah's prohibitions against intercourse, there is the life-giving option of "teshuva" - repentance and renewal which cause us to return to the path of our Creator.

There is no question that Torah-committed individuals who are unable to get married, whether they have a heterosexual orientation or a homosexual orientation, were given a difficult life-challenge. In some respects, the person with the homosexual orientation has the greater challenge, for reasons already mentioned in previous correspondence. The reason why the Creator gives certain individuals unusual life-challenges is a topic for another discussion. It may be helpful, however, for all people to remember, regardless of their sexual orientation, that there can be warm, physical expressions of affection and love which are not erotic. There are many men, including "gay" men, who sometimes engage in non-erotic hugging and touching with other men. In fact, traditional Jewish culture is much more open to displays of physical affection between men than Anglo-Saxon culture. For example, in Israel, especially among the Sephardim, one sees men hugging or kissing each other at joyous occasions or when greeting each other after a period of separation. And in Israeli yeshivos, when a young man gets engaged, it is customary for his fellow students to not only wish him "mazel tov," but to also give him a hug or a kiss on the cheek. And let us not forget that in Torah-observant communities, men dance with men and women dance with women. These "mitzva" dances create a warm sense of unity among the participants, and they are emotionally and spiritually uplifting.

Last, but not least, men can experience with their male friends the deep pleasure of "emotional" affection and intimacy. To experience this form of intimacy, however, they need to be in touch with their feelings and to be capable of expressing these feelings in words. Many men find this to be a difficult process, especially those who grew up in an Anglo-Saxon culture. In fact, some married men have difficulty developing this type of intimacy with their wives.

I have known some single men and women who had a deep need for emotional intimacy, but they didn't know how to achieve this, so they ran after sexual experiences which they hoped would meet this need. They ended up feeling unsatisfied, for they did not receive the emotional love they were looking for.

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:19) teaches that all love which depends on a physical or external cause will pass away when the cause is no longer there, but a love which is not dependent on a physical or external cause will last forever. And the Mishna cites the friendship between David and Jonathan as an example of a love which lasts forever. It is recorded in the Book of Samuel 1 that "Jonathan's soul became attached to David's soul" (18:1). As the Malbim and other commentators explain, the good and the holy within Jonathan's soul was drawn to the good and the holy within David's soul, and vice versa. These spiritual qualities last forever; thus, a love based on these spiritual qualities also lasts forever.

Our sages often refer to Hashem as "Rachmana" - an Aramaic word which means "the Loving One." May Rachmana bless all of us with a love that lasts forever.

Shalom Rav,

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

The author is the director of the E-mail Torah study program "Hazon - Our Universal Vision":

Why Neither Homosexuality nor Heterosexuality Exist in Judaism

Rabbi Joel Beasley teaches Bible, Talmud, and Philosophy, and develops creative learning programs in a variety of educational institutions near his home in Alon Shvut, Israel. This article first appeared in the Jewish Spectator, Winter 1998.

"God does not play tricks on His creations". - Talmud, Avoda Zara 3a
"I'm not a bad girl; I'm just drawn that way." - Jessica Rabbit, Who Shot Roger Rabbit? (1988).

Canadian columnist Barbara Amiel recently identified a product of Western culture she called the "azza," a person who prefaces comments with the words, "as a." "Azza left-handed pro-life Scottish-nationalist Elvis-imitator," for example, "I might find your remarks offensive." The azza preface grants critical immunity. Honest intellectual discussion is hard to come by with this ultra-sensitive, utilitarian character.

Amiel's words resonate in an era in which Jewish tradition is derided as bigoted and homophobic. Is there any relevance in this environment for the Torah view that the homosexual act is an "abomination" (Leviticus 18:22)? How can Judaism with its unambiguous position speak to this generation? As far as the Jewish religion goes, there are no homosexuals in the world, nor have there ever been. There are no heterosexuals either. Both terms are pejorative. They imply that the essence of existence lies somehow within the crass and the carnal. Human beings are reduced to their most primal function, as if the point of life was to contemplate the smorgasbord of sexual possibilities in the world.

From the Jewish perspective, identifying existentially as a homosexual or a heterosexual is as irrelevant as identifying as a ptyalizer (a person whose saliva flows excessively).The words may describe predilections or behavior, but they hardly capture the essence of the person. The Torah labels people not by their primal urges, but by their obligations to God. The Cohen, Levi, and Yisrael each play a different role within the apparatus of Divine worship. The adult keeps mitzvot, while the youth is exempt. The indentured servant, the non-Jewish citizen, and the free person all enjoy different monetary obligations. In dividing these responsibilities, God apparently did not care about human preferences, sexual or otherwise. He did not ask the Jewish people whether or not they would like to follow His Torah. According to the Midrash, He held the mountain over the entire nation and said, "take it." No azza interest group declined because of special needs. It was an offer no one could refuse.

In the pre-azza world, Jews tended to appreciate their Creator more, not only for bringing them out of bondage, but for enabling them to breathe. The Torah gave them the opportunity to express their gratitude. Before JFK, God told His people not to ask what He can do for them, but what they can do for Him. If any one label applies accurately to the Jew, it is Eved Hashem, servant of God. This may represent the main point of conflict between the ideology of the azza world and the Torah. The azza is concerned with rights. The Torah rarely discusses rights. It is more focused on responsibilities. Within its structured framework, people can maximize their own distinct talents and interests. Their ultimate task is to become partners with God in the world's creation -- literally by creating their unique selves in His image.

As part of this act of self-creation, people must see their personal qualities as constantly evolving. Branding themselves with labels stymies their potential for growth and destroys their partnership with God. Labels rarely describe people as they are. They more frequently become self-fulfilling prophecies. A child who is labeled "slow" from an early age feels defeated. Trying to rise above the low expectations seems futile.

Teshuvah, the assumption that any human quality can be changed if necessary to serve the Creator, allows individuals to maximize their potential beyond their wildest expectations. A child once assumed to have been slow can develop into a top scholar with the appropriate determination. Every destructive impulse can be directed towards appropriate holy activity.

The current consensus amongst Behavioral Psychologists supports the Torah's optimism with regards to change. With the right positive and negative reinforcement, people can adjust to any number of previously unimaginable realities. Behavioral conditioning usually works more efficiently at earlier ages, but all people can adjust to new situations if they are motivated.

According to sexual behaviorists like Masters and Johnson, babies are born neither heterosexual nor homosexual in any categorical sense (Human Sexuality, 1995, fifth edition). They are sexually malleable, and can remain in flux throughout their lifetimes. Whether sexuality is determined by biology or by the environment -- or both -- is a question that defies clear empirical proof. Regardless of the nature-nurture conundrum, sexual attraction is almost always influenced to some degree by external stimuli. Human preferences are complex and quirky. If chocolate ice cream tastes sensational today, it may taste less so tomorrow. People are inclined naturally towards aesthetic variation. That does not mean they should be free to act on their impulses. The Torah understands that unrestrained pursuit of personal pleasure takes a terrible toll on society, and creates havoc for the stability of the family.

What if people feel genuinely attracted to their own gender? This does not make them homosexual, even if they experience homosexual feelings. These feelings may or may not go away in time, but the Torah still expects that people adapt themselves as best they can to male-female marriage. There have always been people in the world who at least at one point in their lives are attracted to their own gender, to little children, to family members, to ever-changing sexual whims. God does not permit people to act out their fantasy lives if these conflict with His vision of holiness.

The Torah does not accept the concept of monogamous homosexual relationships because self-fulfillment is not part of its agenda. If human sexuality is influenced by environment, someone with homosexual ideation can potentially lead a fulfilled marital life. But even if their innermost desires remained unfulfilled, it does not matter. It may never become clear why some people do not feel predisposed to marrying someone of the opposite sex. The obligation remains.

Marriage is meant to teach people how to rise above their own selfish needs in order to give to a partner who is both psychologically and physiologically different. Same-gender marriages might have been too easy. As one essayist put it, male couples would have been able to sit around and watch ballgames all day; female couples would have been able to sit down and really talk about one another's feelings. But marriage is meant to challenge each of the partners. John Grey's bestsellers on the subject (Menare from Mars, Women are from Venus, et al.) have touched a raw nerve precisely because members of both sexes are aware of the difficulty in bridging the chasm between them.

Jews have always appreciated the gap between the sexes. The Torah sanctified it. The Jews were the first people in world history to make divorce difficult by forcing the man to pay a hefty sum before separating permanently from his wife. When the inevitable conflicts arose, neither spouse could run away so quickly. They had to stay together and work things out the hard way, often becoming finer individuals in the process. Divorce was a possibility, but only as a last resort after all other options had been explored. The constructive tension in marriage helped them grow.

Male-female marriage is a much more stable societal norm than monogamous same-sex relationships. Dennis Prager argues that men in particular need women as a civilizing force in order to tame their potentially unruly libidos ("Judaism, Homosexuality, and Civilization," Ultimate Issues ,April-June 1990). Societies that tolerated homosexual behavior in history were characterized almost without exception by the oppression and subjugation of women, by the elevation of male sexual gratification as a mainstream pastime, and by a lack of any persevering family life. Men by their nature are not as willing to commit to long-term relationships. Prager argues that "while it is possible for male homosexuals to live lives of fidelity comparable to those of heterosexual males, it is usually not the case." According to one study, the typical lesbian has fewer than ten lovers in the course of her active sexual life, the typical male homosexual has over five hundred (Bell and Weinberg, Homosexualities, Alfred Kinsey Institute for Sex Research, 1978).

God's idea of holiness is not always discernible to the human mind. These explanations may not fully account for the Torah's overall prohibition. They do refute the popular claim that the Torah would have sanctioned monogamous homosexual relationships if it had known about them. The prohibition was meant to be unambiguous and eternal. This is one reason the Torah is so spare with its words, "And do not lie with the male in the way you lie with a woman -- it is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22). Try as they may, modern voices fail to twist these words beyond their unavoidably clear meaning.

God is not cruel. He does not ask people to do anything beyond their capacity. He does at times ask them to harness their desires. To some degree, all mitzvot go against the natural human grain. Without the social or ethical restraints that usually bind them, most people would steal, live promiscuously, lie, cheat, and occasionally murder, sometimes out of sheer convenience. The greatest struggle in life, according to the Torah, is to discipline base instincts in pursuit of moral excellence. People are bursting with inchoate spirituality. The truly righteous learn how to control their physical drives while striving to realize their loftiest convictions.

Many people diminish their potential by embracing labels. The self-proclaimed homosexual who engages in homosexual acts is not necessarily considered evil from a Torah perspective. The act is evil. The prohibition may be absolute, but Jews still have a priority of showing one another compassion, especially when doing the right thing becomes a struggle. There is no contradiction when those who condemn homosexual behavior reach out lovingly to self-identified "homosexuals." It means that they are able to see the Divine image in all people.

In a world that hypocritically accepts homosexuality in public and abhors it in private, the compassionate Jewish approach is unique. But for Judaism to be on the cutting edge is nothing new. The Midrash explains why our founder was called Avraham ha'ivri. While the rest of the world stood on one side(iver) of the river, Avraham bravely stood on the other. Jews are defined from the beginning of their history by their ability to stand firm in their beliefs despite the prevailing trends in the world. The Jewish views of monotheism, a limited monarchy, and freedom have rarely been endorsed by the historical powers of the world. Most of these powers themselves have died out, while the Jews and their Torah are as vibrant as ever. When homosexuality was exalted in Greek, Mayan, Chinese, Scandinavian cultures -- in fact almost every society in world history (see David E. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality, 1988) -- the Jews stood resolutely by their ideal of male-female marriage.

People diminish themselves by insisting on azza-like labels. Strangely enough, in the modern world, identity often becomes enmeshed with career: "I am a secretary," "a lawyer," "a clerk," "an artist." These self-definitions are sadly accurate for those who accomplish little beyond their all-consuming careers. Others identify with their astrological signs, their lives assuming a kooky arbitrary dimension that seems beyond the individual's control. And some identify with their carnal preferences, as homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, or otherwise sexually challenged. Sex indeed often dominates their lives. If their days and nights are not filled with pursuits of physical pleasure, their minute-to-minute fantasy life tends to be all-engrossing.

The Torah offers a finer alternative. Within God's scheme, career, cosmos, and sexuality are all part of life's intricate fabric. Judaism is not ascetic. The individual is supposed to appreciate the richness of God's physical creation. The key is to accept the Torah's parameters. Through discipline and a pursuit of holiness, the Torah teaches how to appreciate the spiritual gifts in the universe and thereby live the fullest kind of existence.

The Jewish Community

Written By: Bronya Shaffer (posted Jan. 2011)

Printed from JewishMontana.com


According to Jewish law, how should a person react to homosexual feelings? Do homosexuals fit into the Jewish community?


You ask about feelings and law. But feelings do not fall within the domain of law. A person feels what a person feels. Then he has the power to decide whether he will act upon those feelings or… not. This is the human experience: desire, longing, wanting…and the law. Part of our development from childhood to adulthood is creating for ourselves a moral compass. Something that's internal. That which tells us right from wrong. And that moral compass is comprised of myriad components, but must be firmly grounded, always, in a system of absolutes. Absolute law. Absolute values. Torah. From the time we're very, very young we learn: this may be how you feel, but this is not how you may act. Consider a three year old who longs to use his grandmother's couch as a trampoline, consider what his mother will tell him. We feel what we feel. And we act according to the law: the law of the Torah, or the law of the land, or the laws of social niceties. And as we grow, clear about absolute laws, we develop our own moral compass.

We feel what we feel. And we act according to the lawSo what to do when our desires are for unequivocally forbidden acts? While firmly closing the door on the act, often we find that when we consistently redirect those emotions, again and again, the emotions are slowly tempered and change. Sometimes it takes just a little work, sometimes many years. Some feelings never go away. That is the challenge of being human.

Jewish law unconditionally prohibits the homosexual act. Just as the heterosexual act is prohibited outside of marriage, regardless of personal desires, attractions or inclinations, so the homosexual act is forbidden.

Or perhaps your question is in regard to how we should react to the homosexual feelings of others? Or how we should react to someone who eats on Yom Kippur? Or someone who longs for the relationship with a man other than her husband? On this, the classic work known as the Tanya provides strong advice: Consider what it means to have such burning passions for forbidden fruit. Consider the day to day fierce and relentless battle demanded to conquer such passions. Consider that a person with such feelings who fails even once in such a battle is sinning. And then ask yourself, "Do I ever fight such a battle on my own ground? What makes me any better than him?"

The Tanya continues to illustrate the many areas in which all of us could improve by waging at least a small battle on our own ground.

On your question concerning community: A Jew belongs within a Jewish community. There are no application forms and no qualification requirements. He's Jewish—that's where he belongs. Period. We all have our challenges, our shortcomings, our feelings...and our failures in battle as well...and with all that, we are a community of Jews.

Wishing you all the best,

Bronya Shaffer for Chabad.org



Much of today's world denies the concept of sexual holiness, and sees sex as but another natural function - like eating, drinking or defecating. The sex act itself is therefore compared, or even equated, to drinking a glass of water. Judaism, on the other hand, clearly believes sex between a husband and a wife is a "kiddushin", a sanctification, a holy act commanded by G-d.

Conjugal Sex's Unique Holiness in Judaism:

The sacredness of lawful sex which lies at the heart of traditional Judaism is often forgotten. As R.Patai tells us in "Sex and Family in the Bible and the Middle East," while the ancient Canaanites saw "the entire sexual aspect of life as surrounded by an aura of sanctity," and believed that "performing the sexual act in honor of a deity was a religious practice" (the saturnalia), their view permitted sexual pairings of all kinds - heterosexual, homosexual, incestuous, pederastic and group sex - in order to sexually stimulate the gods, who were watching, so they would then make the herds, fields and women fertile.

When the Hebrews accepted the existence of One Lawful G-d, the pagan notion of sex as holy was retained but was severely limited by recognizing a sacred sexuality solely in the marital bed. Adultery, premarital sex for women, homosexuality, incest and bestiality were therefore banned. "The revolution begun by the Torah when it declared war on the sexual practices of the world wrought the most far-reaching changes in history," according to Dennis Prager in "Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization." It was Judaism that demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, and thus, as Prager observed, "it changed the world."

David Gelernter recently maintained in Commentary Magazine (2003) that "husband and wife create a whole man out of two halves. Their sexual union is inherently blessed whether a child is engendered or not. The cult of the couple has given marriage in Judaism a supreme (and unique) importance." With the notion of "the married couple at the center of the universe," Jews "celebrate sexuality."

This view of sex as serious, sacred, and limited to one's spouse contradicts America's increasing trivialization of sex. And, in turn, the trivialization produced in young people's minds by previous experiences with many partners weakens the emotional exclusivity with which they view the marital sexual bond. This has become a major psychological reason for America's high divorce rate.

The intense sexual pleasure which marriage brings both partners helps create and maintain love and affection between them. (The importance of a wife's sexual satisfaction has long been stressed by Jewish sages.) The marital trust evoked by sexual fidelity helps create homes in which children learn the love and trust upon which civilization itself rests.

On the contrary, feminist, gay and other political movements have systematically minimized or denied the biological differences between men and women. As leading advocates of sexual freedom and promiscuity, these movements represent the major political enemies of fidelity and sexual holiness. In doing so, they hide one of Judaism's greatest contributions to civilization, that is, the transformation of raw biological sexuality and the inborn attraction of male and female, by channeling it into the faithful, sacred love of the Song of Solomon.

A Word on Homosexual Ideology

Andrew Sullivan, one of the homosexual movement's leading ideologists, refers to the "natural urges in a particular person that may run counter to the nature of the species as a whole." Judaism calls such defiance for its own sake "the evil inclination." Sullivan, however, goes on to illustrate how "homosexuals have delighted in showing in their ironic games with the dominant culture" that they can be "ultimately immune to its [society's] control." This finding suggests the centrality of defiance as part of the psychology within many gays. In contrast, obedience to the Law is, of course, the essence of Judaism.

The Opposite Natures of Homosexual and Traditional Marriage

The real conflict between homosexual and traditional marriage is the reliance on different standards that are found in two competing cultures: one of fidelity and the other of "freedom" (or promiscuity) . Fidelity - sexual exclusivity - is at the heart of both Jewish and Christian traditional marriage between men and women. But gay couples are apparently more interested in sexual variety. Of 156 such couples who had lived together for at least 5 years ( many were together for 20 years or more) and were interviewed by a pair of gay researchers named McWhirter and Mattison, only seven had a totally exclusive relationship--however, none of these seven had been in their relationship for more than five years . Indeed, these researchers concluded that "the single most important factor that keeps [these gay] couples together past the ten year mark is the lack of possessiveness they feel. Many couples learn very early in their relationship that ownership of each other sexually can become the greatest internal threat to their staying together."

Another pair of gay investigators (M.Kirk and H. Madsen in "After the Ball") describe "the cheating ratio of 'married' gay males, given enough time, [as] approaching 100%." This being how gay couples actually behave, the notion of faithful homosexual marriage, although doubtlessly occasionally occurring, appears rather questionable.

The gay and feminist political movements hold strong power positions, especially in the mass media, and are now attempting to use the U.S. Supreme Court's recent Lawrence decision to get further acceptance of homosexuality as equal, if not superior, to heterosexuality. For example, New York Times national political correspondent Richard Berke told the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association that at times, "literally three-quarters of the people deciding what's on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals." And the American psychiatric, psychological and social work associations are trying to declare unethical any psychotherapeutic attempts to help people wanting to change from homosexuality.

While any two or more people can make whatever private contracts they wish, the acceptance of legally and/or religiously-approved homosexual marriage would gravely undermine the uniquely sacred nature of traditional marriage. For those of us who practice Judaism as a religion and understand the sacredness of a sanctified relationship between a man and woman which is called marriage, a so-called homosexual "marriage" would be comparable to a Jew trying to kosher a pig.

- Dr. Nathaniel S. Lehrman
(Posted to JONAH Online Library - April 2004)



JONAH was chosen as our group's name both as an acronym for Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality and to represent the biblical Book of JONAH. The Book of JONAH is the Torah portion read on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and thus the classic parable of repentence and returning to G-D. For all Jews, Yom Kippur represents the culmination of 40 days of reflection, evaluation, and the willingness to change what has not worked well in our lives.

The myths surrounding the attempt to normalize homosexuality have left many of us confused and bewildered. We want to be good people, we don't want to discriminate against our sisters and brothers who experience same-sex attractions, and yet - if we embrace someone's homosexuality as G-D given and natural, are we doing the right thing? Recent scientific evidence bolsters the traditional scientific evidence that leads us to believe that same-sex attractions represent a drive to meet unmet love needs. Based on the numerous articles and papers you will read on the JONAH web site, JONAH's position on how the Jewish community should respond to this issues is as follows:

We love our fellow Jews too much to watch them embrace the false identity of homosexuality. The Torah teaches us that homosexuality is a behavior, not an identity. This idea is further clarified in a letter of support from Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky who powerfully stated, " Anything that the Torah forbids, the human being is able to control."

Empirical evidence is clear that homosexuality is changeable and so we need to devote ourselves to teaching the public about the prevention, causes, and treatment of homosexuality.

For those of us who are parents and family members of those experiencing same-sex attractions, we need to admit that we probably unwittingly contributed to our children's homosexual attractions. Therefore, we need to provide an example of how we as people need to grow and change ourselves so that we can express our love for our children more fully, improve our relationship with them, and teach by example that we all have the capacity to change even deeply-rooted conflicts.
As Jews, we also need to insure that families and communities do not ostracize their children who live a homosexual lifestyle. It is heartless to reject a child for something that is not his/her fault. In the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we must "take a loving and caring attitude by extending a helping hand."

We need to reach out to those experiencing same-sex attractions and let them know that we will support them in every way possible if they decide to transition out of homosexuality and recover their heterosexual potential. However, we will love and cherish them as the individuals they are even if they choose to stay in a homosexual lifestyle.

We must reach out with love and compassion and an understanding that many times the worst treatment of homosexuals comes from their own internalized sense of shame and guilt. Alternatively, gay activists seek a cult-like environment to keep a person with a confused sense of gender identiuty within the bounds of the so-called gay lifestlye. Homosexuals are us and we are them, they were not born a different class of persons, they were not born different. No one chooses to be a homosexual anymore than you would choose to be an obese person, an alcoholic, or anyone afflicted with a life-damaging condition, which if we are honest, includes almost all of us in one way or another.

We need to work together to figure out the best way to explain that we can love our fellow Jews and yet encourage them to change. We must be honest and let the public know that in every way measurable, the cons outweigh the pros of a homosexual lifestyle, whether or not the government or a religious body gives its approval to homosexuality. It is simply cruel to tell young people experiencing same-sex attractions that a homosexual lifestyle will give them the same chance at living a full life as a heterosexual lifestyle - we know it won't and we must stand up to the "politically correct" rhetoric of our times and speak the truth.

In closing, we all gain when the issues surrounding homosexuality are out of the closet, when the stigma of being a homosexual is lessened, when recovered homosexuals are not ashamed to speak out and give hope to others, when parents can admit their mistakes, when our fellow Jews know that we love them enough to stand up and fight for their right to live a normal life, and when the world understands the underlying causes of same-sex attractions.

We all need to join together, speak out, publicize our cause, and help our fellow Jews who are suffering from unwanted same-sex attractions.

Shalom with love,

Elaine Silodor Berk,
Co-Director of JONAH


Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Volume XI - 1986


Homosexuality, once a word whispered only with revulsion or derision, is now out in the open for all to see and hear. In fact, homosexuality and its attendant issues have become big news.

Whether it is the rapidly spreading, and ever-more frightening AIDS epidemic, or the increase in sympathetic "gay" characters in the theater and in literature, or the widening legal battles over the status of homosexuals, one cannot go very far in contemporary society with out confronting this once extremely closet-bound topic.

Traditional Judaism, too, has been forced to confront the issue as "gay" individuals and "synagogues" have appeared on the Jewish landscape, often appealing for support from the liberal segments of the Jewish community.

Certainly, an authentic Jewish response must begin with the biblical prohibition against homosexuality. The Bible unequivocally states that a homosexual act between two consenting adult males is a capital crime(1). Therefore, homosexuality is an activity that no traditional Jew can engage in, endorse, accept, or approve of (recent televised statements to the contrary notwithstanding)(2).

Despite this initial biblical negative, there is much to discuss regarding our attitude to the homosexual, the issue of the homosexual's place in the community, the question of approach and the treatment of the homosexual, and the problem of the homosexual's rights and acceptance in society. In addition, we must consider why the Bible and Jewish thought reject homosexuality keeping in mind as we do that female homosexuality, though forbidden, is not nearly as serious a crime as is its male counterpart(3).

Drawing the Right Picture

Our analysis of Judaism's approach to homosexuality begins with the question, "What is Judaism's view of the Jewish homosexual?" It is this author's contention that the only appropriate answer to this question is "there is no such individual(4)."

To explain this rather radical statement, one must go back to the structure that halacha places upon Jewish society. In this structure there are certain legal personalities who constitute the dramatis personae of the Jewish community. A Cohen is such a personality, as is a Levi. A woman is such a personality, as is a slave or a king. Other "characters" populate the Jewish landscape. The mamzer and the Cohen Gadol, the Katan and the gadol, the cheresh and the shoteh each has his place in the scheme of things(5). Lacking from this list is the homosexual. So much is he missing from the cast of characters of Jewish society that one is hard put to find a halachic term used specifically for him(6).

If one were, in fact, to apply a halachic category to this individual, it would be the general category of mumar l'teiavon (one whose desires put him in opposition to Torah law), specifically mumar l'mishkav zachor (one who because of his repeated involvement in homosexual activity is in opposition to Torah law). Such a category exists in halachic literature(7), is clearly defined, and places the homosexual on a equal footing with other mumarim who violate other laws.

It seems clear from this that halacha never viewed the homosexual as a member of a unique category or as different from the non-homosexual. He has no greater or lesser rights or obligations. He deserves no special treatment or concessions nor any special vilification. In fact, the term "homosexual" is an essentially inappropriate description for him. We should, rather, refer to this individual as a person engaged in homosexual activity. "Homosexual" is therefore not a noun that identifies and categorizes the individual but an adjective that describes his activity.

This approach has great intuitive appeal. It is hard to imagine Jewish thought accepting the premise the sexual desires and activities provide grounds by which to define an individual's place in the community. In addition, there are vast and important ramifications that emerge from this picture of the individual as a person involved in homosexual activity and not as a homosexual.

The first effect of this changed conceptualization is to alter and improve the individual's perception of himself. If one is labeled and defined by the term "homosexual", he is consequently different than the heterosexual. As such, he will struggle for minority status and for his rights as a member of that minority. He is, and should be, portrayed as a unique character type in movies, theater, and on television, and he should command an appropriate number of participants in any institution that constitutes itself along racial, ethnic, and religious lines. He agitates for gay pride and gay power, and if he is Jewish, he creates gay synagogues and other gay institutions.

On the other hand, If "homosexual" is a term that is limited to the description of an activity, then the individual practicing this activity remains an undifferentiated member of society, and if Jewish he is part of Jewish society. He need not feel excluded from the community. In the same way that the adulterer, the practitioner of pre-marital sex, the mechallel Shabbat(8) or the speaker of lashon harah all enter the synagogue and feel at home while individually dealing with whatever guilt they carry as a result of their sinful activities, so, too, the individual involved in homosexual activity can and should enter the synagogue and feel himself to be part of the community. He is still a human being and a Jew. He is most assuredly not part of a separate homosexual society or sub-society. (See below for a discussion of the Gentile homosexual.) Obviously, the adulterer, mechallel Shabbat, et al are duty-bound to change their ways - to do teshuva - and the mumar l'mishkav zachor has the same obligation(9).

The second implication of this approach concerns the community's dealings with the individual involved in homosexual activity. If the practitioner of homosexuality is considered a full fledged Jew (albeit a mummar), the community should welcome him as such. This is particularly true in our post-holocaust era, wherein our heightened awareness of the value of each Jewish soul has motivated many communities to make kiruv rechokim (attempts to bring non-observant Jews into the fold of Torah-observance) a hallmark of their activities. This Kiruv work should not and cannot be limited only to violators of halacha in ritual matters. Deviance from halachic norms in sexual matters is as much an area for concern, outreach, and proper education as anything else. Particularly in an area that is as difficult to control as sexual desire(10), the support of the community for one who might want to bring his lifestyle in line with halacha may be crucial to success.

At this point something should be said about the term "toeivah(11)" as used by the Torah in connection with homosexuality. Some may feel that its appearance in this context precludes treating the practitioner of homosexuality in the same way that one would treat an individual who is guilty of a different sin. The problem with this suggestion is that to be consistent we would require similarly negative treatment of the persons who eats non-Kosher food(12) the idolator(13), the unethical business man(14) and the individual who remarries a woman who, since her divorce from him, has entered and left (by death or divorce) another marriage to another man(15). All of these individuals are guilty of committing a toeivah, according to the respective verses that prohibit the particular activity. If we are going to ostracize the individual who commits homosexual acts, then we must ostracize these individuals as well. Since we do not take this approach in the other cases, we should not do so in dealing with the individual involved in homosexual activity.

How then to understand the toeivah designation? In an article in the Encyclopedia Judaica Yearbook, Dr Norman Lamm(16) defines toeivah in aesthetic terms. These actions are repulsive in and of themselves; no rationale or explanation is necessary. Rather, the divine aspect within the human being is automatically and instinctively repelled by these activities. The fact that any number of individuals are possessed of a deadened spiritual sensitivity that allows them to accept or even participate in the acts in question, does not mean that the spiritually sensitive individual allows his revulsion to be diminished nor does he apologize for that revulsion.

Further, it is important to note that the wording of the act in question indicates that this revulsion is directed only at the act and not at its perpetrator. The perpetrator is not to be ostracized. One who commits a toeivah is halachically and societally no different than one who commits a transgression of a non-toeivah law of equal severity.

Although it may be true that a leopard cannot change its sports, Judaism holds that a human being can change or control his activities(17). While we certainly recognize that many individuals have personality factors that would tend to promote certain sinful activities, our expectation is that these individuals will control these tendencies. We no more would accept the act of murder as legitimate because the perpetrator is prone to violence, then we should accept the act of homosexuality as inevitable because of the existence of biological, genetic, or environmental factors that may contribute to an individual's preference for homosexual acts. A rational individual can control himself, and no amount of apologetics, explanations, or rationalizations can change this fundamental fact. Simply put, the individual engaged in homosexual activity is wrong in what he is doing and is held responsible for having done it.

It is on this issue that the approach presented here parts company most completely with Dr.Lamm's view. Whereas Dr. Lamm(18) sees the homosexual as an anuss (an individual forced into heredity and/or environment into activity that the Bible forbids) this author sees him as mumar. Whereas Dr. Lamm effectively removes culpability from him (anuss rachma patrie(19)), this author insists that creating a sense of culpability is an integral part of the approach that Judaism should take in confronting the individual involved in homosexual activity. This sense of culpability may be just the push necessary for the individual to begin the teshuva process.

The view presented here seems more in keeping with biblical(20), talmudic(21) and other halachic sources(22). The consistent position taken by these sources is that the homosexual is ultimately subject to punishment for his actions. The halachic system fully expects that an individual properly warned, witnessed, and brought to trial for this act be killed. There is no indication anywhere in the literature that such individuals have a prima facie defense as anussim.

Dr. Lamm(23) supports his approach by arguing that present public policy and social reality preclude punishment of all offenders. We must, therefore, maintain our condemnation of the act while refraining from dealing punitively with the offender. In his view, this can best be done by treating the offender as an anuss.

However, there is nothing in his argument that prevents our labeling the individual as a mumar. We do not punish Sabbath violators, or those who eat treif. Environment/heredity is not enough to label the individual involved in homosexual activity an anuss. Rather label him a mumar, indicating that he is responsible for his actions.

Further, a stance such as Dr. Lamm's seems to carry with it the possibility of pushing the individual presently questioning his own sexual orientation over the wrong edge.

After all, if biology/upbringing is the cause, and the participant is only the victim of irresistible forces, he has a handy excuse and less of a reason not to succumb to his desires.

Labeling one a mumar does not necessarily mean that the community should respond with public condemnation and rejection or the individual. In an era which lacks a Sanhedrin and adequate Jewish communal structures we have long tolerated, worked with, and even welcomed and accepted violators of many halachot within our community. It is necessary, therefore, to couple our tolerance of the individual with disapproval of the activity. This must then be combined with an expectation and hope that the individual will change his behavior. Calling him a mumar, if handled correctly, strengthens the chances for change.

The subject of change brings us to our next point. Jewish thought would argue that homosexually oriented individuals can change their sexual orientation and can ultimately develop an interest in and derive pleasure from heterosexual activity. This conclusion is an obvious consequence of our discussion thus far. If a homosexual act is punishable, and if we expect he individual who has homosexual desires to avoid giving in to them, what then is the life situation of such and individual? There seem to be two possibilities. One: such and individual cannot change his feelings. If this is the case he is a prisoner trapped in a body which, while commanded to marry an procreate, has an emotional structures that finds such a concept at best unfulfilling and at worst a living purgatory. Two: change - and a normal, happy, fulfilled life marriage and heterosexual union are possible.

We are told by the Talmud(24) that G-d does not play tricks on His creations. Particularly as the area of sexuality is an area of such deeply personal implications to any individual, it is difficult imagine G-d creating a situation wherein those who feel themselves to possess a homosexual orientation cannot change and are consequently locked in a living prison with no exit and no key. Therefore, some method or methods must exist to successfully change the sexual orientation of motivated individuals. It's heartening to note that a recent study (25),indicates a 70% success rate among such individuals. It is unfortunate that the mass media and most mental health professionals publicly portray the goal "acceptance of one's orientation" as the optimum, while downplaying or denying the possibility of change. Our task must be to publicize the possibility of change, and the relevant statistics that now become statistics of hope. We also should encourage the mental health community to develop new and even more effective methods to alter the sexual orientation of those striving to live Torah-true lifestyle.

Perhaps one further support for the idea that homosexual orientation is at least preventable, if not totally changeable, is the anomalous fact that one community in which the percentage of homosexual preference is significantly lower than in the general population is the Orthodox Jewish community(26).

It is almost as if halacha rejects the notion of an individual called a homosexual, rejects the necessity of the homosexual act for any individual, rejects the idea of an irrevocable homosexual orientation, and then creates a society in which these ideals can, apparently quite successfully, be lived.

Judaism rejects the suggestions that homosexuality is either a form of mental illness or an "acceptable alternate lifestyle." Judaism's positions would be a third and as yet unconsidered option. Homosexuality is an activity entered into volitionally by individuals, who may be psychologically healthy, which is maladaptive and inappropriate. Depending on one's theory, it may indicate arrested development, poor family structure, early trauma, frustration of the purpose of creation, disruption of the basic family structure, unnatural behavior, etc.

But whatever the case it constitutes activity that will diminish an individual's capacity to fulfill, in his own life, G-d's expressed plan for creation. As such, this individual cannot achieve his full potential as a human being(27). Therefore, our task is to treat and redirect this individual to more appropriate and fulfilling activity.

Gentile Homosexuals

One question not addressed directly in the previous section is, "Why does Judaism not recognize the existence of a homosexual sub-group within the Jewish community?"

Of course, one might answer that as the act of homosexuality is forbidden, Judaism would no more grant official status to those who practice it than it would grant such status to murderers, thieves, or adulterers. This answer may, in fact, be sufficient and perhaps we should simply turn to the next section and the discussion of the rationale for Judaism's negative approach to the entire issue of homosexuality.

However, there may be another more profound and far-reaching answer to this question. The Sifra states(28)

"I did not say this except for those laws inscribed for them [the Gentiles] their fathers' father. What did they [the Gentiles, as opposed to the Jews] do? Men would marry men, and women would marry women".

This seems to indicate a difference between homosexuality when it makes its appearance in the Jewish community. For the Gentile, homosexuality is a reality that is part of his heritage. For a Jew, homosexuality is a foreign incursion.

Additional support for this division along national lines can be adduced from the prohibition against female homosexuality. This prohibition, though not explicitly stated in the Bible, is derived from the same verse, Leviticus 18:2, that elicits the comment of the Sifra quoted above. The verse reads: "After the doings of the land Egypt wherein you lived you shall not do, and after the doings of the land of Canaan where I am bringing you, you shall not do, nor shall you walk in the statutes." This source provides a further indication that homosexuality is viewed as a foreign element in Jewish society. It may well be that this factor contributes to halacha's unwillingness to recognize a homosexual subgroup within Jewish society.

Statistics show significantly reduced levels of homosexual men in Orthodox Jewish circles as compared to all other segments of society. Further indication of this anomaly is provided by the dearth of questions relating to homosexuality and individuals involved in homosexual activity in halachic and responsa literature(29).

One obvious question remains. Does halacha recognize a homosexual individual who cannot change, and therefore a homosexual sub-community in the Gentile world?

The answer to this question seems unclear. On the one hand the Sifra quoted above indicates a belief that at least some Gentile homosexuals develop their sexual orientation because of a traditional cultural heritage. This would tend to support the idea the halacha acknowledges the possibility of a homosexual subgroup in Gentile society.

On the other hand, none of the stories from the Bible, such as the sin of Ham, the men of Sodom, or the Potiphar's true purpose in purchasing Joseph as his slave, portray any of the individuals as totally homosexual. All are either married (in the normal fashion) or are said to father children in the course of their lives. This would seem to indicate that pure homosexuality was considered an aberration even if found in Gentile circles.

Further, halacha prescribes the death penalty for homosexual acts committed between Gentile men(30). Our tendency would therefore be to deny that halacha recognizes a homosexual community among Gentiles. If we, in fact, did recognize such a community would we not be advocating genocide towards it? Such a position is obviously troubling.

Condemnation of Homosexuality - Why?

In discussions of the Jewish view of homosexuality, the question "Why does Judaism condemn a pleasurable, victimless act that tales place between two consenting adults?" often takes center stage. Although explanations are not lacking in the literature a truly consistent approach should also shed some light on why female homosexuality, though forbidden, is far less heinous a crime than male homosexuality(31).

In fact, a number of suggested answers suffer from a failure to adequately explain this last point.

One such approach centers around the primacy of family and children in our system of values. The practice of male homosexuality obviously frustrates the implementation of these values(32). But so does the practice of female homosexuality. Yet the two are not treated with equal severity.

A second approach argues that homosexuality is somehow unnatural. Our bodies are constructed to act in certain ways, and the practice of male homosexuality prevents these ways(33). Once again, female homosexuality seems to be every bit as unnatural as the male variety, yet we do not react to it in the same way.

Often, those who advocate these two approaches resort to the "hashchatat zera" (destruction of seed) argument(34). Since male homosexuality involves hashchatat zera and female homosexuality does not, the prohibition as violated by the man is more stringent.

There are two problems with the treatment of the male participant. Hashchatat xera in other contexts does not entail the death penalty(35).

However, males involved in homosexual activity (as opposed to females) are subject to capital punishment. Hashchatat zera, therefore, does not appear to be a significant enough factor to explain this severe reaction of the part of Torah law.

Second, the biblical prohibition concerns the homosexual act and not hashchatat zera. In Jewish law, homosexual activity, if consummated, is a capital crime even if there is not hotzaat zera, yet male physical contact, even if it results in hotzaata zera, is not punishable in this way unless actual sexual consummation occurs(36). For these reasons, the approaches cited seem unable to serve as complete explanations for the Torah view of this issue.

However, one variation of the "unnatural"theme seems to fare better in dealing with our question. This position takes its definition of natural, not from physiology and nature as studied in the laboratory, but from nature as defined in the Torah. The Torah says:

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife and they shall be as one flesh(37)".

The Torah has, in the verse, defined "natural" as man and women united in heterosexual union. Any person engaged in homosexual activity acts against G-d's natural order of things, and is therefore culpable. However, women involved in homosexuality are less in violation of the "natural" then men as it says: "He shall cleave…..and they shall be as one flesh", can be accomplished by males in homosexual union but not by females. This explanation seems to deal neatly with the various facets of the problem(38).

One other approach to the question of why Judaism has such antipathy to homosexuality deserves mention(39). This approach expands on the argument "And he shall cleave and they shall be as one flesh...", reintroduces the centality of the family in Judaism to the discussion of homosexuality, and treats the halachic differences between male and female homosexuality in a rather interesting way. This explanation argues that homosexuality, when it did occur at all in the Jewish community, usually occurred in a bisexual context and not as an exclusively homosexual orientation on the part of the individual. Individuals raised in the Jewish community usually possessed a strong sense of family as part of their tradition and heritage. This, coupled with the desire to find personal continuity into the next generation and with communal pressure to marry, would naturally lead almost everyone to establish a marriage relationship. Unfortunately, some individuals might seek additional companionship elsewhere. This outside companionship could possibly be homosexual in nature. Such an outside relationship might then be devastating to the special intimacy between husband and wife and to the family, the fundamental building block and most important religious institution in Jewish society

Many rabbinic discussions allude to homosexuality in a strongly negative tone(40). The Talmud(41) discusses the meaning of the term "toeivah" as used the context of homosexuality. Says Bar Kapparah, "toeivah" means "to'eh ata ba", "your have strayed from her." This phrase is explained by Tosafot as meaning:

"That they leave their wives to follow homosexuality."

This statement seems to embody the essence of the proposed explanation.

Whether because of different emotional needs on the part of women, their status in society, or because of the physiological impossibility of "He shall cleave ...and they shall be as one flesh", on the part of women, male homosexuality is considered a far more serious danger in this context and is, therefore, treated with greater severity.

Our discussion to this point leads to the following conclusions:

Homosexuality is an activity, not a state of being. Put another way, "homosexual" is an adjective, not a noun.
Homosexual activity is wrong.
Homosexuality may be a foreign incursion into Judaism.
The perpetrator of homosexual activity is held responsible for the activity.
We expect individuals involved in such activity to make every attempt to stop the activity and to alter their sexual orientation.
No greater halachic stigma attaches to the practitioner of homosexuality than the Sabbath violator or the violator of many other divine commandments.
In light of these conclusions the traditional Jewish community should agree on the following goals:
The primary goal should be to create an environment that is most conducive to motivating the practitioner of homosexuality to want to change his orientation.
In the absence of this motivation or during a period when initial attempts to change are unsuccessful, our task is to keep this individual within the Torah community. We must create a situation which offers a positive alternative to the "gay synagogue" and to the even worse choice of complete abandonment and assimilation.
It would seem that these goals can best be realized by implementing the following agenda:

All unnecessary negative stigma must be removed from the individual involved in homosexual activity. Such an individual must be encouraged to see himself as someone with a problem that he is responsible to overcome, and not as a person who has been defined by his sexual orientation.

At the same time that the individual is told of his responsibility to change, he must also be told, with great compassion, that we recognize the difficulty of his task and that we are willing to help in any way possible.

This is similar, in general terms, to the way in which we treat others such as the alcoholic.

Specific programs of outreach to those participating in homosexual activities should be implemented so that those best able to respond to the questions of these individuals will have a chance to work with them. Contemporary Jewish organizations do Kiruv (outreach) work with individuals who violate many commandments. We must do the same with those whose failures are sexual areas. This is particularly true because of the all-pervasive nature of sexual desire and because of the constant encounter with sexual imagery that pervades our society.

Mental health professionals must be encouraged to develop new and better therapeutic techniques to alter sexual orientation. Methods that are even partly successful must be highlighted and publicized to offer hope to those who would want to change.

The issue of homosexuality is an extremely sensitive, difficult, and emotional one. It is a topic that creates a sense of discomfort and even revulsion not only in those who may have been personally involved in such activity, but also in many who have never had any personal contact with it at all. Stereotyping and personal doubts about one's sexuality tend to maintain and reinforce these reactions and the AIDS scare has given them new impetus. Our response as Torah-true Jews must be to reject these prejudical and counter-productive reactions. On the other hand, we cannot equivocate in our opposition to homosexual activity. This is particularly true in light of the media's continuing portrayal of homosexuals as positive role models and the increasing acceptance of the homosexual as a minority group with "legitimate" civil rights.

The program described above entails walking a difficult tightrope between condemnation of an act and acceptance of the perpetrator as a Jew worth saving. We cannot close our eyes and pretend that a problem of this magnitude will go away. It is our task to present a legitimate Jewish response, balancing our opposition to homosexual activity with our concern for the human beings involved.


Foot notes:

1. Levitacus 18:22 and 20:13

2. On WNBC TV's "Donahue" show during a discussion of the controversial Harvey Milk High School for homosexual students, June 12, 1985

3. See below for sources.

4. Spero, M.H., in (a) "Homosexuality: Clinical and Ethical Challenges", Judaism and Psychology Halalchic Perspectives, Yeshiva University, New York,1980 and (b) "Further Examinations of the Halalchic Status of Homosexuality". Proceedings of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, vol. 7, 1983, disagrees with this position and claims that a homosexual personality, as defined by desires, orientation and lifestyle does exist, and that this state is intrinsically prohibited. In addition to the philosophical problems discussed in the article that arise from this position, there is an even more serious problem, with his approach. The sources that Spero uses to support his position, Torah Temimah to Genesis 2;24, San Hedrin 58a, "T.J. 'Kiddushin" 1;1, all deal with Gentiles. Although anything forbidden to Gentiles is forbidden to Jews, the prohibition against existing in a homosexual state cannot apply to Jews if the state does not exist for Jews. At best Spero has supported the idea of a homosexual subgroup in Gentile society. See below for discussion.

5. The Mishnayot in the third chapter of at Tractate Horiyot and the Mishnayot in the eighth chapter of Yevamot. The categories of individuals mentioned here are Cohen-priest, Levi, mamzer-product of an adulterous or incestuous marriage, Cohen Gadol-high priest, katan-child, gadol-adult, cheresh-deaf-mute, shoteh-mental incompetent. This list is by no means complete.

6. Roveia (c.f. Sanhedren 9b) refers to only one aspect of the homosexual act and is also used for other sexual acts, e.g. bestiality (Levitacus 18:23 and Mishna Sanhedrin, 1;4), and intercourse between animals (Levitacus 19;19 and T.j. Avodah Zorah 40a) A. Even-Shoshan, HaMilon Hehadash, s.v. Ravah, sees this first meaning as the primary and original meaning of the term. Interestingly R. Ishmael (Sanhedren 54b) requires a different verse ( Deut. 23;18) to warn the "female" participants in the homosexual act than the verse (Levitacus 18;22) which warns the "male" participant. As a result if an individual plays both roles at one time he is punishable for two sins. R. Akiva disagrees and allows an alternate reading of the verse in Levitacus to serve as warning for the "female" participant, and consequently holds that an individual who plays both roles at once is punishable only once. It seems that R. Ishmael, certainly, and R.Akiva, probably, saw the two types of activity as being different. This strikes another blow against "Roveia" being a term for a homosexual and another blow against one who would want to suggest that the rabbis did recognize a homosexual personality. If there are two types of actions involved and two different verses or readings needed to cover them, there can not be a homosexual in Jewish law. If there were such an individual one verse should be sufficient. Other possible terms such as Shochev Im Zecharim or Shochev Mishkivei Isha are awkward and do not appear in colloquial usage. The modern transliteration of homosexual into Hebrew only proves the point that no term exists.

7. See Avodah Zorah 26b, Hulin 5a, Horiyot 11a, Rambam Yad, Hilchot Teshuva 3:9 and Kesef Mishnah ad. Loc, Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 2, and Choshen Mishpat, 266:2. Some might argue that homosexuals who are exclusively homosexual are actually Mumarim L'hachis (following Rashi A.Z., ad. loc., sv. L'Teiavon). Although some militant homosexuals may come close to this definition, the emotional conflicts and extenuating circumstances involved make it difficult to describe most, if any, homosexuals as having actively chosen to reject permissible sexual relations for forbidden ones in the same way that Rasi describes the Mumar L'hachis' behavior regarding non-kosher meat. Even if one could define some or all homosexually oriented individuals as Mumarim L'hachis the comment of the Chazon Ish quoted in the next footnote would allow us to treat such an individual in the same way that we would treat a Mumar L'Teiavon i.e. like any other Jew (see kesef Mishneh loc. cit.).

8. It is well known that if one violates the Sabbath in public there is a serious stigma attached (see Hulin 3a-6b and Eruvin 69a.). However, the equating of the Sabbath desecrator and the Idolator is rarely applied in anymore then a pedagogic sense in contemporary halachic literature ( aee R. Moshe Feinstein, Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chaim, 1, No. 23 and especially 1, No. 33). In addition to R. Feinstein's lenient stance on Mechallelel Shabbat, The Chazon Ish Yoreh Deah 2;16, says that the stringent treatment of transgressors described in the Talmud does not apply today, as such treatment will cause greater abandonment of Judaism. Since our task is to improve the situation and not to make it worse, the only approach to take with sinners is "to bring them back with ropes of love." This statement form the Chazon Ish could serve as the central message of this article.

9. Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvot Positive Commandment, No. 73.

10. "There is no guardian against unchastity" (Ketubot 13b and Hulin 11b), or the even more dramatic, "even the most pious of the piuos is not appointed guardian over unchastity" (T) Ketubot 1;8). See also Rambam, Issurei Biah, 2:19, that inappropriate sexual behavior will occur from time to time, in all communities because of man's extreme desire for sexual matters.

11. Levitacus 18:22 and 20:13

12. Deut.14:3.

13. Deut.7:25-26 and 27:15

14. Deut. 25:16. Parenthetically, it would be interesting to see the stigma presently attached to homosexuality placed on anyone guilty of unethical business practices-at least for a brief time.

15. Deut 24;4.

16. Judaism and the Modern Attitude to Homosexuality, "Encycopaedia Judaica Year book 1974, Keter, Jerusalem, 1974, p. 198.

17. The concept of Teshuva makes no sense without this premise.

18. Ibid pg. 202. See also Matt, H.J., "Sin, Crime, Sickness or Alternative Lifestyle? A Jewish Approach to Homosexuality", Judaism, vol. 27 No. 1 Winter 1978, and Bleich, J.D., Judaism and Healing, Halalchic Perspectives, Ktav , New York, 1981. Bleich comes closest to the view presented in this article on the homosexual as anuss (forced). However, "mummar" (sinner) as opposed to "anuss" is the term to be used in the discussion of homosexuality. Introducing "oness" (compulsion) in a discussion of homosexuality is as appropriate as introducing it to a discussion of murder. There are murderers who are anussim (psychopathological murderers), but a discussion of these individuals is not a discussion of murder or the Jewish attitude to that crime. Yet we continue to speak of anussim (psychopathological homosexuals), who may make up only a small portion of those involved in that activity, in regard to Judaism's general view on the subject.

19. Bava Kama 28b, Avodah Zarah 54a. Nedarim 27a. Spero, op. cit, (b) also reject the anuss position on these and other grounds.

20. Levitacus 20:13

21. e.g. Sanhedrin 9b and 54a

22. Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 1;14

23. Ibid pp.203-204

24. "ain hakodosh boruch hu bo bitranina aim bitraninav" Avodah Zorah 3a

25. Schwartz, M.F. And Masters, W.H., "The Masters and Johnson Treatment Program for Dissatisfied Homosexual Men". American Journal of Psychiatry 141:2, February,1984, pp. 173-181. This study shows a remarkable success rate. After 1 year the success rate was 79.1% and after 5 years it was 71%.

26. "...except that the (frequency of the) homosexual among Orthodox Jewish groups appears to be phenomenally low", Kinsey, A.C., Pomeroy, W.B., Mari, C.E., Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, W.B., Saunders, Phila., 1948, p. 4. See also Rosenhelm, E. "Sexual Attitudes and Regulations in Jusaism". Money, J. and Musaph, H., ed., Handbook of Sexology, Excerpta Medica Amsterdam, 1977, p.1321-22

27. See Spero, op.cit., (a), p. 157.

28. To Levitacus 18;2.

29. Encyclopaedia Judaica s.v. Homosexuality; Lamm, op.cit.,197;Epstein J.M. Sex Laws and Customs in Judaism, Ktav, New York, 1948, pp. 64-65, 135. See Sefer HaChinuch No. 209 who describes a homosexual prostitute and then says that such an individual is known to us from the Arabs (Eretz Ha'Yishmaelim). The Chinuch is quoting from Ramban To Deut. 28;18 with one change. Rambam doesn't mention the Arabs, but he does say the institution was known from the Egyptians. Both these scholars were obviously unfamiliar with homosexual prostitution-and therefore with institutionalized or extensive homosexuality within the Jewish community. Further comp are Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 22;2 with 22;5 and (the Gentiles)

30. Sanhedrin 58a Rambam Yad , Hilchot Melachim 9;5.

31. Yevamot 76a, Shabbat 65a. Female homosexuality is punished by "Halot Mardut" which is a rabbinic and not a biblical punishment, Yad, Issurei Biah21;8, On the other hand male homosexuality is a capital crime as has been indicated. For a more complete discussion of female homosexuality see Spero, op. cit., (b).

32. Sefer HaChinuch No. 209.

33. Torah Temimah to Levitacus 18;22, No.70.

34. Sefer HaChinuch, loc. cit.

35. Niddah 13a, Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 21;18, Shulchan Aruch, E.H. 23;1-2. There is no question of the seriousness of this sin, but is not a capital crime to be tried in a human court of law as is homosexuality. See also Feldman, D.M., Birth Control and Jewish law, New York University, 1968, chs. 6 and 8, and the debate between him and M. Tendler in Tradition, Vol. 9, No.'s 1-2 and 4. Even if we accept the view that Er and Onan (Genesis 38) died for the sin of haschatat zera, their punishment came at G-d's hands and not in a court of law.

36. Sanhedrin 55a, Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 1:10, and 1:14, Suclchan Aruch, Even Ha'Ezer, 20;2.

37. Genesis. 2:24.

38. This approach is suggested by the Beraita, Sanhedrin 58a, which derives prohibitions for various immoral sexual activities for Gentiles from this verse

39. This approach was suggested to me by Mr. Mat Hoffman, national director of "The Flame"; Jewish College Student's Organization. It is also suggested, in brief terms, by Dr. Lamm, op.cit., pp.197-198.

40. Genesis Rab., 26;59 (commenting on Genesis 6;2)

41. Nedarim 51a