50 responses

  1. Mark F.
    January 18, 2012

    You could interpret the Torah as just prohibiting anal sex. Seems a like a reasonable position which most gay people could live with (I’m not a Jew, btw)

  2. Timothy Kincaid
    January 18, 2012

    Mark F, some Rabbis do.

  3. Steve
    January 18, 2012

    The way they interpret their holy book is why I have some respect for Judaism, while I have zero respect for Christianity. Yeah, it may seem pedantic, but unlike Christian Bible interpretation it can lead to practical rules that make some sense in the modern world. Especially in the hands of non-Orthodox Jews

  4. Charles
    January 18, 2012

    So gays should be healed and become heterosexuals. Facepalm, eyeroll and head-pounding on desk. This getting extremely repetitive. You would think that intelligent people would consult experts on this issue. But they don’t.

  5. Charles
    January 18, 2012

    “The way they interpret their holy book is why I have some respect for Judaism, while I have zero respect for Christianity.” – Steve

    Some major Protestant Christian denominations have changed their stance on homosexuality. For example Episcopalians and Lutherans. What we do encounter are the denominations that are ardently opposed to accepting us for whom we are. It is frustrating, but does seem to be changing.

  6. Steve
    January 18, 2012

    It isn’t just about homosexuality, but about their entire attitude towards “divine law” and their rules. It’s just more practical and human-oriented than anything Christianity does.

  7. Ben in Oakland
    January 18, 2012

    The problem of course IS the interpretation of Leviticus. And here is where they have really backed themselves into the proverbial corner.

    Sodom is no more about homosexuality than it is about unicorns. One would have to twist the story completely out of reason to make it anything about homosexuality.

    And of course,cthat is what some Have done, but the twisting is obvious. And of course, it doesn’t apply to gay women at all. which leaves only tired old Leviticus– instructions to the priestly class, as I understand it. so not a general prohibition at all.

    The passage translates literally to “sleep the sleep of a woman.” we don’t actually know what it means. We only know what people writing hundreds of years later thought it meant, and I suspect they didn’t knw, either, but had their own long, haggard issues, or had to deal with the Greek world which defined the Mediterranean at the time. However self important the Jews may have considered themselves to be, they were still a smallish backwater in the larger greekcworld.

    But if they are going to insist Leviticus means what they say it means, then they’re also going to have to deal with what it does say: it prescribes the death penalty, and says nothing about gay women at all.

    Only the yehuda levin’s Of the world are willing to go that far, which mean the rabbis are more than willing to change the word o’ god to suit their particular sensibilities. Indeed, they have done so when they insist that the passages apply to women at all.

    Ah, hermeneutics– the genteelcartifice of getting your holy book to say exactly what you want it to say. Or, as Rabbii Humpty Dumpy to famously observed, words mean what I say they mean. Nothing more and nothing less.

  8. WMDKitty
    January 19, 2012

    Um, I thought the passages in Leviticus referred to temple prostitution, and not a loving homosexual relationship.

  9. Erin
    January 19, 2012

    No, WMDKitty, you’re thinking of the passage in Romans or first Corinthians. I think it was Romans. Anyway, Paul wrote it, and it talks about idolatry and temple prostitution, and people cite it as against all homosexuality. At least, that’s what others have said. The bible remains up to interpretation as it was written so long ago and retranslated so many times into so many new languages and even several different versions of the English language.

  10. Erin
    January 19, 2012

    Leviticus definitely does condemn all sex between two men. It also condemns sex between a husband and wife if the wife is menstruating. Depending on your interpretation, it may also say the husband cannot simply sleep in the same bed during her menstruation. It goes on to refer to a woman’s menstrual cycle as completely disgusting. Yeah…..This is one of hundreds of reasons why I have no use for the book. I can only agree on some of the principles found in it.

  11. Ben in Oakland
    January 19, 2012

    Erin, a few years ago a panel of conservative rabbits decided it referred only to anal sex. That way, gay men could be ordained as conservative rabbis if they abstained from that. Of course, the rabbinical police aren’t really policing it.

  12. Ezam
    January 19, 2012

    When it comes to bigotry and lies, Orthodox Jews are no different from Fundamentalist Christians.

    Just look at AishHaTorah. They have two articles written by a plant from JONAH, using the same fallacies and distortions common from the ex-gay industry:


    I posed as someone supporting the author who also had “overcome” my same-sex attractions. They gladly posted that comment, but even when I let them know they had been played and told them my real opinion, they still retained my previous comment as if I was being serious (needless to say they didn’t publish the *real* me).

  13. Timothy Kincaid
    January 19, 2012

    Erin and WMDKitty,

    Actually you are both mistaken. The temple prostitute references are all the “sodomite” references in the King James translation in the Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament). It was deliberate mistranslation (and probably for political reasons – the church didn’t like james’ dallying with the fellows, ya know). When the text used the male and female version of the word next to each other, the translators put prostitute for female and sodomite for male.

    No one other than scripturally illiterate backwoods preachers still think that those passages refer to gay people, per se.

    What Paul did was just make up words. Although there were plenty of words for homosexuals in Greek, he didn’t use them. Translators have traditionally decided that they mean homosexuals. But slang is peculiar and does not lend itself easily to guesswork. Paul could have as easily meant wife swappers, cattle rustlers, mimes, or Barbara Streisand fans.

    But whatever it was that he was condemning it was a consequence of idolatry, and not a stand alone transgression.

  14. WMDKitty
    January 19, 2012

    Thanks for the clarification, Timothy.

  15. Lightning Baltimore
    January 19, 2012

    Does’t thou not know that mimes will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven?


  16. iDavid
    January 19, 2012

    It’s unfortunate that people would actually pray to a god who has no more empathy for gays than Rick Santorum.

  17. Timothy (TRiG)
    January 19, 2012

    Well, one assumes that, to an Orthodox Jew, anything Paul said in Romans is at best an extremely heterodox commentary on Jewish Law, and is not to be taken as the basis of any doctrine.

    It’s odd that there’s so much variation within Orthodox Judaism. Some Orthodox Jews participated in a Pride Parade in Israel last year.


  18. Henri
    January 19, 2012

    Very interesting and insightful piece, Timothy. You might be a goy fagele, but you are blessed with a yidishe kop!

  19. TampaZeke
    January 19, 2012

    http://www.paulonhomosexuality.com has a new look at what Paul AND Leviticus REALLY had to say about homosexuality. It is based on accurate translations of the original texts including accounting for the nuances of translating ancient Hebrew texts into first century Greek.

    As for Judaism allowing for questioning and reconsidering sacred texts, in Buddhism questioning is a REQUIREMENT. In a sermon to the Kalamas of Kesaputta (known as the Kalama Sutta) the Buddha demanded that followers of the Dhamma not believe things just because they were written in sacred texts or spoken by religious leaders or wise men, nor because they had long been believed, nor because of tradition, nor because of passion, nor based on faulty reasoning, nor based on thinking but based on TESTING AND EXPERIENCE. He even said that if HE told them something but when they tested it against reason and experience it didn’t prove to be true, then REJECT it because it isn’t true. But if they tested it against reason and experience and it proved to be true then LIVE by it because it is true.

    Having grown up Southern Baptist where I wasn’t even allowed to consider considering questioning what I was being taught (even if it was different from what was being taught at the Baptist church down the street) the moment I heard this sermon by the Buddha I knew that Buddhism was the path for me.

  20. Iamposterity
    January 19, 2012

    It would seem to me that 1st the word homosexuality would need to be dissected within the Hebrew context or at least correctly translated into english within the Hebrew context: Are we talking temple worship, prostitution, or is it in reference to a monogamous union (YES GAY MARRIAGE IS THE ANSWER). It is my belief the Torah is silent on Gay Marriage so maybe that means G-d is leaving it up to the individuals (allowing free will) and the community. I also believe hearing that the Jewish People are taught to respect the governmental laws of any particular region they live in (as well as honoring Hebrew religious law). Just thinking out-loud! Thanks for the Atheist 3c option!

  21. JohnAGJ
    January 19, 2012

    You know there is a book I’ve been meaning to get that could provide some interesting views on the Pauline passages at least. A group of Jewish scholars put this together:

    The Jewish Annotated New Testament

    I bought a similar book years ago called “Rabbis Look At The New Testament”, or something like that. I’ll have to look around for it, it’s ina box somewhere…

  22. JohnAGJ
    January 19, 2012

    Actually, I think this might be the book I’m remembering:

    A Rabbinic Commentary On The New Testament

    Unfortunately it only covers the Synoptic Gospels though. From what I remember reading it, I found it to be an interesting and useful resource overall. I’ll still have to find my copy… somewhere around here… to confirm that this is the one I actually have. It’s been a few years since I read it.

  23. Ben in Oakland
    January 19, 2012

    Timothy–Anent  your comment about Romans… The most interesting word in the whole passage to me is the word “wherefore”, also tranSlated as “for this reason” it says clearly that god turned those people, who were heterosexual, into homosexuals, against their natures. We all know what having to be something you are not feels like. It is also perhaps the only moment in recorded history where god changed anyone’s sexual orientation.

    I’ve often brought this up in conversations with antigay religious people, and I have yet to hear one person refute it.

  24. John
    January 19, 2012

    The comments were interesting but they, and the article itself overlooks one thing. It is all predicated on the assumption that being gay is a choice. I know absolutely nothing about the Torah but is there anything in it that clarifies this? And, remember thousands of years ago, people had basically no knowledge of genetics. My understanding is that the Torah, like the Bible, so much of it is a matter of interpretation, in which case, who’s to say who is right and who is wrong?

  25. Timothy Kincaid
    January 19, 2012


    When one starts actually looking at the words in context of language, time, culture, and history, scripture study can truly be fascinating. The ancient texts (I’m only familiar with the Torah/Bible, but I suspect it is true of any religious text that survived for millenia) have far more meaning and nuance than we often give them. The scholars and thinkers who wrote them didn’t have the distraction of television or speaking engagements and were not on a timeline.

  26. William
    January 19, 2012

    Ben in Oakland,

    What I think is equally interesting – assuming that Paul is referring in Romans 1to homosexuality as such, which biblical fundamentalists always insist that he is, and not more specifically to pederasty or temple prostitution, for example – is the REASON that he gives for the transformation of these heterosexuals into homosexuals, viz. that they had stopped worshipping God and had instead started worshipping “the image of mortal man, of birds, of quadrupeds and reptiles.” (Jerusalem Bible translation) How many gay people on here can remember engaging in that bizarre practice before they realised that they were gay? I know that I never did.

  27. Ben In Oakland
    January 19, 2012

    William, That’s what I mean about the word “wherefore”.

    I’d love to worship George clooney or Ryan Reynolds. I’d even get down on my knees to do it.


  28. Reed Boyer
    January 19, 2012

    Given that Ralbag “appears to be headquarted in Brooklyn,” I note that American Christians no longer have a monopoly on exporting this specious “pray away the gay” stuff.

  29. Yosef
    January 20, 2012

    You guys are really mistaken.

    I personally know over 20 formerly gay people and three who are married or engaged.

    There are people who put in the work, who wanted to change. For some of them had they given up after a short attempt would not have been successful. It took 4 years for some – just like the struggle for alcoholism or any other difficult issue.
    Go to http://www.Torahdec.org read the evidence in the links on the site.

    There is real information – see both sides of the issue.

    People CAN change!

  30. olterigo
    January 20, 2012


    Why don’t those people actually show their faces and go on record and submit to science, so that we can actually test scientifically your claims and theirs? Of course, if they actually do exist. Something tells me they may not.

  31. Yosef
    January 20, 2012

    I realize that it will hard to convince you if you don’t actually see the people who have moved on.

    This is a disadvantage that we have.

    Most of the people that moved on don’t really want to come to the public and announce their names. They have kids in schools or are looking to get married and even if married their wives are not so keen on such an announcement.

    On the other hand, those who are happy remaining gay are much more likely to announce it.

    I know that my statement is still not putting the people in front of you and might not convince you but its really true and I know a good few people whom if this wasn’t an issue and they would come out and publicly tell their stories it would certainly change the PR tide.

    On the other hand some are willing to go privately and speak to people.

    Jonah – http://www.Jonahweb.org
    has helped over 2000 people in the last 10 years.

  32. Ben In Oakland
    January 20, 2012


    And yet alan Chambers, head of exodus international, claims that 99.9% of people DON’T CHANGE.

    So, you’re probably right. you know that .1%.

    Meanwihile, we hear people all of the times telling us that they know people who have changed. and yet, and yet…
    Those people never seem to be speaking for themselves.

    Could it be that they are telling you what they, and you, and their congregations want to hear? Who are we going to believe– you, an anonymous person on the internet,or alan chambers and John schmid, who ARE willing to stand up in public and admit that the whole thing is a myth.

    You’re really going to have to do better than that.

  33. Ezam
    January 20, 2012

    I know people who know people who lost weight with Magic Bracelets™. They said it, so it must be true! Who cares about actual scientific evidence? Order now!

    Magic Bracelets – http:www.Junkscienceweb.org
    has helped gazillions of people lose the extra fat.

  34. Richard Rush
    January 20, 2012

    Yosef said,

    I personally know over 20 formerly gay people and three who are married or engaged.

    Three out of twenty is not very convincing. Actually twenty out of twenty wouldn’t be convincing. I can’t even begin to count the number of gay people I know who have been married, or are still married while having homosex on the side. Gay people have been getting married for eons as a means of surviving in a hostile world. If you think that society benefits from gays marrying op-sex partners, instead of each other, you are sick.

    Most of the people that moved on don’t really want to come to the public and announce their names.

    Exactly. They have internalized society’s efforts to make them feel ashamed, and that’s the reason they “moved on.” So now, in addition to feeling ashamed, they have deluded themselves into believing they are no longer gay.

    They have kids in schools or are looking to get married and even if married their wives are not so keen on such an announcement.

    There’s that shame again. When gay guys propose marriage to their girlfriends, how many of them do you think say, “Honey, I want to marry you, but you need to know that I’m sexually attracted to guys. That’s not a problem, is it?” But you seem to think that deceiving a woman into a dysfunctional marriage that’s likely to fail is somehow best for society.

    Yosef, I’ve been living as a gay man since 1969, and with the same partner since 1981. If you think it would have been better if I had married a woman and/or lived a lonely loveless life, then you are truly sick and/or evil. Society’s full acceptance of gays not only benefits us, it benefits families, and all of society. Legitimate arguments against full acceptance simply do not exist.

  35. olterigo
    January 20, 2012


    Is this the same JONAH as headed by Arthur Abba Goldberg, who was indicted on “52 counts of bribery, conspiracy and fraud in connection with $2 billion in municipal bonds.”[8] He pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States of America. In 1989, Goldberg was fined $100,000 and sentenced to 18 months in prison on conviction of fraud. (Info from Wikipedia).

    Is this the same JONAH, that “does not employ certified mental health professionals “has no accountability,” and is not subject to peer review or lawsuits when professional standards are violated” (quote from a New York Jewish Week article).

    Is this the same JONAH whose “therapists” have been accused of abuse? (Like having the person remove their clothes in front of a mirror).

    Yes, it is the same JONAH.

  36. olterigo
    January 20, 2012


    One more thing. Being actually scientifically assessed does not require showing your face to your community. That research is done usually with many precautions on release of names. And yet, in the many years of work of various “conversion” “therapy” Christian and non-Christian organizations, there’s been no research showing support that change in attraction is actually possible for even a significant minority of LGBTs (at least, people who are not afraid to show their face on TV, like Alan Chambers of Exodus, have said pretty much the same thing).

  37. Marc
    January 20, 2012

    I have personally meant dozens of, uh, supposedly married straights who come to the gay bar where I work to find that guy to have sex with. You see, the wife is out of town, and they just “have that need once in while.” Oh, and by the way, “I’m not gay.”
    How sad that groups like yours are leading the destruction of not only these scared men but the unknowing wives and children who really don’t the person that comes home to their house each night. Of the two of us, I would say I sleep better at nights.

  38. Yosef
    January 23, 2012

    Ezam and Ben in Oakland, Olterigo,

    “And yet alan Chambers, head of exodus international, claims that 99.9% of people DON’T CHANGE.”

    -he has no basis show a me a study. See a study on my side below.

    “But you seem to think that deceiving a woman”

    - I never said that.

    All the people I know have told their wives exactly what they went through and what they have done and their status now.

    All 20 were successful only 3 have gotten married as of yet.

    “Is this the same JONAH whose “therapists” have been accused of abuse? ”

    -that’s all nonsense. If there was any truth to the accusation why weren’t charges brought? Why are they still helping thousands of people legally?

    Therapy has helped many people overcome this issue; just like treatment for alcohol abuse is successful 1/3 – 2/3 of the time and is also unsuccessful – so too here.

    Jonah does not employ therapists.
    It is a resource and it refers and works with licensed therapists.

    Here is a real study from 2010 in a peer-reviewed journal that found success in reparative therapy.

    Karten, E. Y., & Wade, J. A. Y. C. (2010). Sexual orientation change efforts in men: A client perspective. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 18, 84-102.


  39. Timothy Kincaid
    January 23, 2012


    I don’t think that study says what you think it says.

    Additionally, we explored what motivated the participants to seek SOCE, and what therapeutic interventions and techniques they found to be most and least helpful. Results showed that being married, feeling disconnected with other men prior
    to seeking help, and reduced conflict in expressing nonsexual affection toward
    other men related to goals consistent with SOCE. Intrinsic religiosity and a
    heterosexual identity were related to reports of not changing one’s sexual feelings and behavior.

    In other words, if you want to “be married”, make some guy friends, or learn how to hang with guys and not hit on them, well you could do that. I mean if Oscar Wilde could get married, why not you?

    But if your goal was changing your sexual feelings (ie your orientation), sorry but no banana.

  40. Yosef,
    January 23, 2012


    The abstract is not full enough. The problem is that the link only allows the first page with the abstract. But there were many findings. It’s a rather large paper. This following from page 97 (Page 14 of the study):

    “On average, the men in our sample reported: a decrease in homosexual feelings and
    behavior, an increase in heterosexual feelings and behavior, and a positive change in
    their psychological functioning. Analysis of the self-report data indicated that on av-
    erage the men in our sample made positive gains as a result of SOCE; and several of
    the variables we examined related positively to change in functioning while others re-
    lated negatively. Consistent with our hypothesis, the analysis showed that married men
    had greater reduction in sexual feelings and behavior toward men than single men. One
    possibility is that men who are married are more invested in this work because they …”

  41. Yosef,
    January 23, 2012

    Here is a another study:

    Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation

    Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 32, No. 5, October 2003, pp. 403-417 (2003)

  42. Jim Burroway
    January 23, 2012


    We are very familiar with Spitzer’s 2003 study, in particular his speaking out against those who have misrepresented his study:


    He told the New York Times that he thought change was exceedingly rare: “Although I suspect change occurs, I suspect it’s very rare,” he said. “Is it 1 percent, 2 percent? I don’t think it’s 10 percent.”


  43. Yosef
    January 24, 2012


    His point is that he really doesn’t know since his study did not focus on that. His study started off with people who were helped by therapy. That was the given.

    In this interview: http://www.drthrockmorton.com/interviewdrspitzer.pdf

    he says: “But I’ve asked two of the more well known practitioners of this kind of therapy how often are they successful, and they say, well it depends on the way you define success, but if you define success in terms of a change in behavior, and in feelings, there’s about 30 percent or something like that. Now I suspect it’s much lower, but I could be wrong. So whether it’s 2 %, 10%, or 15%, but what I am sure is that it’s not 0%. And that’s what this study was about, whether it’s actually 0 percent.”

    You can easily see that he himself said that maybe the practitioners who claim 30% are right – and maybe they are wrong. He is not making any claims about that point.

    He simply didn’t study it and wants to make sure he is quoted accurately.

    He began with people who claimed that they changed and he wanted to verify it. That’s all.

  44. Timothy Kincaid
    January 25, 2012


    He “doesn’t know” because his “study” wasn’t a study. Literally, all he did was have people tell him over the telephone “I’ve changed.”

    Have you ever seen those infomercials with people in the mall announcing how changed they are after wearing the magical bracelet with magnets or batteries or made of copper or doused in snake oil? Yep, that would the the equivalent of Spitzer’s study.

    Spitzer is a good man. He was just trying to validate what some people were telling him. And his study proves that yes, some people really do tell researchers that they have changed. That’s all. Not proof they’ve changed, just proof that they were at one point willing to claim so.

    Yosef, it comes down to this: reorientation doesn’t work. I used to think that while it wasn’t for me, maybe some people might actually experience some change in orientation. But, they just simply don’t. You can really, really, really want it to – and believe me many Exodus people really really really want it to – but it reorientation doesn’t work.

    You can even cling to “well it might be true cuz Spitzer didn’t study that it wasn’t so, ummm, I choose to believe that if he had studied it he would have found 30% success.” It doesn’t work. He wouldn’t have.

    Yes, he verified that after looking for three years he was able to find 200 people to say that they had some change. Some of them were pressured to do so by their therapist (one of our writers was pressured this way). Some later retracted what they told him.

    But Yosef, I don’t think you are trying to convince us here. I think you are desperately trying to convince yourself. And I don’t think that you believe it nearly as much as you want to believe it’s true.

  45. Richard Rush
    January 25, 2012


    Since you are so desperate to believe that homosexuals can transform themselves into heterosexuals, I assume you believe we should seek to do so. But, why should we? Please tell us. If you can present a compelling reason to do so, along with reasonable assurance that I would be successful, I will seek change.

  46. chars
    January 26, 2012

    Has anyone besides Yosef read the 2010 study? Who were behind it and what methods were used?

  47. Ezam
    January 26, 2012

    The problem with the Karten & Wade study is that it relies on self-report data. What assures us that the respondents are being completely truthful?

  48. mrmstur
    January 26, 2012

    Why do ex-gay proponents rely on those useless “studies” that don’t go beyond asking questions and publishing testimonies?

    If you want objective results, there are machines that measure sexual arousal.

  49. Erin
    January 26, 2012

    I don’t need a study to tell me what I already know is logically impossible. If a man possesses the ability to find other men attractive, he’s never going to erase that simple fact. Even if he only ever finds one man attractive, and all his other feelings/attractions are for women, well then that man is bisexual. Bisexuality is an easy answer for some of those respondents who said they “changed” and became genuinely happy with a woman. It’s because they had the ability to fall for both men and women all along. That is an innate orientation, just like gay and straight are. So many people have gross misconceptions about bisexuality, though. They really don’t understand that those people don’t have the ability to choose either. Attraction is not a choice. You wouldn’t experience a type of attraction if your brain did not have the capacity for it. Ex-gay therapy would have to physically alter the wiring of the brain to change orientation, and since the neurosciences still can’t access, measure, and fully understand every single area of the brain, there’ll never be 100% proof that changing orientation is possible. So no, self-reported “change” in the very type of therapy people seek because they desperately don’t want to be who they are, isn’t going to convince a whole lot of sane, intelligent people.

  50. Jean-Pierre Katz
    May 13, 2012

    Both this rabbi from Amsterdam and all the rabbis in the original “Declaration” are seriously mistaken.

    They are steering teenagers and others to Jonah, as is evidenced by the signature of Arthur Goldberg. This executive and founder of the organization , Jonah, was disbarred and spent 18 months in jail for defrauding investors out of millions of dollars. He dropped his middle name Abba to disguise himself.It was one month after he got out of jail that he started Jonah to help himself to the money all these desperate families would give him. Aside from all the psychological harm this junk science therapy does to its clients, Jonah is using Christian evangelicals who specifically want to “shmad” Jews. Let everyone in this matter be clear when saying that “change” is possible. Yes you can become celibate but you can’t change your attractions and desires!

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