Dear Parents, Rabbis, Therapists, Teachers, and the Jewish Community
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."
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