Friday, 14 Jun 2024

Opinion | ‘It’s Still an Emergency’: The Vulnerability of Queer Orthodox Jews


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Video by Miki Katoni

Mr. Katoni is a documentary filmmaker.

In 2015 a jury in New Jersey found that a Jewish group offering sexuality conversion therapy had committed consumer fraud by claiming it could turn gay Orthodox men straight.

In the Opinion video above, one of the plaintiffs in that case, Chaim Levin, describes the struggle of growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn that offered him no room to come out and thrive as a gay man. In his teens and still deeply in the closet, he sought help from the group Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or JONAH, which employed practices based on the theory that homosexuality could be overcome with therapy. It made matters worse.

“I was in no man’s land,” he recalls.

JONAH was forced to shut down. But the problem of homophobic groups wielding fake science to prey on young gay people — including in the Orthodox Jewish community — persists: Conversion therapy remains fully legal in 20 states. At a time when many states and localities are impeding discussion about gender and sexual identity, conversion therapy is yet another obstacle for people trying to find their place in the world.

Miki Katoni is a documentary filmmaker.

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