Orthodox rabbinic group won’t take position on reparative therapy for gays

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NEW YORK (JTA) — The Rabbinical Council of America said it will not take a position on so-called reparative therapy for gays.

In a statement released Monday, the RCA, the main umbrella group of centrist Orthodox rabbis, said it will neither “endorse nor reject any therapy or method that is intended to assist those … struggling with same-sex attraction.” It further affirms that any therapy should be performed only by licensed practitioners.

RCA President Rabbi Schmuel Goldin told JTA that the statement did not represent a shift in the group’s position.

In the past, the RCA had listed Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or JONAH, an organization promoting reparative therapy to Jews, as a resource on its website. JONAH has claimed that a 2004 blurb in the RCA newsletter amounted to a letter of support on behalf of its work.

“We are now tackling that,” said Goldin. “We want it taken down. [JONAH] said it was a letter of support, but if you read the letter it is not. They took an informational statement and reprinted it, and the use of that as an endorsement is an error.”

The RCA statement affirms the group’s opposition to same-sex unions and that any clergymen who officiates at such a union cannot “claim the mantle of Orthodox Judaism.”  The statement further states that gay men and women “should be treated with the care … appropriate to all human beings."

The RCA statement came just days after news broke of a statement, circulated mainly among haredi Orthodox rabbis, emphasizing that homosexual inclinations can be overcome and that only therapy and repentance are consistent with the mandates of the Torah.

“This is indicative of a shift in consciousness, sensitivity and understanding that Orthodox rabbis have about gay people growing up in their communities,” Mordechai Levovitz, co-excutive director of Jewish Queer Youth, said of the RCA statement. “People are going to be comforted by the RCA dealing with this community in a welcoming way; that’s what was missing.

"I applaud the RCA and Rabbi Goldin for their courage in standing up against pressuring gay youth into these kinds of therapies.”

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