Above is an interview I conducted for the Faith Complex series with Chaim Levin. Entitled "Davven the Gay Away?" -- a Jewish play on the phrase "pray the gay away" heard in some Christian circles -- the episode calls attention to Levin's struggles to maintain a gay and Orthodox Jewish identity.
He had chronicled the intense psychic duress this created for him in an It Gets Better Video for frum (religious) Jews. Subsequently, he was criticized in an op-ed piece in the Jewish Press by Elliot Resnick, a doctoral student at Yeshiva University.
Resnick, who was acquainted with Levin personally (though did not mention him by name in the original article), accused him of self-indulgence. Resnick wondered:
By and large, though, unmarried heterosexual Orthodox Jews suffer in solitude. But do those Jews complain? Do Catholic priests, the overwhelming majority of whom remain celibate their entire lives, complain? No. They wage their internal battles quietly, recognizing that not every topic need be discussed openly and not every feeling need be publicized and validated. ... But many Orthodox homosexuals seem uninterested in attaining spiritual greatness or in struggling with their feelings like so many of their brethren. Instead, they declare that we must recognize them. We must acknowledge their desires. We must affirm their feelings.
As I read the article, Resnick was arguing that there was a place for gay people in Orthodoxy. That place, however, was to suffer in silence while contemplating their sinfulness. In so doing, Resnick argued, they would attain a heightened state of holiness.
Levin for his part responded with his own piece identifying himself as the anonymous subject of Resnick's broadside. There he mentioned his experiences with "reparative therapy" in something called the JONAH program.
That's the backdrop to the interview above. I asked Levin if he might not be more comfortable in those many non-Orthodox Jewish denominations which are welcoming and affirming of gay people. His response to this query is quite intriguing and, in my opinion, quite brave.
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