When The Huffington Post first published my article "Once Upon a Gay: A Jewish Journey Through the Ex-Gay Movement," I was amazed to receive an outpouring of response: from Orthodox Jewish girls thanking me for not marrying them ("I was one of the girls you interviewed in a Manhattan hotel!"), to old ex-gay friends laughing how I "ruined the code language" of "Eskimos," and, most importantly, from religious men and women of all faiths -- some who have reconciled their faith and sexuality, but many who are still struggling.
However, I was saddened to also learn about a top-secret Declaration currently being passed confidentially among Orthodox Jewish rabbis, entitled, "Torah Declaration, Petition, re: The Torah Stance on Homosexuality" (located in full below).
Like all communities, the Orthodox Jewish one is comprised of many layers. In July 2010, Modern Orthodox rabbis around the country signed a groundbreaking Statement of Principles in "regard to the place of Jews with a homosexual orientation" in their community. While clearly stating that the parameters of Halacha (Jewish Law) prohibit same-sex sexual intercourse, the Principles still offered a message of compassion, empathy and inclusiveness of gay and lesbian Jews within the Orthodox community. It was a huge step forward for the Jewish community.
However, many ultra-Orthodox leaders felt that these Principles were too affirming of homosexuality. So this Declaration currently making rounds will serve as their official response in regards to guiding individuals with same-sex attractions. The endorser, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, urges all rabbis and mental health professionals to sign this Declaration, which offers modification and healing through reparative therapy as the sole option.
The full text of this secret Declaration, which has not been released to the public -- until now -- is posted below. I am releasing it here because I am certain that despite the signatures already included, plenty of other ultra-Orthodox rabbis will disagree. More importantly, this Declaration -- and these rabbis endorsing it -- will certainly cause anguish to the gay and lesbian Orthodox Jewish community, which has fought so hard for acceptance. Finally, I am certain that if reparative therapy is presented as the sole option, many individuals seeking guidance from rabbis or mental health professionals will be harmed -- indirectly by others, and perhaps even directly by harming themselves.
Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who is the author of Judaism and Homosexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View, has said, "I am not obligated to believe in a failed therapy because it fits my theology better." My call to action within the Jewish community as a whole, and specifically to the ultra-orthodox community, is to speak to your rabbis and leaders and demand that they ensure that licensed mental health professionals and psychological associations are involved in the discussion of treating individuals struggling with their same-sex attractions. Ultra-Orthodox leaders can contact gay Orthodox Jewish groups such as Eshel, GLYDSA, and Jewish Queer Youth (JQY's It Gets Better video has already received over 70,000 views) to hear their stories and be advised on the possible impact of this Declaration.
The Declaration cites the biblical prohibition in Leviticus 19:14: "and you shall not place a stumbling block before the blind." This verse is used in the Declaration to conclude that the "Torah does not forbid something which is impossible to avoid," meaning that God would not give His people, "the blind," the "stumbling block" of same-sex attractions. I urge the Orthodox Jewish leaders who review this document to see that signing this Declaration will be putting a stumbling block in the way of many gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews suffering throughout our world. Please, take action, for the Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a) states, "Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world."
Read the full copy of the Declaration and related documents: