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Rabbonim OK Therapeutic Approach to Homosexuality

A coalition of Orthodox rabbis, leaders and mental health professionals sign "Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality."
By Hana Levi Julian, MSW, LCSW-R
First Publish: 12/28/2011, 1:36 PM

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A coalition of more than 150 Orthodox rabbis, community leaders, organizers and respected mental health professionals have given an historic stamp of approval to a document entitled a "Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality."

The document, seeks for the first time to clarify the theological understanding of the Biblically mandated prohibition, as well as presents what the authors and signators see as a practical and achievable solution for those faced with same-gender attractions.

The treatment recommended in the statement is reparative or gender-affirming therapy, defined in the Declaration as "reinforcing the natural gender-identity of the individual by helping him or her understand and repair the emotional wounds that led to its disorientation and weakening...

Teshuva, ("return" or "repentance" in Hebrew) which the statement sees as a necessary component, is the Torah-mandated "self-motivated process of turning away from any transgression or sin and returning to G-d and one's spiritual essence. These processes are typically facilitated and coordinated with the help of a specially trained counselor or therapist working in conjunction with a qualified spiritual teacher or guide," the statement says. "There is no other practical, Torah-sanctioned solution for this issue."

The statement -- which goes out of its way to caution against  castigation of the individual while forbidding the practice - and notes "They deserve our full love, support and encouragement in their striving towards healing" -- is likely to be met with a storm of protest from those favoring alternative lifestyle choice both in Israel and abroad.

It comes at a time when the United States mental health community is politically rife with opposition against clinical professionals attempting to help homosexuals fight such attractions, even if they themselves are desperate to do so.

Many homosexuals and secular clinicians insist that sexual orientation is a permanent, born state and not a condition or an illness.

The Declaration, written by a 25-member committee of rabbis, parents, "strugglers" currently in therapy and "success stories" -- those who completed therapy and today are living heterosexual lives, many with spouses and children, belies those claims.

It also raises the controversial issue of those who dismiss the possibility of change forcing individuals with same-sex attractions to maintain the lifestyle.

"Abandoning people to lifelong loneliness and despair by denying all hope of overcoming and healing their same-sex attraction is heartlessly cruel," the Declaration states.

"The concept that G-d created a human being who is unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a Biblical prohibition is neither plausible nor acceptable," says the Declaration, which views same sex attractions as any other behavior can be controlled and altered, such as addictions or weight control.

Signatories to the document represent a broad spectrum of the Torah-observant world. Among those who publicly signed the document are a myriad of international rabbis, as well as numerous rabbis in the United States and Israel, ranging from the Lithuanian, Chassidic, Sephardic and modern Orthodox sectors.

"The timing of the Declaration to coincide with Hanukkah, which celebrates the Jews' resistance to forced Hellenization, was not coincidental," the statement said. "Homosexuality was one of the hallmarks of ancient Greek culture. Behaviors are changeable. The Torah does not forbid something which is impossible to avoid." .

The full Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality and the names and affiliations of the signatories to the document can be obtained by clicking here.