When it comes to demonizing homosexuals, Judaism generally has a better track record than Christianity. Maybe it’s because Jews don’t believe the Son of God can magically take all your troubles away if you pray hard enough or that sinners will burn in a lake of fire for all eternity. As He’Bro founder Jayson Littman discussed in a recent HuffPo piece, there’s only one Jewish “pray the gay away” group—Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH)—and it’s so small they have to piggyback onto Christian reparative retreats.
Reform and Reconstructionist Jews officially welcome gay clergy and perform same-sex marriages and though the Conservative movement is a bit all over the place, it’s heading in the right direction.
Now, just weeks after the announcement of an alleged anti-gay declaration signed by several Hassidic rabbis, even Orthodox Judaism seems to making the tiniest advances.
The Jerusalem Post reports that last weekend members of the support group Jewish Queer Youth (JQY) were allowed to have a table at the annual conference of Nefesh International, an association of Orthodox mental-health professionals. It’s the first time there has been any LGBT representation at the 15-year-old conference, though the three JQY members were only allowed to attend as individuals, not representing their group—and only after asking Nefesh to make a special exception.
JQY makes a distinction between homosexuality as an orientation and certain same-sex acts, which are banned by the Torah. “They wanted to talk about their struggles as homosexuals in the Orthodox world,” Nefesh president Simcha Feuerman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Mental health professionals should be aware of those voices.” Though he says Nefesh cannot support homosexuality, Feuerman explains, “we certainly have great compassion and interest in the challenges and struggles that persons with homosexual desires and orientation experience.”
We have compassion for JQY members, too: We feel sorry for anyone who begs for crumbs from a group that denigrates them. Unlike being gay, being an observant Orthodox Jew is a choice.
As for the members of Nefesh, we can’t help but feel contempt: Medical professionals who put their religious affiliation before their practice should have their license taken away.