from Books & Reviews
A new documentary film, "Trembling Before God," relates the real-life stories of Jews from Orthodox backgrounds dealing with their homosexuality.
After the Jerusalem Film Festival this past fall, the film quickly became the subject of a massive international promotional campaign.
But "Trembling Before God" left out the perspective of strugglers attempting to live according to Orthodox Judaism's understanding of God-ordained design. The following letter was written to the editor of The Jerusalem Post by the director of an ex-gay ministry for Jewish strugglers.
To the Editor of the Jerusalem Post:
During the Purim Fabrengen (Late winter gathering) of 5746 (1986), the Luvavitcher Rebbe, shilta, z'tl, of blessed memory, addressed the issue of homosexuality by suggesting a humane therapeutic approach, and he urged the Jewish community to see this issue for what it really is--a serious physical, mental and spiritual problem which needs immediate help from concerned, devoted and compassionate people.
He advised us that "a special responsibility lies on parents, educators and counselors to educate those afflicted with this problem" and, further, "despite the misguided way of the past, everyone has the capacity to change."
Adam Jessel's movie review of "Trembling Before G-d" reflects the Rebbe's counsel. Unfortunately, the movie maker's artistry does not.
I am the co-director of the only Jewish support group in the world that helps people deal with and overcome homosexuality. The movie maker asked me to supply information about our organization (which was indeed sent). Thus one might wonder why--as your movie review reported--JONAH is not even mentioned in the film and is "conspicuously absent" from the resources listed in the film's credits.
The reason is obvious. It clearly lies in the film's biased and faulty assumption that same-sex attraction and behavior is irreversible. Thus opposing points of view were, in the reviewer's words, left "lying on DuBowski's cutting room floor."
JONAH is a unique, not-for-profit organization that provides education and support to Jewish individuals and families regarding issues of sexual orientation and identity. Our services target men and women who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions, sexually addictive behavior, abusive relationships, depression or other symptoms of sexual brokenness. Based in Jersey City, New Jersey, JONAH believes that each of us can and should take control of our sexual behavior and relationships in order to achieve happiness and fulfillment in life.
JONAH aids Jews of all backgrounds, ranging from Orthodox to Reform as well as unaffiliated. For Jews who are unhappy with a homosexual identity or whose goal is to attain heterosexual marriage and start a family, JONAH provides support, counseling, referrals, and up-to-date information on the causes and treatment of the problem. The organization also runs an e-mail discussion LISTSERV (email@example.com) that has dozens of active participants located around the globe, including several in Israel.
JONAH rejects so-called "conversion therapies" that frighten or shame the patient, and is constantly refining its worldwide roster of sympathetic therapists. The organization's counseling programs emphasize self-acceptance and achievement of positive goals, involvement in the community, and Jewish religious identity. Our message is a life-affirming one that embraces traditional Torah views as a way of combating isolation and assimilation.
For information about the organization or its referral sources, either call JONAH's message center at (201) 433-3444, write to JONAH, Inc. at PO Box 313, Jersey City, New Jersey 07303, or email Jonahhelp@aol.com.
Arthur Goldberg, Co-Director, JONAH