- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000

New Jersey Rabbi Sam Rosenberg and talk-show host Laura Schlessinger have two things in common: Both are Orthodox Jews and both believe homosexuals can change.

Rabbi Rosenberg is one of only a few Jews in a largely conservative Christian movement to reorient homosexuals to heterosexuality.

"Jews would prefer to avoid the issue," said Rabbi Rosenberg of Jersey City. "We can't afford not to get involved. We can't bury our heads in the sand."

He also will describe his organization, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH), this weekend at the annual conference of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Therapists, college professors and members of NARTH will gather at the Renaissance Mayflower hotel in the District of Columbia for a conference that begins tomorrow.

JONAH, formed in early 1999, is the only Jewish organization in the nation, and possibly the world, offering psychotherapy to homosexuals dealing with unwanted homosexual thoughts and feelings.

The 53-year-old rabbi and therapist says Judaism does not condone homosexuality and homosexuals have a choice to change. He quotes Leviticus 18:22 in the Old Testament: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination."

His efforts go against the grain of the largest and most liberal of the three branches of Judaism in the United States.

In March, a group of Reform Jewish leaders granted rabbis the option to preside over homosexual commitment ceremonies. The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), a Reform group, now supports same-sex "marriages" and practicing homosexual rabbis.

This move appalled members of the Orthodox Jewish community.

Rabbi Kenneth Hain, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, told the Associated Press his Orthodox organization believes Reform Judaism made "another tragic assault on … the sanctity of our people" and undermined the unity of Jews.

Mr. Rosenberg said that because observant Judaism and a practicing homosexuality are two conflicting precepts, homosexual Jews are being forced "underground" into their own communities.

"We should not put down anyone who fails to uphold the laws of Judaism," Mr. Rosenberg said. While he argues against ostracizing homosexuals from the Jewish community, the rabbi said the caveat is that they should not publicly violate Jewish law by flaunting their sexuality.

"Coming to synagogue eating a ham sandwich would not be in good taste," he said. "Similarly, flaunting homosexuality is not in good taste."

However, "I felt we would be greatly amiss to turn a deaf ear to those who cry for help," he added. Above all, Mr. Rosenberg stresses that while homosexuality is not condoned in Judaism, homosexuals should not be treated as pariahs.

"My voice is hopefully going to be heard that there is hope," he said. "There is a redirection for those struggling with homosexuality and those not comfortable with the lifestyle."

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