Homophobia Is Not Kosher

By | Apr 11, 2011

By Steven Philp

On Thursday LGBT-interest blog Queerty posted an article outlining the newest addition to the Kosher.com affiliates program: the anti-gay group JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality. Kosher.com advertises itself as the largest online kosher supermarket, offering door-to-door delivery of several thousand kosher products including meat, dairy, wine and frozen foods. The affiliates program allows customers to select a non-profit organization—including synagogues and schools—to receive 5% of their online purchase; in return, Kosher.com benefits from increased traffic from that organization’s constituent population. JONAH has come under fire for their prescription of “reparative” therapy for LGBT Jews, which has been shown by all major American health organizations—including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatry Association, and the American Psychology Association—to be ineffective; in fact, as outlined in a 2007 article by The New York Times, the majority of certified health professionals hold that “reparative” therapy can damage self-esteem, increase depression and promote suicidal behavior.

Queerty was alerted to the partnership between Kosher.com and JONAH by Jayson Littman, a survivor of “reparative” therapy. Littman had held membership in JONAH for five years, before coming out and starting a “gay Jewish events outfit” in New York. Littman expressed his misgivings in an e-mail to Kosher.com, explaining that their association with JONAH sends “a message to [LGBT Jews] of where you stand on this issue and what your beliefs are.” Kosher.com replied to Littman, outlining their acceptance of any and all organizations in to their affiliates program. Unsatisfied, Littman responded: “I am sure that non-profit organizations that spread hateful messages about Jewish people wouldn’t be considered for the Kosher.com affiliate program.” The following Friday, Truth Wins Out—a pro-LGBT organization that sheds light on the harmful effects of “reparative” therapy—started a petition on Change.org against the partnership of Kosher.com and JONAH. According to an article posted on their site, within 90 minutes they had gathered one thousand signatures. Shortly after, Kosher.com responded to the petition with the following:

Firstly we wish to apologize if any action taken by any member of our company offended anyone. Our affiliate program…was not something that we had monitored but considering the current reaction regarding jonahweb.org’s decision to send their members our affiliate offerings, we have decided to discontinue that affiliation and our management will review our affiliate programs guidelines going forward.

The swiftness with which online organizing produced results is heartening. The article on Queerty coupled with Truth Wins Out’s petition is an example of quick and effective online advocacy. Although we are called to respect—if not cultivate—a plurality of opinion within the Jewish community, supporting an organization that actively discriminates against other Jews is decidedly not kosher.

4 thoughts on “Homophobia Is Not Kosher

  1. Sam N. says:

    Jonah is not anti-gay. I challenge you to find anything anti-gay on their website or in their programming.

  2. Steven P. says:

    In a message from JONAH co-director Arthur Goldberg posted to their Web site (check under FAQs), he advocates that “homosexuality is a learned behavior which can be unlearned.” In the same letter he states that same-sex attraction is the result of emotional wounds; consequently, the LGBT person suffers from an unhealthy psyche. This statement also leads to the conclusion that same-sex attraction is an illness that needs to be “healed” or “cured,” and that the LGBT individual vis-a-vis their sexuality is debilitated. Goldberg – as a representative of JONAH – not only lacks an affirming view of the LGBT community, but characterizes the LGBT individual as incomplete, morally confused, and psychologically damaged. This opinion, given the undesirable nature of these qualities, is “anti-gay.”

    Similarly, by advocating “reparative” or “conversion therapy” JONAH counters the opinion of all major accredited health professional organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Psychology Association, the American Psychiatry Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. All of them condemn attempts to pathologize same-sex attraction, as stated on their respective Web sites. In a particularly telling statement, the American Psychiatric Association states that “reparative” therapy is not grounded in “rigorous scientific of psychiatric research, but sometimes by religious and political forces opposed to full civil rights for gay men and lesbians.” That is, advocating “reparative” therapy is – also – “anti-gay.”

  3. Ian Luthe says:

    Hey Steven, this is a great article. Any time I hear about reparative therapy I cringe a little. It’s sad that some people still view homosexuality as a disease and I’m happy you wrote this article. It’s great to hear you’re writing articles like this and always great to hear from you 🙂

  4. I wish the Jewish Press would stop accepting advertisement from Jonah every day . Hate groups should not be part of the Jewish Press

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