'˜Gay conversion' therapy continues in Israel despite US group ban

JEWISH therapists claiming they can turn gays into heterosexuals are continuing to practice in Israel despite a US court ordering the closure of a American based group promoting the practice.
Dr Elan Karten has treated about 100 homosexual men. Picture: APDr Elan Karten has treated about 100 homosexual men. Picture: AP
Dr Elan Karten has treated about 100 homosexual men. Picture: AP

JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, was shut for violating New Jersey consumer fraud laws by claiming therapy could “heal” homosexuality.

Israel’s Health Ministry advises against so-called “gay conversion” or “reparative” therapy, calling it scientifically dubious and potentially dangerous, but it is not illegal.

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In Israel, practitioners say their services are in demand, mostly by Orthodox Jewish men who want to marry women and raise a traditional family.

“Since there is such a strong religious presence here, and I think political correctness isn’t as prevalent, there’s more openness about this kind of therapy here,” said Dr Elan Karten, a US-trained psychologist and Orthodox Jew who has treated about 100 people with homosexual attractions since he opened his Jerusalem practice eight years ago.

At least four men’s support groups meet weekly in Jerusalem, said Jerusalem psychotherapist Adam Jessel, who has worked with hundreds of people looking to “overcome” homosexuality.

One 23-year-old Orthodox Jewish student from the US said the retreat “was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I feel like I’ve actually started living my life instead of just surviving it.”

He spoke anonymously because he said publicising his homosexuality would hurt his chances for marriage and acceptance in his Orthodox community. He said he signed a confidentiality agreement barring him from discussing seminar activities so as not to ruin the experience for future participants.

• An earlier version of this article mistakenly claimed that the JONAH group had moved operations to Israel, which is not the case. We apologise for the error, which has now been amended

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