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Gay Men and their Moms Sue Jewish Conversion Therapy Center That Promised to Cure Them

A group of gay men and their moms are suing a  Jewish therapy center in New Jersey that claims to turn homosexuals  straight.

The lawsuit charges that the center, Jews  Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), is guilty of consumer fraud for  failing to quell the homosexual urges of its clients, as it had  promised.

Arthur Goldberg, JONAH’s co-director, and  Alan Downing, a ‘life coach’ who counsels therapy sessions, were also named in  the suit. Goldberg did not return MailOnline’s phone calls on Tuesday and the  center provided no contact information for Downing.

The therapy sessions, which cost up to $100  weekly, sometimes involved clients and counselors undressing in front of each  other, according to the lawsuit. 

Chaim Levin, left, and Michael Ferguson, right, are suing a Jewish therapy center in New Jersey that claims to turn homosexuals straight

The plaintiffs allege that some of the  center’s ‘healing’ methods included encouraging ‘cuddling’ between younger  clients and older male counselors and instructing attendees to get naked and  hold their penises in front of Downing. Attendees were also asked to role-play  as students in a locker room as others ridiculed them as ‘faggots’ and ‘homos,’  according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs include Michael Ferguson,  Benjamin Unger, Sheldon Bruck and Chaim Levin, all of whom used the services of  JONAH when they were in their teens or young 20s.

Bruck’s and Levin’s mothers, Jo and Bella,  are also named as plaintiffs. They said they gave up to $10,000 to the center  annually for counseling sessions that didn’t work.

‘Sadly, there is no accountability  for those  who practice conversion therapy,’ said Ferguson. ‘They play  blindly with deep  emotions and create an immense amount of self-doubt  for the client. They seize  on your personal vulnerability, and tell you  that being gay is synonymous with  being less of a man.’

Ferguson said the counselors misrepresented  themselves by claiming to hold the ‘key’ to patients’ new sexual orientation.

Unger said the counselors had convinced  him  and many other attendees that his mother was responsible for his  homosexual  tendencies.

‘These counselors are skilled at manipulating  you into believing just about  anything,’ he said. ‘During my time with JONAH,  they told me constantly  that my mom had made me gay. I was so convinced that I  refused to have  any contact with her for several months, which caused a great  deal of  damage to our relationship.’

The Southern Poverty Law Center,  which filed  the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs, claims that its  clients were ‘lured  into JONAH’s services through deceptive practices.’

‘Despite the consensus of mainstream  professional organizations that conversion  therapy doesn’t work, this racket  continues to scam vulnerable gay men  and lesbians out of thousands of dollars  and inflicts significant harm  on them,’  said Christine P. Sun, deputy  legal director for the SPLC.

The plaintiffs are seeking declaratory and  injunctive relief, as well as an undisclosed amount of money and court costs,  according to the lawsuit.

JONAH, based in Jersey City, claims on its  website that through ‘gender  affirming processes’ and ‘reparative therapy,’  that homosexual  individuals can be turned straight.

‘[We] need to understand that change from  homosexual to heterosexual is possible, that homosexuality is a learned behavior  which can be unlearned, and that healing is a lifelong process,’ writes  Goldberg, the center’s co-director.

The website advertises a book by Goldberg,  ‘Light in the Closet,’ saying it ‘explodes the “gay gene” mystique, offering  hope, compassion, direction and vitally needed information to gay strugglers,  their families, friends, and surrounding community.’

Levin, 23, is now a gay rights  advocate and  blogger. He said he was been sexually abused as a boy and  that he felt confused  about his sexuality, so he took a rabbi’s advice  and began conversion therapy  at JONAH.

He quit the therapy after 18 months, saying  it made him feel ‘degraded and violated,’ he said.

Goldberg told ABC  News that he knew nothing about the  lawsuit and insisted that the center had been successful in converting hundreds  of homosexuals to a ‘straight’ lifestyle.

‘We have a lot of people who were a success  and were healed,’ he said. ‘Hundreds of the clients we serve are satisfied …  Our therapy is very conventional.’

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Posted by on November 27, 2012. Filed under Jewish News,Slider. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to Gay Men and their Moms Sue Jewish Conversion Therapy Center That Promised to Cure Them

  1. mo

    November 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    after going to all boys schools/yeshiva i was suffering from SSA and Jonah helped me marry a woman and have a family.