Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) was launched by Arthur Abba Goldberg, father of a gay son

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JEWS Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) was started in 1999 by Goldberg, above, after  was found guilty in 1989 of numerous felonies in multiple jurisdictions. The charges ranged from federal mail and wire fraud to conspiracy counts as a result of a bogus bond writing scheme. He served an 18-month sentence and was fined $400,000, later reduced to $100,000 on appeal.

After leaving prison Goldberg started another scam, launching JONAH after his son came out as gay. He authored a book, Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change and  also appointed himself President of Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality (PATH).

Goldberg soon found himself in trouble again when, in 2012 JONAH was sued by several former clients and their parents for touting a service that does not exist: changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The plaintiffs won a $3.5 million verdict in 2015. But, in a private agreement, that number was reduced and JONAH agreed to dissolve and stop practicing conversion therapy.

However, a couple of years later, Goldberg and fellow conversion therapists were found to have reinvented themselves as the “Jewish Institute for Global Awareness” and were still offering gay “cures.”.

As a consequence, a court in 2019 reinstated the $3.5 million judgment. JONAH appealed, but a court in New Jersey tossed the appeal last week.

Said attorney Thomas Kessler, who represented the plaintiffs alongside the Southern Poverty Law Center in Ferguson v. JONAH:

The message today’s decision sends is conversion therapy is every bit as dangerous, harmful and illegal as it was when we won our jury verdict.

Michael Laffey, who represented JONAH and its owners, said that the ruling this week contained “errors” and his clients are “considering their options” when it comes to a possible appeal.

Since the 2013 lawsuit started, New Jersey passed a conversion therapy ban. But Ferguson v. JONAH shows that conversion therapy bans aren’t enough to stop the harmful practice.

Like all conversion therapy bans in the US, New Jersey’s only covers minors, and many of JONAH’s clients were adults. Moreover, their staff members weren’t licensed therapists or mental health professionals; they called themselves “life coaches,” putting them outside the authority of state licensing boards.

At the 2015 trial, former clients like plaintiff Chaim Levin testified about JONAH’s bizarre practices.

Levin said that men were forced to strip naked in front of mirrors and abuse their own bodies and beat pillows, representing their mothers,  with tennis rackets.

He and others said that they had to shower naked together and then engage in activities like putting on a blindfold while others shouted slurs like “faggot,” “homo,” “pussy,” and “queer” at them. He said that they were told to reenact their own births by wiggling out of blankets, again naked.

Clients were also made to cuddle with other men to learn about “healthy touch” as slow music played. Sometimes they were encouraged to cuddle with older male volunteers to receive “Golden Father Energy.”

The jury deliberated for only three hours and decided that the services JONAH provided didn’t count as “therapy” and violated the state’s consumer protection laws. The judge said that JONAH’s practices were based on “obsolete and discredited scientific theories” about homosexuality and cited mental health organisations’ opposition to conversion therapy.

Kessler claimed that conversion therapy:

Works largely underground. It’s extremely important that litigation like ours exists to root out this dangerous practice. The resources and enterprises that exist to fight conversion therapy are still on the job, and we’ll continue to fight these battles to prevent more harm to these incredibly vulnerable victims.

After leaving prison, Goldberg also took on the role of the Executive Secretary of NARTH, the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.  In 2014 it changed its name to the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (ATCSI).

NARTH was started by a quack called Joseph Nicolosi. who died in 2017. But his legacy lives on in the form of Core Issues Trust, a fundamentalist Christian organisation based in Northern Ireland.

CIT hosts several pages which express support and admiration for Nicolosi. On both its website, and this YouTube channel, it host links for a documentary A True Friend – Joseph Nicolosi, in which CIT examines Nicolosi’s life and work

Images via YouTube

In the documentary CIT leader, Mike Davidson – pictured above left with Nicolosi – laments the death of dangerous and discredited charlatan and says:

Nicolosi is synonymous with the idea that homosexuality is changeable.

CIT, which screamed bloody murder when its Barclays Bank account was closed last year, has been under mounting pressure in recent months as the UK government edged towards making conversion therapy illegal.

In May this year, Minister for Women & Equalities, Liz Truss, said:

As a global leader on LGBT rights, this government has always been committed to stamping out the practice of conversion therapy.

We want to make sure that people in this country are protected, and these proposals mean nobody will be subjected to coercive and abhorrent conversion therapy.

Alongside this legislation, we will make new funding available to ensure that victims have better access to the support they need.

A government statement added:

As soon as parliamentary time allows, and following a consultation, the ban will be introduced in parliamentary legislation.

The accompanying consultation will seek further views from the public and key stakeholders to ensure that the ban can address the practice while protecting the medical profession; defending freedom of speech; and upholding religious freedom.

Today’s announcement furthers the UK’s position as an international leader on LGBT equality, having legalised same-sex marriage and introduced one of the world’s most comprehensive legislative frameworks for protecting LGBT people from violence and discrimination.

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