The Shmooze

'Gay Cure' Idea Offends Day School Students

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share

Sixth formers (high school seniors) at JFS, the oldest and largest Jewish day school in England, are being taught that homosexuality can be cured. At least, that is how some students, parents and community leaders understand the inclusion of information about JONAH — Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (an American organization that maintains that homosexuality can be “mitigated and potentially eliminated”) — in a Jewish text class on homosexuality and the Orthodox viewpoint.

Complaints have been lodged with the school’s administration, contending either that introducing the notion of gay “conversion” is offensive, or that at the very least, opposing views to those of JONAH should be included in the class. Material from or mention of Keshet UK, the LGBT forum, were reportedly not part of the course of study.

One student told the Jewish Chronicle that the PowerPoint presentation used by the teacher in class ended with a slide showing the JONAH website. “At the end, we were asked what we thought about religious Jews who might hate themselves because their religion condemns being gay,” he recounted. “The last slide on the PowerPoint was a picture and a link to the JONAH website, after we were discussing what gay Orthodox Jews can do, if they hate themselves.”

Another student expressed his concern for classmates who happen to be gay or questioning their sexual orientation. “If I were gay or worrying about my sexuality, sitting through that lesson, I would have been so upset,” he said.

JFS head teacher Jonathan Miller responded by saying that the situation had been misunderstood. He claimed that by showing the JONAH website, the teacher was trying to show the different Jewish perspectives on the issue. “It is absolutely not the case that we promote JONAH. The teaching materials explicitly state that Judaism would utterly condemn homophobia and discrimination,” Miller asserted.

JFS alumna and 2005 head girl Alma Smith was so incensed after hearing about this that she wrote a letter to the school’s leadership. She posted it on her Facebook wall and encouraged other JFS alumni to follow suit. In the letter, she wrote: “This week I’ve spoken with a number of hurt current students and alumni. I loved my time at JFS, but there was a culture of homophobia then, and through my work with young Jews, I know nothing has been done to address it.”

Alma ended her letter with her hope that things will change at JFS in this regard. “I hope there will be training put on for all staff on how to discuss sexuality within the classroom and how to respond to homophobia outside of it… I hope that students of all sexualities will start to feel truly safe and supported in JFS,” she wrote. “Please make me proud of the school again, by taking this as the opportunity to make LGBT students feel welcome and loved, rather than failing in your duty of care and making them feel unwanted,” she concluded.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Keshet UK, JONAH, JFS, Homosexuality

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.