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!
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • 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.