Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Rabbis, Mental Health Professionals Holding Conference to Support Young LGBT Jews

Conference to be held in Israel this Sunday will bring Orthodox rabbinical community, and the therapeutic community, together in support of LGBT teens

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: April 17th, 2015 in Health » World

Photo: Gay pride parade in Israel


A conference is being held in Israel this upcoming Sunday to discuss the highly controversial use of conversion therapy for LGBT Jewish youth. According to a report by Tablet, the Obama Administration strongly supports the banning of this procedure, which is highly used on minors.

Some of the keynote speakers for the conference include RCA Honorary President Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, as well as RCA Executive Vice President Rabbi Mark Dratch. In addition, Dr. Jack Drescher and Dr. Mark Blechner, editor in chief of the journal Contemporary Psychoanalysis, and Dr. Alison Feit, the Executive Director of the Jewish Center for Trauma and Recovery, will be in attendance.

“The end goal of this conference is that our leaders and experts will be will informed and able to provide proper care to LGBT Jews,” explained Mordechai Levovitz in an interview with Tablet.

Levovitz is a gay, Orthodox man. He’s also the co-chair of the conference, and the founder and director of JQY, a not for profit organization which helps provide resources and support for at-risk LGBT youth in both Orthodox and Hasidic communities. Something that can’t be overlooked, he notes, is that LGBT youth from families who reject or condemn their sexuality or gender preference are eight times more likely to attempt suicide.

JQY, according to Levovitz, was highly influential in getting the Rabbinical Council of America to rescind their recommendation of JONAH, which is the largest conversion therapy organization in the Jewish community, back in 2012.

Levovitz explained that the goal for the conference is to bring the therapeutic and rabbinical orthodox communities together, and for them to work together in providing a safe and accepting environment for LGBT youth. “Therapists can’t provide care if they don’t understand the orthodox community and rabbis can’t provide proper guidance if they don’t understand the psychological issues at hand. This conference isn’t about advocacy but rather it’s an opportunity for learning and dialogue,” he said.

“It’s not enough to simply tell LGBT teens in religious communities that it gets better later. We have to work within the community to make it better now,” said 15 year-old Sean Herzfeld. A member of JQY, Herzfeld recently came out at his Orthodox high school.

“The question that this conference is asking isn’t whether you can be both gay and Orthodox, because that is a very judgmental question,” explained Levovitz. “ The question is: How can we provide responsible support for LGBT people in the orthodox community?”

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