After The Courts Shut It Down, This Jewish Gay Conversion Therapy Clinic Reopened Under A New Name

After The Courts Shut It Down, This Jewish Gay Conversion Therapy Clinic Reopened Under A New Name

Since conversion therapy is so inextricably linked to extremist Christian ideology, its not surprising there aren’t many Jewish groups that promise they can change your sexual orientation. And the only significant one, JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, was shut down by the courts in 2015.

At trial, plaintiff Chaim Levin (below) described in detail the “treatment” he and others endured, such as violent roleplaying, being forced to cuddle older men on the floor, showering naked in groups, and wearing blindfolds while others hurled insults at them.

Matt McClain/Washington Post

Opponents of the widely debunked therapy have been trying for years to get it outlawed, but Levin’s legal team at the Southern Poverty Law Center took a unique approach: They claimed JONAH was violating New Jersey’s consumer fraud laws by making claims it couldn’t prove.

“So-called conversion therapy is cruel and targets vulnerable people,” Levin, 28, told NewNowNext. “People at a young age, or even adults up to the age of 80, are scammed into this and subjected to sexual and emotional abuse. It’s fraud.”

A New Jersey District Court agreed and ordered JONAH’s Jersey City facility to close its doors, liquidate it assets, and permanently dissolve as a corporate entity within six months. Judge Peter Bariso also ordered the organization to pay damages and legal fees, and cover counseling for one of the plaintiffs.

That seemed to be the end of it. Until last month, when the SPLC filed a complaint on behalf of Levin and his co-plaintiffs alleging JONAH had reopened just days after the court order. The motion claimed JONAH simply rebranded itself as JIFGA, the Jewish Institute for Global Awareness, which offers to educate on the Seven Laws of Noah, including the prohibitions on “immorality and forbidden sexual relations.”

But the SPLC argues JIFGA is just JONAH in different drag: The “new” operation is run by JONAH’s co-founders Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berg, and is located in JONAH’s former headquarters. It even has the same telephone number. SPLC is calling on the court to enforce its original ruling.

“We spent three years in court,” said Levin. “JONAH was proven to be fraud, they agreed to a settlement, and they broke their agreement.”

Matt McClain/Washington Post

Conversion therapy is coming under increased scrutiny across the country: In 2015, the Supreme Court upheld New Jersey’s ban on the practice on minors. And this week, lawmakers introduced a complete ban, using the consumer-fraud argument employed by SPLC.

JIFGA’s legal team has until April 27 to respond to the motion, or it will be a violation of the original court order.