No 'cure'- you can't 'pray away the gay'

By Jessica Elgot, February 9, 2012
The article which caused uproar

The article which caused uproar

A Jewish newspaper columnist has robustly defended a controversial piece that she wrote suggesting that homosexuality could be cured.

Doreen Wachmann, who writes for the Jewish Telegraph in Manchester, said last week that she was daring to "put my head above the parapet and write about the forbidden topic" and expressed her "reservations over the contemporary Orthodoxy which dictates that homosexuality is a desirable lifestyle."

She praised the work of "Manchester psycho-sexual pioneer Dr Raymond Goodman" who had Jewish patients and would "help them heal their homosexual tendencies if that is their choice."

Mrs Wachmann, who has written for the paper for around 20 years, said she did not believe gay cures would necessarily work: "I am sure they don't, just as all cures do not work and just as most medication and medical procedures have potentially damaging side-effects. But patients are still encouraged to try them. And why should people be discouraged from even suggesting that road, without being publicly pilloried?"

This week, Mrs Wachmann said she was "aware that the subject of homosexuals and Judaism is very emotive."

She added: "My article was balanced, not taking sides on the issue of whether or not Jewish homosexuals can or should be 'cured', but merely airing the subject for legitimate public debate in the Jewish community.

"The response I received bore out the concluding lines of my article: 'Why should people be discouraged from even suggesting that road without being pilloried?' Which is exactly what has happened to me this week. All I am seeking is free and open public debate on the issue."

But Sarah McCulloch, from the Manchester branch of lesbian and gay Jewish forum Keshet, said: "Growing up gay in a non-accepting frum background produces an internal conflict in so many Jews, and it is obvious from the significantly higher suicide rate among LGBT Jews, compared to heterosexual Jews, that one cannot simply 'pray away the gay'.

"In fact, our lives are made harder by the ignorant statements of people who share Doreen Wachmann's views that we can be 'cured'.

Gay rights are not about "flaunting" our sexuality, it is being able to go to shul with your partner, just like everyone else." Leeds-born Keshet member Natalie Grazin added: "There is nothing heroic in "standing up" for an ineffective and dangerous non-treatment. Mrs Wachmann should find a more deserving cause to champion.

"Most sadly, she has brought the Jewish community into enormous disrepute through this article."

Rabbi Mark Solomon, of Manchester Liberal Jewish Community, said the article displayed "a shocking ignorance and malevolence towards gay Jews."

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Last updated: 12:47pm, February 9 2012