Monday, February 27, 2012

HRC: Support Network for LGBT in the Orthodox Community

This awesome article was published on the Human rights Campaign's blog today.


Support Network for LGBT in the Orthodox Community

The following post comes from HRC Jewish Organization Equality Index Intern Hannah Henschel:
The numerous “It Gets Better” videos have created a diverse supportive network for the LGBT community. Recently, a video was made by a group of Jewish men who all grew up as Orthodox and identify as gay. This video paints a depressing picture – it is extremely hard, even perhaps impossible, to currently be an out gay man in the Orthodox community. One of the men in the video, Chaim Levin, received a particularly harsh backlash from the Orthodox community in the form of an article on the website Jewish Press. Elliot Resnick, a writer for the Jewish Press, wrote that while it is possible to be Orthodox and gay, that the proper way to “handle” these feelings in the Orthodox tradition is through suppression. Resnick explains, “Jewish thought teaches one to be embarrassed of one's failings, to hide one's flaws from man and God, to repress one's base characteristics and desires.” He goes on to state that anyone who cannot abide by this is immoral.
Levin came back strong with a response to Resnick through his own article on the samewebsite. Throughout telling the story of his own coming-out experience, Levin paints a horrifying picture of the experiences of so-called “reparative therapy” to isolation and expulsion from the Orthodox community.  The alienation from his Orthodox community nearly led Levin to take his own life, but he was helped by finding a supportive organization, JQY.  JQY is a support network of those brought up in the Orthodox community and work within their congregations and communities to create a safer environment for those who are LGBT.  Through all the turmoil Levin has faced as a gay Orthodox young man, he now is able to build an inclusive supportive community for others.  To find out more about Levin and his work, check out his personal blog or watch his recent interview with the Faith Complex.
Photo Credit: © Katja Heinemann/Aurora Select, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Part I: What Really Happens in Reparative Therapy

This article was posted a couple of days ago on Truth Wins Out's website. It documents other parts of my experience while undergoing reparative therapy.

I chose to share these personal and painful memories, not to send a negative message that discourages other people or makes them loose hope, but rather to send a positive message of perseverance that encourages and gives hope through the truth. I survived, and I am here to talk about my experiences, to tell the truth about what happened and that I am living happily as an open, honest gay man. I don't regret coming out. It is the best thing ever to happened me; those dear people in my life who saw the change in me have seen how much better off I have been after I stopped trying to be something I am not.

Please always remember that there is hope and, despite what some might falsely believe  that you aren't good enough because you're different  they are the ones who need to be changed, not you.

http://www.truthwinsout.org/blog/2012/02/22286/

Posted February 20th, 2012 by Wayne Besen
By Chaim Levin
My time undergoing reaparative therapy with a group called Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) was recently brought to public attention. The one experience that has stood out and has raised eyebrows across the world was my last session with a JONAH “life coach” (a self described ex gay) who manipulated me into removing my clothing and touching myself in a locked room as he looked on. While that experience is something I have to live with every day of my life, I wish I could say that was the only unconventional “technique” that I was exposed to while attempting to change my sexuality. I’ve decided that it’s time to start talking about some of the other experiences that I endured while attending weekends and group meetings with JONAH and another group called People Can Change.

At the age of eighteen I was directed to JONAH by a local rabbi in my community. I was told that JONAH was supposed to be the answer to my prayers and they were supposedly going to “cure” me of my homosexuality.

Upon meeting with Arthur Goldberg, the director of JONAH, I immediately felt reassured by the false hope Goldberg gave me when he said that anyone could change and become straight so long as they tried hard enough. I wasn’t the only person who was victimized by the false hope peddled by these groups. Many of my friends who went to JONAH ended up leaving after not changing their sexual orientation.
However, after speaking to Goldberg I was ready to do anything these people asked of me in order to become straight. I never thought that accepting myself as a gay person was an option, especially because of the strong Orthodox religious community that I was raised in. As far as I knew, there were no other gay people where I came from and hearing that false message from Goldberg only reinforced my ill informed belief that I can change my sexuality and become straight.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Meet my main man — LIttle Benji Puggleface

As the weekend starts to kick in and my tiredness from this amazing and crazy week hits my eyebrows, I wanna share with you my plans for the next day or two as I restrengthen myself :)

All I need now is a good bowl of kugel, maybe even some cholent, and I'm good to go.




I hope you can kvell over my adorable dog. He keeps me sane while driving me crazy at the same time, and he's such a character.

If you haven't gotten it by now, my plans are: resting, playing with my dog, and maybe blog a little bit ;)

Have a great weekend, and thank you for making all this possible!

Much love,

Chaim Levin (and) Benji Puggleface

Huffington Post — Chaim Levin Is Giving Hope to LGBT Orthodox Jews

This article by Wayne Bessen of Truth wins out was published in the Huffington Post tonight:


When people think of anti-gay places, the gay mecca of New York City does not often come to mind. However, Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community is a hotbed of homophobia, where LGBT people are shunned, abused, rejected, and told they must change their sexual orientation to be accepted.
Chaim Levin, 22, grew up feeling the sting of discrimination and disgust from his Orthodox family and neighbors in Crown Heights. In his teenage years he was sent away to a strict religious boarding school in France. After Levin was outed, he was bullied and humiliated on a daily basis.
"I remember walking into the grand study hall while everyone was sitting at their respective tables, and suddenly all the attention in the room shifted towards me as I walked past the glaring eyes of about 400 people," recalls Levin. "Over the next six months I was subject to harassment by many of my schoolmates, both in private and in public. I was called 'faggot,' 'diseased,' 'heretic' in Hebrew, French, and in English. As I write this today, I can't remember how I survived those dreadful, seemingly endless months away from home, in a strict religious school surrounded by people who hated me for who I was, in a foreign country with no money, all at the age of 16."
When he could take no more abuse, Levin tried to kill himself by swallowing a handful of pills.
"I felt like I didn't want to live anymore."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Questions and Answers from people on the Internet

Trying to keep up with the many messages and emails of kind words, encouragement and support, I am doing my best to respond to as many people as possible. I hope it is not taken personally if I can't respond right away or miss message here and there. This is a one man show. Until tonight, I didn't even own a computer — my work was dependent upon others letting me use their computers. Hopefully, I will be able to stay more “on top of my game" with my new fabulous MacbookPro; it's mamesh, a stunning piece, and I’m thrilled.

Of the many interesting and intelligent questions, I received the following message on Facebook from someone whom, out of respect for his privacy, I will not name. Although his questions are straightforward and rather personal, I think these are important to address. In doing so, I hope to broaden people's knowledge on the apparently new hot topic: homosexuality and Judaism.

 
I'm a straight yeshiva student who is involved in dialogue with many issues. I've heard a lot about you, read your blog, etc. I came across all your stuff in the course of me exploring and attempting to deal with, the issues of bigotry, stereotypes and other issues in the orthodox community. Let me just first say I'm a big fan of your unprecedented work which one would not even conceive in his mind five years ago would be happening today.

First of all, I would like to thank you for reaching out, as well as your kind words about my blog and the work that I've been doing. I'm glad that you're thinking about these issues. As I and others have said, all we hope to accomplish is the dialogue pertaining to these issues; the lack of discussion regarding these, along with the deafening silence, pushes people into a very unfortunate, uncomfortable and difficult position that I and other people have faced while growing up orthodox (frum) and gay.

With all that said and done, I had a few questions I figured a person like yourself would be able to answer most insightfully. First off, what would you advise a person who grew up in an orthodox home, strongly values God, but is gay? Should he follow his desires for what makes him truly happy (having a boyfriend and homosexual intercourse) or follow Halacha? What words of encouragement would you give him?

Monday, February 20, 2012

More harassment from anonymous loser on the internet

Someone is emailing all my Jewish gay friends disturbing content and spam under my name. What an #ass! It makes me sick that people think they can hide behind the mask of the internet. It just shows how weak and cowardly they really are.



Do you see their faces? Can you look into their eyes?

In my continued "journey" of "giving them hope" and the things I'm doing now, I try as best as I can to stay focused on the goal, the end result, the real message, the real truth.

Today, I am gonna continue and try to answer the people who keep questioning my motives and what my real intentions are with talking about my experience and what it was like to grow up orthodox and gay.

The "it gets better" video that I was part of, the one entitled. It gets better - gay orthodox Jews, was inspired by Dan Savage's it gets project, that served to send a message to lost and confused souls who felt alone and hopeless because they were gay or just different, in a response to the growing number of suicides across the country. The video originally came under criticism by Elliot Resnick of the Jewish Press, but thankfully the Jewish Press allowed me to publish my response to the critics of Resnick and other people in the orthodox community that want the gay "issue" silenced at any cost.

These faces are only a few, the well known cases of people that took their own lives. Do you see their faces? Can you look right into their eyes and say that you don't care about gay people, bullying, or suicide on the back's of that because your god tells you that there's something wrong with us?


Saturday, February 18, 2012

The brilliant words of my "logical" brother and friend, Benjamin Unger

My dear Benjy Unger, a fine gentlemen that I actually met while attending JONAH, someone I learned a lot from wrote this to the members of JONAH when we came out with this video that served to tell the truth and expose the crap that happened to us while trying to change ourselves from gay to straight. I decided not to edit it in the slightest because it would do injustice to Benjy's incredible and genuine demeanor that is just one of the thousand reasons that I love him dearly:


Some of the things that keep me going

My intentions whilst writing this, with everything I write, is not to cause more controversy or add to the existing tensions that are very prevalent between myself and the orthodox Jewish community, the community that I was born and raised in. Rather to send a very strong message to every single person that has done wrong by gay people on the guise of their own hatred, homophobia or even religious "values" (quotes because I'm not sure how mistreating anyone in the name of god can be value) . As I speak out about what it was like to grow up in Crown Heights as a Lubavitcher and a gay person, the pain, the endless rejection and difficulties I faced daily placed before me by my family and community, as I tell the truth about how much trying to change my sexuality has harmed me, I can only hope that the guys or girls reading this that might feel similar to the way I do, the others like me that I've come to  learn exist that they're not alone.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thank you for your support (and lack of as well)

Dear friends,

I wanted to just shout out to all of you and say thank you for all your amazing and unwavering support throughout this journey that I'm going on. Your support only proves how powerful we as a group of people can be when we come together for the sake of social justice and ensuring that all people are treated with dignity and respect. And it reminds us how important support is for people, all people, in any situation.

To the people who have chosen not to support me, friends (call it what you'd like), family members and haters, thank you also. It's your lack of support and ignorance that only proves how important my work actually is. I wanna let you know that it's because of all the crap that you've thrown at me throughout my life that has made me feel unbreakable and strong, and the more you condemn me and my work, the stronger I get.

I spent 19 years of my life living as a half person, living in fear and shame because of the negative things the the non-supporters have done to me, but I found my peace the day that I accepted myself and stopped caring about what people assumed and believed about me. I know that my work and my voice will save lives, and that's a lot more than I can say for your actions committed against me because you thought you would be the one to put me "in my place".

I can't wait to write more about the aforementioned non supporters and what I've experienced on their behest, not because I like writing about it or thinking about it, but because I know that every time I tell a story of an action that was taken against me for who I was, there's someone reading it that experienced the same injustice in their own respective lives. This isn't a threat or a warning, it's a wake up call and a reality check for you to realize that people don't forget bad things done to them, especially not me. And although I might have been helpless to defend myself back then, I sure as hell am not helpless anymore and my voice is getting louder and clearer.

With lots of love for everyone :)

-Chaim Levin


Agudath Israel of America "clarifies" their stance on reaparative therapy

Rabbi Avi Shafran, the spokesperson for Agudath America, published this article on the daily Forward's website yesterday, and it's supposed to serve as Agudah's standpoint from Agudah on reparative therapy.

My first conclusion about his statement is that it's so vague and it doesn't really give Agudah any real standpoint other then what we already know: the halachic prohibitions of homosexual acts. For whatever reason, Rabbi Shafran felt compelled to remind us in almost every paragraph of his statement about the halachic problems with homosexuality. The reason all this dialogue, controversy and back and forth is happening is because of that verse in Vayikara (Leviticus), and the insistent reminders of how wrong homosexual acts are according to halacha is only being used as a weapon to ignore people like me and the many other brave souls that were subject to condemnation by so many rabbinic authorities because of our choice NOT to engage in potentially life threatening "therapy" to change ourselves. Rabbi Shafran, don't you get it? This isn't a halachic debate, it never was for me, I know what it says in the Torah about homosexual acts, but I also know that you and many other rabbinic authorities have ignored the harrowing experiences that face LGBT people inside orthodox communities. I'll leave the scholarly ones to debate halacha, I've never disclosed any of my private affairs that are between me and god to anyone, I've only talked about the treatment I faced by my community.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I met Joan Rivers today at La Guardia and got her to tweet about my blog!

So to my pleasant surprise while waiting for my flight at La Guardia, I see Joan Rivers casually walking to her gate and I literally dropped everything I was doing and ran over to her to say "Joan, I'm Jewish, I'm gay, and I love you!".. She was so wonderful and so funny, and she then retweeted our picture and mentioned this blog!

I write this from up in the air on the way to Atlanta, I have so much work to catch up on, so much more to write about, but had to share this amazing moment with you all.

Joan Rivers @Joan_Rivers Close
“@chaim89: @Joan_Rivers you're so fabulous! Thank you! Gottagivemhope.com pic.twitter.com/ALJOpYQ8” he's cute, Jewish and single, guys!!


I must say, this is the first time that I got a normal picture with a celebrity, I'm usually too caught up in the heat of the moment and my hands are too shaky to get a normal shot, this is fabulous!

With much love to all of my dear friends and supporters from way up in the air. 
Love always, Chaim Levin

"Chaim, what do you want?" Mission Statement

Some people have posted comments on some of my articles and posts about the recent Oprah segment and the general topic of homosexuality in the Jewish community.Based on these comments I think some people been confused as to what my mission statement is, has been, and will continue to be: The reason I am choosing to come out so publicly and so honestly about what happened to me isn't to convince people to accept me personally, it's not about me anymore, my years of torture and pain for being gay in a frum (religious) environment are over and I have moved on to a place in my life where I have found peace in my soul. The work that I do is the voice of so many others who have endured similar and even more trying experiences while growing up frum and gay, and the hope is that the people who see this now, the parents, brothers, sisters, and friends of gay people might learn from this and treat a gay person in their life differently, but the biggest hope, the most important part, is that younger version of so many of us that felt alone and without support, the message is for those people, no matter which community you come from, even in Crown Heights, you're not alone.

Many have asked me: "why don't you leave the community behind? Why is your head still in this bad place, this negative seemingly closed minded homophobic community? Why wouldn't you just find another congregation or shul or community that would accept you and live there without this controversy? And then come the even sharper questions from people who continue to, and have in the past criticized me for the work that I'm doing now: "Why do you need to talk about this issue/problem publicly?" "Why can't you just keep it to yourself and not cause this pain and aggravation to your family by "flaunting" your gayness in everyone'es face?" The last two questions are very charged and have a lot of weight to them but I think they give you a picture of what these people are asking of me.They're asking me to "keep it to myself", they're saying they're ok with gay people as long as they don't act gay or talk about it in public. As is the history within religious communities like Crown Heights, based on my own personal experiences as well as many stories that I've heard from people who live in Crown Heights and are part of the Chabad orthodox community, subjects like homosexuality and sexual abuse have been avoided by the "leaders" of the community ever since I can remember. Yes it's true that  lately people have become more aware of the serious issue facing hundreds of children in Crown Heights who were molested and continue to be until this day, but because of the silence and stigma associated with sexual abuse in this community, most victims never get to bring their abuser to justice and see them be accountable for their actions. It's the silence that allows people who are a danger to children walk freely in the streets of Crown Heights today, that silence that has caused immense pain to people like myself who are gay and were and clearly still are heavily criticized by members of our own community simply for speaking up.

The support that I have received over the past month since the Jewish Press article has been amazing, and compared to the backlash I've been receiving, the support outweighs the backlash by far. However, many of my critics are from the Chabad community themselves and from other frum communities communities (I know the word frum is loaded and doesn't really represent any group of people, but let's just say that the people who wrote these comments were self identified as frum (orthodox)); many people have left anonymous comments on the Jewish Press article claiming to know me and attempted to destroy my character and bring shame to my family, others have simply asked the aforementioned questions, but I think it's clear that although having a dialogue is the best thing that can happen, even if it's not all positive, those questions and that tone of "keeping it quiet" only serve to continue this dangerous silence that ignores the serious plight of so many people that suffer just because they are gay, not because they commit "homosexual acts"

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dan Savage: The It Gets Better Project

Last March this book was published by Dan Savage titled "It gets better". They had selected some of the thousands of it gets better videos that they felt stood out and transcribed them into a book, and they included our video for gay orthodox Jews, and they titled it: "Coming out of the shtetl: gay orthodox Jews". I can't tell you what kind of honor it's been to be part of this life saving project that has impacted lives worldwide. Despite some of the criticism i've received by various people over the video and the recent articles, I have no regrets and based on the amazing kind words I have been getting from friends supporters, I will continue going "from strength to strength".

Thank you all for your love and support.

Chaim Levin





 With Dan and Terry, founders of the It Gets Better Project



Gay orthodox Jews, It gets Better

Dear Oprah

Dear Oprah,

Tonight you aired your second segment of interviews with people in the hasidic community, and you asked four mothers what they would do if they had a gay child. It's clear that you didn't get a serious response from them but I want you to know that I grew up in this community (Crown Heights) as a hasidic Jew and I am openly gay today.
http://www.oprah.com/own-oprahs-next-chapter/Homosexuality-in-the-Hasidic-Community-Video

My journey since being thrown out of yeshiva for being gay and attempting reaparative "change" therapy to become straight and then coming out proudly about who I am is quite an interesting one, and it would be a shame if the world wouldn't get to see the real answer to this question, my answer, and the answer about the hundreds of other gay jews that come from these communities.

My stories are already documented in multiple news publication and throughout my blog, but here is the article that was published in the Jewish Press recently chronicling my experience while growing up frum (religious orthodox) and gay.

http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/surviving-bullying-silencing-and-torment-for-being-gay-in-the-frum-community/2012/01/25/


Monday, February 13, 2012

Cyberbullying of people in my community

I reluctantly write this post to bring awareness to a problem that's been growing within the confines of support groups like JQY (Jewish Queer Youth) and other places that support LGBT Jews.

An email user who identifies by the name "hashem echad" ha.she_mechad@yahoo.com and hashem_echad@yahoo.com has been sending hateful, threatening and disturbing email content to myself and many other people that I know including minors under the age of 18.

This type of harassment is particularly disturbing to me because it threatens the safety net of support that so many people derive from the work that we do online.

Our next step is to contact authorities, but before doing so we'd like to hear from everyone that has had contact with this individual so that it can be taken care of quickly and easily.

I, along with the people I work with to create a more supportive and welcoming environment for LGBT people have a zero tolerance for this kind of bullying being masked by the anonymity of the internet. This person is causing real harm and tension to many people who are looking for support and love, cyberbullying won't be tolerated and we will do everything we can to stop this individual from continuing these disgusting actions.

This picture is a screenshot of the first message that I got from this individual, there are hundreds more where it came from:

If you have anymore information regarding this individual, including emails that he sent you, please forward them to chaim89@gmail.com

Thank you,

Chaim Levin
gottagivemhope

Threatened by a JONAH member

This morning I woke up to a comment from someone that I attended JONAH with and was once a close friend of:

"Chaim,

I care for you very much, and looking forward to the day when I can consider you a trustworthy friend again. And I mean this whole-heartedly.

But if you start a tirade against JONAH for the sole purpose of bringing it to the ground, you will face a lot of serious opposition from me. I have a lot of data, evidence, and support to rally together to go against many of your claims that will make you look way more "shaky" than you are claiming JONAH to be. I don't want to start a war with you. But for my safety and the safety of men I deeply care about, I will do so if I have to.

Think about it. I really hope you choose a more peaceful route. 

Jonathan "


This person begged me not to go public with the sexual abuse that I and others faced by the hand of Alan Downing who works at JONAH. His comment once again ignores what happened to me at the hands of JONAH and only accuses me of "taking people's rights away", people who don't want to be gay, people who have the right to change if they want to. He doesn't answer the biggest question of them all: How can you help others on the backs of hurting others? You say JONAH has helped some people but how about the people it DIDN'T help and people that it caused HARM to? How can you claim to do something that science, and my own experience, tells me is impossible? and how can you give people false hope, when that hope hurts?

Jonathan, are you planning on telling the "world" about my private experiences in therapy to try and discredit me? Is that how JONAH operates? First they sexually abuse their patients, and then when someone comes forward you basically threaten him with "showing" the world who he really is?  Are you threatening to tell people about my personal experiences? I've already done that. They abused me. They gave me false hope and damaged me psychologically. They drove me and my friends to the brink of suicide. All I'm doing is being honest about MY experiences that DO NOT reflect on people who want to change their sexual identity. Aside from that, I'm only making sure that people are aware that groups like JONAH are harmful and can cause real damage to people, and if someone really wants to change themselves they should do it in a safe environment that won't allow any abuse of power like the one I faced at JONAH. I do not believe they can do the good you claim. But even if they can, what can JONAH do, and what can the frum (orthodox) world do, to make sure that it doesn’t also cause the massive HARM it caused me?


Ps, this video is a small insight into reparative therapy by one of it's leaders Richard Cohen, someone who was very praised and glorified at JONAH.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Survivng a year away in a foreign yeshiva (religious school) after being outed at the age of 16

When I was 16 in 2005, I was sent away to boarding school in a small suburb near Paris called Brunoy. For anyone who grew up in my Orthodox community, if you went to the yeshiva in Brunoy, you were truly a righteous hero and were truly a "god fearing" (yiras shmayaim) student. The school’s legacy is based on the fact that its physical conditions make prison look like hotels. The idea is that as servants of god we’re not supposed to care about the physical world, our appearance or our living conditions. So, for my year spent in Paris, I wasn’t on vacation touring the most famous sites in the world, I wasn’t eating fabulous French cheese, and I definitely wasn’t touring the great museums like the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay. I lived in a fairly small room with four other people and had to shower in a room with 13 showerheads with close to three hundred other people. At 7:15, the water was turned off by an automatic timer, and, if you still had soap on your hair or body, you needed to go into the mikvah, the waters of which were changed once every two months and the amount of people that used it during that time is unknown. All I can say was that the water usually looked black. At 7:30 in the morning, the dormitory would be locked from the outside so, if you were late to seder (study session), you were locked inside the dorm and had to wait until someone from the admin with a key would open the door. You might be wondering about the fire hazard that posed, and so did I  especially when I was locked in the dorm with the fire escapes were blocked off and locked shut. We were allowed to go Paris on Fridays only to do “outreach” work by putting on Tefilin (Jewish Phylactirys) and reminding people that there was a god in this world and that we must do everything we can to bring messiah closer. Internet cafes were off limits; although I won’t lie, I used to sneak in and spend hours on the internet. Often, it was my only connection to the outside world. I spent 8 months in isolation, misery and loneliness because, two months into the school year, a friend told someone that I was gay, and this person took it upon himself to inform the entire school about what an awful person I was.

It was around December 15th, 2006, a chabad holiday was being celebrated. In chabad circles, especially on such “auspicious” occasions, many fargrengens (gatherings) were happening where much alcohol was consumed by both the students and the staff. I don’t remember how it happened exactly, but, during all these gatherings around the school premises, I was confronted by the rabbi who was in charge of me, my mashgiach. He said that there are rumors spreading around the school that I had done something sexually with another boy in the school. I felt my world crashing down as he said those words to me; I knew that I was up shit’s creek, and there was a 95 percent chance that I’d be shipped home the next day. Right after this rabbi confronted me, I was approached by four different students my age who were in "shock and horror" about the stories, unable understand how I was able to do “such a disgusting, low and immoral thing”.

The next morning, I was told that the whole school knew and that many people wanted to hurt me because they were so disgusted by me. I remember walking into the grand study hall while everyone was sitting at their respective tables. Suddenly, all the attention in the room shifted towards me as I walked past the glaring eyes of about 400 people. Over the next six months, I was subject to harassment by many of my schoolmates, both in private and in public. I was called "faggot", "disease" and "heretic", in Hebrew, French and English. As I write this today, I can’t imagine how I survived those dreadful, seemingly endless months, an ocean away from home in a foreign country with no money at the age of 16 in a strict religious school, surrounded by people who hated me for who I was.

I chose to write about this today because I know that many others have experienced similar treatment by their schools and peers inside Orthodox communities because they are gay. It scares me that some rabbis like Rabbi Cowen from Australia and Rabbi Levin can simply ignore the endless pain being caused to their own students, relatives and friends inside the orthodox community. Rabbi Cowen claims in his "research" that raising awareness against bullying of gay people is part of an “agenda” to “teach” homosexuality in our schools to young children. He claims that the real problem is anti-aemitism, and the gay agenda is covering it up with the great conspiracy that gay teens are bullied to the point of suicide. I’m sure many of my readers are familiar with Rabbi Levin at this point. In response to my article in the Jewish Press, he compared gay youth to amalek (the enemy of the Jewish people) and said homosexuality is like a cancer that must be cured with chemicals. I don't’ understand how self-proclaimed Orthodox Jews can be so ignorant not to realize that gay people exist everywhere and that, by making such harsh, insensitive generalizations about gay people, they are waging a silent holocaust upon thousands of gay youth in EVERY community, especially our very own Orthodox ones.
While I’m somewhat content with the fact that dialogue is finally happening inside these communities, the people who make such statements made in the name of “god” and the “torah” are reckless and dangerous. Every time gay teens or even adults hear such harsh words about themselves  statements that lead to the kind of taunting and torment I endured throughout an entire year in yeshiva  those who are suffering in this great plight are pushed farther away. These reckless leaders are sending a message to those who already feel lost and without hope that their well being as people, as Jews and as Orthodox Jews is not only unimportant but a fabricated “conspiracy” by gay activists. It is time people wake up and realize how serious this problem is and that, by simply ignoring these people and their hateful messages, we do only more damage to the innocent people that hear these awful things about themselves from the very people who claim to love and care for them.

Although some people have apologized for the way that they treated me that year in yeshiva, their actions were not right or tolerable to me or the rest of the world. That is why I wrote this, and that is why I will continue to write my experiences while growing up frum and gay. I would consider it a success, if my story helps just one person, gives them comfort or even strength in knowing that they are not alone.

We Wanna Hear from YOU!

We wanna hear from YOU, your stories on hope and survival. If more of us start talking about how it really did get better we can send an even more powerful message to young gay teens who might be struggling or feeling hopeless. Feel free to email anything to me at chaim89@gmail.com. No expectations, it doesn't have to be long or short, as long as it's to the point.

Thanks,

Chaim Levin
gottagivemhope.com

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen claims gay kids are expendable, divert funds to needy Jewish schools

I have so much to say about this, not enough that I can get into one post today, but I will say this: Wow, this is the first time that I've discovered any chabad rabbi speaking publicly about this issue, but I'm not all that shock that this "Rabbi" and supposed Doctor doesn't realize that he seems delusional and homophobic to the point that his suggestion to ignore bullying against gay kids because bullying is really an anti Semitc issue, is so wrong. I hope he knows that I was bullied by my own people his own people, religious orthodox people, chabad rabbis, and I was bullied by these people simply for being gay.

http://mikeybear.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/rabbi-dr-shimon-cowen-claims-gay-kids-are-expendable-divert-funds-to-needy-jewish-schools/

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen claims gay kids are expendable, divert funds to needy Jewish schools


Australia’s leading expert on bullying, Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, son of the late governor-general Sir Zelman Cowen, has just published the findings of his latest research. He’s found that an effective way to counter the problem of anti-semitic bullying is to divert funding away from anti-homophobia bullying programs.

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen says he’s sorry for the little gay boys and girls who are bashed on a daily basis at school, enduring routine taunts of “poof” and “dyke”. However he knows that it’s more important that little Jewish boys and girls are protected and has cleared his conscience for suggesting that programs like the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria be disbanded, with the funding diverted to the needy Jewish community, with poor funding options and barely adequate safety at their schools.

Cowen’s pièce de résistance from his research is the finding that the problem of homosexual bullying will eventually go away because, he says, if the gay boys and girls are bullied sufficently, they’ll eventually kill themselves due to self-loathing and depression. He sees this as a win-win situation.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Open Letter to the Directors of JONAH

Dear Arthur/Elaine,

I'm sure that you've seen my recent claims against your organization and the harm that it's caused to me and many others, but today I write to you to understand yet another disturbing fact that's come to light about your organization.

Without naming any names (sorry Arthur, I don't really like breaking the confidentiality of your members), I'd like an explanation as to why your organization continues to "treat" a young boy that was forced by his wealthy and influential parents into your organisation after he started coming out? Don't you guys claim that you can't force anyone to change, and that someone can change only if they want to? I know firsthand that this boy didn't want to go anywhere near JONAH but you guys teamed up with is parents and gave him no other option then to subject himself to your dangerous practices.

It kills me every day when I think about that trouble boy that I met me as a result of the it gets better video that I was in, I met him at a time when life wasn't so great for him, and I did my best to help him find some peace of mind and it resulted in him starting to accept himself and come out. When his parents got wind of the fact, they used their wealth, power, and ignorance in partnership with your organization to literally force him to receive "treatment" from your staff. I honestly don't know how you can sleep at night while so many dangerous things are happening under your watch, the only thing that I can assume is that you guys don't really care about the well being of your members, and your foul history of unprofessional and abusive practice very clearly denotes that.

Your organization is already on very shaky ground and I promise you that I, and others that are sick and tired of your public deception, harm that's being caused to innocent young people, and we won't stop until every single resource that fuels this abusive practice is no longer. 

-Chaim Levin

Death and Taxes Magazine: Anti-gay conservative rabbi Not a Mensch

So this happened today, i'm glad this is getting around.


Anti-gay conservative rabbi not a mensch

By Andrew Belonsky 27 mins ago

How many awful things can one person say about gay people in a single statement? If you’re hideous New York City rabbi Yehuda Levin, a lot.

Speaking out about gay Jewish activist Chaim Levin’s recent criticism of “gay cure” therapies, therapies that made him suicidal — “I had experienced so much pain coming out, and at the time felt like no one will ever get it. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m getting rejected again and again,” he told me in an interview last year– Rabbi Levin, no relation, insisted gay people should be chemically castrated, just like child molesters in Europe. According to him, the process will stop the gays from “act[ing] in a forbidden manner,” just as it would prevent adultery and incest. Because, you know, same-sex love is just like a brother having sex with his sister.

“Chaim Levin’s recent article and appearances on video and Jewish radio provide ample evidence of an agenda far more wide-ranging than merely opposing bullying and reparative therapy,” said Rabbi Levin. “Urging youth to join in a group that identifies itself with Amalek-type behavior reinforces negative self-identification and more often than not results in sinful misbehavior.” In the Talmud, the Amalek people are adversaries of the Hebrew tribes who try to thwart Judaism’s rise.

Rabbi Levin then went on to compare homosexuality with cancer. Via Pink News UK:

I have tremendous sympathy for those challenged by temptations and unkosher desires. As you do with cancer, you never stop trying to find a better treatment to cure yourself. If all therapies fail, as a last resort you use chemicals to stop the urge to act in a forbidden manner. (This resolution is ordered by European courts for offenders and it works.) Unpleasant, surely; but better than committing adultery, homosexuality or incest.

So, Levin, best known perhaps for writing a speech for former New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino in which gays were tacitly compared to child molesters, thinks gays are cancerous sex offenders akin to practicers of incest who want to recruit the young into our dangerous “militant” army of homosexuality. Nice.

Does he not realize that Adolf Hitler once used similar language in describing gay people as agents of “immorality.” “We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press – in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past [few years],” he said in a speech in the 1930s, just as he was prepping concentration camps for gay inmates, some of whom would in turn castrated.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Ideal News Headline (because I'm very idealistic)

So, this is the kind of headline I've dreamed about having over the past few months, combined with all this "meshugas" (craziness) that's been going on surrounding my story and my article in the Jewish Press I feel like this would be appropriate:

"22 Year old, formerly "exgay" (now gay), Jewish kid from the orthodox community in Brooklyn tackles homophobia by storm"

Put a fabulous people of me and some other "gay activists" (as the homophobic "community" so eloquently refer to us. Note the quotes, they put them there, not me, I'm perfectly fine being called a gay activist) right near the headline, maybe one that highlights my dimples, and let it run all over the world. I think it's about time that people know about the Jewish people in the gay community, and the people that come from similar places like myself (very conservative, orthodox, isolated background), are finally emerging with powerful message of hope for all Jewish gay people everywhere: "You're not alone, you're perfect just the way you are, and there are people out there that won't stop fighting for you and your right to be treated like a human being, EVEN if you're part of the orthodox Jewish community". The more we talk about i,t the more of a chance we have at reaching the ones that feel like they have no hope, the ones that read the Jewish Press every week hoping to see some mention about being gay in the frum (religious/orthodox community)

Best always,

Chaim Levin (Jewish boy from Brooklyn fighting homophobia).



"You've got mail" (from someone speaking on the behalf of god that is)


So I got this email this morning, I guess it's hate mail? Or maybe it's just more idiocracy from haters and bigots that don't really know anything about sexual abuse or gay people. Anyways, the sender of this email, hashem_echad@yahoo.com (hashem echad is Hebrew for "god is one"), apparently think they know something about god and his oneness, but I would respectively disagree and simply thank them for giving crazy content to write about.
-Shkoyach (Hebrew/Yiddish term for thanks)




New York rabbi: Cure gays with chemicals

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/02/09/new-york-rabbi-cure-gays-with-chemicals/

A controversial New York rabbi has reacted to an article by Chaim Levin detailing his experience of reparative therapy saying homosexuality could be tackled with chemical castration.

Rabbi Yehuda Levin, who is not related to Chaim Levin, was reacting to the latter’s experience of gay cure, which was republished on PinkNews.co.uk last week.

The New York rabbi wrote to the Jewish Press: “Chaim Levin’s recent article and appearances on video and Jewish radio provide ample evidence of an agenda far more wide-ranging than merely opposing bullying and reparative therapy.

“It’s an exact duplication of the militant homosexual activist playbook: Desensitize society through constant discussion of homosexuality, urges, etc. Create feelings of guilt in others by exaggerated, unsubstantiated claims of Jewish homosexual suicides due to “bullying,” discrimination, etc. Gain public sympathy by using the media, and then solidify gains by forming organizations like Jewish Queer Youth.”

He said Jewish philosophers had described Amalek, enemies of the Jews, as “practitioners of homosexuality”.

He wrote: “Rambam rules that one who is tempted to sin disguise himself, sin secretly and act the hypocrite in public so as not to desensitize society to sin. Urging youth to join in a group that identifies itself with Amalek-type behavior reinforces negative self-identification and more often than not results in sinful misbehavior.”

The rabbi questions whether a group could be formed in an Orthodox synagogue of adulterers or the incestuous.

He says such groups would be “spiritual oxymorons and would constitute a fifth column in the Torah community”.

Rabbi Levin concludes: “I have tremendous sympathy for those challenged by temptations and unkosher desires. As you do with cancer, you never stop trying to find a better treatment to cure yourself. If all therapies fail, as a last resort you use chemicals to stop the urge to act in a forbidden manner. (This resolution is ordered by European courts for offenders and it works.) Unpleasant, surely; but better than committing adultery, homosexuality or incest.”

Chaim Levin told PinkNews.co.uk today: “Many people have told me we should ignore people like Rabbi Levin, but this time he shot at me personally by responding to my article. This time I said I’m sick and tired of these people. The public may not be listening to Rabbi Levin, but they are hearing him.

“It’s enough for one gay teen to hear what he says and consider committing suicide. I find it deplorable that people would call him a rabbi. He’s a bigot, he’s extremely dangerous, hurtful and reckless and it’s about time the public started telling him this is not OK.”

Rabbi Levin is well-known for his anti-gay views; his blog describes Mitt Romney as a “dangerous homosexualist”.

Rabbi Ariel Friedlander, co-convenor of the Jewish LGBT forum Keshet UK, told PinkNews.co.uk: “The Torah tells us that every human being is made in the image of God. Homosexuality is not a disease, it is how God made me. There are Jewish communities, rabbis and groups who behave in the image of God in that they love and respect every human being. This is not a disease or any kind of illness, this is part of human nature.”

Rabbi Levin’s attack comes during ongoing debate about so-called ‘gay cures’. The chief rabbi of Amsterdam’s Orthodox Jewish community was recently reinstated after accepting he should not have signed a ‘gay cure’ declaration with his official title. A northLondon Jewish School, JFS, was criticised for showing students a slide about ‘gay cure’ organisation Jonah in a lesson about homosexuality. In response, ex-students, including PinkNews.co.uk founder and Channel 4 News correspondent Benjamin Cohen recorded ‘It Gets Better’ videos about being Jewish and LGBT.

In her column in the Daily Express last week, Ann Widdecombe questioned the lack of availability of therapy for “gays who do not want to be gay”.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said ‘gay cure’ attempts do not “produce harm despite the Royal College of Psychiatrists and others maintaining the contrary”.

Chaim Levin blogs at http://gottagivemhope.blogspot.com/ and tweets at @chaim89