Gay ‘conversion’ group agrees to shut down
JONAH, a Jewish-oriented organization in Jersey City that claimed to be able to “convert” gay men to heterosexuality, has agreed to shut down its operations.
The agreement, announced on Dec. 18 by Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso, put an end to the dispute between JONAH and five plaintiffs who successfully sued the organization for violating New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Law.
On June 25, Chaim Levin and Benjamin Unger — both formerly Orthodox Jews — a Mormon named Michael Ferguson, and the mothers of Levin and another client, Sheldon Bruck, won across-the-board victories against the group on June 25 and were awarded $72,400 in damages.
JONAH and two of its principal figures, codirector Arthur Goldberg and an unlicensed counselor, Alan Downing, agreed to halt their appeal of the verdict, close up shop, and never again engage in “gay conversion therapy.”
The group had offered its services to young Orthodox men and men of other religions whose tenets regarded homosexuality as a sin or otherwise incompatible with a religious lifestyle. In ruling against JONAH, a jury found that the organization violated the consumer fraud act by calling homosexuality a mental illness or disorder.
“I am relieved and I hope that this dark chapter for many gay Orthodox Jews is finally over,” said plaintiff Levin. “Parents can’t send their kids to JONAH anymore, and that’s for the best,” he told NJ Jewish News. “I have been waiting for this day for a very long time.”
Neither Goldberg nor Downing was reachable for comment.