Monday, June 6, 2011

"No parent should have to bury their child." - Theoden

The first entry of this blog was titled "A Family Changed Forever."  I wrote about how our dreams have been shattered and the change that has hit our family.

But everything pales in comparison to the loss of a child.  Over the last few days we have been mourning as friends, as family and as a community, as we were struck with the news of the untimely death of a 28 year old man, just three weeks before his wedding.

There are no answers.  There are only questions.

It is the ultimate test of faith.

Over the last 12 months I can count at least five times that I personally know, of a parent who had to bury their child .

It is not natural.

On another note........

I have not had anything to write since February when I discussed the establishment of a parents' group.  I have been asked by several parents about this group.  Unfortunately, I was not asked nor was I involved with setting up this group.  Before it got off the ground, I suggested that it be held under the banner of "Kirtzono" but those who were involved did not agree.  As such, it was set up as a closed parents group.  Its membership numbers 19, including my wife and I.  There have been only a few discussions and the last time anyone wrote into it was two months ago.

The google group is called Temicha and you have to be invited.  Please send an email to rabbi.sarna@gmail.com.  He will send you an invitation to join the group.

Ironic? No?  These young men and women want to be heard and accepted and we parents are hiding behind a google group.

Boy am I going to get @#%& for this one.

Be well and let's hug our kids.  Who knows what's in store for any of us.

Saul David

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"If you build it, they will come."

On December 15, 2010, I posted a letter from a mother who suggested the following.......



Thus, I make a modest proposal that this blog serve as a way for parents to make contact with one another, to establish a buddy system so that no parent feels s/he is alone following the disclosure that a child is gay. Perhaps we can develop a pairing of parents, so to speak, who are willing to communicate with one another.  The questions, the problems, the comforts of a shared experience are ours to offer to one another in a context of sensitivity, religious commitment, empathy and concern for our children.  We need to be supportive of our children, but we too need support and comfort. This can be done with a therapist of course, and that is a good option for many parents and family members.  But less intense help can also come from another parent who has been in our shoes. Perhaps there are parents who are willing to write or speak to someone just beginning the road to acceptance and understanding.  And perhaps parents who feel they would benefit from this kind of anonymous and discreet contact can write into the blog and find that other family who is willing to show them support and help them deal with the challenge of living with the knowledge that they have a gay child.

Well this letter sparked some movement in a positive direction.  I received a comment from Erez, suggesting that a listserve be created.  A few weeks later, I received a call from a New York psychiatrist offering her services if such a group would start to "meet'.  My son relayed a message from a young rabbi in New York who is willing to be a moderator and a few other health professionals and parents have agreed to get involved in setting something up.
The goal is to be up and running in the next few weeks.

Be well.

Saul David

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"The Torah was not given to the ministering angels." - Me'ilah 14a

There is so much we have learned over the last few years.

In terms of friends, relatives and the support they offer we always felt that it was important to acknowledge and speak about the fact that our son is gay.  There are some people who we told and there are others who heard about it, and we were aware of the fact that they knew about it.  Knowing this, we expected them to say something, anything, to acknowledge this new reality.

One family in particular said nothing to us, yet we knew that they knew.  It was just recently that we asked why they had never mentioned anything to us.  Their response was that there was no need to, since it didn't matter and nothing is any different.

This evening I received a letter from our friend.

SD

I would like to relate a story that illustrates how reading your blog and knowing you and your family has made me a better and more caring physician and human being.


A 15 year old patient, let’s call her Joan, whom I have known for almost 10 years, recently came to see me for a follow up appointment together with her mother. During the appointment Joan revealed that she recently came out to her parents that she was transgendered. Joan also informed me that she was now going by John and preferred to be considered male. From then on I felt completely comfortable calling him John.

He described in detail how he had come out on the internet the previous year and how he was so nervous to confide in his parents. It turns out his mother is very supportive but his father is not. His parents are divorced and his father is not coping well. They are Reform Jews and their Rabbi has been extremely supportive. The one thing his mother is having difficulty with is calling him John. When I asked her why, she told me that she adopted a baby girl and now she no longer has that girl. She explained that she knows that John is happier now that he has come out and she will get used to calling him John and loves him as she always has.

Over the years John was teased and bullied and depressed and I did not really know why. He described to me being very upset when his breasts began to develop and how he went on the internet to learn to tape them flat and ultimately made a video which was posted on the internet and has helped others.

We discussed hormonal therapy which he called “T”, his name for testosterone, and the possibility of surgery down the road. Needless to say the appointment went on a great deal longer than the scheduled 30 minutes. He left having had an opportunity to talk freely and openly with his physician and I felt that I was able to provide them support and guidance.

So how does this relate to the blog and knowing you and your family? I am embarrassed to say that 3 years ago had John and his mother come to see me, my response would have been different and my ability to truly understand what they were going through would have been woefully inadequate. I would have been the typical physician by saying the”right” things but thinking that there was something that could be done to change the situation and make it more “normal”. I would have been supportive but would not have been confident in having a frank and open discussion and giving meaningful advice and counseling.

Reading the blog and knowing your son and your family has made me a more informed, non judgmental and caring physician. I have always known that in Medicine the more you learn, the more you realize you do not know, but the added dimension for me has been to more clearly recognize my deficiencies as a physician in dealing with families and patients whose sexual orientation is not the same as mine. I now truly feel more knowledgeable and I am able to impart that knowledge to my peers and colleagues and most importantly be a better physician to my patients and their families. I have directed a number of my colleagues to your blog. I have made a special point of ensuring that my fellow Jewish Orthodox physicians read the blog and then, in follow up discussions have seen that in most cases they too have learned and hopefully become better physicians to their patients.

You and your family are a great source of strength to many people and you have taught me that we can, and should, all be advocates to the best of our ability in our own unique way.


Be well, my friend.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"I'm innocent. You've got to believe I'm innocent." - Richard M. Nixon

So when you finally reach out to your rabbi after a few days of emotional hell, and he tells you that you should turn to an organization like JONAH, ask him if there is a moral or ethical dilemma in the fact that neither JONAH nor NARTH are actually legitimate counselling organizations.  In fact JONAH is headed by a known and convicted felon, while NARTH, the organization that JONAH derives its strength from is nothing more than a right-wing Christian organization.

Do they even realize who they are getting involved with?

It gets better.  Read on.........

Dr. George Alan Rekers has resigned from his position as sitting board member of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), following allegations that he received erotic massages from a male prostitute.


Rekers, an anti-gay activist for decades, took a 10 day European vacation with a male escort he met on the gay site, Rent Boy.com.


20 year old Jo-Vanni Roman (called in his work, “Lucien”) is a gay escort who says they met through the explicit website Rentboy.com.


Rekers denied the accusations, claiming he he hired Roman to help carry his luggage while he recovered from surgery. He said he only found out Roman was an escort partway through the trip, and tried as a Christian minister to turn the youth from homosexuality.


NARTH's Response to the media scandal:


In response to the media scandal, begun by the Miami New Times, and later picked up by the Miami Herald, FOX, CNN, MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show, Anderson Cooper, and many others, NARTH has posted the following on their official website:


"I am immediately resigning my membership in NARTH to allow myself the time necessary to fight the false media reports that have been made against me. With the assistance of a defamation attorney, I will fight these false reports because I have not engaged in any homosexual behavior whatsoever. I am not gay and never have been." --George A. Rekers, Ph.D.


NARTH has accepted Dr. Rekers' resignation and would hope that the legal process will sufficiently clarify the questions that have arisen in this unfortunate situation. We express our sincere sympathy to all individuals, regardless of their perspective, who have been injured by these events. We also wish to reiterate our traditional position that these personal controversies do not change the scientific data, nor do they detract from the important work of NARTH. NARTH continues to support scientific research, and to value client autonomy, client self-determination and client diversity.

By the way, if you go to the "rentboy" site, there is no way that you can confuse this.

Be well.

Saul David

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"People should be judged not by their outward demeanor but by their works, for many in sheep's clothing do the work of wolves." - Laurentius Abstemius, 15th Century

The same thing seems to occur each time a young man tells his parents that he is gay.  Having no one to turn to, the parents consult their rabbi.  The rabbi, having very little experience in this area of pastoral counselling, listens to the parents and advises them to get in touch with JONAH.  This ends a somewhat uncomfortable encounter for the parents and the rabbi.  The parents leave the rabbi's study thinking that maybe their problem might be solved.

I recently visited my son.  He introduced me to his friend Erez Harari, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology.  This young gentleman was invited to speak last June at the convention of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists on a panel discussion centering on "reparative therapy."  Unfortunately, all hell broke loose a week before the convention took place because a video was released on youtube by two young men who went for counselling at JONAH and were forced to undress by the so-called "therapist".  As a result, the panel was cancelled and Mr. Harari was asked not to attend.  At the last minute, under the sponsorship of Rabbi Tendler, the head of JONAH, was invited to speak.  So what was to be an open panel discussion turned into a tendential, unscientific speech by the head of a pseudo-scientific organization.

It's time to "out" JONAH.

Be well.

Saul David

A joint investigation by the organization Truth Wins Out and the SouthFloridaGayNews.com has revealed that the spokesperson for a New Jersey based national religious group seeking to ‘cure’ homosexuals is a convicted felon who has been hiding his past.


The leader of JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, Arthur Abba Goldberg, is now also serving as President of his Jersey City temple. He was sent to federal prison 20 years ago for a conspiracy to defraud the United States of America.


Additionally, Goldberg is presently the Executive Secretary of NARTH- the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. The group hopes to heal “unwanted homosexuality” through “therapeutic care.”


One more group he supervises is PATH- Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality- a coalition of religious, ministerial, and ex-gay groups promoting “non-gay alternatives to homosexual lifestyles.” He is their President.


Goldberg, who reinvented himself in 2000 as the founder of JONAH, was found guilty in 1989 of numerous felonies in multiple jurisdictions. The charges ranged from federal mail and wire fraud to conspiracy counts as a result of a bogus bond writing scheme.


Goldberg was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment in the Central District of California, which he served concurrently with a an Illinois sentence imposed at the same time. It was followed by five years of supervised probation and a $100,000 fine, eventually paid on November 24, 1999.


K. William O’Connor, the U.S. attorney who put him away, said at his sentencing that Goldberg was “a man who habitually took advantage of people who were economically dependent upon him; that he did not hesitate to lie or cheat or cover up to achieve his criminal aim. His greed has cause incalculable harm...”


Goldberg’s arrest and conviction rocked Wall Street when it went down two decades ago. A purported whiz kid and investment guru, he had been often referred to on the Street as “Abba Dabba Do” and “Abba Cadabra.”


Those names and that past were all secreted when Goldberg founded JONAH after getting out of prison. Abandoning the conspicuously identifiable middle name of ‘Abba’, Goldberg authored a book for Red Heifer Press under the name of ‘Arthur Goldberg.’


Titled “Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change,” Goldberg re-created himself as an author and spiritual leader, purporting to help individuals struggling with their sexual identity, telling gays “you can change.” He certainly did.


“We have long considered Arthur Goldberg a con-artist, but our investigation shows he is also an ex-con,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out.


“His diabolical past mirrors his dishonest present-day work with JONAH. Whether it was shady deals on Wall Street or shading the truth on gay issues, Goldberg is someone who lacks credibility and can’t be trusted,” said Besen.


“The Torah is the Book of Truth,” Besen concluded, “and Goldberg has now delivered us a book of lies.”


Born in 1940, Arthur Abba Goldberg identified himself his entire life by using all three of his names, at least until he got out of prison and started JONAH.


The TWO and SFGN investigation into his past revealed that when he authored articles for the American University Eagle in 1961 as an undergraduate, his byline was ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg.’


When he received his bachelor’s degree from American University in 1962 and his law degree in 1965 from Cornell University, the diplomas were given to ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg.’


When he authored land use articles for the Urban Law Journal in the early 1970’s as a young lawyer it was under the name of ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg.’


It was also under the name ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg’ that he was admitted to the New Jersey and Connecticut Bar Associations, and it was under that name he served as the executive vice president directing Matthews & Wright, Inc., a New York underwriting firm, in which he was a major stockholder.


It was in the capacity as shareholder and vice president that Goldberg orchestrated a scheme of selling $2 billion in fraudulent municipal bonds for communities ranging from the impoverished city of East St. Louis to Chester, Pennsylvania, to the West Pacific U.S. territory of Guam.


The stories of his criminal acts were methodically detailed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, a paper based near the Chester community scammed severely by the fraud.


It was under the name of ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg’ that a United States grand jury on Guam indicted him in late 1987 on 52 counts of bribery, fraud, and conspiracy.


On September 26, 1989, ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg’ pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to three counts of mail fraud. He was sentenced to 18 months as part of a plea bargain.


The trial had actually been moved to California because so many residents of Guam had been financially harmed by the bogus investment scheme it was thought a fair trial in that venue was impossible.


Goldberg and others also indicted at Matthews & Wright had knowingly conspired together to enter into a fraudulent scheme to sell fake bond issues but take commissions on them anyway. They arranged to bribe officials, deceive investors, and issue bogus checks to non existent parties.


In exchange for underwriting $300 million in bogus deals, Goldberg and his investment firm, Matthews & Wright, received a fee of $10.5 million. They created the impression these bonds would be used to help construct desperately needed single family housing in Guam and elsewhere.


Separately, Goldberg also pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States in another falsified bond-writing scheme. In that matter, Goldberg participated in a conspiracy to ensure that the bonds were deemed prematurely to take advantage of a favorable tax law relating to transactions.


The 900 page presentence report prepared by prosecutors prior to his sentencing was scathing. It indicated that Goldberg’s conduct was “knowingly and willfully dishonest and fraudulent.”


K. William O’Connor described Goldberg as having engineered “a conspiratorial fraud of spectacular scope,” which purposefully duped “unsophisticated Pacific Islanders.” One witness against Goldberg said he treated the citizens of Guam as if “they were cannibals.”


O’Connor said that Goldberg’s deceitfulness crippled Guam’s economy, crushed investors, undermined public confidence in the bond industry, and cost the U.S. Treasury millions in lost taxes.


U.S. District Judge Jesse W. Curtis, Jr. then sentenced ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg’ to 18 months in prison, allowing both the Illinois and California sentences to run together. He imposed fines and restitution totaling $400,000, an amount later reduced by an appellate court.


In a separate civil proceeding, the Disciplinary Review Board of the New Jersey State Bar Association recommended taking away his law license. They found “Goldberg’s criminal convictions clearly and convincingly demonstrated his participation in activities that reflected adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness as a lawyer.”


The New Jersey Supreme Court then disbarred Goldberg on November 9, 1995, citing his criminal convictions and his “reckless indifference to a conspiracy of considerable magnitude.”


New Jersey’s highest court even noted that “We are aware of respondent’s active involvement in community service and his efforts to resettle numerous immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.” But, they concluded, “Goldberg’s conscious participation in the illegal activities leading to his criminal convictions outweighs these mitigating factors.”


In his capacity as the Director of JONAH, Goldberg formed and serves as a director of a tax exempt 501(c)(3) charitable corporation, whose website promises that it is “offering hope, compassion, direction and vitally needed information to gay strugglers, their families, friends, and surrounding community.” He formed the group using the name Arthur Goldberg, sans Abba, one month after getting his federal supervision of five years’ probation concluded.


In a 2001 interview not long after he began his religious crusade, Goldberg told the Herald News in Paterson, New Jersey, that homosexuality is the result of “psychological trauma.’ And that “six months to three years of weekly therapy and prayer can cure it.” He did not say anything about whether 18 months in a federal prison might also help.


Today, on the NARTH website, despite his conviction and disbarment, Goldberg proudly holds himself out as a ‘doctor of jurisprudence,’ displaying the title of ‘J.D.’ adjacent to his listing.


NARTH is one of the country’s most vocal critics of the American Psychological Association’s position paper concluding that homosexuality is normal, not aberrational. NARTH advocates the doctrine that homosexuality is a ‘developmental disorder’ and a ‘treatable condition.’


The ‘Jewish State’ is a central New Jersey newsweekly that Goldberg gave an interview to in 2007. He identified himself as a former deputy attorney general and Connecticut law professor, telling the reporter that “gays have been led astray in terms of your authenticity to yourself.” Meanwhile, he failed to disclose his criminal past.


“People are not born gay; there’s no such thing as a gay gene,” he added, complimenting that remark with the statement all gays “can readapt” from “their gender deficiency.” He then said homosexual children should be treated the same way as “if a child was addicted to drugs or alcohol.”


Goldberg is presently living conspicuously as the President of Congregation Mount Sinai in Jersey City. The temple offers itself out as a “welcoming environment for all people to express, deepen and rediscover their Jewish heritage.”


Last year, as a guest in the audience at the end of a Montel Williams show discussing ex-gays, he shouted from the audience at the host, interrupting the show, to say gays needed help. You can see it on You Tube.


“I’ve always been one to try to help the underdog,” he said.


But that is not what Judge Curtis concluded at Goldberg’s sentencing on September 26, 1989.
“I find,” the court stated, “that, Arthur Abba Goldberg, you have openly conspired against the United States by knowingly and recklessly engaging indifferently in a series of dishonest acts of considerable magnitude.”