Suicide rates among Orthodox homosexual youth are dramatically higher than that
of their heterosexual peers, research published last week showed.
research on suicide among all Israeli youth, conducted by Hannah Bar-Yosef, a
member of the Interministerial Committee for the Prevention of Suicide that
operates under the auspices of the Health Ministry, reported that 20 percent of
gays and lesbians who participated in the survey had attempted
The rate for the general youth population stood at 3.5
But even higher rates were recorded among religious gays and
lesbians, with Bar-Yosef saying they faced even greater familial problems than
those from the secular community.
Daniel Jonas, director of Havruta, an
organization devoted to promoting tolerance for religious homosexuals, said the
feelings of gay and lesbian youth in general that they are alone and do not have
people to talk to about their sexuality is heightened in the Orthodox
According to Jonas, many in the religious community see
homosexuality “as some kind of psychological sickness” because of which there is
a high incidence of rabbis, religious educators and parents in the community
instructing youth who believe themselves to be gay to undergo some form of
“This causes damage to these people’s
self-perception, because when the “treatment” doesn’t work, they’re more
inclined to blame themselves for still being gay,” Jonas said.
several prominent national-religious rabbis signed a statement of principles
calling for acceptance of “Jews with homosexual orientations or same
sex attractions” as full members of synagogues and to allow them to participate
in religious rituals and honors, and to be treated like anyone else in the
The statement, signed by leading rabbis such as Shlomo Riskin,
Yuval Cherlow, Benny Lau and David Bigman, asserted that degrading treatment of
homosexuals violates of “the deepest values of Judaism,” but nevertheless shied
away from endorsing the same attitude to “members who are openly practicing
homosexuals and/or living with a same-sex partner.”
Jonas said that to
combat the phenomenon of suicide among religious gays and lesbians, rabbis must
say publicly that although they might not agree with the lifestyle of
homosexuals, they must be accepted and given communal support.
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