Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) is a Jersey City-based Jewish “ex-gay” ministry. As a result of scandal, JONAH chanced its name to Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing on July 28, 2010.
Like other ex-gay organizations, JONAH keeps no statistics, is not backed by peer review research and offers the promise of change without any documentation of success. The group relies on anecdotal stories and promotes a therapeutic approach that is not supported by any mainstream medical or mental health organizations.
JONAH is co-founded by convicted felon and con artist Arthur Abba Goldberg.
A Truth Wins Out (TWO) and South Florida Gay News (SFGN) investigation revealed that a Wall Street criminal mastermind who was convicted in 1987 of “fraud of spectacular scope” has secretly reinvented himself as a moral leader who “cures” gay and lesbian people. Known as “Abba Dabba Do” in the financial world, Arthur Abba Goldberg was sentenced to 18 months in jail for bilking poor communities with complicated bond schemes and served six months in prison.
“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 the ex-gay industry. 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.”
Upon completing his parole, Goldberg dropped his conspicuous middle name, Abba, and co-founded Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) in 1999. He is currently the president of Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality (PATH), an umbrella group for “ex-gay” referrals and the Executive Secretary of the notorious National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). He is also the President of Congregation Mount Sinai, a temple in Jersey City and a Principal for the International Center for Gender Affirming Processes (CGAP). Goldberg is a key ex-gay industry insider and viewed as an architect of its strategy and message machine.
In 1989, Goldberg plead guilty in federal court in California and Illinois to three counts of wire and mail fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. The accusations he admitted to include his participation as the engineer of a phony bond and investment scheme, which netted his Wall Street investment firm nearly $11 million in illegal fees.
The U.S. Attorney who handled the case at the time, K. William O’Connor, told the court at his sentencing that Goldberg’ crime was “a fraud of spectacular scope.”
The SEC banned Goldberg and his firm from ever selling securities again. In addition to his prison term, Goldberg was disbarred in both New Jersey and Connecticut. Despite that, he lists himself as a Doctor of Laws today on the website of NARTH.
Additionally, Goldberg is the author of “Light in the Closet” (Red Heifer Press), which promises to “explode the gay gene mystique, offering hope, compassion, direction and vitally needed information to gay strugglers, their families, friends, and surrounding community.” JONAH also plays a key role in supplying clients for Journey into Manhood Weekend, an ex-gay boot camp, where participants are taken deep into the woods to supposedly discover their masculinity. Goldberg is not gay, but has an openly gay son who reportedly lives in the New York City area.
“We conducted an investigation into Goldberg’ dark history to shine a little light in his own closet; to tell the world the truth about who Goldberg really is, and how he has never owned up to his sordid and tawdry past.”
Although Goldberg (in The Record 1989) often claims that he has been deeply involved in civil rights issues, his case revealed a deep insensitivity to minorities. An October 1, 1989 story in the Philadelphia Inquirer reveals that Goldberg jokingly described a bond issue the firm had underwritten in Guam as “selling bonds to the cannibals.” He also sought out poor minority communities, such as East Saint Louis, as targets for his conspiracies.
“Simply by concealing his middle name and omitting his dirty deeds from his biography, Goldberg was able to mask his past as a mini-Madoff,” said Besen. “The real Arthur Abba Goldberg is an unsavory character who lacks the credibility and integrity to portray himself as an expert on gay and lesbian issues.”
In an interview, one of Goldberg’ former clients suggests that his past moral deficiencies are reflected in his current work. He says that Goldberg is manipulative and exploits those who are despondent and desperate to conform, so they can fit in and be accepted by their friends and family members.
“Arthur Goldberg takes advantage of the vulnerability of religious Jews by promising them the opportunity to heal from their homosexuality and be able to live a life within the community they grew up in and fulfill the expectations they had of themselves and of their families,” the former client told TWO and SFGN. “When speaking to Arthur Goldberg, he uses false statistics of changing hundreds and thousands of men and women and other such numbers as an 80% success rate, which is misleading and false.”
JONAH adheres to NARTH’ archaic reparative therapy model and promotes the work of the International Healing Foundation’ Richard Cohen, a discredited fundamentalist Christian therapist and former Moonie who was expelled for life from the American Counseling Association in 2002.
JONAH perpetuates the unwise idea that gay people should marry, even if they are not attracted to their opposite-sex spouse. According to an article by Rabbi Joel Beasley posted prominently on JONAH’ site:
“But even if their innermost desires remained unfulfilled, it does not matter. It may never become clear why some people do not feel predisposed to marrying someone of the opposite sex. The obligation remains. Marriage is meant to teach people how to rise above their own selfish needs in order to give to a partner who is both psychologically and physiologically different.”
This idea of marriage at all costs is cruel and unfair to the gay individual struggling to accept his or her sexual orientation. But, it is just as harmful for the spouse, who will likely find an unsatisfying marriage that may end in heartbreak and divorce. JONAH is so wedded to its interpretation of doctrine that it seems to have little regard for the feelings and legitimate needs of people — including children – who would suffer inside such catastrophic marriages.
In the same article by Rabbi Beasley, crass stereotypes are used to oppose same-sex unions and promote heterosexual marriage:
“Same-gender marriages might have been too easy. As one essayist put it, male couples would have been able to sit around and watch ballgames all day; female couples would have been able to sit down and really talk about one another’s feelings. But marriage is meant to challenge each of the partners.”
One concern that some Jews have about JONAH is its reliance on fundamentalist Christian therapists and reading materials.
Works offered by JONAH include books by Richard Cohen, Joe Dallas, Jeff Konrad, Alan Medinger and John Paulk. These authors believe accepting Jesus Christ is a crucial component in “overcoming” homosexuality.