Rabbi apologises for calling homosexuality an illness


AS THE chief rabbi of Amsterdam apologised for signing a declaration which described homosexuality as an illness, a new row has broken out in the Netherlands over a therapy promoted by a Christian mental health group to help homosexuals “repress their sinful urges”.

Aryeh Ralbag, who is based in New York, was suspended last week by the city’s orthodox Jewish community after using his official title to sign with more than 180 other rabbis the Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality

The declaration caused outrage among liberal Jews on both sides of the Atlantic by not alone describing homosexuality as “an illness” which could be “modified and healed”, but by characterising it as “an unacceptable lifestyle choice”.

It emerged yesterday that Rabbi Ralbag had apologised to the city’s orthodox leaders for using his Amsterdam title when signing the controversial document, which he now accepted had been “wrong”. As a result he has been reinstated.

However, with his position still in doubt in the long term, he also said that with the benefit of hindsight he now believed that he should not, perhaps, have signed it at all because “it did not properly reflect my position”.

There was even a suggestion last night that Rabbi Ralbag flew to Amsterdam at the end of last week to meet Jewish elders – just days after insisting that he and his wife believed their lives would be “in danger” if they visited the country to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, in a new row, MPs and gay rights groups have demanded details of a therapy promoted by the Christian mental health organisation Different – which claims to teach homosexuals how to ignore their sexual feelings – because it is available on State-subsidised health insurance lists.

The therapy has become an embarrassment for health minister Edith Schippers, who at first said it should be taken off insurance lists because “health insurance is to pay for treatment or to prevent illness – and homosexuality is not an illness”. Later, she too was forced to make a U-turn, saying the therapy did not attempt to “cure” homosexuality, rather it aimed to help homosexuals decide whether or not they could accept their sexual feelings.