Tributes to One Man Who Made a Difference
Tributes to One Man Who Made a Difference
Written by 'L', 'W', & Michael to Richard Cohen
TO ONE MAN WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE: Letters from Jerusalem, the United States, and Poland Concerning the impact of good bibliotherapy and of one man's courage in testifying that no one is born gay and that homosexuality is a learned behavior which can be unlearned.
Richard Cohen is one of the true pioneers in the field of healing homosexuality. Not only is he is an activist in the public media, but he has written several books which we at JONAH often recommend to our members. To those struggling with issues related to homosexuality, we suggest Richard's Coming Out Straight. Parents, on the other hand, are recommended to read his most recent book, Gay Children, Straight Parents.
Below are three letters, each of which were written to JONAH, and at the request of the individuals were forwarded by us to Richard. They illustrate the worldwide impact one man can make when he is dedicated to making a difference. The first is from an Orthodox Jewish Mother living in Jerusalem; the second is from a man active in the JONAH organization; the third is from a man living in Poland.
Letter from "L", an Orthodox Jewish Mother from Jerusalem
My husband and I are now reading two books of yours (Coming Out Straight, and Gay Children, Straight Parents). Through them, we have gained incredible insight as to how we as parents should react to the issues involved in homosexuality. Just reading the books and learning about something which we always thought only happened to other people, and was so foreign to us, is a great comfort. We are Orthodox Jews living in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, within our community, the subject is not much discussed - instead we tend to hide, repress and deny that homosexuality exists in our community.
Thank you for your encouragement. I so admire your strength, both in healing your own emotional wounds and in speaking publicly about it. Your willingness to pull back the curtain of secrecy about the ability of motivated people to heal their emotional wounds and thus overcome their same-sex attractions(SSA) is inspiring
My sixth child, a 26 year old, told us a short while ago that he's "gay." While my husband and I are devastated, because of the work you are doing and the explanations you provided, we have hope he will resume his psycho-social growth and become the man that G-d intended him to be. We are also hopeful because we realize there is a Jewish organization, JONAH, dedicated to healing those with homosexual attractions.
We have also been in touch with Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Silodor Berk, JONAH's Co-Directors, who initially directed us to your books. They have been very supportive in our search for answers. The continuous stream of information received from them continues to inspire us. Hopefully the factual data we have learned from all these resources will counteract society's messages which have been internalized by our son and in the process mistakenly convinced him he was born gay.
I wish you much success in what is truly holy work. Just keep on doing it! Your work of "tikkun ha'nefesh" is healing individual souls; your work of "tikkun olam" heals and fixes the world.
All the best,
The second letter is from an active JONAH member whose healing efforts have been truly awesome.
There is something very healing in the way Richard Cohen proclaims publicly. "Bring it on baby! I have made many mistakes in my life."
Too often I think men with a homosexual issue suffer from intense shame. We are very concerned that no one finds out about our dark secrets.But the truth is that shame only begets more shame and may fuel our homosexual feelings and compulsive behaviors. Thus, we can only alleviate our shame if we don't keep it a secret. We need to expose it to the light of day. Richard seems to take an energetic pride in the fact that he is human and made mistakes. There is a lot of healing in the tone of his proclamation: the openness, the lack of shame, the simplicity of his truth, the lack of apology.
I am often discouraged by all the negative press regarding the struggle to overcome
homosexuality. Richard seems to welcome the challenge. There is something very
healthy, very encouraging in his public defiance.
And, finally, we have a letter from "W", a struggler in Poland, who we had the pleasure of meeting at a Journey into Manhood (JIM) weekend held in the USA.
Richard's book ( translated into Polish) was the first inspiration "W" found that gave him a path toward changing his unwanted same-sex orientation.
My story is very common. I struggled with same-sex attraction (SSA) since "ever." I
turned to God when I was 18 hoping to be able to pray it away, but the issue didn't
disappear. I assumed He could simply lift this burden from me and I could continue in my victim mentality. I desperately tried to repress my feelings not knowing anything about the process of gender affirmation or of the reparative therapy which would allow me to dig into my deepest fears and wounds while in the process of overcoming my SSA.
I met my wife in our church; we got married when I was 27. Because I believed strongly in the sacrament of marriage, I knew I was doing the right thing in marrying her. I told her about my struggle before our wedding, but falsely told her I was healed. (I actually convinced myself that I was telling the truth.) However, because I really was not healed, the problems became more apparent quite soon after the wedding. For a while, my wife chose to ignore the many different signals that my SSA was still there. Eventually we got to a point where we could no longer pretend that everything was OK. We started to pray together about my issues. I started an Internet search about healing methods for SSA strugglers, but what I found (because of the pornography available) made me fall again.
Two months later my wife did her own search of the Internet. The first thing she found was the Odwaga group in Lublin, Poland. We read their materials together, and for the first time I felt some hope that it may be within my power to do something about my struggle. On their web site we found information about your book "Coming Out Straight" in Polish.
We were leaving soon for a holiday in Italy, so on my way back from work I bought the last copy of your book in a Catholic book store. It looks like your book is very hard to get now in Poland, but amazingly I got it (I believe it may have been providential). I read the book together with my wife and found it to be a revelation. I recognized myself on the pages of your book. You described me so well that reading it was a milestone in my life. I could relate to so many remarks, ideas, and stories. For the first time in my life, I felt someone understood what I was going through, but more importantly, I felt that with proper treatment I could actually eliminate my same-sex attractions and become the whole man I always dreamed of being.
When we came back I looked for more information about Odwaga in Lublin but I was
disappointed. Lublin is about 300 miles from Wroclaw, the city where I live. We don't
have any convenient train or bus connections so it makes it impossible for me to go to
Lublin for help. I hope Odwaga will expand their services throughout Poland in the near
Because of my wife's constant support in seeking answers for my SSA, I finally decided
that I had to be completely honest with her by confiding that I was homosexually active
outside of our marriage. I did not want to hurt her but felt I could no longer be secretive with her. She knew I struggled with porn sites, but she didn't know I was leading a
promiscuous, secret life and hated myself for what I was doing. A few days later, I also
confided in the religious leader of my community. To my great joy, I received a lot of
warmth, love and understanding from both my wife and my pastor and it was very healing for me not to have to carry this burden by myself anymore. I no longer felt isolated and alone. Most importantly, my wife assured me that she was going to stay with me no matter what my past had been. Her support gave me a feeling of safety which was indispensable to my healing process.
Moreover, both my pastor and his wife took the time and trouble to read your book "Coming Out Straight." Through the knowledge they gained, hopefully they will now be able to help others who struggle with SSA. There is a ripple effect as more and more people learn and understand that no one is born gay and that change is possible.
Meanwhile, I found another book in Polish about healing methods for SSA strugglers:
"Homosexuality and Hope" by Gerard van den Aardweg. This meant there was more
written about this issue in Polish, so I continued my search. We found new links for
NARTH, Peoplecanchange, JONAH, and a few other resources. I signed up for a
Mencanchange group, and my wife did the same for a spouse's group. Then I heard for the first time about experiential weekends such as Journey Into Manhood (JIM) and New
Warriors. I thought to myself that attending such weekends may help create a
breakthrough for me. Because I so much wanted to be able to go on an experiential
weekend, I started to pray that I could find a way to make it happen. It was very irrational, because there was no real possibility for me to attend any event like that. With our limited incomes and the exchange rate for American dollars, we can't even afford a visit to the USA, not to mention attending an event. But God is good. He let me meet different men online (through the E-mail listserves dedicated to this purpose) who believed in recovery from homosexuality. One of them invited me to California to attend a JIM weekend. He was my host during my stay in Yucaipa, and he raised money for my travel to the USA. Miraculously, I also got a USA Visa good for ten years, which is very unusual. I don't want to go into too many details because I would have to write a novel.
God has given me so much to be grateful for. I did wonderful work during the JIM
weekend, and, in particular, Arthur Goldberg and Hector Roybal, two of the facilitators (or guides as they are called there) helped me so much. They did a "process" with me which made me realize how masculine my authentic inner being really was. I realized that indeed I could function as a man among men and not have to attempt (and never to
succeed) to gain my masculinity through sexual activity with someone else of the same
gender. If only we had weekends like Journey Into Manhood in Poland! There are so
many guys here struggling with SSA, not knowing what to do or even realizing that change is possible. Men go to their churches or synagogues with this problem but don't get the information they need - they are only told that their behavior is sinful and worthy of condemnation. At the same time, European secular society tries to tell us that we are born this way and that change is not possible. Without knowledge of the work you do and the efforts of so many others who you write about in your books, we who struggle are at the mercy of two competing forces, neither of which shows us how we can become the human beings God intended us to be.
I asked David Matheson, one of the therapists who led the JIM weekend and who wrote so much of the protocol that was used there, if he would consider coming to Poland and run a JIM weekend here. He responded by saying that so many people have asked him to bring JIM to other countries that there's no way he could do it all. There is simply not enough manpower nor financial resources available at this time. Hopefully, one of the other facilitator/guides I met on the weekend, a Polish-American named Rich K. who speaks a little Polish, will be willing to take on the project of bringing JIM here to Poland.
Richard, I need to thank you very much for your book and your work. It means so much to me because it opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed - a world where wounded men and women can heal their sexual wounds and stand strongly in the gender of their birth. May God bless you and your work. I pray that other people you work with can understand how much this type of healing needs to be brought to Poland, the rest of
Europe, and, indeed, to the entire world.
The other person I want to thank from the bottom of my heart is my wife. Having a loving, supportive, and caring wife is not only a blessing but has given me a partner to walk beside me in my journey out of same-sex attractions.
(Edited and adapted by Elaine Silodor Berk and Arthur Goldberg, Co-Directors of JONAH)