San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

The Therapy is coming to this film festival, but with a description that is a doozy!

The film guide has the following description of the film:

Set in Jerusalem, this gripping documentary exposes the harmful practices of so-called conversion therapy from within. Director Zvi Landsman compassionately follows the lives of two gay men—Lev (54) and Ben (23)—who underwent conversion therapy and testify before the Knesset about whether or not conversion therapy practices should be made illegal, but from opposing sides. Lev, a divorced ultra-Orthodox Jew, clings to conversion therapy because it provides the only space where he can be openly gay within a community. Whereas Ben, a 23-year-old social work student, seven years into conversion therapy, starts having doubts. In the ultra-Orthodox world where he grew up, he was taught that homosexuality was a defect that one could “cure,” but through a series of conversations with a clinical psychology professor and an NGO leader, he comes to understand that conversion therapy is extremely harmful and dangerous. Facing discrimination and alienation from his family, Ben sets out on a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Featuring footage from one-on-one and group sessions, this documentary is an unprecedented exposé of this abusive, tragic and terrifying practice in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in contemporary Israel.

I will just summarize my response:

I do not “cling to conversion therapy”. I enjoy the group sessions because I can be more open about this part of my life – and I say this in the documentary. But my life is made of many different parts, and “conversion therapy” is just one of them. If I don’t speak about this part of my life on a regular basis, that’s OK. I have Talmud to learn, websites to build, and Shabbos meals to prepare. I am not fixated on this particular part of my personality.

As for the final line, the “conversion therapy” practice is neither abusive, tragic nor terrifying. If you think it is, then go watch surgery up close. Watch as a doctor slices open the skin, and perhaps even removes pieces of a person’s body. It certainly looks abusive. But the procedure is done in order to save the patient.

So too in “conversion therapy” the patient is trying to become a better person.

Watch a body builder lift weights that are too heavy for him, understanding that he is tearing his muscle tissue. But then listen as he says, “No pain, no gain.”

“Abusive” is when you have a society that says, “You can be whatever you want to be” or “Free to be you and me” (as Marlo Thomas sang when I grew up), but when a person says, “I want to be a man amongst men”, to this person society says, “No! We forbid you to do what you want, and we will not allow anyone to help you achieve what you want!”

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