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Showing posts from February, 2012

HRC: Support Network for LGBT in the Orthodox Community

This awesome article was published on the Human rights Campaign's blog today.


Support Network for LGBT in the Orthodox CommunityThe following post comes from HRC Jewish Organization Equality Index Intern Hannah Henschel: The numerous “It Gets Better” videos have created a diverse supportive network for the LGBT community. Recently, a video was made by a group of Jewish men who all grew up as Orthodox and identify as gay. This video paints a depressing picture – it is extremely hard, even perhaps impossible, to currently be an out gay man in the Orthodox community. One of the men in the video, Chaim Levin, received a particularly harsh backlash from the Orthodox community in the form of an article on the website Jewish Press. Elliot Resnick, a writer for the Jewish Press, wrote that while it is possible to be Orthodox and gay, that the proper way to “handle” these feelings in the Orthodox tradition is through suppression. Resnick explains, “Jewish thought teaches one to be embarras…

Part I: What Really Happens in Reparative Therapy

This article was posted a couple of days ago on Truth Wins Out's website. It documents other parts of my experience while undergoing reparative therapy.

I chose to share these personal and painful memories, not to send a negative message that discourages other people or makes them loose hope, but rather to send a positive message of perseverance that encourages and gives hope through the truth. I survived, and I am here to talk about my experiences, to tell the truth about what happened and that I am living happily as an open, honest gay man. I don't regret coming out. It is the best thing ever to happened me; those dear people in my life who saw the change in me have seen how much better off I have been after I stopped trying to be something I am not.

Please always remember that there is hope and, despite what some might falsely believe — that you aren't good enough because you're different — they are the ones who need to be changed, not you.

http://www.truthwinsout.o…

Huffington Post — Chaim Levin Is Giving Hope to LGBT Orthodox Jews

This article by Wayne Bessen of Truth wins out was published in the Huffington Post tonight:


When people think of anti-gay places, the gay mecca of New York City does not often come to mind. However, Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community is a hotbed of homophobia, where LGBT people are shunned, abused, rejected, and told they must change their sexual orientation to be accepted. Chaim Levin, 22, grew up feeling the sting of discrimination and disgust from his Orthodox family and neighbors in Crown Heights. In his teenage years he was sent away to a strict religious boarding school in France. After Levin was outed, he was bullied and humiliated on a daily basis. "I remember walking into the grand study hall while everyone was sitting at their respective tables, and suddenly all the attention in the room shifted towards me as I walked past the glaring eyes of about 400 people," recalls Levin. "Over the next six months I was subject to harassment by many of my schoolmates, …

Questions and Answers from people on the Internet

Trying to keep up with the many messages and emails of kind words, encouragement and support, I am doing my best to respond to as many people as possible. I hope it is not taken personally if I can't respond right away or miss message here and there. This is a one man show. Until tonight, I didn't even own a computer — my work was dependent upon others letting me use their computers. Hopefully, I will be able to stay more “on top of my game" with my new fabulous MacbookPro; it's mamesh, a stunning piece, and I’m thrilled.

Of the many interesting and intelligent questions, I received the following message on Facebook from someone whom, out of respect for his privacy, I will not name. Although his questions are straightforward and rather personal, I think these are important to address. In doing so, I hope to broaden people's knowledge on the apparently new hot topic: homosexuality and Judaism.
I'm a straight yeshiva student who is involved in dialogue with many i…

Faith Complex — My interview at Georgetown University

Do you see their faces? Can you look into their eyes?

In my continued "journey" of "giving them hope" and the things I'm doing now, I try as best as I can to stay focused on the goal, the end result, the real message, the real truth.

Today, I am gonna continue and try to answer the people who keep questioning my motives and what my real intentions are with talking about my experience and what it was like to grow up orthodox and gay.

The "it gets better" video that I was part of, the one entitled. It gets better - gay orthodox Jews, was inspired by Dan Savage's it gets project, that served to send a message to lost and confused souls who felt alone and hopeless because they were gay or just different, in a response to the growing number of suicides across the country. The video originally came under criticism by Elliot Resnick of the Jewish Press, but thankfully the Jewish Press allowed me to publish my response to the critics of Resnick and other people in the orthodox community that want the gay &qu…

The brilliant words of my "logical" brother and friend, Benjamin Unger

My dear Benjy Unger, a fine gentlemen that I actually met while attending JONAH, someone I learned a lot from wrote this to the members of JONAH when we came out with this video that served to tell the truth and expose the crap that happened to us while trying to change ourselves from gay to straight. I decided not to edit it in the slightest because it would do injustice to Benjy's incredible and genuine demeanor that is just one of the thousand reasons that I love him dearly:


Some of the things that keep me going

My intentions whilst writing this, with everything I write, is not to cause more controversy or add to the existing tensions that are very prevalent between myself and the orthodox Jewish community, the community that I was born and raised in. Rather to send a very strong message to every single person that has done wrong by gay people on the guise of their own hatred, homophobia or even religious "values" (quotes because I'm not sure how mistreating anyone in the name of god can be value) . As I speak out about what it was like to grow up in Crown Heights as a Lubavitcher and a gay person, the pain, the endless rejection and difficulties I faced daily placed before me by my family and community, as I tell the truth about how much trying to change my sexuality has harmed me, I can only hope that the guys or girls reading this that might feel similar to the way I do, the others like me that I've come to  learn exist that they're not alone.


Press Conference this morning in Atlanta

This was my best talk so far.

Thank you for your support (and lack of as well)

Dear friends,

I wanted to just shout out to all of you and say thank you for all your amazing and unwavering support throughout this journey that I'm going on. Your support only proves how powerful we as a group of people can be when we come together for the sake of social justice and ensuring that all people are treated with dignity and respect. And it reminds us how important support is for people, all people, in any situation.

To the people who have chosen not to support me, friends (call it what you'd like), family members and haters, thank you also. It's your lack of support and ignorance that only proves how important my work actually is. I wanna let you know that it's because of all the crap that you've thrown at me throughout my life that has made me feel unbreakable and strong, and the more you condemn me and my work, the stronger I get.

I spent 19 years of my life living as a half person, living in fear and shame because of the negative things the the non…

Agudath Israel of America "clarifies" their stance on reaparative therapy

Rabbi Avi Shafran, the spokesperson for Agudath America, published this article on the daily Forward's website yesterday, and it's supposed to serve as Agudah's standpoint from Agudah on reparative therapy.

My first conclusion about his statement is that it's so vague and it doesn't really give Agudah any real standpoint other then what we already know: the halachic prohibitions of homosexual acts. For whatever reason, Rabbi Shafran felt compelled to remind us in almost every paragraph of his statement about the halachic problems with homosexuality. The reason all this dialogue, controversy and back and forth is happening is because of that verse in Vayikara (Leviticus), and the insistent reminders of how wrong homosexual acts are according to halacha is only being used as a weapon to ignore people like me and the many other brave souls that were subject to condemnation by so many rabbinic authorities because of our choice NOT to engage in potentially life threaten…

I met Joan Rivers today at La Guardia and got her to tweet about my blog!

So to my pleasant surprise while waiting for my flight at La Guardia, I see Joan Rivers casually walking to her gate and I literally dropped everything I was doing and ran over to her to say "Joan, I'm Jewish, I'm gay, and I love you!".. She was so wonderful and so funny, and she then retweeted our picture and mentioned this blog!

I write this from up in the air on the way to Atlanta, I have so much work to catch up on, so much more to write about, but had to share this amazing moment with you all.

Joan Rivers @Joan_Rivers Close
“@chaim89: @Joan_Rivers you're so fabulous! Thank you! Gottagivemhope.com pic.twitter.com/ALJOpYQ8” he's cute, Jewish and single, guys!!


I must say, this is the first time that I got a normal picture with a celebrity, I'm usually too caught up in the heat of the moment and my hands are too shaky to get a normal shot, this is fabulous!
With much love to all of my dear friends and supporters from way up in the air.  Love always, Chaim…

"Chaim, what do you want?" Mission Statement

Some people have posted comments on some of my articles and posts about the recent Oprah segment and the general topic of homosexuality in the Jewish community.Based on these comments I think some people been confused as to what my mission statement is, has been, and will continue to be: The reason I am choosing to come out so publicly and so honestly about what happened to me isn't to convince people to accept me personally, it's not about me anymore, my years of torture and pain for being gay in a frum (religious) environment are over and I have moved on to a place in my life where I have found peace in my soul. The work that I do is the voice of so many others who have endured similar and even more trying experiences while growing up frum and gay, and the hope is that the people who see this now, the parents, brothers, sisters, and friends of gay people might learn from this and treat a gay person in their life differently, but the biggest hope, the most important part, is …

Dan Savage: The It Gets Better Project

Last March this book was published by Dan Savage titled "It gets better". They had selected some of the thousands of it gets better videos that they felt stood out and transcribed them into a book, and they included our video for gay orthodox Jews, and they titled it: "Coming out of the shtetl: gay orthodox Jews". I can't tell you what kind of honor it's been to be part of this life saving project that has impacted lives worldwide. Despite some of the criticism i've received by various people over the video and the recent articles, I have no regrets and based on the amazing kind words I have been getting from friends supporters, I will continue going "from strength to strength".

Thank you all for your love and support.

Chaim Levin





 With Dan and Terry, founders of the It Gets Better Project


Gay orthodox Jews, It gets Better

Dear Oprah

Dear Oprah,

Tonight you aired your second segment of interviews with people in the hasidic community, and you asked four mothers what they would do if they had a gay child. It's clear that you didn't get a serious response from them but I want you to know that I grew up in this community (Crown Heights) as a hasidic Jew and I am openly gay today.
http://www.oprah.com/own-oprahs-next-chapter/Homosexuality-in-the-Hasidic-Community-Video

My journey since being thrown out of yeshiva for being gay and attempting reaparative "change" therapy to become straight and then coming out proudly about who I am is quite an interesting one, and it would be a shame if the world wouldn't get to see the real answer to this question, my answer, and the answer about the hundreds of other gay jews that come from these communities.

My stories are already documented in multiple news publication and throughout my blog, but here is the article that was published in the Jewish Press recentl…

Cyberbullying of people in my community

I reluctantly write this post to bring awareness to a problem that's been growing within the confines of support groups like JQY (Jewish Queer Youth) and other places that support LGBT Jews.

An email user who identifies by the name "hashem echad" ha.she_mechad@yahoo.com and hashem_echad@yahoo.com has been sending hateful, threatening and disturbing email content to myself and many other people that I know including minors under the age of 18.

This type of harassment is particularly disturbing to me because it threatens the safety net of support that so many people derive from the work that we do online.

Our next step is to contact authorities, but before doing so we'd like to hear from everyone that has had contact with this individual so that it can be taken care of quickly and easily.

I, along with the people I work with to create a more supportive and welcoming environment for LGBT people have a zero tolerance for this kind of bullying being masked by the anonymit…

Threatened by a JONAH member

This morning I woke up to a comment from someone that I attended JONAH with and was once a close friend of:

"Chaim,

I care for you very much, and looking forward to the day when I can consider you a trustworthy friend again. And I mean this whole-heartedly.

But if you start a tirade against JONAH for the sole purpose of bringing it to the ground, you will face a lot of serious opposition from me. I have a lot of data, evidence, and support to rally together to go against many of your claims that will make you look way more "shaky" than you are claiming JONAH to be. I don't want to start a war with you. But for my safety and the safety of men I deeply care about, I will do so if I have to.

Think about it. I really hope you choose a more peaceful route. 

Jonathan "

This person begged me not to go public with the sexual abuse that I and others faced by the hand of Alan Downing who works at JONAH. His comment once again ignores what happened to me at the hands of JONAH a…

Survivng a year away in a foreign yeshiva (religious school) after being outed at the age of 16

When I was 16 in 2005, I was sent away to boarding school in a small suburb near Paris called Brunoy. For anyone who grew up in my Orthodox community, if you went to the yeshiva in Brunoy, you were truly a righteous hero and were truly a "god fearing" (yiras shmayaim) student. The school’s legacy is based on the fact that its physical conditions make prison look like hotels. The idea is that as servants of god we’re not supposed to care about the physical world, our appearance or our living conditions. So, for my year spent in Paris, I wasn’t on vacation touring the most famous sites in the world, I wasn’t eating fabulous French cheese, and I definitely wasn’t touring the great museums like the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay. I lived in a fairly small room with four other people and had to shower in a room with 13 showerheads with close to three hundred other people. At 7:15, the water was turned off by an automatic timer, and, if you still had soap on your hair or body, you …

We Wanna Hear from YOU!

We wanna hear from YOU, your stories on hope and survival. If more of us start talking about how it really did get better we can send an even more powerful message to young gay teens who might be struggling or feeling hopeless. Feel free to email anything to me at chaim89@gmail.com. No expectations, it doesn't have to be long or short, as long as it's to the point.

Thanks,

Chaim Levin
gottagivemhope.com

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen claims gay kids are expendable, divert funds to needy Jewish schools

I have so much to say about this, not enough that I can get into one post today, but I will say this: Wow, this is the first time that I've discovered any chabad rabbi speaking publicly about this issue, but I'm not all that shock that this "Rabbi" and supposed Doctor doesn't realize that he seems delusional and homophobic to the point that his suggestion to ignore bullying against gay kids because bullying is really an anti Semitc issue, is so wrong. I hope he knows that I was bullied by my own people his own people, religious orthodox people, chabad rabbis, and I was bullied by these people simply for being gay.
http://mikeybear.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/rabbi-dr-shimon-cowen-claims-gay-kids-are-expendable-divert-funds-to-needy-jewish-schools/Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen claims gay kids are expendable, divert funds to needy Jewish schools
Australia’s leading expert on bullying, Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, son of the late governor-general Sir Zelman Cowen, has just published…

Open Letter to the Directors of JONAH

Dear Arthur/Elaine,

I'm sure that you've seen my recent claims against your organization and the harm that it's caused to me and many others, but today I write to you to understand yet another disturbing fact that's come to light about your organization.
Without naming any names (sorry Arthur, I don't really like breaking the confidentiality of your members), I'd like an explanation as to why your organization continues to "treat" a young boy that was forced by his wealthy and influential parents into your organisation after he started coming out? Don't you guys claim that you can't force anyone to change, and that someone can change only if they want to? I know firsthand that this boy didn't want to go anywhere near JONAH but you guys teamed up with is parents and gave him no other option then to subject himself to your dangerous practices.
It kills me every day when I think about that trouble boy that I met me as a result of the it gets …

Death and Taxes Magazine: Anti-gay conservative rabbi Not a Mensch

So this happened today, i'm glad this is getting around.

http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/178467/anti-gay-conservative-rabbi-not-a-mensch/
Anti-gay conservative rabbi not a mensch

By Andrew Belonsky 27 mins ago

How many awful things can one person say about gay people in a single statement? If you’re hideous New York City rabbi Yehuda Levin, a lot.

Speaking out about gay Jewish activist Chaim Levin’s recent criticism of “gay cure” therapies, therapies that made him suicidal — “I had experienced so much pain coming out, and at the time felt like no one will ever get it. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m getting rejected again and again,” he told me in an interview last year– Rabbi Levin, no relation, insisted gay people should be chemically castrated, just like child molesters in Europe. According to him, the process will stop the gays from “act[ing] in a forbidden manner,” just as it would prevent adultery and incest. Because, you know, same-sex love is just like a brother ha…

My Ideal News Headline (because I'm very idealistic)

So, this is the kind of headline I've dreamed about having over the past few months, combined with all this "meshugas" (craziness) that's been going on surrounding my story and my article in the Jewish Press I feel like this would be appropriate:
"22 Year old, formerly "exgay" (now gay), Jewish kid from the orthodox community in Brooklyn tackles homophobia by storm"
Put a fabulous people of me and some other "gay activists" (as the homophobic "community" so eloquently refer to us. Note the quotes, they put them there, not me, I'm perfectly fine being called a gay activist) right near the headline, maybe one that highlights my dimples, and let it run all over the world. I think it's about time that people know about the Jewish people in the gay community, and the people that come from similar places like myself (very conservative, orthodox, isolated background), are finally emerging with powerful message of hope for all …

"You've got mail" (from someone speaking on the behalf of god that is)

So I got this email this morning, I guess it's hate mail? Or maybe it's just more idiocracy from haters and bigots that don't really know anything about sexual abuse or gay people. Anyways, the sender of this email, hashem_echad@yahoo.com (hashem echad is Hebrew for "god is one"), apparently think they know something about god and his oneness, but I would respectively disagree and simply thank them for giving crazy content to write about. -Shkoyach (Hebrew/Yiddish term for thanks)



New York rabbi: Cure gays with chemicals

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/02/09/new-york-rabbi-cure-gays-with-chemicals/
A controversial New York rabbi has reacted to an article by Chaim Levin detailing his experience of reparative therapy saying homosexuality could be tackled with chemical castration.Rabbi Yehuda Levin, who is not related to Chaim Levin, was reacting to the latter’s experience of gay cure, which was republished on PinkNews.co.uk last week.The New York rabbi wrote to the Jewish Press: “Chaim Levin’s recent article and appearances on video and Jewish radio provide ample evidence of an agenda far more wide-ranging than merely opposing bullying and reparative therapy.“It’s an exact duplication of the militant homosexual activist playbook: Desensitize society through constant discussion of homosexuality, urges, etc. Create feelings of guilt in others by exaggerated, unsubstantiated claims of Jewish homosexual suicides due to “bullying,” discrimination, etc. Gain public sympathy by using the media, and then solidify…