A leading Orthodox Jewish religious leader in Australia has told a public inquiry into child abuse in institutions that he believes that gay people can change their orientation if they undergo therapy and are given spiritual guidance.
Rabbi Zvi Telsner made the comment in response to questions at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia, which is currently examining how Jewish schools in Melbourne and Sydney responded to reports of child abuse since the 1980s.
Rabbi Telsner said of people who were sexually attracted to children, ‘There’s a certain belief that if someone for example after 20 or 25 years has not committed any offenses, and all of this time has gone to therapy, there would be a good possibility that person may have been able to change his way of life.’
‘If you see that over the last 20-odd years the person has been able to control themselves being amongst children, there would be a possibility that he is in control of himself.’
When asked if he believed that similar counseling and spiritual guidance would work for people who were sexually attracted to adults of the same-sex, Rabbi Telsner said ‘I would say the same thing can happen to someone who is gay, I would suspect.’
Rabbi Telsner is the head rabbi of Melbourne’s Yeshivah Center which continued to employ a sex offender for over 20 years after his victims reported that he had sexually abused them.
One of the mothers who reported that her son had been sexually abused claims a rabbi told her that he believed the perpetrator had been ‘cured’ since the incident and the questions were asked in that context.
All major health authorities in Australia oppose attempts to cure people of their adult same-sex attractions.