Leading rabbi thinks teenagers should be forced into traumatising conversion therapy to eradicate homosexuality

Yigal Levinstein conversion therapy

A leading Israeli rabbi has come under fire after he suggested that traumatising conversion therapy can “help people be straight again.”

Yigal Levinstein, a co-head of a pre-army Yeshiva, made the claims about the harmful practice in a Zoom class taught through his Bnei David academy.

“It’s possible to help people be straight again,” Levinstein can be heard saying in the recording, which was aired by Army Radio.

“The earlier you reach out to the child when [he is feeling] dual tendencies, the easier it is to help.”

Levinstein then suggested gay teenagers should go through conversion therapy between the ages of 13 and 15, The Times of Israel reports.

“It depends when this tendency begins,” he added.

He went on to claim that conversion therapy has a 60 to 70 per cent success rate – a statistic that is entirely fabricated – and spoke about his insistence that a teenage girl undergo the harmful practice.

“If you don’t treat [this] it won’t pass, if you do treat it it will pass,” he added.

Rabbi Yigal Levinstein claimed he doesn’t know what conversion therapy is after a radio station aired his comments.

When Army Radio obtained the recording, Levinstein insisted that he did not know what conversion therapy was, but said his views are “legitimate”.

“The quotes are accurate except for the quote about the starting age for treatment,” he said.

His academy Bnei David told the Israel National News website that Levinstein opposes conversion therapy and said they would take legal action against Army Radio over their “false” report.

“At no point during the lesson last night or in any other lesson that Rabbi Yigal Levinstein led during his dozens of years as an educator did the rabbi say he supports conversion therapy,” the academy said.

If you don’t treat [this] it won’t pass, if you do treat it it will pass.

“What journalistic negligence!” the organisation added. “This is another attempt to shut mouths. The rabbi argues that there are professional psychological therapies that can sensitively help the youth, just as a variety of professionals claim in other fields.”

Conversion therapy is a practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and is widely considered to be pseudoscience.

The practice has been condemned by various health and psychiatry bodies across the world. In the United States, it has been discredited by the American Psychiatric Association, American College of Physicians, and the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry.

One in five survivors of the harmful practice have attempted suicide.

Meanwhile, a UK survey of survivors of conversion therapy released last year found that one in five people who had been through the practice had attempted suicide.

The findings were detailed in a report from the Ozanne foundation and was based on 4,600 responses.

Of the 458 participants who had experienced conversion therapy, 91 people people said they had attempted suicide.

Two in five of those who had experience with conversion therapy had had suicidal thoughts, while less than a third said they had gone on to “have gone on to lead a happy and fulfilled life.”

This is not Levinstein’s first foray into controversy. In 2018, he made headlines when he said that homosexuality must be “eradicated” in the same way that AIDS was.

He said that he did not believe homosexuality was “normal” and that, as the medical industry “eradicated” AIDS, they would be able to rid the world of homosexuality and “save” society.