Sunday, July 13, 2008

Case of Rabbi Marc Gafni

Case of Dr. Rabbi Marc Gafni

(AKA: Mordechai Gafni, Mordechai Winiarz. Marc Israel, Marc Gafni, Mark Gafni, Mordy Gafni, Marc Winiarz, Mordechai Winiarz, Mordechai Winyarz)

Please note this page is under construction



WARNING:
Marc Gafni Should Be Scene As A Danger to Women and Children.  He is currently residing in Fairfield, California.

1979 - Sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl, who’s mother had a bout of cancer (Brooklyn, New York)

1983 - Sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl, who’s mother had a bout of cancer

1983 - Attempted sexual assault of a 19-teen-year old woman (Brooklyn, NY)

1989 - Allegations made of clergy sexual abuse. This time the allegations were made about “an affair” he had with a married woman -- with whom he was providing spiritual counseling in Boca Raton, FL

1989 - Accused of having sexual relations with a young woman in which he was counseling in Kfar Saba, Israel.  This makes the 5th alleged sex crime committed by Gafni. 
1996 - Fired from Isralight, after new allegations were made of clergy sexual abuse, with another woman he was teaching and providing spiritual counseling to.

1998 - Hired by a group called Milah (Jerusalem Institute for Education), and became a prominent figure in the Jerusalem educational scene. Once again, soon afterwards he was fired after allegations of clergy sexual abuse were made.

 
Marc Winiartz is the son of Holocaust survivors and was raised in a orthodox Jewish home in Pittsfield, Massachuestts. He was born on September 30, 1960.  Early in his life he started going by his Hebrew name, Mordechai Winiartz.

After being chased out of New York, Mordechai Winiartz moved to Flordia.  After another scandel arose, he swiftly left the United States and moved to Israel.  It was at this time that Marc Winiartz, legally changed his last name to Gafni.  In the past Winiartz also went by the names: Mordechai Winiarz, Marc Gafni, Mordechai Gafni and or Marc Israel. Throughout Gafni's life there have been multiple allegations made of him abusing his role as a rabbi to sexually manipulate women, with whom he was providing spiritual counseling.
 
March 4, 2004 -- Marc Gafni told Haaretz newspaper that "At age six or seven, I knew that I wanted to be a rabbi," "Because I really loved the world of the book, which I'd known since I began learning at age three."
 
From 1973-1977, Gafni went to Ohr Torah aka Manhattan Hebrew High School, which was overseen by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and run by Vancouver rabbi Pinchas Bak (who passed away on Purim 1977 at age 32).
 
After college he became a Rabbinical student at Yeshiva University, yet did not get his rabbinical ordination (smeicha) from YU.  Instead, Mordechai Gafni obtained his ordination from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.  According to Winiarz/Gafni, he attended Yeshiva University for one semester around 1981. He attended Queens College for one semester. "I transferred all my credits to Edison College," says Marc. "It's one of those places that give you life credit. I got my degree from Edison College (circa 1985).
 
In 2004, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the spiritual leader of the Israeli community of Efrat, was going to revoke the rabbinic ordination he gave Rabbi Winiarz/Gafni many years ago when they had a close rabbi-student relationship. When Gafni heard of Rabbi Riskin's wishes, he wrote a letter "returning" his semicha to spare his former teacher any further embarrassment.
 
Winiarz/Gafni was 18, he was engaged to a woman, yet never married. According to various sources Winiarz/Gafni has been married three times. At age 20, Winiarz/Gafni married for the first time to a woman from Maine, which lasted two years.
 
In the early 1980's, when Mordechai was nineteen he sexually abused a thirteen-year-old girl in her home.  It wasn't until many years later that Marc Gafni confessed to the molestation while being interviewed by Gary Rosenblatt, editor of the New York Jewish Week.  Marc stated: "I was a stupid kid and we were in love," the rabbi said. "She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her"
In 1983 Mordechai Winiarz was married his first wife. During that time was also a youth leader for a group called "JPSY" (Jewish Public School Youth). The group involved working with at risk teenagers.  It was during this time he was accused of molesting a fifteen-year-old girl and an attempted sexual assault of a young adult woman.  At the time the rabbis accused him of cult like practices.  Both women went to various rabbis looking for help, yet nothing was done except he was chased out of town, moving to Boca Raton, Florida.  There was some sort of scandl and he fled Florida suddenly.  
 
Marc Winiarz/Gafni was originally hired by Ellen Lieberman, when see needed someone to fill in for her while she was on a maternal leave. There have been reports of Gafni charming his way in and taking over Lieberman's positon.  He renamed the organization "The Jewish Youth Movement."
JPSY was funded by Jewish philanthropists as Jeffrey Glick, Michael Steinhardt and Marc Belzberg.

In 1991 he left the Unitied States to start a new life in Israel, changing his name to Mordechai Gafni.

May, 2006 new allegations were made against confessed child molester Rabbi Mordechai Gafni . This time the allegations were made by three women who filed a complaint with the police in Haifa (Israel). The new claims were of professional sexual misconduct / clergy sexual abuse. The alleged offenses occurred during Torah lessons given by Gafni.
 
Immediately after the charges were filed Rabbi Mordechai Gafni confessed and fled Israel for the United States. He first landed in Boston, MA, where it is believed he stayed with one of his many female friends. There were rumors that soon after arriving in Boston he continued on to Boulder, CO and stayed with a colleague and then moved on to Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
Marc Gafni is involved with the Buddhist community of Salt Lake City.  It is believed that he is in the process of trying to reinvent himself again as he did back in the 1980's after the first allegations were made against him of child molestation. Marc Gafni is considered dangerous to women and to both male and female children.  Rumors are floating around that he is involved in BDSM community (Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism, Masochism).
 
In July, 2008 it was reported that Marc Gafni married his forth wife and is the process of recreating himself and his web page.  Marc Gafni's biggest supporter is Rabbi Gershon Winkler, founder of the Walking Stick Foundation. It has been reported by that Winkler shares many of Marc Gafni's philosophies including the one on having multiple "marriage partners".
 
Colleagues and Followers of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni who publicly spoke out on his behalf and attacked those who were defending the survivors (Both former and current Gafni supporters are listed below)
  1. Pamela Frydman Baugh, Past President - Ohalah
  2. Metuka Benjamin - Director of Education, Stephen S. Wise Temple
  3. Rabbi Phyllis Berman - Former Director Elat Chayyim summer program
  4. Rabbi Saul Berman - CEO, Director, Edah
  5. Rabbi Bob Carroll
  6. Zivit Davidovich - Executive Producer, Israel Channel 2 Television
  7. Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi
  8. Rabbi Tirzah Firestone - Congregation Nevei Kodesh
  9. Rabbi Shefa Gold - Director C-Deep, composer and teacher
  10. Rabbi Arthur Green - Dean, Hebrew College Rabbinical School
  11. Arthur Kurzweil Former Director, Elat Chayyim, Jewish Book Club
  12. Diane Musho Hamilton
  13. Rabbi Eli Herscher Stephen S. Wise Synagogue
  14. Rabbi Tzvi Kilstein (AKA: Harlan Kilstein)
  15. Avraham Leader - Author and Past Leader Minyan, Bayit Chadash
  16. Jacob Ner-David - Former Board Chair, Bayit Chadash 
  17. John Mackey - CEO, Whole Foods Market
  18. Naomi Mark, LCSW, ACSW 
  19. Stephen S. Marmer, MD, PhD - Psychiatrist, UCLA Medical School
  20. Rabbi Michael Ozair - Convicted Sex Offender
  21. Peter Pitzele Ph.D. - Bibliodrama Institute
  22. Genpo Roshi - Big Mind
  23. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi  - Founder of the Jewish Renewal Movement, Rabbinic Chair, Aleph
  24. Don Seeman, Ph.D. Emory University
  25. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin - 
  26. Ken Wilber
  27. Rabbi Avi Weiss - Founder and Dean, YCT Rabbinical School
  28. Rabbi Gershon Winkler - Founder of the Walking Stick
  29. Rabbi Hershy Worch - Alleged sexual predator
  30. Rabbi David Zaslow - Havurah Shir Hadash
  31. Noam Zion - Hartman Institute

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents: 
 
If you are a journalist doing a story -- The Awareness Center, Inc. asks that you mention our organization in your article if you found this web page helpful.  The Awareness Center, Inc. is the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault.

 
Timeline 
  1. Background History - Rabbi Mordecai Gafni aka Marc Winiarz
  2. Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, Spiritual Director
  3. Board of Directors - Bayit Chadash
1987
  1. The New Orthodoxy The New Rabbi Of The Boca Raton Synagogue Expects To Make Waves  (07/24/1987)
  2. The Rabbi Rocks  (08/17/1987)
  3. Rabbi rolls out Jewish rock album (08/17/1987)
  4. Domestic News  (08/17/1987)
  5. Morning Report: Pop/Rock (08/18/1987)
  6. True colors It's kosher!  (08/18/1987)
  7. Rock News And Notes:  This Elivis Replica Ain't Nothing But a Sound Doll  (08/21/1987)
  8. Rabbi's Rap Sings Praises of Judaism - Jewish Rap  (08/28/1987)
  9. Rabbi To Mark Papal Visit By Walking A Picket Line  (09/10/1987)
  10. Promised Protests Fall Flat Amid Festivities (09/11/1987)
  11. "Never Again!' Pope Says Holocaust Condemned in Talk to Jewish Leaders  (09/12/1987)
  12. 2 Rabbis Impressed by Pop  (09/18/1987)
1989
  1. Controversial Rabbi Starts Jewish Outreach Organization (01/05/1989)
  2. Rabbi Urges "Revolution" In Values Winyarz's Controversial Speech Part of Classes (01/06/1989)
  3. Boca Rabbi Accepts Job on West Bank  (07/22/1989)
1990
  1. Letter by Rabbi Causes Flap in House Race  (11/02/1990)
  2. Rabbi Marc/Mordechai Gafni/Winiyarz Series Part1: The secret sex life of the man who brought Gafni/Winiarz/Winyarz to FL & how it led to his murder
2000
  1. Lessons From The Lanner Case (07/20/2000)
  2. Rabbi Accused of Manipulation in Shore Campaign Letter (11/01/2000)
  3. Shore Refuses to Apologize Over Letter  (11/02/2000)
  4. Voters Revenge' On TV For Texans (11/03/2000)
2001
  1. PBS Special Soul Prints: Your Path to Fulfillment - DVD   (04/10/2001)
2002
  1. No Known Articles
2003
  1. The Erotic and the Ethical (March/April 2003)
2004
  1. Letter from Rabbi Bob Carroll, Program Director of Edah  (02/19/2004)
  2. Post-Orthodoxy journey  (03/04/2004)
  3. Very poor answer - Regarding "What is the question?" Haaretz Magazine  (03/12/2004)
  4. An Introduction to Integral Kabbalah: Study, Prayer, and Meditation   (04/2004)
  5. Who is Marc Gafni - Integral Naked Bio
  6. Protocols Blogspot  (05/05/2004)
  7. Protocols Blogspot  (05/07/2004)
  8. Gary Rosenblatt  (06/24/2004)
  9. Update: Rabbi Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Gafni, Marc Winiarz. Mordechai Winyarz, etc.)  (10/03/2004)
  10. Wisdom Chair - Jewish Studies at Stephen S. Wise Temple (09/21/2004)
  11. The Re-Invented Rabbi (09/22/2004)
    • Letters To The Editor
      • Letter from Vicki Polin - Unpublished (09/27/2004)
      • Honest Confession  (10/01/2004)
      • Newton, Mass. (10/01/2004)
      • Abhorrent Column - By Rabbi Arthur Green (10/01/2004)
        • The Power of a word: Rabbi Arthur Green calling for the death of Child Victim Advocates  (10/02/2004)
        • Rabbi Arthur Green writes The Jewish Week  (10/02/2004)
        • Update: Rabbi Arthur Green and his use of the term "rodfim"  (10/03/2004)
        • Update: The Case of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni and statements made by Rabbi Arthur Green  (10/03/2004)
        • Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz from the Reconstructionst Rabbinical College regarding Rabbi Arthur Green  (10/06/2004)
        • Clarification regarding the use of the term rodef  (10/11/2004)
      • Defending Gafni - Letter from Rabbi Saul Berman, Joseph Telushkin and Rabbi Tirzah Firestone (10/08/2004)
        • Response letter from a Survivor of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni (10/08/2004)
      • Horrified By Quotes (10/08/2004)
      • Perplexed Reader  (10/15/2004)
      • On Gafni, Round 2 - By Rabbi Arthur Green (10/15/2004)
      • Psychology Of Abuse (10/15/2004)
      • Full Human Being (10/15/2004)
  12. A Time to Publish? (09/24/2004)
  13. Herscher: Gafni Still Welcome in L.A. (10/01/2004)
  14. Articles on rabbi Gafni, born Marc Winiarz (10/03/2004)
  15. Gafni has no PHD from Oxford  (10/03/2004)
  16. Stories From three Survivors of Rabbi Mordechai Winiarz (of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni (aka: Marc Gafni, Mark Gafni, Marc Winiarz, Mordechai Winiarz, Mordechai Winyarz)
  17. Letter from: Rabbi Saul J. Berman & Rabbi Joseph Telushkin (10/13/2004)
2005
  1. Ways of Pleasantness or view it in Hebrew Maariv Article in Hebrew (10/15/2004)
    • Bayit chadash have issued public statement regarding Rabbi Marc Gafni  (10/17/2004)
  2. Rabbi Marc Gafni andAndrew Cohen  (01/01/2005)
  3. Gafni and Walmart  (03/01/2005)
  4. Eric Yoffe regarding Marc Gafni  (03/09/2005)
  5. Why am I not a Buddhist? (06/02/2005)
  6. CALL TO ACTION: UJA Federation of NY Sponsors Event with Rabbi Marc "Mordechai" Gafni   (09/11/2005)
  7. CALL TO ACTION: Rabbi Marc Gafni (Winiarz) - How can any paper publish an article by this man anymore?  (12/05/2005)
  8. CALL TO ACTION: Omega Institute  (12/26/2005)
2006
  1. CALL TO ACTION: All Rabbis and Rabbinical Organizations - Rabbi Marc Gafni (AKA: Rabbi Mordechai Winyartz)  (01/16/2006)
  2. CALL TO ACTION:  Gafni and Worch Speaking in Chicago? (04/20/2006)
  3. CALL TO ACTION: Jerusalem Post - Three days of purple haze (05/09/2006)
  4. Gafni Strikes Again  (05/11/2006)
  5. Mordechai Gafni/Winiarz Accused of Rape (05/11/2006)
  6. Rabbi Arthur Waskow issues a letter on Marc Gafni (05/14/2006)
  7. Ken Wilber - Rabbi Marc Gafni and Sexual Improprieties  (05/15/2006)
  8. Letter from Mordechai Gafni to Aleph regarding the recent allegations of sexual assault (05/15/2006)
  9. History Channel - Bible Code II: Apocalypse and Beyond  (05/16/2006)
  10. Rabbi Marc Gafni & Andrew Cohen  (05/17/2006)
  11. Faith and Values on TV - Marc Gafni  (05/17/2006)
  12. CALL TO ACTION: Rabbi Marc Gafni and the News Media  (05/17/2006)
  13. Rabbi Gafni accused of sexual assault  (05/18/2006)
  14. Rabbi Mordechai Gafni accused of sexually exploiting women (05/18/2006)
  15. Rabbi dogged by sex scandal  (05/18/2006)
  16. Note From The Awareness Center Regarding the Articles from the Forward and the New York Jewish Week (05/18/2006)
  17. Letter from Rabbi Saul Berman
  18. Rabbi Fired Over Sex Claims, Defenders Offer Mea Culpa  (05/18/2006)
  19. Spiritual Renewal Leader Ousted For Sexual Behavior  (05/18/2006)
  20. Facing Up To Abuse (05/18/2006)
  21. Bayit Hadash leader fired for sexual misconduct  (05/18/2006)
  22. Facts in Gafni case must be brought to light  (05/18/2006)
  23. Fiend Rabbi on Run: Victims in U.S., Israel  (05/21/2006)
  24. US women: Gafni assaulted us too - Two American women provide New York Post with details of harrowing sexual abuse by Rabbi  (05/21/2006)
  25. LA Gafni Event Canceled   (05/25/2006)
  26. Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi Speaks on Gafni  (05/25/2006)
  27. Rabbi Gafni Ousted for Misconduct (05/25/2006)
  28. Letters to the Editor  (06/02/2006)
  29. Rabbi Gafni's spiritual community still in shock (05/26/2006)
  30. Helping Gafni's Victims (05/28/2006)
  31. Campaign Against Edah - Justice for Survivors of Rabbi Mordecai Gafni (05/28/2006)
  32. The new Sabbateans   (05/30/2006)
  33. Charisma's shadow Jewish Renewal community grapples with ethics in wake of Gafni affair  (06/01/2006)
  34. People of the Blog  
  35. Charisma and its Dangers: Mordechai Gafni as Nazirite (06/12/2006)
  36. Deconstructing The Gafni Case  (06/09/2006)
  37. Is Gary Rosenblatt reinventing history when it comes to the case of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni?  (06/16/2006)
  38. Deposition Of Mordecai Gafni's Third Wife (06/27/2006)
  39. Nuns' accomplishments don't deserve ridicule  (08/16/2006)
  40. CALL TO ACTION: Locating Rabbi Mordechai Gafni and His Return To Israel (09/20/2006)
2007
  1. CALL TO ACTION:  Protect Women From Rabbi Mordechai Gafni  (05/01/2007)
    • Official Statement from Kanzeon Sangha International  (05/02/2007)
2008
  1. Rabbi Marc Gafni & Sexual Improprieties  (05/15/2008)
  2. Gafni and Wolfson College - Oxford, England  (06/17/2008)
  3. Rabbi Mordechai Gafni Living in Salt Lake City, Utah  (07/02/2008)
  4. Trial By Internet  (7/2008)
    • Sidebar to this article.- On the 'net: Lies Live Forever  (7/2008)
    • Serial Sex Abuser Rabbi Mordechai Gafni Returns  (07/2/2008)
  5. Luke Ford Interviews Rabbi Mordechai Gafni  (07/3/2008)
  6. Sex Abuser Mordechai Gafni is Back  (07/04/2008)
  7. Rabbi Arthur Waskow on Gershon Winkler and the case of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni  (07/07/2008)
    • Rabbi Gershon Winkler with Gafni follower - Rabbi Ezra Ohad  (07/04/2008)
  8. Mordechai Gafni is Back  (07/08/2008)
  9. Rabbi fights sexual allegations  (07/08/2008)
  10. CALL TO ACTION: Stop ex-Rabbi Marc Gafni From Advertising on GoogleAds   (07/13/2008)
  11. Mordechai Gafni Is Back, And Going On Offense   (07/16/2008) 

2011
  1. Marc Gafni's Sexual Impropriety Re- Emerges - Will Integral Leadership Step Up this Time?     (09/12/2011) 
  2. Marc Gafni Again - New York Jewish Week (09/14/2011)
  3. Marc Gafni Abuses Again -- and We Share Responsibility - Forward  (09/21/2011)
  4. John Dupuy - My Opinion on the Marc Gafni Situation (09/22/2011)
  5. Final Ken Wilber Statement Dec. 2011, Marc Gafni / Center for World Spirituality (12/25/2011)
     
2012
  1. Dr. Marc Gafni’s Biography   (06/15/2012)


Other Cases Connected to Rabbi Mordechai Gafni
  1. Case of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach
  2. Case of Rabbi Michael Ozair
  3. Case of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler
  4. Case of Rabbi Gershon Winkler
  5. Case of Rabbi Hershy Worch
 


Rabbi Mordecai Gafni aka Marc Winiarz
Background History
© (2003) By Levi Ford
 
The first story about Gafni/Winiarz's sexual escapades with a minor was broken by Gary Rosenblatt in the September 24, 2004 issue of The Jewish Week. Many of the Gafni critics Gary spoke to felt let down by his article. They say Gary either doesn't get it or he went easy on Gafni to make Gary's own life easier. By focusing on sexual incidents that happened 20 years ago instead of Gafni's ongoing creepy behavior, Rosenblatt delegitimized his own article, not to mention the concern that Gafni is dangerous to people today.
 
Here is my personal experience with rabbi Gafni: I heard him lecture (Gafni's a friend of UCLA Hillel rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller) for an hour at UCLA during Passover week 2002. I considered what Gafni had to say worthless. I read a long section of his book Soul Prints. I considered it worthless. Just New Age nonsense.
Gafni struck me as a charlatan.
 
I saw him hustle Dennis Prager to get a half hour on Prager's radio show the next week. I listened to the show. Neither Prager nor I could figure out what Gafni was talking about.
 
I have an ex-girlfriend who was deeply moved by Gafni's book -- Soul Prints. She said it was the best book she'd ever read on Judaism.
 
Rabbi Gafni's greatness as a religious teacher, such as it is, is not in coming up with original material, but in taking other people's ideas and restating them more clearly than the original thinkers. He's an excellent mimic and actor.
 
This is not a bad quality so long as one attributes one's sources. Dennis Prager is a popularizer of other people's ideas, but he attributes his sources. Rabbi Gafni frequently takes without attributing (as does Dr. Laura Schlesinger, who takes a lot from Prager without attribution). Many of Gafni's Renewal followers think he's a genius. He probably knows more Torah than 99% of Renewal Jews.
Winiarz's been to yeshiva. He's well read. He knows how to speak. He's charismatic. They're dying for a guy like him.
 
Rabbi Gafni's main problem is not his sexual philandering, say his critics. Those sexual sins are but a symptom of a larger problem -- he's a creep.
 
Rabbi Gafni, and Rabbi Arthur Green and his other supporters, are convinced that there is a small group of people who are destroying Winiarz's career. They are right. There is a small group of people destroying his career (well, he's destroyed his own career with his creepy behavior). They pushed Gary Rosenblatt to write that expose in The Jewish Week.
 
They are also the group of people who have known Rabbi Gafni best and longest.
 
If Rabbi Gafni has truly done teshuva, why hasn't he contacted the long list of innocent people he hurt and made restitution?
 
Gary Rosenblatt writes: "Avraham Infeld, now the president of Hillel, was heading an educational program in Israel called Melitz when he hired Gafni in the late 1990s, despite pressure not to do so. Infeld has said he had no regrets. Rabbi Saul Berman, who heads the Modern Orthodox group Edah, and Joseph Telushkin, the writer and ethicist, also defended Gafni, asserting that he is a gifted teacher and that they have heard no credible reports against him of improper behavior in the past 15 years or so."
 
On October 21, 2004, I left messages with Rabbis Berman and Telushkin on their home phone numbers to talk about their defense of Gafni and their attacks on The Awareness Center.  They've yet to return my call.
 
Rabbi Gafni has gone through more reinventions (not to mention name changes, marriages and relationships) than any rabbi I know.
 
When he was young (mid '70s), he saw himself as the next rabbi Shlomo Riskin. He was delivering rabbi Riskin's talks, word-for-word, better than rabbi Riskin. Rabbi Riskin didn't mind this. On the contrary, he was flattered to have a protege. Rabbi Riskin speaks personally, as if he is giving you some secret (with the way he uses his delivery and moves around the room). Mordecai imitated him exactly.
 
Winiarz wore a suit. His hair was cut short. He always wore a white shirt. He looked like a respectable Orthodox rabbi.
 
Then Winiarz graduated from Riskin and decided he was going to be the second coming of Rav Yosef Soloveitchik. He claimed to be the Rav's disciple. It's probably another of Winiarz's exaggerated claims. Perhaps Winiarz heard a lecture or two of the Rav's in person.
The Rav was completely out of Rabbi Gafni's range, but Gafni used his terms.
 
This didn't last long. Next (around 1980) Rabbi Gafni wanted to become the next Shlomo Carlebach (including Carlebach's creepy history of sexual abuse, including of underage girls).
 
In The Jewish Week article, Rabbi Gafni admitted to committing statutory rape. He said, "She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her."
 
He's been married three times. He was also engaged to a woman he never married. He walked out on his first wife when she was three months pregnant. His third marriage seems to be one of convenience. His current wife lives in San Francisco while Winiarz lives in Israel.
 
Winiarz ran an organization called JPSY (Jewish Public School Youth). It was funded by such major Jewish philanthropists as Michael Steinhardt and Mark Belzberg (who seemed impressed by Winiarz).
 
Winiarz was hired by Ellen Lieberman (who is now married to South African rabbi Ian Azizolohof). When Ellen left on maternity leave, Gafni took the organization from her.  He seduced the board. She came back from leave to find she was out of a job.
 
Rabbi Gafni is insatiable for power and his predatory sexuality is just a part of his power thing. Some of his supporters, such as Mark Belzberg (from the wealthy Canadian family) have said, "Yeah, Mordecai has a yetzer hora."
 
Once in control of JPSY, Mordecai Gafni self-destructed. On his second marriage, he got caught molesting a 16-year old girl (called Judy in Rosenblatt's article). I understand that a similar problem broke up his first marriage.
 
When Mordecai was in high school, he was accused of various crimes and misdemeanors and illicit use of credit cards.
 
It's the people who know him longest and best who are most scared of what he can do. People he went to high school with. Today they are high profile Orthodox educators. They have made sure he can't get jobs in the Orthodox community, which is probably why he drifted out of Orthodoxy in the past four years and into Renewal, a place with loose enough standards to take someone with his history.
 
After he sexually abused this 16 yo Judy girl in JPSY a couple of times (and after that she turned him down), he hounded her for about a year.  He went on a preemptive strike against her.  He tried to destroy her life. He spread rumors that she was crazy. That she had a crush on him. That she was trying to destroy him.
 
Judy told her story to rabbi Shlomo Riskin. He chose to believe rabbi Gafni instead and discounted her story. Rabbi Riskin told her to stop bothering the good rabbi Gafni.
 
Judy told one of her counselors in JPSY, Susan. She confronted Rabbi Gafni. He tried to seduce her.  She was appalled and rejected him.
 
A Beit Din was convenened in New York. Winiarz was told to quit his job and move from New York to some unsuspecting community and make a new life (that was how these things were handled until recently).
 
Around 1984, Rabbi Gafni had problems with the IRS.
 
Rabbi Gafni moved to Boca Raton around 1985. He did a great job in outreach. He was charismatic. He touched people deeply with Torah and other things. He built up the community (Boca Raton synagogue) that rabbi Kenneth Brander is leaving for YU. Rabbi Brander inherited the community from Mordecai in 1987.
 
Rabbi Gafni left the Boca Raton community suddenly. There were rumors that he'd had an affair with a married woman. There were a string of sexual allegations against him. He had to pick up in the middle of the night and move to Israel (and then took on the name Mordecai Gafni).
 
Before the scandal broke, he was considering moving back to New York to run for Congress going into politics. The guy is obsessed with power.
 
He also wanted to become a television anchor man. He knew he spoke well and he was just looking for ways to put his face before a lot of people.
 
He kept a scrapbook with clippings from every article he was in.
 
He kept coming up with various schemes for getting the most love.
 
There was a wealthy Jew in Boca Raton, the late Jerry Hahn, a big Aish Ha Torah donor who loved Winiarz
 
Gafni took the three day Aish Ha Torah Discovery seminar around 1987. He then went into the office and took all the original Discovery files. A week later, Rabbi Gafni started teaching the Discovery seminar in Israel.
 
Rabbi Gafni was confronted on this. He said to Aish -- you guys don't own this. It's Torah. Anybody can teach it.
 
Rabbi Gafni went around and taught the Discovery seminar for a year month or two. He was a great teacher.  He started parroting the teachings of Aish Ha Torah founder Rabbi Noach Weinberg. Rabbi Weinberg, when he found out, was amused.
 
Rabbi Gafni decided to follow Rabbi Riskin's blueprint of becoming chief rabbi of his own town. Rabbi Riskin became chief rabbi of Efrat by creating his own town with his own community.
 
In Israel, to become a rabbi of a city, it takes a lot of political savvy and support. If you wanted to become the rabbi of Jerusalem, you'd have to hire a PR firm and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and have major support in political places. Major Torah scholarship won't be enough to make it happen.
 
Rabbi Gafni cut a deal with the contractor so he could become the rabbi of Beit Tzufim.
 
He got a job in the Israeli city of Kfar Saba. Every fourth Shabbatot, he was the guest rabbi. People loved him. He was charismatic. He made friends.
 
One man approached him for help with his 22 year-old daughter. She needed counseling. She was dating a guy the father considered inappropriate. Mordecai agreed to counsel her.
 
He shaved off his beard. He got up in front of the synagogue and said he had found the woman of his dreams. He was leaving the rabbinate. He was leaving his wife. He was going to spend the rest of his life with this 22yo.
 
His second marriage came to an end. The father of the 22 year old went berserk. He contacted the Chief Rabbi's office and filed a complaint.
 
Mordy's relationship with the 22yo broke up quickly.
 
Mordy left the rabbinate for about a year.  Rabbi Shlomo Riskin was still in Mordy's corner.
 
At this point, around 1992, no American or Israeli institution would take Rabbi Gafni. So Mordecai Gafni left for Australia. Rabbi Riskin had funding there. Rabbi Riskin wanted to spread his empire to Australia.
 
Rabbi Gafni was caught in some obvious lies and his credibility down under was shot.
 
Rabbi Gafni has no contact with his child from his first marriage. He has three kids from his second marriage. He's now married for five years in his third marriage and I don't think he has any kids this time around.
 
Mark Belzberg hired Mordy (they'd known each other from high school, Mark was a surrogate older brother for Mordecai) as a software salesman. Mark had a business partner, a wealthy lawyer baal teshuva who moved to Israel. He's reported that Mordecai used the company credit card for all kinds of immoral things on business trips (that he was made to pay back out of his own pocket).
 
Mordy walked into this guy's office and said he wanted to be president. The guy said Mordy would have to buy him out (Mordy doesn't have any money). The guy went away on a business trip for three weeks. He finds out that Mordecai Gafni had told everybody that he was president. So Belzberg's partner fired him on the spot.
 
Mordecai couldn't stay away from teaching Torah. He couldn't stay away from the limelight. Rabbi Riskin helped Mordecai get a job around 1996 with Rabbi David Aaron from Israel (Isralight).
 
Rabbi Aaron's web site uses a promo from that litigious, and in my opinion, nogoodnik Deepak Chopra (who successfully sued the Weekly Standard and the New York Post for saying he patronized hookers): "Inspirational, wise, warm and witty... David Aaron gives us a down to earth understanding of the Kabbalah, revealing the secrets to living a soulful, happy, and more meaningful life."
 
Rabbi Gafni had one or two flings with his Isralight students. Rabbi David Aaron won't speak about it. Rabbi Gafni got fired from Isralight.
 
He got a job with a group called Milah (Jerusalem Institute for Education). He became high profile in Jerusalem around 1998. He got fired because of money and power issues.
 
(A source writes: "Milah was an adult education ulpan for Americans and ethiopians who finished the regular ulpan and were still not comfortable in Hebrew. Gafni used this role as head of the organization, not to teach Hebrew, but to teach his theories of pagan Judaism and a parashat hashavua class.")
 
A rabbinical student at Hebrew University around this time had a moral dilemma. He worked for a famous rabbi as a research assistant. "I listen to tapes of other well-known rabbis. I write them up for him. Then he gives over their classes."
 
It was obvious the student worked for Rabbi Mordecai Gafni.
 
So whose tapes was he stealing these days? Rabbi Noach Weinberg among others.
 
Rabbi Gafni would often give over the teachings of other rabbis word-for-word, without attribution.
There was an eccentric, a Yaakov Fogelman, a Harvard-educated lawyer, who ran around the old city of Jerusalem. He swore by Mordecai. He publicized whenever Mordecai would speak. He thought Mordecai was a genius. 'He's the most brilliant educator of the past 500 years. I heard Soleveitchik. I heard this rabbi and that.'
 
So what genius things did Mordecai say? Yaakov would quote something that Mordy had stolen from some other rabbi.
Mordecai has great taste. He knows how to steal things from great people.
Another man had a moral dilemma. His wife had moved to Israel two months before him. He suspected that she had had an affair with a rabbi. Guess who he suspected of cuckolding him?
 
A lot of high profile Orthodox rabbis (until this Gary Rosenblatt article) did not know that Marc Winiarz was Mordecai Gafni. His name change worked. He succeeded in reinventing himself.
 
In the past four years, Rabbi Gafni had developed an effective new strategy of admitting he did some bad things when he was a kid. Confession gains credibility. "I've done teshuva. I have a good marriage. There are people who are stalking me." He turns the accusations around.
 
A healthy baal teshuva is one who can forgive himself for his sins. In this sense, Marc is very healthy. A part of me admires him for everything he's been able to get away with, like the Tom Hanks crook in Catch Me If You Can.
 
Rabbi Gafni is great at identifying people with big money. And what they believe, he will believe and preach. He's a purported TV star in Israel. It's paid television. He's paying (or his backers are paying, such Shari Arison, then the richest resident of Israel) for him to be on TV. It's like 6 a.m. for three minutes.
 
For a while, Rabbi Gafni defined himself as post-denominational. Let others fight these petty fights between Reform and Orthodox. Rabbi Gafni is beyond such things.
 
According to the recent Haaretz profile, it sounds like Rabbi Gafni's latest theology comes straight from the Da Vinci Code -- the best-selling novel that claimed that ancient Christianity believed in two divinities, Jesus and Mary. In Rabbi Gafni's enlightened theology, he claims the Jews have gotten rid of the erotic and chased away the female deity. He makes his brachot using the name of the shekhina to re-unite the male and female sides of God.
 
My sources tell me that the Master of the Universe mightily appreciates Rabbi Gafni's good works in this respect, and the Holy One, Blessed Be He and She, feels much more united and whole since Rabbi Gafni adjusted his brachot.
 
And what's a few molestations by Gafni compared to the Almighty's wholeness? Shall we talk of the things of girls or of the things of G-d?
 
Rabbi Gafni is mighty different in private than in public. In public, he's full of love and cheer and performance. In private, he curses and talks like a slob.
 
Rabbi Gafni is a terrific actor, and for that, I salute him.
 
I am, however, skeptical of his claims of credentials.
 
I believe that one of Gafni's biggest financial supporters is Israeli Jacob Davidson, whose wife (active in the protest group Women at the Wall) tried to get acceptance to Yeshiva University to become a rabbi.
 
In November, 2004, rabbi Gafni spoke in a tent in the Modern Orthodox German colony in Jerusalem. Gafni was surrounded by girls as he spoke about erotic Judaism. A source says that Gafni looks like a cult leader.  He now wears long hair.  He looks like a hippie.



Bayit Chadash
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, Spiritual Director
http://www.bayitchadash.org/staff.shtml
 
Reb Gafni is the Rosh Bayit of Bayit Chadash. His primary affiliations include being a Visiting Fellow at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and Senior Scholar at the Melitz Educational Institution. Additionally, Reb Gafni was a fellow at the Oriental Institute of Oxford University, he is currently completing the writing of a commentary on the Hasidic text "Mei Ha'Shiloach." Reb Gafni serves as a contributing editor to the American Tikkun magazine, a bimonthly journal critiquing politics, culture and society from a Jewish perspective. He is also a contributing editor of Chayim Acherim, Israel's leading spirituality magazine.
Together with colleagues, Reb Gafni is developing a new school of Jewish thought which is coming to be called "The School of Personal Myth". This proposes a marked shift from national to personal myth as the center of Jewish consciousness. Reb Gafni is reformulating and extending the core constructs of Post-Lurianic thought in a modern Neo-Hasidic context. Also the host and creator of a highly acclaimed national Israeli television program on ethics and spirituality, Reb Gafni's work has deservedly earned him the reputation as a modern philosopher: wise, deep, compassionate, accessible, and universal.
 
His English book, Soul Prints: Your Path to Fulfillment was released by Pocket Books in 2001 and is accompanied by a national PBS Special of the same title. The book is a best seller and is now being translated into numerous languages. In Hebrew, his two volume set of New Jewish Thought -entitled Certainty and Uncertainty is published by Modan Publishers. Written in collaboration with Ohad Ezrachi, Lilith and Sacred Feminism is slated for release in 2005. The Mystery of Love was also recently released in English in the spring of 2003 by Atria books. Reb Gafni is married to Chaya Kaplan, his full partner in all endeavors, and he is the father of Eytan and Yair.



Bayit Chadash - About Us
Archived page of http://www.bayitchadash.org/board.shtml


 


________________________________________

Board of Directors and Founders - Bayit Chadash
Founders
http://www.bayitchadash.org/staff.shtml
 
  • Jacob Ner-David - Board Chairperson. Social activist and entrepreneur.
  • Avraham Leader - Melamed-in-Residence. One of the founders of "Amiqa d'Bira" (also known as "The Leader Minyan"). Currently studies, teaches, and translates.
  • Haviva Ner-David - Educational Director,  Author, feminist activist, teacher, and scholar.
  • Rabbi Mordechai Gafni - Rosh Bayit. Student, Rebbe, author, and scholar. 
 
Board of Directors - US
http://www.bayitchadash.org/board.shtml
  • Rabbi Mordechai Gafni - Spiritual Director
  • Jacob Ner-David - International Chair
  • Suzy Rogovin - Israel Chair
  • Metuka Benjamin - U.S. Chair
  • Marcia Wexberg - Treasurer
  • Neil Markowitz - Secretary/U.S. Coordinator 
 
Board Members at Large
Yosef Abramowitz, Alex Abrams, Michael Appel. Bruce Arbit, Erica Fox, Sam Fried, Jon Friedenberg, Stephen Friedlander, David Friedman, Chaya Gafni, Tamar Geller, Rabbi Micah Greenstein, Robert Jaffe, Gary Kaplan, Cheryl Kaplan, Avraham Leader, Jessica Korn Leibowitz, David Kunin, Patti Niehoff, Bradley Rauch, Shridhar Steven Silberfein, Barbara Silverman, Devin Sper, Rabbi Michael Zedek
 
Board of Advisors
Rabbi Daniel Abrams, Rabbi William Berk, Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein, Zivit Davidovitch, Martha Doty, Rabbi Leonid Feldman, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Rabbi Arthur Green, Dr. Admiel Kosman, Arthur Kurzweil, Rabbi Rolando Matalon, Doctor Daniel Matt, Doctor Hannah Matt, Dr. Peter Pitzele, Chava Rimon, Rabbi Jeff Roth, Rabbi Joe Schonwald, R Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbi Daniel Siegel, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Rabbi Avi Weiss, Elie Wurtman



Domestic News
195 words, BOCA RATON, Fla.
The Associated Press - August 17, 1987, Monday, PM cycle,


 
Rock News & Notes, This Elvis Rellica ain't Nothing But a Sound Doll
Daily News of Los Angeles (CA) - August 21, 1987
 
Elvis Presley sang of his desire to be a teddy bear, but the late rock legend will have to settle for being a battery-operated doll. Starr Associates of Greenvale, N.Y., will market a 20-inch replica of the King in his famous white, rhinestone-studded jumpsuit and mounted on a sound stage. The doll, which is being marketed as "Elvis in Concert," features multicolored lights that flash as a built-in cassette player plays one of Elvis' original RCA gold records with "true...
Complete Article, of 682 words



Morning News Pop/Rock
Los Angeles Times - August 18, 1987
http://jewishwhistleblower.blogspot.com/2005/01/rabbi-mordechai-gafni-series-part-3.html#comments
 
Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press Entertainment Desk
 
An Orthodox rabbi in Boca Raton, Fla., is reaching out to young people in an unorthodox way--with rock 'n' roll. Mordechai Winyarz, 26, paid New York songwriter Lenny Solomon $30,000 to write songs with contemporary Jewish themes and hired young Jewish musicians to perform and record an album for $12,000. The album, "Jewish Pride," set for release Sept. 1, includes a rap song "Rappin' Jewish" written by Danny Furst. A sample of the lyrics:
 
La-die-doo, I'm a Jew 'cause I think it's cool
Yeah, I eat kosher meat 'cause I ain't no fool
Ask me anything you want to, but I will repeat
I say being Jewish makes me groove to the beat.


True colors It's kosher!
The San Diego Union - August 18, 1987
 
Dead days Wed head Couch potato alert
So you think Lt. Col. Oliver North is a hero? Fine. Color him red, white and blue. Or maybe you're sure he's a crook. That's OK, too. You can give him fangs and facial hair if it will make you feel better.  In fact, you can do whatever you want with Ollie North -- now that he's got his own coloring book. Although it is just getting to bookstores this week, Mort Drucker's "The Ollie North Coloring Book" already is in its third printing because 200,000 copies...


Rabbi's Rap Sings Praises of Judaism - Jewish Rap
Sun-Sentinel - August 28, 1987
By Carol Brzozowski, Staff Writer
 
Imagine hearing a Jewish rap song to the beat of ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch, boom, ch-ch boom.
Imagine it played full blast from the stereos of the cars of Jewish teens as they cruise around town.
An Orthodox rabbi from Boca Raton is content in imagining that. He helped to make the album on which the song appears.
 
Imagine that!
 
Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz, a freshly ordained transplant from New York and the first rabbi for the newly established Boca Raton Synagogue, is in the sanctuary, playing the music at full volume, making motions with his hands as if he were beating on drums.
 
The album, Jewish Pride, is scheduled to be released on Tuesday in Palm Beach County and then in New York.
 
''This is going to have an impact!'' he exclaimed. ''Take cantorial music and throw it out the window!''
Later, Winyarz conceded that he liked cantorial music, but added that he thinks it cannot reach out to young Jews the way modern music can, if set to ''Jewish'' lyrics.
 
''I like cantorial music, but it doesn't express Jewish pride in the '80s,'' Winyarz said. ''Ritual expression is critical, but it's not the end-all. If it doesn't create a certain kind of person, a certain kind of society, then what is ritual for?''
 
To know a bit about Winyarz' history is to understand why an Orthodox rabbi would be backing a project to reach out to unaffiliated Jews through rock music.
 
Winyarz, 26, was responsible for initiating an outreach into New York schools. He would walk into a school holding a shofar -- the ram's horn used in sacred services -- and would recruit any Jewish child into his youth programs who recognized the shofar.
 
He became the second rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue, leaving behind the program in New York after building it into a host of youth groups with a budget of $500,000.
 
The album was done through the cooperation of JPSY, an acronym for Jewish Public School Youth, a program Winyarz initiated in New York. Winyarz and his small group of musicians scouted for young Jewish musicians to perform on the album.
 
The group worked six hours during the weekdays from midnight to 6 a.m. for two weeks at Eastside Sound Studio in New York.
 
In making the album, Winyarz convinced Lenny Solomon, an accountant, to go into Jewish rock music full time.
 
''His mother is real thrilled,'' Winyarz said, tongue in cheek. Solomon has dropped his job to lead the organization's musical outreach program.
 
Not every song on Jewish Pride is the type that's only understood when played full-blast from an oversized radio. Some have the traditional Hebrew folk music beat. Some talk of familiar themes in Judaism.
 
Minyan Man is about a group of nine Jewish men in search of a 10th man to have a minyan, the ''quorum'' needed to conduct Jewish worship.
 
The title song is Jewish Pride.
 
Winyarz said that the album is a pioneering one in Jewish music, and representatives of national Jewish music organizations say they can't argue one way or another.
 
Although he concedes that Jewish music has been ''updated'' with every generation, the rabbi said the album is a first in its combination of a variety of modern styles and its use of Jewish messages for lyrics.
 
He hopes it will start a trend such as the one Christians began in the 1960s with religious rock music, featuring such musicians as Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman and Amy Grant.
 
Winyarz will introduce the album through Jewish cultural radio programs and in Jewish book and record stores, but he has his eyes set on secular radio as well.
 
''This is religious music, there's no question about it,'' Winyarz said of Jewish Pride.
 
Jews' pride in themselves is shrinking, Winyarz says. He said that many Jews are ''trying to be WASP-y'' in an attempt to cover their Jewish heritage, following the cue of their parents who have done so in order to assimilate.
 
''We're saying, 'Don't do that. Chuck it,''' Winyarz said. ''The 11th commandment of a Jew in America has been, 'Thou shalt melt (into the melting pot).'
 
''We've ... been comfortable in our Judaism and pay lip service to Judaism. Our direction is complete confrontation -- in the most positive way.''
 
Winyarz figures that confrontation is done best through music.
 
The lyrics from Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz' new Jewish rap song, Rappin' Jewish, which is on his album Jewish Pride.
 
''La-die-do I'm a Jew 'cause I think it's cool
Yeah I eat kosher meat 'cause I ain't no fool
Ask me anything you want to but I will repeat
I say being Jewish makes me groove to the beat.
Got a son who's a doctor, a daughter who's a lawyer
My wife teaches English and reads Tom Sawyer
Each morning I sit at my breakfast table
Eatin' 'filte fish with lox and bagels.
I'm a Jewish man been all over the map
That's why I'm singing my Jewish rap
Y'see I've been rappin' since the age of three
When my home boys rocked across the Red Sea.
Chorus: Jewish Pride keeps ya going strong
Makes our people last real long
So don't ignore what comes from inside
Let it grow, 'cause it's Jewish Pride.''



Rabbi To Mark Papal Visit By Walking A Picket Line
by Dexter Filkins - Herald Staff Writer
The Miami Herald (FL) - September 10, 1987
 
When Pope John Paul II meets with Jewish leaders Friday, Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz will greet him, but not like everyone else. Instead of waving and cheering, the rabbi will shout and walk a picket line -- in the uniform of a concentration camp survivor.
 
Winyarz, who will join 15 other rabbis in the Miami International Airport protest, has some questions for the pontiff, and he wants them answered:
 
Why did the pope meet with and praise Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, the former Nazi? Why was the Vatican silent during the Holocaust, when six million Jews perished? Why does the Vatican refuse to open formal diplomatic relations with Israel? Why did the pope embrace the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, whose group is dedicated to the destruction of Israel?
Winyarz said he is not angry; just suspicious, and driven.
 
"The pope is playing on both sides of the fence," said Winyarz, 26, rabbi of the orthodox Boca Raton Synagogue. "This is not pope-bashing. I just want to know where he really stands."
 
To find out, Winyarz and others will don concentration camp uniforms and get as close as they can to the pope when he lands. Tonight, the group will lecture on "the history of church anti- Semitism" outside the Omni Hotel, where the pope and several Catholic leaders will gather. And when Jewish leaders meet John Paul II Friday at the Cultural Arts Center, Winyarz will be outside.
 
"It is important that the Jewish leaders are there," Winyarz said. "But it is just as important that we are there to let our leaders know that there is a constituency outside."
 
To the rabbi, the pope is wading in murky moral waters. Past actions of the church and the pope, he said, raise the specter of anti-Semitism, and as the spiritual leader of 900 million Roman Catholics, the pope is obliged to put the questions to rest.
 
"(Yassar) Arafat's methodology is killing women and children. Waldheim is a documented Nazi," said Winyarz, whose mother survived the Holocaust. "What does that say when the pope welcomes these men and embraces them?"
 
For Winyarz, the heart of the matter is whether the church is anti-Semitic. On this, Winyarz is undecided, but he asserts that some actions -- such as the Vatican's refusal to recognize Israel -- suggest that it is.
 
"The recognition of Israel is, I think, a theological problem," Winyarz said. "The church used to teach that the Jews, as the killers of Christ, are condemned to eternal damnation."
 
What could Pope John Paul do to placate Winyarz? Simple, said the rabbi:
 
Recognize Israel, repudiate Arafat and Waldheim and explain the Vatican's behavior during the Holocaust.
 
Winyarz doesn't think that will happen, but to him, the pope must know. The rabbi does not claim to speak for his congregation, but he is certain that many Jews share his views, and that he won't be ostracized.
 
"We all have to take the path that our consciences dictate," Winyarz said. "I don't think my fellow Jews will be offended by that."
 
Caption: photo: RABBI Mordechai Winyarz
 


Promised Protests Fall Flat Amid Festivities
Miami Herald, The (FL) - September 11, 1987
by LUIS FELDSTEIN SOTO And RODRIGO LAZO Herald Staff Writers
 
The traffic, a sudden illness and the sheer joy of a papal visit all took blame Thursday for dampening -- and in some cases washing out -- a series of demonstrations by TWA flight attendants, AIDS activists and Mariel refugees.
 
The day's loudest demonstration, an afternoon of sign waving and fund raising for AIDS victims, drew as many journalists as protesters, 75 of each. And only a handful of out-of-work TWA flight attendants turned out to protest the pontiff's use of TWA jets during his 10-day visit to America.
"We had a party and nobody came," said Sonny Wax, an organizer of the Cure AIDS Now demonstration at Vizcaya. "I'm very unhappy. With all the work we put into it, all the days and weeks, nobody came out."
 
"If someone had told Martin Luther King to give up when he only had a handful of people, we wouldn't have the civil rights act," said TWA flight attendant Sherry Cooper, who said the fear of traffic kept other attendants at home.
 
The biggest surprise -- and biggest relief to police -- was the daylong calm at clinics that perform abortions. After weeks of threatened pickets and sit-ins, a national anti-abortion group called off its plans Wednesday.
 
The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, local spokesman for We Will Stand Up, claimed there was no need for protests because Miami would be "abortion-free" during the pope's two-day visit. He said Metro and Miami police confirmed that clinics would either close or not perform abortions during the pope's visit.
 
Spokesmen for the two police agencies said later that they made no such guarantees. They said only that an informal, incomplete survey of clinics found no evidence of abortions scheduled.
Even so, Mahoney said that was good enough for his group. Instead of demonstrating, We Will Stand Up decided to unfurl a 40-foot, anti-abortion banner near the airport. But the banner didn't appear when the pope passed through the airport.
 
A group of Cuban exiles, who planned to call for the release of Mariel refugees held in U.S. prisons, canceled its protest at the last minute. The mother of one of the group's leaders had suffered a stroke, one member said.
 
The most successful protest occurred hours before the pope arrived. At 8 a.m., nine hard-line rabbis danced, recited psalms and blew three ram's horns -- known as shofars -- in a call for "true dialogue" between Catholics and Jews.
 
The rabbis strongly criticized last week's Rome meeting between John Paul II and nine Jewish leaders, saying the pope "ducked the issues," said Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz of Boca Raton. The rabbis recited a litany of beefs against the pope -- his audience with Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, his refusal to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, his "old charges of the Jew being a Christ-killer," Winyarz said.
 
Caption: photo: Bob Klein sets up tombstones in aids protest (JOHN PAUL TRIP MIAMI*)


"Never Again!' Pope Says Holocaust Condemned in Talk to Jewish Leaders
Sun-Sentinel - September 12, 1987
By James D. Davis, Religion Editor
 
MIAMI -- Pope John Paul II, in a major address on Catholic-Jewish relations, gave his clearest statement thus far that Jews were the primary targets of the Holocaust.
 
The pontiff, in a historic speech Friday to 175 national and South Florida Jewish leaders at the Center for the Fine Arts, passionately called the World War II Nazi slaughter a ''ruthless and inhuman attempt to exterminate the Jewish people ... only because they were Jews.''
 
The remark was an apparent attempt to allay Jewish fears that the Vatican was trying to ''universalize'' the Holocaust and play down its special victimization of Jews. Many Jews have voiced concern that such an approach might make Catholics less sensitive to anti-Semitism.
 
The statements were the ''first time any Vatican official has said it with such clarity,'' said Burton Levinson, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, in a news conference afterward.
 
In his second summit-style meeting with Jewish leaders in a week and a half -- the first was at Castel Gandolfo, his summer home in Italy -- the pope pledged to have his church fight bigotry, teach positive Jewish images in Catholic schools, and explore the historical roots of anti-Semitism.
 
As for the Holocaust horrors, ''Never again!'' he vowed, to spontaneous applause, the only time his address was so interrupted. The phrase has become a standard rallying cry for world Jewry.
 
The pope also defended Pope Pius XII, who reigned during World War II, against charges that he remained silent during the Holocaust.
 
Pope John Paul II said he was ''convinced that history will reveal more clearly and convincingly how deeply Pius XII felt the tragedy of the Jewish people, and how hard and effectively he worked to assist them.''
 
The pontiff spoke on a raised dais in the center, eye-level with Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, head of a group that keeps in touch with Vatican officials. It was a symbolic departure from the pope's usual raised throne.
 
In his own talk, Waxman mentioned ''recent tendencies to obscure the fact that Jews were the major target of Nazi genocidal policies.'' However, he also said Jewish-Catholic talks are ''one of this century's most positive developments.''
 
The delegates were a cross-section of mainstream Jewry. They represented the Synagogue Council of America, an umbrella of most U.S. Jewish groups; and the interdenominational American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress and Anti-Defamation League.
 
The Catholic side included several Vatican cardinals, including its secretaries of state, education and interfaith relations. Also present were Archbishop Pio Laghi, the Vatican's ambassador to the United States, and four American cardinals.
 
A small group of people demonstrated outside the Spanish-style center. The protesters, some wearing concentration camp garb, waved Israeli flags and placards with slogans such as ''Arafat, Waldheim, what next?''
 
The protest was over an audience granted by the pontiff on June 25 to Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, who has denied accusations that he helped deport Jews and partisans when when he was a German army officer in World War II, and one granted in 1982 to Palestinian guerrilla leader Yasser Arafat.
 
In his address, the pope made no reference to the Waldheim affair, which Waxman said still causes ''pain and distress.'' But the pontiff told reporters on the trip from Rome that it had been his duty to meet Waldheim, since he came ''as a president, democratically elected, of a people, of a nation.''
Although the pope said the Jewish people ''have a right to a homeland,'' the delegates greeted with stony silence his assertion that this ''also applies to the Palestinian people, so many of whom remain homeless and refugees.'' Delegates were only slightly more receptive when he mentioned the ''state of Israel,'' with which the Vatican still has not exchanged ambassadors.
 
The response was warmer when the pontiff said that the suffering of Israel's children reminds the church of its common bond with the Jewish people. It was a clear theological rationale for making Holocaust studies a Catholic priority.
 
The pope repeated his announcement of last week that he was planning a major document on the Holocaust. He also reminded the listeners of a Jewish-Catholic workshop on the significance of the Holocaust, set for December in Washington, D.C. He said it would explore ''religious and historical implications of the Shoah'' for both faiths. ''Shoah,'' which means ''destruction,'' is the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.
 
Rabbi Waxman's talk was more specific, urging more attention to ''the Christian roots of anti-Semitism.'' He said the Holocaust was the climax of centuries of bigotry ''for which Christian teachings bear a heavy responsibility.''
 
Waxman voiced Jewish concern at the lack of full Vatican diplomatic relations for Israel, a matter that many Jews take as a lack of Catholic understanding of what Israel means to them. The Jewish state often is called a last refuge for persecuted Jews worldwide.
 
''Obviously, the differences have not been resolved,'' Waxman said. But he acknowledged a Vatican promise to keep in closer touch with Jewish leaders on actions that might affect them.
''We live in an historic moment. The last quarter-century has irreversibly changed the way we perceive and act towards each other,'' Waxman said.
 
But even among the mainstream Jewish groups, there were signs of divisions. An Orthodox rabbinical group boycotted the Friday dialogue because the previous talks failed to mention the Holocaust and recognition of Israel.
 
The Orthodox group also forbade Synagogue Council president Gilbert Klaperman to read the main statement to the pope Friday. Waxman, a Conservative, got the job instead.
 
Klaperman came to the meeting, anyway, because ''I felt the process is important and that it must continue.'' Saying that the church had specifically acknowledged Jewish anger, he said the dialogue now must get beyond that.
 
Caption: (Papal pool photo/BRIAN SMITH)Umbrellas shield Pope John Paul II during a rainy Mass that was cut short on Friday in Tamiami Park.
 
Pontiff listens as Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, of Great Neck, N.Y., a leader of the (Staff photo: Robert Azmitia) Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz of Coalition for Concerned Zionist Activists protests meeting with Jewish leaders. PHOTOS (2, One Color)


 
2 Rabbis Impressed By Pope
Sun-Sentinel - September 18, 1987
By Carol Brzozowski, Staff Writer
http://jewishwhistleblower.blogspot.com/2005/01/rabbi-mordechai-gafni-series-part-4.html#comments
 
South Palm Beach County rabbis who attended Pope John Paul II's meeting with Jewish leaders say they are encouraged by the dialogue and add that they will participate in plans for increasing dialogue between local Catholics and Jews.
 
''It was heartwarming,'' Rabbi Sam Silver said of the meeting. ''It is part of the process of strengthening the bond between Jews and Catholics. I was impressed by the pope. No person of Catholic faith can now sink into bigotry without knowing how their leader feels.''
 
Silver, of Temple Sinai in Delray Beach, was one of two south county rabbis selected by the Archdiocese of Miami to attend the pope's meeting Sept. 11 with Jewish leaders.
 
The meeting was jeopardized following the pontiff's audience with Austrian President Kurt Walheim, accused of participating in Nazi war crimes against Jews. But even before the pope arrived in the United States, many Jews had decided to go on with the meeting in Miami.
 
''I believe it was a moment of spiritual reconciliation,'' said Rabbi Merle Singer of Temple Beth El in Boca Raton, who also was present at the meeting.
 
''The pope called for an understanding of our diverse ways and a respect for the integrity of various religions. He called on Jews to understand his motives and reasons for talking with the president of Austria and we called upon the pope to understand the Jewish community's sensibilities regarding his meeting with a member of the Nazi party.
 
''His remarks spoke of the joint responsibility the Jewish and Christian community have in righting the social wrongs of our time.''
 
Silver and Singer agree that is unrealistic of those analyzing the meeting to expect that the pope would have made an official announcement of recognition of the state of Israel during his whirlwind tour of the U.S.
 
But both say the pope's statements set the groundwork for what they feel will be an eventual establishment of Vatican diplomatic relations with Israel.
 
Silver was especially encouraged by the speech of Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, the Vatican's top interfaith officer, presented at an interfaith dinner Sept. 10 at the Omni Hotel in Miami.
 
Willebrand ''elaborated at great length on the fact that these contacts precipitated by the Waldheim encounter will continue to produce a number of documents (from the Vatican),'' Silver said.
 
''The reaction against the pope on the meeting involved not only protests from the Jewish community, but from Catholics as well, including bishops,'' he said. ''I'm quite confident the Vatican will establish ties with the state of Israel.''
 
Singer said the meeting ''did not soften any negative feelings in the Jewish community'' among those who boycotted the meeting.
 
''But that's their agenda,'' he said. ''I feel the appropriate agenda is to open the door for dialogue; not to stand on a street corner and protest.''
 
While Singer was in the meeting, another Boca Raton rabbi, Mordechai Winyarz, stood on the street corner to protest on behalf of an organization he chairs, the Center for Justice.
 
Winyarz said he is not against participating in dialogues with Catholics, but would not do so under the conditions of last week's meeting, which he said was ''theatrics'' and not a session of ''true conversation.''
 
He pointed out that the speech of the Jews' spokesperson, Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, had to be submitted to the Vatican prior to its delivery last week, which Winyarz called ''censorship.''
 
Winyarz also criticized the pope for ''ignoring the Waldheim issue'' and called the pope's comments ''ambiguous.''
 
There already are signs of the meeting having an impact in South Florida, which has the second-largest Jewish population in the United States and is home to one of the largest Catholic populations in the country.
 
''The relations here are improving through that remarkable school, St. Vincent de Paul,'' Silver said, referring to the Catholic seminary west of Boynton Beach. ''They've offered lectures and meetings and I've spoken there as a representative of the Jewish community.
 
''Bishop (Thomas) Daily couldn't be more amicable. He's already sponsored dialogues in the cathedral between Catholic and Jewish leaders.''
 
Singer said he has met with Monsignor John McMahon, pastor of St. Joan of Arc parish and vicar for social services for the Diocese of Palm Beach, to prepare a program of dialogues on Jewish-Catholic relations.
 
A joint Catholic-Jewish statement released prior to the papal visit expressed encouragement over the meeting, while recognizing ''that there continues to exist mutual unresolved problems and prejudices.''
The statement acknowledged an ''environment of mutual respect'' in the local community and called for measures to continue fostering that environment.



Controversial Rabbi Starts Jewish Outreach Organization
The Palm Beach Post - January 5, 1989
An Orthodox rabbi whose activist style has sometimes made him the center of controversy is starting a Jewish outreach organization with classes and other programs designed to draw more people into Jewish life. Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz will kick off the new enterprise, called the Center for Jewish Living, with a lecture at 7:30 tonight at Spanish River High School, 5100 Jog Road, in Boca Raton. "What we're offering is real Jewish exposure to real Jewish ideas which make a...
Complete Article, of 417 words



Rabbi Urges "Revolution" In Values Winyarz's Controversial Speech Part of Classes
The Palm Beach Post - January 6, 1989
Nothing less than a "revolution" will stir south county Jewry out of complacency and into a life devoted to Judaism, Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz said Thursday night. Speaking to about 250 people at Spanish River High School, Winyarz said: "To my mind, there is no greater tragedy than South Florida. . . . We'd like to start a revolution of Torah values." Winyarz, who left the pulpit of the Orthodox Boca Raton Synagogue last year amid differences with...
Complete Article, of 436 words



Boca Rabbi Accepts Job On West Bank
The Palm Beach Post - July 22, 1989
http://www.palmbeachpost.com/
An Orthodox rabbi whose activist style won both friends and enemies among local Jews has accepted a religious post in the Middle East.

Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz, 28, said he will leave in September or October for a two-year post as rabbi of Zufim, a Jewish settlement on the West Bank.

The new community is on the western edge of the occupied territory, about 2 miles east of the Israeli city of Kefar Sava. Winyarz said the community has only 10 families now, but has plans for about...
Complete Article, of 322 words



The New Orthodoxy: The New Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue Expects to Make Waves
Sun-Sentinel - July 24, 1987
By Carol Brzozowski, Staff Writer
The name Mordechai Winyarz may not ring a bell in Palm Beach County yet.
But as the Orthodox rabbi settles into his new position as the first full-time rabbi for the Boca Raton Synagogue, he has hopes of being a ''clanging cymbal'' for God.
Winyarz, 26, just may do that. If he were a Christian, his style would be called evangelical.
Winyarz immediately is forthright about his lifestyle, should there be any questions on the topic: ''I'll be making about $40,000 to $44,000, I drive a 1984 Topaz and I own eight suits.''
Winyarz has come from New York to the fledgling Boca Raton Synagogue, the only Orthodox synagogue in Boca Raton, and one of three in Palm Beach county.
Its construction is the bloodline for the Orthodox body. Orthodox Jews walk to the synagogue on the Sabbath and its construction has made it easier for the Jews to worship.
''People were moving here because they knew we were here,'' said Dr. Gary Lieber, a spokesman and founding member of the synagogue.
Just a few weeks into his position, Winyarz is making plans in an effort to get involved. He is constantly on the telephone, talking with religious and secular community leaders. On the drawing board is a plan for some type of ''demonstration'' in regards to the papal visit.
''Judaism has got to be a moral and social force,'' Winyarz said. ''Not just to make pronouncements, but to become involved.''
''We were looking for someone to shake the bushes, to make the synagogue a dynamic place,'' Lieber said of the search for a rabbi. ''We're looking to make the congregation the Jewish center in south county. With a mouthpiece like him, we want to let people know we're here. We've essentially done the groundwork.''
Winyarz ambitiously speaks of a few of his plans, one of which is to create a national Jewish retreat center on the synagogue's property.
''Why not?'' he said. ''The assumption is that everything operates out of New York. (Studies show) there are 75,000 Jews in Palm Beach County.''
Yet South County Jewish Federation studies also show that the affiliation rate of local Jews is 13 percent, half the national average.
''Boca in general is extremely materialistic and completely self-involved,'' Winyarz said in interpreting the statistics.
''Younger people come to Florida to escape and be unaffiliated.''
Winyarz said he doesn't condemn the acquisition of material goods and adds that Hebrew scriptures show that God created the world and the world is to be enjoyed.
As a spiritual leader, Winyarz said he will attempt to guide his congregation into emphasizing aspects of life that transcend material goods.
''So you've got the Porsche, the pool and the boat. What happens when you die? What do you have then? What did life mean? There must be a purpose to life. Living a meaningful existence is more pleasurable than owning a Porsche.''
Thus, the synagogue becomes what he calls the ''pleasure center.''
Winyarz did not say how much membership in the synagogue will cost, but said, ''Any Jew can come to High Holy Days even if they can't pay. And no Jew ever will be turned away for lack of funds -- ever, ever.''
Although the Boca Raton synagogue structure is complete, Winyarz said there is still more work to do on the inside and the work that is being planned will introduce some new twists on established ideas.
For instance, men and women are seated separately in Orthodox synagogues and typically women are out of the sight of the men, either behind a screen or in the back of the synagogue.
Plans for Boca Raton Synagogue (the word ''Orthodox'' is intentionally omitted) still separate men and women, but women are not out of sight. Structurally, the synagogue is in a semicircle, focusing on the center of worship: the Torah and the Eternal Light.
''There will be an opportunity within the synagogue context for women to express themselves in a public manner, which is completely within the (Hebrew) law,'' Winyarz said. ''Men or women will be able to get up and give a talk about a religious issue.
''We will have orthodoxy with a small 'o' and Halakhah (Jewish law) with a capital 'H.' ''
He calls it the new Orthodoxy. Orthodox Judaism usually evokes the stereotypical image of long beards, curly sideburns and black coats -- and a separation from the rest of society.
The ''new'' Orthodox Jew is the upwardly mobile doctor, lawyer, stockbroker or other person integrally involved in society, yet set apart from others in similiar professions by a belief system that emphasizes religious law and spiritual values.
A prime example of that was Winyarz's ''outreach'' lectures on Wall Street. He once did a lecture on Wall Street called ''Jewish Sexual Ethics.'' He also conducted lunchtime scripture studies in a prestigious Manhattan law firm.
Orthodox Judaism is attractive to young Jews, Winyarz said, because ''young people are looking for something that's real. People intuitively sense that which is authentic and I think there's a desperate yearning for authenticity.''
Winyarz is an example of the attractiveness of Orthodoxy to young Jews. He had become so immersed in it that by 23 he was teaching Bible at Yeshiva University.
''There's nothing as exciting as traditional Judaism,'' Winyarz said. He wants to turn what he feels is a stereotype of Orthodox Judaism from ''backward, anti-feminist, anti-science'' to ''real exciting, progressive system of life.''
In New York, winyarz recruited young people by walking into public schools with a shofar (the administration did not know of his actions). Children who recognized the shofar -- a ram's horn used for ceremonies -- were targeted as recruits for his Jewish Public School Youth Project. He turned his efforts into a string of clubs with a budget of $500,000.
If Winyarz initiates the project in Florida, he won't be staging any press conferences.
''It would be difficult to do it in Florida schools,'' he said. ''If I do it, I won't announce it.''
Winyarz is critical of some other Jewish and non-Jewish religious groups (For instance, he asks, ''What's Jewish about Reform Judaism?'') although he adds that he believes he will have a good working relationship with other clergy.
''I believe we have the most correct system,'' he said of Orthodox Judaism. ''I believe there are moments of truth in others.''
Caption: (Staff photo/MARK RANDALL) Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz says Orthodox Judaism is attractive to young Jews because of its ''authenticity.'' PHOTO (1)

 
The Rabbi Rocks
by Tracey Wong Briggs
USA Today - August 17, 1987
Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz of Boca Raton, Fla., has produced Jewish Pride, a rock album appealing to Jewish youth. The LP, set for USA-wide release Sept. 1, includes songs written by Lenny Solomon and performed by young Jewish musicians. Rappin' Jewish, by Danny Furst, says: ``La-die-doo, I'm a Jew 'cause I think it's cool/ Yeah, I eat kosher meat 'cause I ain't no fool/ Ask me anything you want to, but I will repeat/ I say being Jewish makes me groove to the beat.''


 
METRO AND STATE
Rabbi rolls out Jewish rock album
Associated Press/St. Petersburg Times - August 17, 1987

BOCA RATON - A 26-year-old rabbi is using rock 'n' roll to appeal to Jewish youth in a way they can understand.
Mordechai Winyarz, spiritual leader of the Boca Raton Community Synagogue, has produced what he calls the first Jewish rock 'n' roll album, set for national release Sept. 1.
I'm looking to create a revolution in Jewish life,he said. Music speaks to people. I want this to become a major outreach tool to bring young people back to Judaism.
The album, titled Jewish Pride, includes a danceable theme song of the same name, a ballad called Minyan Man and a rap song Rappin' Jewish written by Danny Furst.
A sample of the lyrics:
La-die-doo, I'm a Jew 'cause I think it's cool
Yeah, I eat kosher meat 'cause I ain't no fool
Ask me anything you want to, but I will repeat
I say being Jewish makes me groove to the beat.


Letter by Rabbi Causes Flap in House Race
The Associated Press Political Service - November 2, 1990

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) _ An endorsement letter sent to 50,000 Jewish voters was written by a controversial rabbi using a different name, the Republican congressional candidate has acknowledged.
Scott Shore faced a jeering political crowd Thursday when he confirmed the letter was written by former Boca Raton Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz. He was once censured by the local rabbinical association for inappropriate behavior, but the censure was later withdrawn.
 
The letter was signed by Rabbi Marc Gafni, a name Winyarz said he adopted when he moved to Israel two years ago.
It also was addressed to "my fellow Democrats" even though Gafni's last registration was as a Republican.
Shore refused demands from the audience at Temple Beth El that he apologize for the letter.
The audience of more than 250, including many supporters of the incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Harry Johnston, hooted when Shore claimed he wasn't trying to deceive voters about Winyarz's true identity.
Johnston, who attended the forum to debate Shore, also noted Gafni said in the letter that he had been a supporter of John F. Kennedy. Winyarz was 3 years old when Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Johnston said.
Gafni, who was Shore's rabbi while in Boca Raton, was active in protests such as one against Pope John Paul II's visit to Miami in 1987, where he dressed in concentration camp clothing.


Lessons From The Lanner Case
Gary Rosenblatt - Staff Writer
The Jewish Week - July 20, 2000
 
.... Perhaps most disturbing has been the number of people urging me to investigate specific rabbis and Jewish educators in the Orthodox community, naming names and offering me details. One is said to be a pedophile with a history of arrests who is a principal in a Brooklyn yeshiva; another pedophile reportedly now works with Jewish youth in Florida; a womanizing rabbi has changed his name and moved to Israel, I was told; and a local rabbi is said to have an unhealthy interest in teenage boys.... (please see the entire article below)


Rabbi Accused of Manipulation in Shore Campaign Letter
Miami Herald, The (FL) - November 1, 1990
An orthodox rabbi censured two years ago by a local rabbinical association has penned a campaign mailing that charges U.S. Rep. Harry Johnston with ethical lapses while in Congress.The rabbi wrote the letter using his new name.Marc Gafni, previously known as Mordechai Winyarz, was Republican challenger Scott Shore's spiritual leader at the Boca Raton Synagogue from 1987 to 1989. In 1988, he was censured.Gafni, 30, introduces himself in the letter by saying he has supported...
Complete Article, of 412 words.  (If you have access to this article please e-mail it to The Awareness Center!)


Shore Refuses to Apologize Over Letter
The Palm Beach Post - November 2, 1990
Facing a jeering political crowd Thursday, Congressional candidate Scott Shore admitted that the rabbi who signed an endorsement letter mailed to 50,000 Jewish voters was actually controversial Boca Raton rabbi Mordechai Winyarz. Shore refused demands from the audience at Temple Beth El that he apologize for the letter, mailed under the signature of Rabbi Marc Gafni. Shore said Winyarz changed his name to Marc Gafni before he left last year to live in Israel. The audience of more...
Complete Article, of 560 words  (If you have access to this article please e-mail it to The Awareness Center!)


Voters Revenge' On TV For Texans, DALLAS
The Associated Press - November 3, 1990, Saturday, PM cycle, Political News, 810 words
(If you have access to this article please e-mail it to The Awareness Center!)
 


PBS Special - Soul Prints - Your Path to Fulfillment (DVD)
Starring Marc Gafni
Fox Lorber (Publisher) - April 10, 2001
http://dvd.idealo.com/prices/P20008840135K2.html
Soul Prints - Your Path to Fulfillment - MARC GAFNI 790658993808

Rabbi Marc Gafni compares a person's individual spirit to the uniqueness of their fingerprint, dubbing the former a "soul print." In this 73-minute lecture, he describes the principles and practical applications of his philosophy culled from his study of many religious and ethnic traditions. The essence is to better appreciate the life you have and redirect your energy in the parts that make you unhappy. He promises the viewer "access to the precise and gorgeous nature of your spirit," suggesting exercises like making a list of the 10 most important things in your life. He offers mantras and stories from Buddhism, Russia, West Africa, and his own ministry--even singing a short "soul print song" a cappella. Much of his advice is common sense (If you treat the waiter badly, he will treat you badly), but he presents it in an energetic and inspiring manner. However, this PBS Special is interrupted so frequently with shots of an enthusiastically applauding audience that one might think he was selling a food preparation gadget rather than inner peace. Unfortunately, the effect is that of a hard sell for material that should speak for itself. --Kimberly Heinrichs 

Publisher  Fox Lorber
UPC      790658993808
Release   2001-04-10
Format   DVD
Mpaa rating   NR (Not Rated)
Primary Contributor   Marc Gafni
Features Color
Running Time 60



The Erotic and the Ethical
By Mordechai Gafni
Tikkun Magazine - March/April 2003
WARNING: The following may be found offensive
 
The Temple of the ancient Israelites is the original Hebrew _expression of pagan consciousness. Now—as we will see later in this essay—the difference between Temple and pagan consciousness is very crucial. But it is a difference that is only important because of their profound similarity. Both the Temple and the pagan cults shared an intoxication with the feminine Goddess, symbol of sacred eros. 

The relationship with the Goddess was not a hobby for the Israelites like modern religious affiliation often tends to be. It was an all-consuming desire to be on the inside, to feel the infinite fullness of reality in every moment and in every encounter—it was an attempt to fully experience eros. Because the ancients were so aware of the depth of reality, to live without being able to access the infinite in this erotic way was enormously painful. (For an example, read the story of the idolatrous King Menashe, as retold in the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 92A.)
The prophets of the Temple period opposed paganism with all of their ethical fire and passion. For them, it was inconceivable that the ecstatic and primal Temple experience, religiously powerful and important as it might be, should become primary. When eros overrode ethos, the prophet exploded in divine rage. In moments of clash, the prophet taught that the ethical always needed to trump the erotic.
Modern Judaism has developed from the ethical teachings of the prophets. In the process, however, we have overlooked the erotic, present in the pagan consciousness of the Temple service. We have forgotten the Goddess, a vital presence in the life of ancient Israel. Hebrew liturgy reflects the virtually inconsolable longing of the Hebrew spirit for the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. This longing is not a dream of proprietorship over this or that hill in Jerusalem. Indeed, ownership and holiness are mutually exclusive. Instead, it is a yearning to reclaim sacred eros as part of the fabric of our lives. And, in the way of the circle, our longing for eros is also a longing for ethos. All ethical breakdown emerges from a dearth of eros. When we are overwhelmed by an erotic vacuum, ethics collapse.
Both the vitality and metaphysics of a pagan eros were understood by Israeli mystic Abraham Kook to be essential to the reclaiming of a religious sensibility which reflected both the depth and need of modernity. It is in large part for this pagan sensibility that we yearn when we speak of the dream of a re-built Temple.
To find our way back to eros and the feminine, we must yearn back and forward to the Hebrew mystical tradition, whose masters kept these ideas alive in the form of esoteric tradition, practice and lore.
Eros
In the kabbalistic tradition, as in Plato, the erotic is not a mere synonym for the sexual, but an _expression of inner passion which sexuality models but does not begin to exhaust. In Hebrew myth and mysticism, eros has four faces. The first face of eros is being fully present on the inside, traversing the chasm that separates subject and object. To use the imagery of the Zohar, the magnum opus of Hebrew mysticism, eros is to be in the flow of "the river which swells forth from Eden," the fountain of life; when I am not in the flow of my own life, I am not living naturally. The opposite of eros is alienation, the feeling that you are an outsider with no safe place to call home.
Kabbalah scholar Yehuda Libes suggests that the word "zohar" is roughly synonymous with the Greek word "eros." The authors of the Zohar were not dry medieval scholastics; they were rather men of great passion and depth who believed that by entering the inside of the moment, the text, or the relationship, they could recreate and heal the world. Eros is aroused whenever we move so deeply into what we do, who we are with, or where we are, that its interiority stirs our heart and imagination. Shechinah, the Hebrew mystical term for the indwelling feminine presence of God, is no less than the erotic merged with the Holy. Shechinah is the radically profound experience of being on the inside.
The second face of eros is the "fullness of presence." This is not a distinct and different quality from the first but flows naturally and even overlaps with the erotic quality of being on the inside. And yet it is not quite the same. Of course, being on the inside requires the fullness of presence. But we can experience full presence even when we have not merged with the moment or crossed over to the inside. Full presence is about showing up. You can show up and be fully present in a conversation without necessarily losing yourself in the encounter's flow. Full presence at work can mean that you derive joy, satisfaction, and self worth from your vocation. It means you feel full and not empty.
To live erotically is to be fully present to each other's richness, complexity, and ultimate grandeur. It is to fully wait for the other to appear. The Shechinah, say the mystics, is presence waiting for us to be present. She is eros, standing outside of our window, waiting. Waiting for us to run out and behold, with wonder, her face.
The third face of eros is desire. Eros is the yearning force of being. I yearn, therefore I am. As long as I am on the outside, I can ignore my deepest desires and stifle my longing. When I am on the inside, however, when I am fully present, I am able to access my yearning. For the Hebrew mystic, unlike his Buddhist or Greek cousins, desire and longing are sacred. To be cut off from the eros of yearning is to be left in the cold of non-existence. To yearn is to be aflame.
Depression is at its core the depression of desire. When we lose touch with our authentic desire, we become listless and apathetic. There is wonderful eros in desire. It is what connects us most powerfully with our own pulsating aliveness. Longing is a vital strand in the textured fabric of the erotic. It is of the essence of the Holy of Holies.
The fourth face of eros is the interconnectivity of being. Longing, desire, and tears remind us of the fourth strand in the erotic weave. They whisper to us that we are all interconnected. No human stands alone. The word "religion" traces its source to the Latin root ligare which, as we can hear in the word "ligament," is about connectivity. Religion's goal is to re-ligare—to reconnect us. Religion's original intention was to take us to that inside place where we could indeed experience the essential interconnectivity of all reality. All of existence is one great quilt of being and we are all patches in its magnificent intertextured pattern.
Eros is what allows us to move past the feeling of isolation and separation and experience ourselves as part of the quilt. To sunder our connection to eros is therefore to sin. Sin is but the illusion of separation. Sin is not evil; it is merely tragic. Not only do we lose the source of life's greatest pleasure, but we would undermine the building blocks of connection without which the world would ultimately collapse.
The Merging of Male and Female
One of the most obvious yet profound qualities that the sexual models for the erotic is the merging of the feminine and the masculine. The drive towards union between the female and the male is the essential underlying force that powers the universe. Although it is often expressed in the merging of man and woman, it is by no means limited to that _expression. For the Hebrew mystics, the sexual union of man and woman both models and participates in the more primal union of Shechinah (the Divine Feminine) and Tiferet (the Divine Masculine). Whether understood as Yin and Yang, as in Taoist thought, or Shiva and Shakti in Hindu mythology, masculine and feminine are different faces of the greater union, the force of divinity that courses through the cosmos and beyond. The kabbalistic archetype of the integrated male-female are the two cherubs, one male and one female, present in the Holy of Holies in the ancient Temple. Described in the Book of Kings and unpacked in the Babylonian Talmud, these golden cherubs were twined in sexual embrace. For the kabbalists, their integration is the highest erotic _expression of a healed world.
What is the difference between masculine and feminine?
The core cosmic intuition of Hebrew mystic Isaac Luria, later developed by mystics Isaac Chaver and Abraham Kook, offers a deceptively simple paradigm. Men are lines, "yosher" or "kav" and women are circles, "iggulim." Or, more accurately, line is a masculine image and circle is a feminine _expression. Every man and woman is a unique interpenetration of line and circle.
Let us look at the nature of a circle. Circles are characterized by suppleness, intimacy, egalitarian sensibility, connection, and communication. The feminine circle is defined by relatedness. It surrounds, embraces and envelopes. It is a symbol of intimacy, loyalty, and a capacity to forgive and renew. The circle moves round and round, in a constant flow of re-newal, re-membering, and re-cognition. It always comes home again
Already it is clear to us that a circle is naturally erotic. In a circle, everyone can see each other. In Luria's language, everyone is face to face. There is intimacy in circle.
The masculine line is far more rigid than the circle. Judgment and distinction are natural line functions. With a line, there is a clear hierarchy. One is either higher on the line or lower. If people are moving in the same direction on a line, then they will not be face to face. Instead, they will be face-to-back or back-to-face. A line signals a clear lack of intimacy. A line is forward moving, goal-oriented, directed, and focused. It spends a lot more time looking ahead than looking around. The line's natural movement is to thrust forward.
Luria writes, "Every world of world and every detail of detail in every world of world is made up of these two principles, circles and lines." Lines and circles in various permutations and balances are the DNA of spiritual reality. It is the unique blending of their energies that gives contour, character, and depth to every unit of reality. It is a blending in which neither the circle nor the line ever disappears. Each is fully absorbed in the bliss of merging with other while never losing its own integrity.
Does the union of masculine and feminine mean that, after total integration, gender will dissolve as an issue? That a kind of transvestite existentialism is the kabbalistic dream of an evolved world? Well, yes ... and absolutely not.
There is a core paradigm in Hebrew mystical sources and many other traditions which provides a clear reality map for the integration of circle and line. It is a trinity of stages. 
Simple (Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water)
Complex (Enlightenment)
Simple (After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water) 
The linchpin of the idea is that the third stage and the first, although externally similar, are really worlds apart. For stage three deeply integrates the new consciousness of stage two. So while the simplicity of stage one might be naïve, superficial, and even irresponsible, the simplicity of stage three is deep, wise, and responsible. In the reality map of eros, level one is the natural eros of the circle. Level two is the line, which occasionally opposes and even overrides certain circle manifestations. Level three is the return to a higher eros, where circle and line interpenetrate, yielding a sensual symphony of flowing spirit and precise form, unimaginable in the initial erotic offering of level one.
Lines and circles, the masculine and the feminine, are cosmic principles whose roots are in our souls. Neither New Age spirituality (circle) or the old religious Orthodoxies (lines) alone have within them the power to heal our souls and our planet. It is only a deeper erotic vision unpacked from both, the paradox of holding lines and circles together as one that can heal us.
We need to fully embrace the truth of the line, then roundly challenge it with circle consciousness, only to re-embrace the line from a more supple and rounded place. Similarly, we need to rejoice in the circle, only to bisect it with the power of the line and then re-turn again to the circle. This is the trinity paradigm in which level two rejects level one, only to be transcended and absorbed by level three, which is always an evolved version of level one. Circle, line, circle. Line, circle, line.
We begin in the middle—in the glory of the circle.

The Power of the Circle
Phallic line consciousness has proved impotent for so many of us. It has not given birth to the reality for which we dreamed. We have competed, failed, and succeeded. Yet we have found the process debilitating and the prize woefully insufficient. Even if we've "gotten" what we were always supposed to want, we have realized that it isn't enough.
On the most personal level, the rat race of line consciousness has failed us. The radical focus on our place in the hierarchy has exhausted us. For many years we have ignored Lily Tomlin's truism: "Even if you finish first, you are still a rat."
On the global level, line consciousness has failed us as well. We live on the edge of unprecedented ecological disaster. The imbalanced Genesis Chapter One ethics of "fill the earth and conquer" is not innocent in this. The ecological disaster is driven by corporations who take advantage of the core emptiness in the heart of the West, by feeding it with an obscene overabundance of goods and foods. Corporations driven by line consciousness form the crux of our world's economy. These corporations are sadly driven by basically only one desire: that of accumulating maximal power through maximal profit. Unhappily, the natural result of this posture is a virtual rape of the environment for the sake of climbing higher on the line's ladder. Tragically, it is the line consciousness of probably not more than 10,000 people (nice people) that is having this devastating impact on the world's environment.
The driving force behind the corporate ethos is fear of emptiness. When we lose the sense of the world being divine and full of meaning, we risk falling into the void—we "lose touch" with our own essential self-worth and value. So we learn a-void-dance, doing everything we can to deny the lurking emptiness. In order to stifle those voices we work hard at producing and climbing in the line world. Somehow, the eros of productivity and competition give our lives a veneer of meaning, at least until a crisis when our vulnerability is exposed and we plummet into the void.
It is only by raising a new generation on the eros of the circle that we can hope to truly effect a transformation in the world. Only by unpacking and internalizing our erotic experiences of interconnectivity, interiority, and the fullness of being can we move towards healing and change. This is the call of circle consciousness. This is the ethos of redeemed paganism. This is Temple consciousness.

Temple Consciousness
The Jerusalem Temple is the place where the Shechinah dwells between the cherubs. The Shechinah is known in the kabbalistic sources as the great feminine. She is mother, daughter, and lover. She is the force that allows the human being to feel at home in the world. The Temple is the place of eros; it is the experience of being on the inside.
The biblical story is based on the line. In this account, the world is God's place. God's relationship to world is that of father, king, or even husband. In biblical myth, God creates world outside of Himself, even as he dwells in world. For the pagan and the Temple mystic, however, the world is not God's place; instead, God is the place of the world. To be in Temple consciousness is to be in God. Eros pure and simple.
This shift in consciousness is hidden within the folds of biblical myth text. The central biblical term which describes Temple consciousness is "lifnei hashem," usually translated as "before God," (as in "standing before God"). A closer reading, however, yields the hidden eros in the term. The word "lifnei" derives from the Hebrew word "pnimi" meaning "inside," the first face of eros.
This same Hebrew word for "inside," and "before" has a third meaning as well. The third meaning is "face," "panim." Face is the place where my insides are revealed. There are forty-five muscles in the face, most of them unnecessary for the biological functioning of the face. Their major purpose is to express emotional depth and nuance. They are the muscles of the soul. When I say, "I need to speak face to face," I am in erotic need of an inside conversation.
All three English words, "face," "inside," and "before," share the same Hebrew root. The essence then of the biblical Temple phrase "lifnei Hashem," before God, is not a commandment to appear "before God" in the magistrate sense. It is an invitation to enter the inside of God's face.
To be on the inside of God is precisely the vision of the pagan circle.
It was paganism which understood well the primal human need to feel at home in the world. The erotic pagan imagination was able to uncover divinity in every nook and cranny of existence. For the pagan, there was an understanding that the Goddess is "on every hill and under every tree." For the pagan, the hills were literally alive with the sound of music. Nature is the music of divinity undressed to the human ear. Every hill, brook, tree, and blade of grass was invested with its own divine muse.
In the ancient world the tree in particular, in all of its lush sensuality, was a primary manifestation of the erotic Goddess. The central symbol of much of the ancient pagan cult in biblical Canaan was the Ashera tree, symbol of the Goddess Ashera incarnate. Unadulterated paganism is the eros of level one circle consciousness.
It is clear from the biblical record itself that Ashera worship was the norm in ancient Judah and Israel. Occasionally, someone would intervene. King Josiah attempted the most radical reform, after finding a new book—very possibly the book of Deuteronomy—that explicitly prohibited having an Ashera tree in the precincts of the Temple. The discovery of this "new book" is the greatest indication that there were many Ashera trees in the temple. New texts only emerge to outlaw popular practice. Josiah's goal was to fully obliterate the Ashera goddess' presence. Only a few years after his death, however, the Ashera was back in the Temple once more.
No one could deny the people their goddess. A careful reading of the biblical sources reveals that of the 370 years which Solomon's temple stood in Jerusalem, for at least 236 of those years—two-thirds of the time—the statue of Ashera was present in the Temple. Her worship was not some underground cult, but part of what was understood to be the legitimate Hebrew spirit itself.
Ashera, who began as a foreign interloper, became, in Raphael Patai's phrase, a beloved "Hebrew Goddess." She was worshipped openly and with great joy as part of the official religion by kings, the court, the priesthood and most of the people. She was opposed only by a few prophets crying against her and even then only at relatively long intervals. Indeed, the erotic passion for the Goddess was so essential to the people's spirit that when the great reformer Elijah challenged the pagan god Baal, Ashera's son, he pointedly avoided challenging Ashera. The text in Kings tell of 400 prophets of Ashera and 450 prophets of Baal who eat at the table of the Queen Jezebel, wife of Ahab. Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal but somehow doesn't touch the prophets of Ashera. The Ashera has become too much of a Hebrew Goddess to be challenged even by Elijah.
The pagan Goddess was not viewed by Solomon or the people as a compromise of the Hebrew spirit. On the contrary, she was experienced as an organic deepening of the Hebrew spirit. In the pagan world, as we have noted, the Goddess erotically merged with her male counterpart. Hieros gamos—the marriage the God and Goddess. Ashera has divine intercourse with El, notably the very name of the Hebrew god! Her daughter, Astarte, copulates with Baal, her brother. This marriage of the gods—symbolizing the mythical merging of the primal masculine and feminine—brings blessing and joy to the world.
The Hebrew version of this Heiros Gamos—marriage of divine principles—was personified in the union of the biblical male God with the Goddess Ashera. We know from relatively recent archaeological excavations that many people served the Biblical male God image and the Ashera together. One of the most fascinating finds is that of Kuntillat Ajrud in the northeastern Sinai desert. Two storage jars were found, and one of them carried the inscription (in anthropologist Raphael Patai's translation) "Amarayhu says to my Lord ... may you be blessed by Yah-weh and his Ashera."
There is evidence that the worship of Ashera extended even into the Holy of Holies. Pattai supports our intuition that the two cherubs intertwined in sexual union in the Holy of Holies are an evolved _expression of the Hebrew-pagan marriage between the biblical Yah-weh and pagan Ashera. That is to say, the spirit of biblical text, which rejected some of the essential dimensions of paganism, nevertheless accepted the core feminine erotic principle that powered paganism and recognized the essential need to integrate it with the masculine principle. So Ashera was transmuted into the female cherub in erotic union with the male cherub. While the prophets rejected the Ashera they embraced the cherubs. Indeed, biblical prophecy taught that the space between the sexually entwined cherubs was the source of prophecy.
The erotic and pagan nature of the female cherub was clearly apparent to the wisdom masters of Babylon. They understood that the cherubs were the Hebrew embrace of the sacred moment in paganism and thought it essential to the Hebrew spirit. In a post-Temple world where survival depended on the Law, the wisdom masters were not willing or able to openly embrace the pagan moment in Temple consciousness. So, in a classical literary device, they placed in the mouths of foreign interlopers their profound perception of the cherubs as purified expressions of the pagan archetype. The Babylonian Talmud in Yoma 54b tells us that when the Temple was conquered and Nebuchadnezzar's army sees the cherubs, the Jewish religion was immediately cheapened in their eyes. "Said Reish Lakish: When the foreigners entered the temple and saw the cherubs sexually intertwined they took them out to the market place. Israel whose blessing is blessing and curse is curse—is this what they were engaged in?" A parallel text in the Midrash (Lamentations Raba, 9) is more explicit in relating the cherubs to paganism. The Babylonians were sure that the Cherubs were pagan Gods and the Jews had laid claim to a more pure faith: "Ammonites and Moabites entered the holy of holies and found the two cherubs. They ... paraded them around the streets of Jerusalem ... did you not say that this nation does not worship idols? See what we have found. What they were serving."
The cherubs atop the ark went underground after the destruction of the Temples. However, they re-appear in public consciousness centuries later as the masculine and feminine _expression of the divine in the kabbalistic books of the Bahir, the Zohar, and in virtually every subsequent kabbalistic text. This divine pair are called Malchut and Tiferet, Shechinah and Tiferet, and a host of other appellations. They reach their apex in kabbalistic consciousness in the mystical works of Isaac Luria and his one-time teacher, Moses Cordovero. In Isaac Luria's graphic and daring vision, the world is not formed by a forward-thrusting male movement which creates outside of itself. Quite the contrary—Divinity creates within itself a sacred void in the form of a circle. This is the creation not of the masculine God but of the Goddess, of the Shechinah! This is the Great Circle of Creation.
In Luria's vision, all of being is within the womb of the Goddess. Life is born not by expelling the baby, but by making room for offspring within the Goddess' eternal womb. Nature is not outside of the Goddess but instead is a daughter _expression of the divine. Luria's teacher, Moses Cordovero, was even clearer about the identity of this Goddess. In a passing comment in one of his works he says explicitly, "Malchut (Shechinah) is Ashera." Cordevero's statement emerges from a powerful and radical passage in the Zohar (Vol. 1, 49A) which suggests that the altar in the Temple itself was an Ashera tree!! The deep intention of the Zohar is not that this was an actual Ashera tree. Rather the Zohar is teaching that the Temple was deeply connected to the primal power of the sacred Ashera Goddess.
So we have come full circle. The Canaanite pagan Ashera has been reclaimed as a Hebrew Goddess. Primal circle consciousness has been rewoven into the rich fabric of a resurgent Hebrew myth.

Sod HaYichud
If the circle is so wonderful, why not live in circle consciousness and just jettison the jagged and cutting line once and for all? Why not simply return to the Goddess?
The answer is that the circle alone is not sufficient. Indeed, followers of both the biblical line and the mystical path have been quick to point out that the circle not integrated by the line not only lacks integrity, but is a primary ontological cause of evil. Master Nachman of Bratzlav writes that the source of evil in the world is the primal chalal reik, the empty void. The chalal reik is a circle image drawn from Lurianic Kabbalah which has not yet been penetrated by the kav, the line.
We are used to viewing the source of evil as being somehow external to man. Both capitalists and communists of the last century insisted that market conditions and economic opportunity were the prime cause for evil. Others blame evil on parents, schools, television violence or handguns. Many varieties of religion have long spoken about a Satan or tempter force that moves men to "the dark side." The common denominator is the location of evil somewhere outside the human being. If that is true, then we only have to fix that external system and everything will be okay. Economic reform, social engineering, gun control, parent education, school reform, are all potential messiahs.
While all those may be good things, the core premise of Hebrew myth is that none of them will prevent evil. Biblical mysticism has an entirely different view of the human being. Evil comes from the failure to integrate the feminine circle and masculine line. This is called in Kabbalah Sod HaYichud, the secret of the union. More accurately it means the secret of the integration which is no more and no less than the secret of the cherubs. This is our life's work: to achieve full eros through the deep integration of our circles and lines. Or to say it differently, we need to move from the eros of the first level circle, which is pre-line, to the eros of the third level circle, which is transline. To confuse the two would be to fall prey to the pre/trans fallacy which so often marks contemporary New Age philosophies. To know how to move to third level circle eros we must expose the shadow of the first level pagan circle from the perspective of the prophetic line.

The Closed Circle and History
Intellectual historian Yehezkel Kaufman is correct in reminding us that the opposition to paganism—the opposition to pure circle consciousness—may well be the singularly most important theme of the entire Hebrew biblical project. The prophets exposed the two great shadows of pagan circle thinking. The first shadow stems precisely from its circle nature! The pagan myth believed as an absolute given of reality in the great wheel of Being. Mircea Eliade's great work The Myth of Eternal Return is probably the best modern statement of this powerful cyclical motif which is shot through all pagan reality maps. The problem with the cycle, however, as Buddha already pointed out, is that it is a trap. The circle is by very definition not open, but closed. There is no way out. It is to this circle consciousness that the wisdom masters referred when they said, "Until the Exodus no slave had ever succeeded in leaving Egypt." In the pagan circle consciousness of Egypt, no one could ever leave his or her place. You were born into your circle and destined to go round and round within it.
In contrast to the stasis of the circle, the line of evolution—beginning with the gradual unfolding of creation from simple to complex in the Genesis creation story—is essential to the biblical spirit. Biblical myth in the story of the Exodus introduces line consciousness into the mind and heart stream of the world. It is the creation of the very ideas of history, progress, and therefore hope. Love desires growth, healing, and transformation. For the circle to exist without being bisected by the line would be the greatest failure of love.
In biblical myth consciousness the story of the Exodus is the story of the second great escape from the tyranny of the circle. The first great escape is the story of the first Hebrew, Abraham. In fact, it is precisely Abraham's ability to make the great escape from the circle that makes him the first Hebrew, for the very word "Hebrew" (Ivri) means the "one who crossed over." The line consciousness of Abraham introduces to the world the notion of journey. The clear implication, against virtually all of pagan thought, is that you can actually go someplace. Line consciousness is history. The idea of a plot, suspense, and ultimate resolution introduced by the Hebrews and so engrained in us today was unknown to the circle consciousness of the pagan.
In Hebrew, there is no word for "history"; instead, the word is zachor—remember. Not accidentally, zachor in Hebrew has a second meaning: the masculine. His-story is a function of line consciousness, the masculine thrusting-forward property of the spirit. It is biblical mysticism that gives birth to the notion of tikkun olam, "the world's fixing"—which a very close reading of Isaac Luria's works reveals to mean the evolving and healing of all consciousness—human and divine. It is only when the journey to God is over that the journey in God begins.
What we are talking about is much more than the evolution of humankind. It was the kabbalists who introduced the idea of an evolving divine consciousness. The unfolding of divine consciousness is not a purely intra-divine process. The great privilege of being a human being is that we participate in the evolution and healing of God. The Zohar, in Vol 1 Genesis 4A, even imagines the human being as a creator of God. It is the evolution of the human spirit that catalyzes the evolution of God. As biblical mystic Zecharia says, "On that day [in the future] God will be one and his name will be one." When God and man meet in an evolutionary embrace, redemption is achieved. In the words of Nikos Kazantzaikos, "We are the saviors of God."
This is the great messianic idea, the climax of all history and evolution. "Messiah" in biblical mysticism is more than a person. It is a destination which we arrive at after the long and often arduous journey. It is the hope and the vision of a better tomorrow. It is the possibility of possibility.
Until this shaft of the line cut across human consciousness, human existence was fundamentally determined. All that happened was thought to be revealed in the astrological wisdom of the stars in their heavenly cycles, or in the guts of animals when you killed them. The key was that there was "nothing new under the sun."
The freedom implied in line consciousness means not only that a slave people can throw off the shackles of the oppressor. It also means that each of us can throw off the shackles of our own personal taskmasters. There is no greater slave master than the idea that yesterday determines today. This is precisely the shadow of circle consciousness. The line sets us free. It pierces the circular bubble, shattering the "realities" that want to hold us back and keep us down.

God and Nature
We now come to the second great shadow of pagan circle consciousness. The pagan insisted that divinity was in trees and in all of nature. But the essential biblical idea is that God is also beyond nature. God is the creator of nature and therefore not trapped within it. Biblical myth therefore opens with the Genesis story, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The powerful and revolutionary implication is that God is not merely nature. Unlike the Greek, Roman, pagan, or Buddhist pantheons, biblical myth insists on a God who is both within and infinitely beyond the circle, radically immanent as well as transcendent.
When we say that God is infinitely beyond trees, we are also saying that if you can connect to God, God can free you from the ensnaring web of nature. The notion that a human being is created in the image of God means for the Hebrew mystic that a person has it within them to reach beyond the natural to the moral.
The reason this is so critical is because in biblical consciousness, the loving God's primary demand is ethical behavior. The single most important _expression of love—and the most important principle of Hebrew ethics—is how we treat each other, not how we think about each other. Sixteenth-century master Aron of Barcelona wrote, "A person is formed by their actions." Treat a person lovingly and you will love them in the end. Love a person passionately and treat them unethically and you will be alienated from them in the end. Paradoxically, there is no eros without ethics.
Ethical behavior always requires that we be able to act against our primal instinctive natures. We must be able to step out of the level one pagan circle and become response-able for actions, able to respond to and control our instinctive nature. If we were part of nature, then clearly we could not be expected to ever control or direct our nature. We are both part of nature, and parting from nature. It is only because of this paradox that we are capable of self-control. Of course, it is giving up control which is essential in the classic frameworks of circle consciousness. Sex and emotionally vulnerable relationships are two good examples. Giving up control, however, is only possible in the context of a safe environment created by people who can be trusted to exercise self-control. The circle integrates with the line to foster the integrity of higher eros, a level three circle.
Circle consciousness claims that people are naturally the best that they can be. The problem, argues the circle, is not goodness but alienation, and in circle consciousness the greatest evil is to be cut off, distant, disenchanted, out of the circle. Line consciousness disagrees with the circle and says that people are potentially good but not naturally good. In biblical myth people are born innocent, but they are not born good. The most important act of love, according to the Hebrew gospel, is to develop a training system for goodness. For biblical myth the belief that people are naturally the best that they can be is not only wrong but destructive. If people were naturally good, then evil would be the result of some set of external forces. Here we return to the idea of Sod HaYichud, the secret of union. Biblical myth, then as now, says no to this thinking. Hebrew gospel teaches that only the control and refinement of our internal nature, the integration of line with circle, can bring the good.
There is, however, a second critical reason why the line-driven ethical prophet does not experience God as being exclusively in nature. If God were in nature and not beyond Nature, then Nature would be our source of ethics. It is clear though that, for all of her splendor in reflecting a pale cast of divine beauty, nature is amoral. The law of nature is nearly always that the strong kill the weak. Social services, hospitals, help for the disabled are all profoundly "unnatural," at least according to the law of nature in the non-human world. In fact, the hospital is a direct corollary of line and not (first level) circle consciousness. The morality of the line insists that those higher on the line—that is to say stronger and with more means—take care of those lower on the line. This is the faith and God experience of the prophets.

The Prophet & the Pagan
Let's frame the clash between circle and line in the most striking possible terms.
The prophet, the hero of the Hebrew bible, represents ethics, the line. The pagan, hero of the ancient world into which biblical thought was born, represents eros, the circle. The clash between the prophet and the pagan—the circle and the line—is in the end the clash between the erotic and the ethical. (That is to say, between first level circle eros and second level line ethics.)
Having said that, I want to make a radical claim—which, as is often the case, is patently obvious once you see it. On the essential interpretation of reality, the prophet actually was closer to circle consciousness than to line consciousness. The difference was that the pagan was a first stage circle archetype and the prophet a third stage circle archetype.
The prophet's line _expression is a necessary corrective response to the pagan consciousness that dominated the world at the time. The prophet saw his role to be overturning a pagan ethic which was bound up with so much cruelty. For example, built into the pagan ritual are demands for parents to burn their children as a sacrifice to the gods. "They have set their pagan abominations in my house ... to burn their sons and daughters in fire." (Jeremiah 7:30, 31) The burning of children was not the exception in pagan worship. Rather it was the model of the pagan idea that erotic abandonment to the God must, by its very definition, overrun all intuitive human ethical boundaries.
In the picture of the prophet as a social reformer, it is, however, too easy to lose sight that, at core, he was an erotic mystic. The prophet is actually the archetype of the feminine. The "most beautiful among women," according to King Solomon, are the prophets. The phrase is drawn from Canticles, King Solomon's love song to the erotic Shechinah, whose deep essence is modeled, but never exhausted, by the sexual.
Yes, the prophet insisted that nature was not all of God, yet he experienced with all his being that God was all of nature. Even as he decried the pagan claim that identified God with the Ashera tree, he knew and rejoiced in the truth that God was fully present and accessible "on every hill and under every tree." God was not only reflected in nature as the external creator. God was fully present in nature—in the words of the later mystics, mamash, meaning literally—"actually," for real, not just in metaphor or symbol. The words of later Hebrew mystics capture accurately prophetic consciousness. Schneur Zalman of Liadi writes that "Trees and stones are mamash divine." Nachman of Bratzlav told his disciples that "Every blade of grass has its own (divine) song."
It is critical to understand that God is paradoxically within and beyond. Dennis Prager, generally a brilliant polemicist for the core intuitions of biblical religion, dismisses any possibility of a mainstream Jewish position which embraces pantheism in his "Is God in Trees." However the overwhelming majority of classical Jewish thinkers in the past 500 years have categorically refused to choose between pantheism and monotheism. To give but one example, Abraham Kook consistently and intentionally embraces a paradoxical dialectic between pantheism and monotheism throughout his writings, so much so that in his letters he refuses to term Judaism as monotheistic (Orot Hakodesh Vol. 3 pp. 399).
The goal of the prophet is integration. The erotic and ethical, the line and circle, must merge. This is the secret of the cherubs and the model of the sexual.
What the prophet and the pagan respectively incarnate, however, is made manifest when the erotic and the ethical clash. An oft-quoted line from Jung, modern heir to the pagan myth tradition, is the best summation I have ever heard of the pagan position: "I'd rather be whole than good." For the pagan, the alienation from divinity is so palpable and painful that it must be overcome at all costs, even if ethics are the price. This is where the balanced scales start precariously to slip. It was Jung who was sadly seduced by the pagan Goddess Ashera into a flirtation with Nazism, that menacing shadow of eros which horrifically darkened our world just a few short decades ago.
The prophet always responds, "I'd like to be whole. Indeed I yearn to be whole. But if I have to choose, I'd rather be good than whole." It is for this reason that the prophet is the great critic of the pagan consciousness intrinsic to the Temple experience. The erotic fulfillment of the Temple experience was all too often a replacement for the kind of direct ethical action which could heal the world. It is the widow and the orphan, the vulnerable and the dispossessed, who must be the primary concern of the homo religious, according to the prophets. Thus Isaiah declaims:
I do not want your multitude of sacrifices
I delight not in the blood of bullocks or goats or rams.
Do not come to seek my face ...
as you trample my courts of justice ...
your hands are full of blood ...
wash yourselves, make yourselves clean ...
cease your evil doings ... seek fair judgment,
argue the case of the widow and the orphan ...
Zion will be redeemed
by justice and ... integrity.
For Isaiah, the ecstatic pagan service of the Temple, with its blood sacrifices, has led Israelites to forget the ethical imperative to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. Isaiah refuses to allow eros to trump ethos.

Rebuilding Temple Consciousness
In my spiritual community of Bayit Chadash in the hills around Israel's Sea of Galilee, we are committed to reclaiming the spark of sacred paganism. We return to the pagan when we practice deep ecology, because for the pagan "Love your mother" means not only your human biological mother, but mother earth who nurtures you, balances you, and grounds you in her embrace. We reclaim the pagan in meditation, ecstatic service and passionate love of the Shechinah in all of her myriad manifestations. It is in large part for this pagan sensibility that we yearn when we speak of the dream of a re-built Temple.
The Temple in its ideal state was supposed to manifest the third stage circle moment in Hebrew consciousness. What the prophets realized, however, was that the people had not incorporated second stage line consciousness. The erotic was overrunning the ethical. In principle, however, the Temple was meant to be a balance between line and circle, erotic and ethical.
Only a short distance from the seat of eros—the holy of holies with her sexually intertwined cherubs—was the lishkat hagazit, the room of hewn stone. This was the Chamber of Justice whose passionate concern was the ethical—the creation of a just society. On the face of it, its sensibilities seem far removed from the erotic motifs of the sensual and the sacred that permeated the Temple's aura. What, after all, do ethics and eros have to do with each other?
The answer is—everything. In the short run we can train people through behaviorist ritual, social engineering, and a good deal of guilt to behave ethically. However, in the final analysis, non-erotic ethics will always collapse under the weight of contracts and contacts it cannot fulfill. The Room of Hewn Stone must necessarily be housed in the eroticized temple in order for its ethics to truly thrive.
In the end all ethical failure is a violation of eros—your own or someone else's. Ethics without eros cannot hold. Ethics which are not rooted in eros ultimately fall ... apart. We yearn for eros. By exiling God from nature and secularizing the sexual, we condemn ourselves to emptiness and vacuity. Ethical collapse always occurs when we are overwhelmed by our emptiness. The failure of ethics is always rooted in a failure of eros. When we talk only about a God giving rules that run counter to our nature, the rules cannot hold. The eros of our nature will always overrun them. But if we come to understand that ethics is an erotic _expression of our deeper divinity, we are truly moved to the ethical. For at that point we realize that the ethical is an _expression of our deepest selves, a response to the call of our own voice. Ethics, to be compelling and powerful, must be an _expression of our erotic divine nature and not a contradiction to it. So when the prophets insist that God and the God within us is beyond nature, and can therefore act ethically against nature, they are referring only to our first nature, not to our deeper second nature. Our deeper nature is God.
At the same time that ethics cannot live without eros, eros cannot live without ethics. The erotic dies without the ethical. The circle cannot survive without the line.
Circle consciousness rejects the non-bi-sected circle not only as ethically flawed but as ontologically inadequate and existentially unsatisfying.
Humanity is life become aware of itself. It is this very self-awareness that moves us from the harmony of the natural to the tension of the confronted. We are at once part of nature, subject to her laws, even as we are free, confronting, controlling, and healing nature. The human being is the only creature in nature whose very existence poses a problem to itself. It is a problem from which we cannot escape. Living our merely natural circle life is both impossible and boring to us. It is this sense of boredom, even ennui, which makes us feel alienated, evicted from paradise. We are moved both by reason and soul to struggle endlessly not only with questions of the techne, of how and what, but also with the mysterious why and ultimately we long to see the Who!
The divinity of humanity—that which makes us not only within but also beyond nature—is precisely what assures that nature alone will not ful-fill. Line consciousness suggests that a non-accomplished person can never be satisfied. We require for our psychic-spiritual wholeness the pursuit of a goal. Meditation is insufficient for bliss. But not just any goal will do.
The goal must be an ethical one; an ambition that promises the greater good. Without such an objective, we ultimately get lost in our ennui and overwhelmed by our emptiness. The circle is incapable of captivating us by herself.
Eros always needs to in-corporate ethics. What this points to is that the good is not only an ethical need, it is an erotic need as well. At the same time, all ethical collapse is caused by un-ful-filled eros.

The modern mystic who understood this best was Abraham Kook.
 
Morality not guided by the sacred is not deep,
and does not enter into the inwardness of the soul; ...
Such a weak morality
does not have the power to guide ...
the polis, the human community,
to penetrate to the depth of the soul
and to transform the heart
of universal man and of individual man
from stone to flesh.
There is no alternative plan for humanity
other than that it be guided by the erotic morality....
It is the same Kook who refused to term Judaism a monotheistic religion, believing as he did that strains of purified pagan pantheism were essential to the essence of Hebrew religion. The prophet in us needs to reclaim holy paganism. The pagan within must be open to hearing the call of the prophet. When the prophet and pagan meet, the Temple of the heart will be rebuilt.



Letter from Rabbi Bob Carroll, Program Director - Edah
From: "Bob Carroll" <bobcarroll@edah.org>
To: vickipolin@ theawarenesscenter.org
Subject: Link to www.theawarenesscenter.org site from www.edah.org
Date: Thursday, February 19, 2004

Ms. Polin,
Rabbi Saul Berman, Rabbi Bob Carroll, Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC
I had the privelege of hearing your presentation last weekend at the JOFA conference and was just discussing with Edah's Director, Rabbi Saul Berman, the possibility of linking to www.theawarenesscenter.org from our own web site. Both of us are entirely convinced that you are doing extraordinarily important work and we would very much like to be of assistance to you. Upon looking over your site, he and I did have a few questions about your policies, specifically with regard to the list of cases of clergy abuse which you publish, which I would like to ask you before we go ahead and create the link. 

Specifically, are there any criteria for deciding which cases of alleged abuse to include in your list of abusers beyond what you state, to the effect that you only mention individuals who "are ones who'd had allegations made against them which were then published in reputable newspapers, have transcripts from televisions shows where the case(s) have been discussed, have police records and/or we have court documentation regarding the case" ? In other words, is there any attempt made to discern when allegations have been levelled that may not be credible, or to review ongoing legal proceeedings and remove names from the list if convincing evidence emerges that the charges do in fact lack credibility? If so, what criteria are used to decide what constitutes credible evidence? Who reviews cases that are submitted? Lastly, what utility do you see in listing names of people who are no longer alive?
 
I very much appreciate your time in answering these questions and look forward to being in touch.
B'hatzlacha,
Rabbi Bob Carroll
Program Director, Edah
____________________________________________

Rabbi Bob Carroll, Edah's Program Director has an interesting and varied background, which makes him well suited for the challenges he faces at Edah. Rabbi Carroll is a graduate of Brandeis University, and received his Smicha from Yeshiva University as well as a Master's in Jewish Philosophy from YU's Revel Graduate School. He has also completed Doctoral coursework in Kabbalah at NYU, and studied at Yeshivat haMivtar and Yeshivat David Shapell in Jerusalem. Rabbi Carroll worked for four years as a Hillel director at several New York area campuses. 
Prior to joining the staff at Edah, Rabbi Carroll worked as a corporate strategist and project manager, while serving as a respected mentor and teacher of Kabbalah and Rabbinic texts at a number of community-based Adult Learning programs. 


Post-Orthodoxy journey
By Neri Livneh
Haaretz - March 4, 2004
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/401222.html
 
CORRECTION: In "What is the question?" (Haaretz Magazine, March 5, 2004) Rabbi Mordechai Gafni should have been described as being 43 years old, married for the third time, and due to complete his doctorate at the end of the year.
 
"We've forgotten the Ela [the Goddess]," says Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, founder of Bayit Chadash, a community that aspires to be a new stream in Judaism, and, in his words, "to restore the spark of holy paganism." Judaism was once an erotic religion, he argues, in the sense that the Divinity had two experiential sides or dimensions: a male side called "God" and a female side called "Shekhina," the Goddess. The sense of the Divinity is achieved by a fusing of the two elements, as between a man and a woman, yin and yang, Shakti and Shiva. In the Temple, the Holy of Holies, there were two cherubim - male and female. To kabbalists, the blending of the divine male, called "Tiferet" and the divine female, called "Shekhina," a unity described in the Babylonian Talmud in reference to the cherubim on the Holy Ark, represents the Divine Power.  Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook described the fusing of these two elements as the combination of a (male) straight line with a (female) circle.

To Gafni, the line without a circle represents Ethos without Eros, i.e., rational life, without emotion, disconnected from Mother Earth and from natural impulse. The circle without the line represents an immersion in the erotic or spiritual, as in New Age practices. The fusion of the line and the circle represents Eros purified by the encounter with the rational and ethical foundation - a desirable encounter that is necessary for the building of the "Bayit Chadash" ("new home") or the new Judaism.

"Orthodox Judaism developed out of the ethical teachings of the Prophets, who tried to obscure the Eros for the sake of nurturing the Ethos," he says. This is how we've gotten the ultra-Orthodox Judaism that we're familiar with, a religion that tries to suppress the impulse and whose rabbis are supposed to supply absolute truths and answers to every question. Gafni, who calls himself "post-Orthodox," takes an opposite view of what religiosity ought to mean: "To me, the religious duty is to ask questions. I think it smacks of great arrogance to give pat answers to ultimate issues."
Gafni is not an anonymous personality by any means. His Channel 2 television program, "Tahat Gafno," attracted many viewers. He says that thousands of people have attended his community's encounters. He also writes a regular column in the magazine Hayim Aherim and has published five books in the United States in recent years. One of them, "Soul Prints," will soon appear in Hebrew translation, with an introduction by the religious poet Admiel Kosman. Gafni's television show is due back for a new season, and he recently finished taping segments for the Keshet broadcasting network "about the situation and questions related to the situation - for Keshet to use on days when there is a terror attack."
In addition to his rabbinical ordination, he also holds a Ph.D. from Oxford. And no, he says, he is not at all inclined to become a guru. He says that he's as far from New Age as he is from Reform Judaism. His "new Orthodoxy" does not offer any breaks when it comes to observance of the 613 commandments, or mitzvot. What makes him unique are the additions he makes to Judaism, the changes of emphasis, the way he relates it to modern life and the special focus he puts on commandments related to human dignity and love of fellow human beings. He also invites non-Jews to the Shabbat weekends he runs at the Bayit Chadash center in Poriya, overlooking Lake Kinneret.

He officiates at same-sex marriages, and sees feminism and equality for women as key Jewish values. He plans to ordain women as rabbis and women in his community can be called up to the Torah.

Every blessing in the community's prayer book and every blessing recited at community ceremonies open, as usual, with "Baruch ata adonai eloheinu" and then continues with "ve'berukha at hashekhina" ("And blessed art thou, the Shekhina"). "I'm not talking about Judaism-lite, like the Reform or the settlers," says Gafni. "I'm talking about whole Judaism that has both Ethos and Eros, both faith and a full life, both male and female."
Gafni divides his time between the new Bayit Chadash center in Jaffa, where this conversation took place, and the older center in Poriya - and between Israel and the U.S. He is 42, married to Chaya (his second wife), and father of three children from his previous marriage. He radiates warmth, and is not the type of rabbi who is reluctant to shake a woman's hand. On the contrary, he does not shy away from physical contact. "Someone who wanted to study with me said, `I have a problem with you. I've heard that you love women.' As if loving women is a bad thing. I told him that I'm very happy that I'm a loving person and also that I love women. I think love is a very important thing."

He was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to a family of Holocaust survivors that lived an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle. "At age six or seven, I knew that I wanted to be a rabbi," he relates. "Because I really loved the world of the book, which I'd known since I began learning at age 3." He went to a yeshiva high school in New York, then to Yeshiva University. He also took courses at Queens College and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy ("I majored in Sartre, Heidegger and Nietzsche"). At the same time, he also set up a network of Jewish clubs within the New York public school system, to draw in Jewish youth that had left the synagogue and Judaism behind.
After being ordained as a rabbi, he moved to Florida and served as the rabbi of South Palm Beach. Then, at age 29, he decided that it was time to make aliyah. "To me, the Divine call of our generation was to participate in the destiny of the Jewish people in our generation, and that's hard to do from Florida," he says.
What happens in Israel will either shape or answer an essential question: "Is Judaism a relevant and important instrument in the symphony of the spirit of the modern world? Or is it just another fundamentalist approach that does not grapple with this generation in a substantial way? Of course, I'd prefer for us to develop a Judaism that has relevance and contributes to life in our era."
New look at kashrut
Gafni describes his main occupation as "clarifying the issue of the place and contribution of the Jewish instrument in the world symphony of the spirit." To this end, he participates in discussions with a group of philosophers and "international sages," as he calls them, who conduct a dialogue, by means of e-mail, on theological and philosophical subjects. One member of this group is philosopher Ken Wilbur, whom Gafni calls "the Aristotle of our time." "We examine Judaism's place and contribution, starting with the premise that there is no competition between religions," he says. "It's not the old idea of seeking to prove that Judaism is better than other religions. That outlook has to be uprooted."
Another question he addresses is the purpose of Judaism. "The standard argument is a circular one - that Judaism must be preserved so that Jews will be preserved so that they will preserve Judaism. If the whole purpose of Judaism is merely the survival of people as Jews without any ethical or spiritual content, then Judaism is essentially a kind of `enlightened racism.' In my opinion, the answer to the question of what is the purpose of Judaism has to come from questions about the essence of Judaism. The question that all the big rabbis are concerned with now - whether the tuna is a kosher fish or not - is not, in my view, an essential Jewish question. An essential Jewish question is a question that shapes life."
His transition from Orthodox to post-Orthodox began even before he received his rabbinical ordination. "We were studying `The Letter of Rav Shrira Gaon,' and in it he says that everything that happens in the world is for the sake of the Jewish people. I asked the rabbi a simple question: When a couple in China, on a beautiful moonlit night, feels a great physical attraction to each other and makes love - are they also making love for the sake of the Jewish people? The rabbi said, `Indirectly, yes.' That's when I realized that there was something twisted in this Jewish outlook that is incapable of seeing anything that happens in the world as distinct from it, but instead sees everything as somehow enslaved to the needs of Judaism. To me, that means that as a Jew you cannot see the Other, and I don't accept that."
Gafni sees the world as rich and varied and ever-changing. "The classic Jewish outlook tries to freeze everything in order to fit the changes to its needs, instead of fitting itself to the needs of the world," he says. "I thought that it was necessary to seek a new Jewish outlook that would try to deal with our place in this world and in this generation. For example, the matter of kashrut. I don't give myself any breaks in terms of kashrut, but I have a different understanding of the meaning of kashrut than the standard one."
In speaking of kashrut, Gafni includes ecological and humanistic considerations with the halakhic [Jewish legal] system: "Meat is considered kosher if it comes from a kosher animal that has been slaughtered according to Jewish law. Everyone knows this, and that suffices for them. But I say, let's ask another question: A goose that is slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law is kosher according to the classical outlook, but is the fact that it was cruelly fattened in such a way that its entire internal system was wrecked of no significance? How can that not detract from its kashrut? Or if the vegetable that we eat was previously sprayed with a substance that harms the soil and poisons the groundwater, can it be kosher?"
And he adds another, social consideration: "What I mean to say is that there needs to be kashrut not only in the accepted halakhic sense, but also `eco-kashrut.' Judaism must also be expressed in concern for the world and for life, for ecology in other words. And another question: If someone eats food that was grown by people employed in slave conditions at starvation wages, how can it be kosher?"
You're adding a moral dimension to kashrut.
"Yes, and not just to the kashrut of food. I'm saying that we have to find the kashrut in every aspect of human life. For example, I need to check into my mutual fund and make sure that I'm not investing in the world of globalization that is impoverishing people and companies."
What else do you consider an essential Jewish question?
"For example, how do I see my world: Do I divide the world into the enlightened and the primitive, the secular and the religious, the Jews and the goyim, or is my world more complex than that - one in which no one possesses the absolute truth, in which each one contributes something to the symphony of the spirit and in which everyone must ask himself questions. In my view, the most essential part of the spiritual quest has to be doubt - to begin every effort to understand something not from the classical Jewish starting point that says either I or my rabbi has the right answers to all the questions, but to cast doubt on all the answers, and from this point to begin asking questions."
Male and female He created them
Another essential question on Gafni's mind is where the feminine voice has disappeared to in Judaism. This question, he says, is especially urgent in this generation, in which the feminine voice has great importance. "The Orthodox public is so worried about `kol be'isha erva' (the provocativeness of a woman's voice) that it also doesn't listen to the Bat-Kol (the Heavenly Voice) and erases the Goddess."
What exactly is the connection between God and the Goddess?
"First of all, these are two different elements of one Divine essence. The masculine God creates the world outside of himself and the feminine Goddess creates the world within herself. The masculine God is rational, judgmental, ethical. The Goddess is more giving, more encompassing, more accepting. I don't advocate annulling the masculine God, but there has to be a holy mating. Meaning, a combination of the male and the female - in experience, in prayer, in equality. And all this isn't my own personal invention, it comes from the sources of Jewish thought, from the Talmud and the kabbala and Jewish mysticism."
What do you have against neo-liberalism?
"That's another essential question. We live in a world today in which no one truly lives solely in his own place - economically, ecologically or culturally. But what happens is that in the New Age world, which is all superficiality, and in the academic world, which is completely disconnected from life, and also in the world of intellectualism, there is no real discussion of globalization and its meaning for the life of the spirit, government and economics. This discussion has to take place, and that's what we're trying to do in Bayit Chadash."
Is Bayit Chadash a group of `sages' conducting a discussion, or it is a type of Jewish community?
"Both. Bayit Chadash is comprised of several parts. First of all, it's a spiritual-cultural stream that currently has about 2,500 adherents and aspires to be a new stream in Judaism. There's the aspect of the community, which is built on the model of the Buddhist community, or the way the Hasidic community was built once upon a time. The original Hasidic community wasn't in the community center: A person would go to his rabbi a few times a year or a month, or every Shabbat. In our community, there are people who come a few times a year for Shabbat and there are those who come for the festivals and those who come every week or every few days and study in our Beit Midrash or take a class.
"In the inner circle of the community, there is our ordination program and our leadership program. I decided that we have to ordain people for the rabbinate and we currently have 17 men and women in our program. In our leadership program, we try to train people for social leadership. Outside of this inner circle, there is the public, cultural circle, which is composed of our activities in the media."
What is pleasure?
People who have been to Gafni's center in Poriya and to the new center in Jaffa describe Shabbat there as an especially pleasurable experience. "I had seen Rabbi Gafni on television and read his articles in Hayim Aherim, and I was intrigued," says Ziv Barnea, a student in the rabbinical ordination program. "I come from a Marxist, very non-religious background. I went to the Bayit Chadash center in Poriya and discovered that I'd come to a warm and accepting and interesting place. Gafni greeted me and hugged me and also said it was an honor for him to meet me. He's a very warm and loving and loved man, and on the other hand, has no pretensions at all of being a guru.
"One hundred and sixty people came that Shabbat. I kept coming for weekend retreats and there was usually a big crowd. I take my children and my wife there, too. One Shabbat, my wife was called up to the Torah and this had tremendous meaning for me, because the value of equality is something that has very great meaning in my life: equality between men and women, between Jews and Muslims, between straights and gays. Gafni applies this in his life, too. His wife, Chaya, is his equal partner in leading the community. She gives classes and workshops."
Bayit Chadash is registered as a nonprofit organization and also has a center in New York. Gafni is the director-general of the NPO and when he is abroad, Rabbi Avraham Leader, who also grew up in America, substitutes for him at Bayit Chadash.
The organization pays a salary to several teachers and a director.  Money to fund the centers comes from fees paid for lessons and - primarily - from contributions raised by Friends of Bayit Chadash, which operates in Israel and the United States.
"I don't make my money from religion," says Gafni. "Most of what I earn comes from lectures abroad and from my books." He lectures, among other places, at the Harvard University business school and teaches several times a year at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. "And even though they're Reform there, they accept me as an Orthodox rabbi," he says.
"Judaism needs to be liberated from all the religious establishments. The establishments are a desecration of God's name. If buses have to travel on Shabbat for the non-Orthodox majority, then there should be buses. And if the needs of this majority require civil marriages, then there should be civil marriages. And if gays and lesbians want to live together in love, then there should be marriages between them. Only if we throw off all the shackles of the religious establishment will Judaism be able to freely contend in the ideological market without cloaking itself in a mantle of establishment-based superiority. Tommy Lapid is always saying `no.' I agree with most of his `nos.' The problem is: What does he say `yes' to?"
And what do you say?
"I say: The security of the State of Israel depends on our ability to recount a narrative that the country's non-Orthodox majority will feel a part of. If there is no such narrative, then you can make one kind of fence or another, set borders here or there, and it won't work. Because what will be inside the borders? This, by the way, is a very Zionist and not a right-wing thesis. Now, in order to search for this narrative, you need seriousness first of all. New Age populism and kabbala centers won't help. The insularity of the yeshiva world and the alienation of the academic world won't help either.  And another thing, we have to create the kind of philosophy in which a person feels that he is developing and growing in his inner spiritual and ethical world, that he is on an inner journey.
"The kabbalists say that the primary ideal in life is pleasure. But what is pleasure? Pleasure is to develop. Today, the Orthodox Jewish world has become a kind of gym or training program where a person marks off pluses and minuses on a card and calculates how many pluses he needs to check off in order to get to heaven. I've done such and such mitzvot - okay, I've completed my quota. It's a rigid approach that doesn't contribute a lot to one's inner life, and we need to return to the inner view that says that Judaism is a journey that can be expressed in many areas outside of religion: culture, science, you name it."
You're opposed to the rabbinical establishment and yet you ordain rabbis yourself?
"Yes, but a different type of rabbi. They won't be rabbis whose job is to give halakhic answers. In Orthodox Judaism, the rabbi serves as a kind of alter-ego whose role is to underscore the imperfection of anyone who isn't the rabbi. I say that anyone looking for this kind of rabbi should not come to me. I've made and am making a lot of mistakes in life. A rabbi has to be a person who genuinely loves people, who loves the Torah and is a person who has courage and is not just another kind of political person. He has to be outside the establishment and outside the political system and must be capable of admitting mistakes.
"I tell my people that I fall down and pick myself up every day. I'm no better than anyone else. But if you want to go on a spiritual journey together with me, then let's do it. The whole philosophy of Bayit Chadash is that the rabbi is not a guru, the rabbi is essentially the community as a whole. Our philosophy is a kind of new Hasidism. We're the successors of the Ba'al Shem Tov in this sense. Naturally, I'm aware that this approach is threatening to all the traditional approaches."
Gafni may not want to be a guru, but he has not shown any special reluctance to establish a Hasidic-style court. A picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe - "when he was still young and modest" - in other words, before he was crowned as the Messiah by his admirers - adorns the wall of his study. The approach of Bayit Chadash could reopen the war between Hasidim and Mitnagdim, if it comes to be perceived as a real threat to Orthodox Judaism. The Hasidim of the Ba'al Shem Tov were accused by the Mitnagdim of engaging in a form of paganism, and the emphasis that Gafni places on the existence of the Goddess and her importance certainly could invite such accusations.
It's not that hard to see the study methods at Bayit Chadash as a kind of almost idolatrous cult. Gafni himself described this in an article he wrote for Hayim Aherim: "In the Bayit Chadash spiritual community, located at Poriya overlooking Lake Kinneret, we are committed, in the spirit of Rav Kook's teachings, to restoring the spark of holy paganism. We return to the pagan when we reconnect to Mother Earth ... We restore the pagan in meditation, in ecstatic rituals and in passionate love of the Shekhina in her many manifestations. According to the kabbalist Cordovero, we yearn for the consciousness of this Goddess, when we speak of the dream of rebuilding the Temple."n
Gafni: "I'm not talking about Judaism-lite, like the Reform or the settlers. I'm talking about whole Judaism that has both Ethos and Eros."



Letters to the Editor
Very poor answer Regarding "What is the question?"
Haaretz Magazine, March 5, 2004
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/403750.html
 
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni is without doubt a Jewish thinker who combines a deep knowledge of the Jewish traditional sources with a refreshing capacity for original thought. Unfortunately, he often deliberately misreads historical Jewish thought in order to promote his own role as "savior" of us all. The rather strange incorporation into his thought of what he calls "neo-pagan elements" are in clear contradiction to the kind of wise moderation the Jewish tradition has promoted in all areas of life, most especially the sexual one.
 
What is most absurd and unseemly here is his claim that he is doing this while strictly adhering to the 613 commandments. Rabbi Gafni knows well enough that for Judaism, Torah means the Oral Law, and there is no sign in the Oral Law that I know of concerning permitting one individual to change the formulas of traditional blessings, or condoning something clearly abhorrent to the traditional Jewish family - i.e., same-sex "marriage."
 
The truth is that Rabbi Gafni, if he succeeds in inventing a new kind of communal life (something I strongly doubt), will not create a new stream in Judaism, but rather another one of the type of small utopian sect that flourished in 19th-century America and which now have almost completely disappeared.
The celebrity of an hour, and the public relations hype of the moment, will not lead to his having any significant influence on the ongoing struggle of the Jewish people. And here I would mention that his pooh-poohing of the miracle of Jewish survival through millennia of persecution seems to be particularly irresponsible at a time in which Israel has, in Prof. Alan Dershowitz's telling formulation, become "the Jew of the nations."
To put this in Rabbi Gafni's terminology, "the narrative" he is "selling us" about the "eroticization of Judaism," in which personal passion is the center of all, seems a very poor answer to Israeli buses being blown up, over 10 percent unemployment, the assimilation and demographic decline of the Jewish people, worldwide anti-Semitism that is greater than at any time since World War II, and a few other Israeli and Jewish realities that need urgent addressing by Jewish thinkers and leaders now.
Shalom Freedman
Jerusalem
  • Note: Shalom Freedman is a freelance writer in Jerusalem whose work has appeared in a wide variety of Jewish Publications



Integral Naked
An Introduction to Integral Kabbalah: Study, Prayer, and Meditation.
Rabbi Marc Gafni, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and Ken Wilber 
 
ex-rabbi Marc Gafni, Ken Wilber and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
Kabbalah—the mystical branch of Judaism—is concerned with the ultimate knowledge of God. In this series of clips from a gathering in Boulder, Rabbi Marc Gafni and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi—the world's foremost proponents of Integral Kabbalah—discuss with Ken three of the main practices within their tradition that constitute the means of this knowledge: Study, Prayer, and Meditation.
In this introductory clip, Ken sets the context by noting that in the world's great spiritual traditions, the process of God-realization is often divided into three stages: ethics, meditation, and nondual awareness. The second stage, meditation, can be understood to have a variety of forms, one of which is study. According to Gafni and Zalman, "study" is not merely cognitive book-learning, but ecstatic surrender to the Divine via union with a sacred text.
The lectures can be watched on-line at:
http://www.integralnaked.org/live/view_kabbalah.aspx
http://www.integralnaked.org/people.aspx?guest=Dossey



Who is Rabbi Marc Gafni
http://www.integralnaked.org/contributoRabbiaspx?id=34
Rabbi Marc (Mordechai) Gafni has emerged as an exciting new voice in Israeli and international religious life and spirituality.
In addition to teaching graduate seminars on mysticism at Oxford University in England, R'Gafni is the founder and head of Bayit Chadash. Overlooking Israel's Sea of Galilee, Bayit Chadash is an international spiritual community retreat center committed to Jewish renaissance.
Additionally, Gafni is the host and creator of a highly acclaimed national Israeli television program on ethics and spirituality. The show, with hundreds of thousands of viewers, has become an important weaver of the Israeli spirit.
Besides contributing to a number of American journals, R'Gafni is a contributing editor to Chayim Acherim, Israel's leading spirituality magazine.
An acknowledged master of the ancient texts as well as the texts of the heart, Gafni has published three works of Jewish thought in Hebrew.
Gafni's work has deservedly earned him the reputation as a modern philosopher and spiritual master: wise, compassionate, accessible, and universal.
Along with Gafni's two English-written books listed below, a two-volume work with extensive primary source footnotes, entitled The Erotic and the Holy, is soon to be published.
Gafni's written work in English includes:
Soul Prints
Gafni's fourth book, written for a broader English-speaking public, was the subject of a National PBS Special. The book hit the bestseller list, has been translated into numerous languages, and was chosen for the prestigious Napra Nautilus Award for the Best Spirituality Book of 2001. It will be re-released shortly, with an extensive section of primary source footnotes drawn from the Kabbalistic tradition.

The Mystery of Love
Gafni's latest—highly acclaimed.

Rabbi Marc has appeared on Integral Naked:
A Prayer for Malka · 4/12/2004
Your Own Letter in the Torah · 4/5/2004
A Second Person Relationship to God · 3/29/2004
A Political Pilgrimage to Your Highest Self. Part 2. · 3/29/2004
The Ultimate Erotic Act · 2/16/2004
A Political Pilgrimage to Your Highest Self. Part 1. · 12/22/2003



Protocols Blogspot - May 5, 2004
http://pro.enetation.co.uk/comments.php?user=protocols&commentid=108384928788288286

Has anyone else noticed that Bayit Chadash has replaced almost every reference to their founder Rabbi Mordechai Gafni on their website with the phrase Rabbi Mordechai Gafni (aka: Marc Winiarz, Marc Gafni, Mordechai Winiarz), the same phrase that the Awareness Center has had on their website for Rabbi Gafni since March.
see:  http://www.google.com/search?q=gafni+winiarz&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&meta=

Apparently, Bayit Chadash did not like that searches for their founder/leaders current name Gafni and former name Winiarz were leading to The Awareness Center so they have taken this action to boost their standing in the google search resuls for these words.
So far it has worked and they have overtaken The Awareness Center in the search results list.


Protocols Blogspot - May 7, 2004
http://protocols.blogspot.com/
 
It also says that from 1984-1985, he was a Lecturer in Bible at Yeshiva University. He was one of the editors of the SOY Haggadah, along with Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Rabbi Reportadly, Gafni/Winiarz is the reason Rabbi Mordechai Marcus no longer gives out smicha.
http://www.haloscan.com/comments.php?user=thevillageidiots&comment=107893543654332325
·1991 - MA, Philosophy, Bar Ilan University.
·1989 - Rabbinic Certification, Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel.
·1982 - BA, Philosophy, Edison College.
·1982 - Rabbinic Ordination, Ohr Torah Institute.
·1983 - Private Ordination, Rabbi Mordechai Marcus.
·1977-78 - Secondary Education, Yeshivat Gush Etzion, Israel.


Gary Rosenblat
By Levi Ford

I chat by phone with Gary Rosenblatt, editor of The Jewish Week, Thursday morning, June 24, 2004.
"How happy are you with your job?"
"I love it."
"How happy are you with your paper and which parts if any most need to be improved?"
"I'm happy with the paper overall. We could stand improvement across the board. We're always trying to reach more readers, particularly younger readers, more people outside the organized Jewish community."
"Would you describe The Jewish Week as a compelling read?"
"I don't want to tout our paper. That's certainly our goal."
"Would you describe it as the best Jewish newspaper?"
"I'd have to give the same answer."
"What do you think are the obstacles to good Jewish journalism?"
"I sometime describe our ongoing dilemma this way -- a Jewish journalist works with two competing mandates. The first commandment for journalists is to probe, explore and uncover and all the things people expect when they pick up their daily paper.  On the other hand, one of the commandments in the organized Jewish community is the opposite, to cover-up and create a unified front, and not present any negative impression to the outside world. The Yiddish expression, shandze fer de goyim (scandal for the goyim). You're always walking that tightrope -- doing the job of a journalist and being a responsible part of the Jewish community."
"How much status does a journalist for a Jewish paper have in Jewish life?"
"We're like the Rodney Dangerfields of Jewish life. We don't get any respect. On the other hand, it is incremental in building respect. I think it can be there. It depends on the paper and the individual. It is too easy to hide behind the notion that there is some inherent part of our job that makes us not respected by the community. If you do a good job, you are respected by the community."
"What do you love and what do you hate about your job?"
"I write about and deal with issues that are meaningful to me. One of my first jobs was with TV Guide (sports editor from 1970-72). If you get a high from writing for a big audience, that was great. Now I get to combine my love of journalism with Jewish life. The downside is the same. Sometimes it can be dispiriting when you see the pettiness of the community you really care about. People you admire until you meet them. See their egos and the things that motivate them. Sometimes you wish you had just known them from a distance."
"How do you deal with threats, such as threats to the financial survivability of the paper if you publish something that a powerful person does not want?"
"It is part of the nature of the job. I remember in Baltimore, we did a story about Israel bonds. We were told that if that story appeared, it would not only hurt that local bonds drive, but the state of Israel was going to suffer. They both survived.
"That doesn't mean I'm dismissive of what you'd call a threat, which is a pretty strong word. A cautionary message. I try to take them all seriously and not be so cavalier as to not think about the consequences of things we write. My experience has born out that the sun will still come up the next day. I have yet to see the kind of article that would be so destructive. There are threats of boycotting the paper and boycotting our advertisers but it hasn't gone anywhere."
"Your paper was famous for its investigation of [Rabbi] Baruch Lanner and the abuse situation. Many people think that have you information about other rabbis who were similarly abusive. You even wrote a column about information pouring in to you. But you didn't seem to go on to investigate other rabbis with the same zest you applied to Lanner?"
 
"I don't think that's accurate. I have a lot of files. One rabbi in particular I've been trailing for over three years. I've talked to many dozen people. I have to apply the same standards as I would for the Lanner story. We have done stories about other rabbis and other cases of abuse. Until it meets that bar, I have continued to pursue some of these stories.
 
"I think the Lanner stories have had a corrective element. I've written that I don't think that the newspaper should be the mechanism for dealing with these issues. There should be communal mechanisms. The reason people come to us is that they have struck out everywhere else in the community. They come to us out of frustration and desperation. There was a rabbi [Willig] who was on the Beit Din on the Lanner case who I wrote about last year.  He did a public mea culpa about his role."
 
"How would you rate the quality of Jewish journalism done on the Federations?"
"It depends on city to city, newspaper to newspaper, issue to issue. If I pick up a Jewish newspaper from different parts of the country, I sometimes wouldn't know what community I was reading about if I covered up the masthead. It's a lot easier to run a JTA story about what is going on in Israel than to send a reporter to cover a conflict in your own neighborhood. It's cheaper and safer to the run the JTA."
"Are there any individuals in the Jewish Establishment who you would regard as the greatest threats to Jewish journalism because they're bullies?"
"Yeah. I wouldn't name them. I've met some national Jewish leaders who've told me, not in a bullying way, that they believe that the role of Jewish newspapers is to promote Israel and the Jewish community and to unify the community and not to write critical articles about the community. I differ with that. The best way to educate, enlighten and involve people in the Jewish community is to tell them what is really going on. If we tell them we are one, all we do is lose our credibility. I don't think we are one is a goal."
"How often do you encounter bullying?"
"There are varying degrees of it, from canceling subscriptions to stopping advertising to getting my friends to do those things."
"What's the biggest hit you've taken for publishing a story?"
"It's hard to measure. When the Lanner story first broke, we were threatened with institutions pulling their advertising. We didn't see it happen."
"What are the joys and tribulations of being a Federation paper?"
"We do not consider ourselves a Federation paper.  We have no formal ties with the UJA Federation. There was a time when the UJA were ex-officio members of the board of The Jewish Week but that stopped about eight years ago. They buy subscriptions for people who give $50 or more to UJA."
"Does that make them the dominant force behind the paper?"
"Yeah, in that sense, sure. Then we have close to 30,000 subscribe directly."
"How many papers does the Federation buy?"
"It depends from year to year."
"Approximately."
"Between 50,000-60,000."
"If they are buying about twice the number of papers than subscribers, could not the paper be fairly called a Federation paper?"
"I don't think so. We have no formal ties. They don't have any say in editorial or financial matters. It's their choice. They think it serves them well to supply their donors with a Jewish newspaper.
"Some of the pressure I got in Baltimore, where we were an independent paper, was just as strong as the pressure I get here. From the Federation and the Establishment community."
"If you wrote a memoir, would you have a pile of stories you weren't able to work into the Jewish papers you've worked on?"
"I have a file I keep called, 'My Last Issue.' Not necessarily a tell-all memoir, I'd just like to deal with some of these issues."
"There isn't a market for hard-hitting muckraking Jewish journalism for a Jewish audience?"
"Jewish readers tend to be very bright, well-read, sophisticated people, and if you present them good journalism, I think they will want to read it."
"What did your father the rabbi think of your going into journalism?"
"He was proud of me. He used to tease me that if I stayed away from the rabbinate because I saw you live in a glass house, he'd say he only had his congregants giving him a hard time while I had everybody giving me a hard time. But they don't pay my salary directly."
"What's your relationship to Judaism?"
"I consider myself an active observant Jew."
"Do you believe in God?"
"I do."
"Choseness?"
"Yep. I think it is a misinterpreted word. I don't think it means chosen to be better than everybody else. It means simply to be responsible."
"You're happy to believe that the Jews are God's Chosen People?"
"I don't have a choice."
"Some Jews reject it."
"I don't reject it."
"How do you think the Internet and blogging is affecting Jewish journalism?"
"That's a good question. It's very hard to say. I always wonder who has the time to read a lot of these blogs. I don't get the impression that those audiences are wide but I guess they're pretty deep. It does give me a lot of pause because I think it has the potential to reach as many people as standard journalism but it doesn't have the checks and balances and an editing process that more normative journalism has. That's something to worry about."
"You think that's more of a downer than a good sign?"
"It's certainly worrisome. People can come home late at night and write anything off the top of their head and send it out and it's out there."
"Is that scary?"
"It can be."
"Do you think we have too many checks and balances in Establishment Jewish journalism?"
"No. They are the same checks and balances you have in any professional journalistic enterprise, maybe with an added element of sensitivity, which I don't think is a bad thing. I don't think it is a question of whether or not you do a story but how you do a story. I don't see any stories that are absolutely verboten, but it depends on how you treat it."
"You should be sensitive to save people's feelings?"
"You should be aware of feelings. At times it is inevitable you will hurt people's feelings, say a rabbi who's losing a job. You have to weigh that against what you owe the readers in the larger community. Those are tough calls. I don't think there are clear definitions. They are ad hoc and made as much from your kishkes as from your brains."
"Did you read the book The New Rabbi?"
"Yeah."
"What did you think of it?"
"Well, you know, there was a lot that I admired and I think he went a little too far sometimes in exposing people, specifically embarrassing them in ways that he could've handled a little more indirectly and gotten the same message across and not be as hurtful."

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Update: Rabbi Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Gafni, Marc Winiarz
The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter (Message 5751 )- July 11, 2005
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/TheAwarenessCenter/message/5751
Child molester Rabbi Mordechai Gafni (or whatever name he's going by this week) releases new book Who is afraid of Lilith?
http://jewishwhistleblower.blogspot.com/2005/07/child-molester-rabbi-mordechai-gafni.html#comments

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When the Rabbi Met Lilith
by Rabbi Marc Gafni
Monday July 11, 9:00 am ET
TEL AVIV, Israel, July 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Last month, a riveting and controversial text was published by Modan Publishing House in Israel. Together, Rabbi Mordechai (Marc) Gafni and Rabbi Ohad Ezrachi co-authored the book, Who is afraid of Lilith? Rereading the Kabbalah of the Feminine Shadow.
It was met with shock by many readers, as it takes a radical path to understand the fullness of Lilith. Lilith is the mythological figure of the Jewish tradition embodying the fears of men towards the perception of a sexually liberated temptress. Most books focus solely on Lilith's shadow aspects. This book, though, includes the process of Lilith's redemption through a re-examination of Zoharic and Lurianic Kabbalistic sources. The authors recognize not only the problematic aspects of Lilith, but are also attuned to her essential spiritual quality.
The book begins with a scholarly examination of the Lilith character and myth, then turns to other female figures of the Hebrew Bible which represent her many aspects, each one through her own unique story.
Society is used to hearing feminist literature only through the female voice. This book offers the much-needed perspective of the male feminist viewpoint. Hearing the male feminist voice, especially that of a rabbi, is a direct rectification of the past when male rabbinic voices originally created the demonization of Lilith. The book has been published in Hebrew, and the English translation of this modern mystical text should be released soon.
For more details please visit www.marcgafni.com
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, Director of Bayit Chadash, has emerged as an exciting voice in Israeli and international religious life and spirituality. Rabbi Gafni's work has deservedly earned him the reputation as a modern philosopher and spiritual teacher: wise, compassionate, inspired, and universal.
Ohad Ezrahi, the Rabbi and the founder of Hamakom spiritual community.
Ohad's path goes through nature, Zen, years of learning Torah and Kabala in the ultra-orthodox Hassidic communities in Jerusalem, teaching Kabala in the Yeshiva world, "graduating" from orthodoxy and being one of the leading figures in the renaissance of Jewish liberal spirituality in Israel.
Bayit Chadash is a spiritual community in Israel, focused on reclaiming inner Eros and the wonder of Hebrew wisdom as an essential and vital guiding source in the service of human spiritual evolution and physical survival. For further details on Bayit Chadash activities in Israel or abroad, please email zvi@bayitchadash.org or call us at +972-3-683-972. Visit us online at www.bayitchadash.org
Source: Bayit Chadash

Wisdom Chair - Jewish Studies at Stephen S. Wise Temple (Los Angeles, CA)
http://www.sswt.org/@wise/0904/@wise0904.pdf
The Chair will be held by Rabbi Mordechai (Marc) Gafni who over the last tow years has become a beloved part of our Stephen S. Wise Temple community.
Rabbi Gafni is the Dean of the Bayit Chadash Community and Think Tank in Israel, an Oxford Scholar, and important new voice in spirit in the international community, as well as the author of a growinglibrary of both new Jewish Thought and best selling volumes on Modern Jewish Spirituality.
Rabbi Gafni will be in residence at Stephen S. Wise Temple for three months between Septemeber 2004 and July 2005.
Visit One: September 11 -22, 2004
The Dance of Laughter and Tears; Towards a Vision of New Jewish Spirituality
Visit Two:  October 31 - November 12, 2004
The Mystery of Love
Visit Three:  February 23 - March 8, 2004
The Mystery of Love - The Next Level
Visit Four:  May 1 - June 14, 2005
The Psychology of Judaism Through the Prism of the Book of Genesis
For more information, please contact Randi Goetz in the clergy office: (310) 889-2264

By Gary Rosenblatt - Editor and Publisher
The Jewish Week - September 24, 2004
Is there a statute of limitations for rabbis accused of abuse — and should there be?
How does the community determine when someone has done teshuvah, or repentance, as claimed? Can rabbinic ordination be revoked? And when, if ever, do persistent rumors and allegations over a period of years add up to a legitimate story?
Prompting these thoughts in this season of repentance and forgiveness is the continuing saga of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, 43, who in recent years has become an increasingly influential leader of the Jewish Renewal movement.
Born as Marc Winiarz, he came to New York from the Midwest for high school and college, became a youth leader and rabbi, was accused of sexual abuses and misconduct, and started life anew in Israel 13 years ago with an Israeli name. He has left several rabbinic and educational posts, here and in Israel, amid a swirl of rumors and allegations spanning two decades.
Over time Rabbi Gafni has assumed an increasingly high profile as a charismatic teacher, promoting what he calls a new, post-Orthodox stream of Judaism. He has been featured on Israeli television; written several books, including "Soul Prints: Your Path to Fulfillment," which was made into a PBS special; lectured extensively in the United States and Israel; served on the spiritual advisory council of Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, a national organization based in Philadelphia; led retreats at Elat Chayyim, a Jewish Renewal center in the Catskills; preached frequently at the Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles; and founded Bayit Chadash ("new home"), a New Age Jewish community in Israel that he said strives "to restore the spark of holy paganism."
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the spiritual leader of the Israeli community of Efrat, called several months ago to tell me he would like to revoke the rabbinic ordination he gave Rabbi Gafni many years ago when they had a close rabbi-student relationship. Rabbi Riskin characterized as beyond the bounds of Orthodoxy his former student's theology, described earlier this year in a lengthy profile in Haaretz, the Israeli daily. In the newspaper, Rabbi Gafni called for restoring a balance between the erotic and the spiritual in Judaism.
For his part, Rabbi Gafni acknowledged he has moved beyond Orthodoxy. He said he has other ordinations and, in a letter to Rabbi Riskin this spring, "returned" his semicha to spare his former teacher any further embarrassment.
Dogged By Critics
But the crux of the controversy surrounding Rabbi Gafni is more about his personal behavior than his theology. For the past two decades he has been dogged by a small, informal network of people, here and in Israel, who charge that he has had a long history of immoral conduct, including sexual contact with and abuse of underage girls.
These critics, including alleged former victims, several rabbis and educators, have urged synagogues and educational institutions not to hire or engage him, and they have stepped up their efforts as Rabbi Gafni's activities have broadened and become more public after his return from a self-imposed exile of sorts, spending several years writing and studying at Oxford University in England.
Rabbi Gafni admitted to having "made mistakes in my life," including giving in to a strong temper when he was a young man. But he insisted that while he had adult relationships with women at times when he was single — he has been married for several years to his third wife — he was "never abusive." He said he has done teshuvah, in part by carefully removing himself from potentially tempting situations.
"I don't work with kids, I don't counsel men or women, and I don't meet alone with women," he said, anxious to be rid of the old allegations. "How do I make it be over?" he asked me.
Even Rabbi Gafni's detractors said he is brilliant, charming and magnetic; even his supporters admitted he has a powerful ego and a spotted past. And he has plenty of detractors and supporters. Indeed, what makes this case so unusual — besides the length of time this issue has been discussed and debated — is the number of prominent rabbis and educators lined up on opposing sides, and the intensity of their convictions.
Avraham Infeld, now the president of Hillel, was heading an educational program in Israel called Melitz when he hired Rabbi Gafni in the late 1990s, despite pressure not to do so. Infeld has said he had no regrets. Rabbis Saul Berman, who heads the Modern Orthodox group Edah, and Joseph Telushkin, the writer and ethicist, also defended Rabbi Gafni, asserting that he is a gifted teacher and that they have heard no credible reports against him of improper behavior in the past 15 years or so.
"There is an element of unfairness," Rabbi Berman said, "in continuing to resuscitate the same old claims, which are not substantiated, and for people not to acknowledge that individuals can change and grow."
Regarding the allegations of sexual misbehavior against Rabbi Gafni, Rabbi Riskin said he has been approached by many people over the years with similar patterns of complaints of seductive and harassing behavior toward young women on the part of his former student — charges he takes seriously.
Other rabbis troubled by Rabbi Gafni's past behavior and skeptical of his depth of teshuvah include Rabbi Heshie Billet, the former president of the Rabbinical Council of America, and Rabbi Yosef Blau, spiritual adviser at Yeshiva University, both of whom knew Rabbi Gafni in his youth.
Rabbi Blau said he has spoken with a number of women "from the past who said they were victimized, and in no case do I know of his admitting direct responsibility or contacting them to express regret. So what teshuvah has he done?"
In Love Or Abusive?
Two women who claim to be victims of Rabbi Gafni when they were teenagers in New York more than 20 years ago have come forward separately to speak out, though both asked that their full names not be used because they said they still fear the rabbi.
One of the women said Rabbi Gafni "repeatedly sexually assaulted" her over a nine-month period, beginning when she was 13. The woman said she remains emotionally scarred by the experience, which took place in 1979 and 1980. She asserted that Rabbi Gafni, who was then a student rabbi, "repeatedly and forcibly sexually assaulted me" when he would stay at her house over Shabbat and sneak into her room in the middle of the night.
"It was a reign of terror and I felt helpless," she said. "He told me that if I told anyone, I would be shamed in the community and I believed him. I was physically afraid of him."
In the mornings, she continued, Rabbi Gafni would be overcome with guilt and pray fervently, beating his chest, and urge her to do teshuvah as well, since he said his desire for her was her fault.
Only years later was she able to tell her family, and she still feels anger about the experience.
"I had a real spiritual home in Judaism, and he completely destroyed it," the woman said. "My work has been to make peace with my own spirituality because it died after that experience."
When told of the woman's comments, Rabbi Gafni said he would like the situation to be "healed," adding that his attempt to do so several years ago went unheeded. He pointed out that he was only 19 or 20 at the time of the relationship.
"I was a stupid kid and we were in love," the rabbi said. "She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her."
The second woman, Judy, said that when she was 16 and deeply unhappy at home, she joined a popular Orthodox outreach group for teens that Rabbi Gafni was leading called JPSY (Jewish Public School Youth), and was drawn to his charisma and concern for her.
During a two-week period when she ran away from home and was staying with Rabbi Gafni, who was then 25 and married, Judy said he abused her sexually on two occasions. Even more upsetting, she said, was that afterward, the rabbi tried to convince her the encounter did not happen, and then harassed her for many months. He threatened to keep her out of Jewish schools (she was seeking to transfer from public school to a yeshiva), called her home at all hours of the night and then hung up, mailed pictures to her home of naked men, and had her followed.
"He attempted to destroy my life for a year and a half," she said.
Rabbi Gafni said that Judy was a troubled, unstable teenager who fabricated the story after he rebuffed her advances.
A woman named Susan, who at the time was a 22-year-old adviser in JPSY, said she believed Judy's account. She said that when she took Judy's side, Rabbi Gafni made harassing phone calls and threats against her.
"He told me I would regret it," Susan said, adding that the rabbi made inappropriate advances to her as well.
The rabbi said his version of the episode with Judy was corroborated by a psychologist engaged by Yeshiva University, which housed JPSY at the time. Judy said other psychologists support her account.
`Spiritual Signature'
The back-and-forth on the charges and explanations have filled many of my notebooks over the past three years, as I have interviewed more than 50 people on this issue. Some investigations have a clear resolution; this one does not.
Defenders of Rabbi Gafni note the allegations go back many years. They demand more recent proof of wrongdoing and real names to back up the charges. His critics offer, and psychologists affirm, that it is common for abuse victims to speak out only after much time has elapsed, if at all, and to feel embarrassed, if not fearful, about using their names.
Even the criteria of when a public airing of abuse charges constitutes lashon hara (prohibited gossip) and when it is an obligation — to protect people — is ultimately a judgment call. The determining factor is whether the accused person is a danger to society and may abuse again. But who is to say when and whether Rabbi Gafni is free of his acknowledged past "mistakes"?
Two groups in the Renewal movement, Aleph and Elat Chayyim, looked into the allegations against Rabbi Gafni and found "no evidence of wrongdoing," according to Rabbi Arthur Waskow. (The three women with whom I spoke said they were never contacted.) And Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the acknowledged leader of the Renewal movement, said he is aware of the allegations against Rabbi Gafni but supports him.
"If you want to find fly specks in the pepper, you can always find them," Reb Schachter-Shalomi said. "But I've watched him teach. He is learned, exciting and charismatic. A good teacher is one who gets people excited."
Indeed, Rabbi Gafni's followers and admirers said he is a gifted thinker and leader who has helped bring many people closer to Judaism through his writings, lectures and television shows. They said he has done teshuvah, presents no threat to anyone and should be left alone to continue his important teaching.
His critics contend that he is a self-promoter and deceiver who has never been honest with others, or himself, about his behavior.  They find his increasing popularity infuriating and worry that his charisma and influence could result in trouble for unsuspecting followers.
In the middle is Rabbi Gafni, who said that while others portray him as Svengali, he sees himself as a "victim" of a longstanding "witch hunt," motivated primarily by several Orthodox rabbis jealous of his success.
In his writings he described himself as "a flawed human being, forever striving," and urged each of us to establish and craft our "soul print," our personal life story, the "spiritual signature" we leave on the world.
Rabbi Gafni evokes strong emotions wherever he goes, leaving a mark of darkness or light, depending on how his own "soul print" is perceived.


Vicki Polin's Letter to the Editor - The Re-Invented Rabbi

By Vicki Polin - Executive Director, The Awareness Center
The Awareness Center - September 27, 2004 
(The following letter was sent to The New York Jewish Week in response to the article "The Re-Invented Rabbi")
 
Rabbi Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Winiarz
The Awareness Center wants to thank Gary Rosenblatt and The Jewish Week for the courage it took to publish the story on Rabbi Mordechai Gafni (AKA: Marc Winartz, Mordechai Winiarz, Marc Gafni). We also want to thank the three women who were brave enough to share their "alleged" history of being sexually violated by such a prominent public figure. These three women should be seen as heroes. 
According to the article "The Re-Invented Rabbi", Rabbi Gafni confessed to having sexual relations with a 13 year old girl. He pointed out that he was "only 19 or 20 at the time of the relationship." According to New York law, an adult is someone who is age 18 or over.  Keeping this in mind, Gafni's actions would be considered "statutory rape." But we need to keep in mind that the "alleged" victim who was only 13 years old at the time is quoted as calling this "relationship" as "repeatedly sexually assaults over a nine-month period." 
 
Rabbi Gafni is very fortunate that he committed this confessed crime in the United States. If he would have been a few hundred miles north in Canada, there is NO statute of limitation on sexual violence committed against minors. 
It's also hard not to believe the cases of Judy and Susan. If Rabbi Gafni confessed to having a "sexual relationship" with a 13 year old, how difficult is it to believe that he would also "allegedly" sexually assault a 16 year old who was living in his own home, or the alleged attempted rape of a 22-year-old woman. 
Judy stated in her recall of her assault that Mordechai was married to his second wife at the time, yet Gafni stated he only had "adult relationships with women at times when he was single, and was never abusive." He already confessed to having a "relationship" with a 13 year old, so who's telling the truth? 
The Awareness Center is the Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault (JCASA). We are an international clearinghouse of information that deals with sexual violence in Jewish Communities around the world. If you or someone you know has been sexually victimized, please feel free to contact us.
 
Vicki Polin, MA, ATR, LCPC
Executive Director - The Awareness Center 


"The Re-Invented Rabbi,"
The Jewish Week: Letters - October 1, 2004
http://www.thejewishweek.com/top/letters.php3
Rabbi Jacob Neusner
Your coverage of accusations of scandal in the rabbinate pays tribute to the maturity and moral integrity of the Jewish community, which gains strength from honest confrontation with its alleged faults and its flaws ("The Re-Invented Rabbi," Sept. 24). Had the Roman Catholic Church in the 1980s and 1990s enjoyed the kind of professionalism in community journalism that American Jewry has in The Jewish Week, it would have spared itself its present calamity.
Accusations of lashon hara (hurtful speech), claims of privilege for the rabbinate, "who are you to judge?" ad hominem exculpation of a "beloved scholar" and the like — these forms of special pleading confirm the urgency of reforming the rabbinate, and not there alone, in organized Jewry.
Jacob Neusner
Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.
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I know you have "researched" and spoken to people who have made allegations about Rabbi Mordechai Gafni's past, but to write what you did ("The Re-Invented Rabbi," Sept. 24) is nothing short of a nasty exercise in lashon hara (hurtful speech).
What right do you have to publish, for the eyes of thousands, unsubstantiated accusations of this kind? Were a court of justice to have made such a pronouncement, based on a fair trial and evidence, you would be justified in publishing their findings. There are appropriate ways to deal with such accusations, and our tradition presents us with theological understandings of justice and teshuvah (repentance) that are for the individuals involved in wrongdoings to consider. Nowhere does this tradition speak of the rights of a third party to make public allegations as part of this process.
Your article has done a great disservice to the reputation of a great teacher and learned rabbi. I hope you will ensure that Rabbi Gafni receives both a public and personal apology. This is the appropriate time of year to take such action.
Rachel Gurevitz
New York, N.Y.
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By Rabbi Arthur Green
Although I am not a regular reader of The Jewish Week, a New York colleague sent me your column regarding Rabbi Mordechai Gafni ("The Re-Invented Rabbi," Sept. 24). It makes me wonder whether journalistic honors and awards are as rescindable as rabbinic smicha seems to be.
I have known Rabbi Gafni for several years and think highly of his abilities as a creative teacher of Torah. As a trusted friend, I also know how he struggles with a personal history that includes some genuinely bad deeds done when he was quite young, some 20 years ago. He has been relentlessly persecuted for those deeds by a small band of fanatically committed rodfim, in whom proper disapproval of those misdeeds combines with jealously, anger at his swerving from Orthodoxy, and a range of other emotions.
Perhaps this rabbi should be made to confront his past more fully. A bet din before a mutually accepted rabbi would be the right setting for that. But the public press? Who set you up as ruler and judge over us? Is this responsible journalism?
Rabbi Gafni has more or less been assassinated in the Jewish community. None of his explanations will mean much against the whispering that will accompany him forever, thanks to your article, within the confines of our extended gossipy shtetl. You have taken it upon yourself, on erev Yom Kippur, to drive a man away from Jewish life. In the absence of anything like a "smoking gun" evidenced in present or recent conduct, I find this journalistically and Jewishly abhorrent.
Rabbi Arthur Green
Newton, Mass.

By Ami Eden
Forward - September 24, 2004
http://www.forward.com/amieden/index.php
In his latest column, Jewish Week editor Gary Rosenblatt relays several sexual assault allegations dating back 15-plus years against Rabbi Mordecha Gafni (formerly Marc Winiarz). Many fair-minded readers will ask why drag this all up now. It's a fair question, and one that Rosenblatt acknowledges right from the start, in his first few sentences:
"Is there a statute of limitations for rabbis accused of abuse — and should there be? How does the community determine when someone has done teshuvah, or repentance, as claimed? Can rabbinic ordination be revoked? And when, if ever, do persistent rumors and allegations over a period of years add up to a legitimate story? "
In my mind, Rosenblatt made the right choice, but his first question was the wrong one. The term "statute of limitations" suggests the victims came forward only now, after more than a decade. But, in fact, the allegations against Gafni are more than a decade old. The accusations never made the papers because most of his professional success came after he moved to Israel to launch a teaching/lecturing career, thousands of miles away from his alleged victims. As long as he was in Israel, most of his critics were willing to keep quiet, even as his fortunes rose overseas. It was only after he tried to reestablish himself back in America several years ago that the rumors about his past began recirculating.
As for the question of "teshuvah," the Jewish concept of repentance, Gafni and his defenders seem to want it both ways: Whatever happened, it happened a long time ago -- and he didn't do anything wrong.
Teshuvah requires a personal apology and forgiveness from the wronged party. So, as long as Gafni denies the allegations against him and the accusers remain angry, his defenders can say he is innocent, but it is intellectually sloppy or dishonest to suggest that a newspaper should keep mum because the guy has repented in the classical Jewish sense. He's done no such thing.
It's also worth noting that the Bible offers several examples of leaders faced with sexual allegations who survived scandal -- but all of them offered public admissions. And, even now, millennia later, we continue to recollect their misdeeds.
The only real question, then, is Rosenblatt's last one: When, if ever, do persistent rumors and allegations over a period of years add up to a legitimate story?
The truth is that no universal answer exists, but in this case, I suspect Rosenblatt made the right call.

by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor
The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles - October 1, 2004
http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=12984
(see sidebar to right of reprinted Jewish Week article)
Rabbi Eli Herscher has an emphatic answer to Gary Rosenblatt's question about when persistent "rumors and allegations" add up to a story: They don't.
Herscher, senior rabbi at Stephen S. Wise Temple, says The New York Jewish Week and The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles have stepped from responsible journalism to outright lashon hara, or gossip, by printing and reprinting an article that looks into alleged sexual abuse by Rabbi Mordechai Gafni.
Gafni has become an important part of the Reform congregation's educational program as a frequent scholar-in-residence, and Herscher has no plans to break off a burgeoning relationship based on allegations he says are unfounded and malicious.
"`Rumors and allegations' are not going to be the basis for bringing down one of the great Jewish teachers of this generation," Herscher said.
But Herscher may have to watch his back legally.
"If the congregation brings him out now with full knowledge of these allegations, and if something were to happen now, they may have culpability," said Anthony DeMarco of the Beverly Hills law firm Kiesel, Boucher and Larson, which is handling 300 abuse cases for victims in the Catholic church and serves as liaison counsel for all such cases in Southern California.
But Herscher hasn't found any substance to the rumors he said he personally checked out after Gafni himself brought the issue up soon after they met.
The article, Herscher points out, brings up incidents alleged to have occurred more than 25 years ago, when Gafni was 19, and even those are based on allegations that have never been proven and that Gafni denies.
The fact that the alleged cases are 25 years old does not mean they shouldn't be acted upon, Demarco said.
"What we find in childhood sexual abuse is there is a latency period for when people come forward, and that is why years will go by until these kids finally speak out," Demarco said. Often adults speak out when their own children reach the age they were when they were abused.
Rosenblatt, once nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, is one of the most respected editors in Jewish journalism. He printed the story, based on more than 50 interviews over several years, after months of deliberation.
Herscher takes The Jewish Week to task for implying that Gafni has admitted to wrongdoing or done teshuvah, or repentence, for specific incidents.
For instance, Rosenblatt says that Gafni has done teshuvah by agreeing not to work with children, to do private counseling or to be alone with a woman.
But Herscher said he discussed those self-imposed ground rules with Gafni, and it was clear to him that Gafni was not trying to avoid temptation, but only trying to preclude even the appearance of wrongdoing, given the rumors that have haunted him for two decades.
"There are people who could be learning with him and being counseled by him who don't have that opportunity," Herscher said.
Herscher has invited Gafni to teach frequently over the last two years at Stephen S. Wise. This past Rosh Hashanah, 1,000 people came to hear him even on the second day — traditionally a low-attendance day at Reform congregations — and hundreds more came to evening lectures during the week.
Gafni's appearance on Rosh Hashanah kicked off his tenure holding the newly created wisdom chair of Jewish studies at Stephen S. Wise, where he will be returning to teach this year for two weeks in November, two weeks in March and six weeks in May and June.
"Rabbi Gafni has inspired people who might have never been engaged in serious Jewish learning were it not for him," Herscher said. "I've seen him move them, challenge them, uplift them and have been amazed at his greatness as a teacher."
None of that, Herscher said, would matter if Gafni were, in fact, an abusive man.
"There would be one reason and one reason only to publish such an article, and that would be if factual evidence, and not allegation and innuendo, determined that Rabbi Gafni was in some way a danger," he said.
Attorney Demarco said he has seen this response before — that priests confronted with allegations about their colleagues are often unwilling to believe that fellow men of God could have committed such crimes.
Gafni's support is coming from a list of prominent rabbis, including ethicist Joseph Telushkin and Modern Orthodox scholar Saul Berman.
Among his supporters in Israel is Rabbi Daniel Landes, director of the Pardes Institute, who led the upstairs minyan at Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills and Congregation B'nai David-Judea in Pico-Robertson.
Although Landes has never worked professionally with Gafni, the two have been acquainted since Landes moved to Israel nine years ago. Landes officiated when Gafni and his third wife married a few years ago.
When Landes first befriended Gafni, people approached him to let him know Gafni was the subject of persistent rumors. Landes chose not to believe hearsay and tracked the stories back down the grapevine until he got to the sources. He spoke to three women in Israel.
"Their response was, `Why are people telling such stories? They're just not true,'" Landes said in a phone interview from Jerusalem. He did not investigate any of the cases alleged to have happened in the United States 25 years ago.
Herscher thinks the public's eagerness to unearth and believe such stories goes back to years' worth of people not believing victims of abuse.
"What has happened now, I fear, is that the pendulum has swung the other way, so that when there is an accusation there is an assumption that the accused is in fact guilty," Herscher said.
Herscher said that now it is even more important to continue to support Gafni and bring him to Los Angeles to teach.
"Rabbi Gafni coming to teach here makes a deeply important Jewish statement — that if rumors and allegations and innuendo are allowed to destroy someone who only wants to teach, Jewishly, that is tragic."

The Awareness Center - October 2, 2004
Rabbi Arthur Green - Dean, Rabbinical School of Hebrew College Newton MA
Hebrew College, 160 Herrick Road, Newton Centre, MA 02459
Phone: 617-559-8626   Email: agreen@hebrewcollege.edu
The following information was recently forward to The Awareness Center. The message provided below is posted on a blog (something like a bulletin board). Due to my lack of knowledge of Hebrew and Torah I had to ask one of our volunteers for the definition of a rodef. Below is the response:
"din rodef" - the Jewish law of rodef, which literally means one who chases and refers to a license to kill someone who intends to kill someone else.
Basically, a rodef can be killed on sight. You can't break the Sabbath to save the life of a rodef.
People publicly called Rabin a rodef. Many feel this contributed to the atmosphere in which Rabin was murdered. Din rodef was used as a justification for his murder.
Rabbi Arthur Green has put members of The Awareness Center, Rabbi Yosef Blau, Rabbi Heshie Billet, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the women who have been "allegedly" sexually assaulted and attempted sexually assaulted by Rabbi Gafni and all of the child victim advocates who have supported the "alleged victim/survivors" at risk of harm. The Awareness Center is demanding that Rabbi Arthur Green make a public appology for making such a dangerous of statement.
If any harm should come to any of the survivors, Rabbi Blau, Rabbi Billet, Rabbi Riskin, the board members of The Awareness Center, or any of the victim advocates connected to making the case of Rabbi Mordechai/Marc Gafni/Winarz public -- Rabbi Arthur Green should be held responsible.
Sincerely,
Vicki Polin, Executive Director
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Protocols
me @ 11:40PM | 2004-10-02|
Rabbi Arthur Green, the Ayatollah from the left has apparently launched a fatwa against: the Awareness Center, Rabbi Yosef Blau, Rabbi Heshie Billet, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, victims raped/sexually molested by Rabbi Gafni and supporters of Gafni's victims and apparently Me too.
Using the language of the late Prime Minister Rabin's murderer (and advocates of Rabin's murder), Rabbi Green has invoked Din Rodef. Calling the above rodfim.
Is this a sign of times? Will Jewish Renewal now resort to the language and advocacy of murder against fellow Jews?
Jewish Renewal, no boudaries, no standards, a place where an abuser and exploiter of children and women can feel at home.
Now advocating murder.
Irresponsible and disgusting language.
Shame.
It's time for the Rabbi Arthur Green to appologize and remove himself from any position he holds as a Rabbi. From his use of the word rodef in reference to community figures in a public letter he shows himself unfit to be called a rabbi. He has gone beyond the bounds of civilized discourse.

By Steven I. Weiss
Protocols Blogspot - October 3, 2004
I think this comes from The Awareness Center crowd: Please be advised that Rabbi Arthur Green, a Lown Professor of Jewish Thought at Brandeis University, past President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and a leading figure in the Jewish Renewal movement published a letter in the October 1, 2004 edition of the NY Jewish Week (copy at bottom of letter) which was in response to an editorial in the previous week's edition of the Jewish Week regarding a colleague Rabbi Mordechai Gafni/Marc Winiarz (see http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/Gafni_Mordechai.html)
In this letter Rabbi Arthur Green refers to "a small band of fanatically committed rodfim". That "small band" apparently includes Vicki Polin of the Awareness Center ( http://www.theawarenesscenter.org ), Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Heshie Billet former President of the Rabbinical Council of America, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Chief Rabbi of Efrat, a young women raped by Rabbi Gafni when she was 13 years-old, a young women allegedly sexually assaulted by Rabbi Gafni when she was 16-year-old and a young women who Rabbi Gafni allegedly attempted to rape, among others.
For a person to use his title as rabbi to refer to such people using the term "rodfim" is both irresponsible and reprehensible. A "Rodef" is a Hebrew term that refers to the Jewish legal term of a "pursuer". A "Rodef" can be killed on sight and it is forbidden to even break the Jewish Sabbath to save the life of a "Rodef". This language was invoked to advocate and justify the murder of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin by his murderer and his murderer's supporters. By using this term, Rabbi Green has invoked "Din Rodef" (law of the pursuer) in a similar murderous fashion.
While I believe in a free society with free speech and free exchange of ideas and appreciate and cherish the academic freedom we enjoy in this free country, Rabbi Arthur Green's use of the Jewish legal term "Rodef" is outrageous.
I call on Rabbi Arthur Green to immediately withdraw and apologize for the use of the term "Rodef". I call on Gary Rosenblatt to print an apology for allowing his newspaper to be used to print such a murderous libel. I call on Brandeis University, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Jewish Renewal movement to immediately and publicly condemn such comments and make it clear that such comments do not represent their institutions and are utterly unacceptable in a free society.
..........
Levi says: Good thing I got this email when I did, otherwise I was off to kill the leaders of The Awareness Center because Rabbi Arthur Green (who I look to for all my halakhic decision-making) called them pursuers in The Jewish Week (my primary source for Jewish news).

© (2004) The Awareness Center
The Awareness Center - October 11, 2004
Some have questioned why the Awareness Center posted a very strong, immediate and public response to Rabbi Arthur Green's public letter stating:
"He has been relentlessly persecuted for those deeds by a small band of fanatically committed rodfim, in whom proper disapproval of those misdeeds combines with jealously, anger at his swerving from Orthodoxy, and a rangeof other emotions."
It is the position of the Awareness Center that the use of such language to designate an alleged victim of any form of violence that seeks justice against their abuser as a rodef is utterly irresponsible and unacceptable. It is also a dangerous event to allow to pass without unequivocal public condemnation. This is a term which as we have seen in Israel with Prime Minister Rabin can lead to tragic consequences. Such language cannot be ignored or tolerated by advocates of victims of sexual or physical violence.
We cannot allow victims, their families, friends and supporters to be labeled as rodfim. A reckless public libel such as Rabbi Arthur Green's must be responded to with in an unequivocal public condemnation. It is a dangerous thing to let stand or ignore. This type of language has no place in civilized discourse.
"Rodef" or the plural form "rodfim" when used as a noun has one meaning "a pursuer with murderous intention". A person who meets the definition of a rodef/rodfim is subject to din rodef / law of the pursuer and is subject to death on sight. It is forbidden to transgress the sabbath to save the life of a rodef/rodfim.
The term rodef/rodfim is commonly known due to its use in rationalizing and excusing of the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. It is claimed that the use of the term rodef against Rabin by community leaders at the time contributed to the charged atmosphere in which Rabin was murdered.
His murderer uses that designation as justification for killing Rabin. Today the use of the term rodef in Israel is widely seen as "incitement for murder" and those who make such statements in public are reported to the police.
It has been suggested that rodef literally means pursuers in some benign, innocent way. That is incorrect. In Hebrew, many words have a three letter "shoresh" or root. There can be numerous words with differing yet similar root meanings that have the same derivation from the same shoresh. There are numerous words with the same shoresh as rodef but they are mainly adjectives, verbs and adverbs. There are a few nouns with the same shoresh.
They include:
Redifah = pursuit
Meradeh = one who pursues vanities
Mordaf = persecuted/pursued.
Rabbi Arthur Green used rodfim as a noun. As a noun, there is no modern Hebrew usage of the term rodef/rodfim. It is a biblical term and a Halachic designation. It does not mean a mere benign pursuer.  It means "a pursuer(s) with murderous intention". A person who meets the definition of a rodef/rodfim is subject to din rodef / law of the pursuer and is subject to death on sight. It is forbidden to transgress the sabbath to save the life of a rodef/rodfim.
The average person in any hebrew speaking community in the entire world who saw a person shake his fist at a group of people and shout "RODFIM" would instantly recognize, understand and appreciate the "blood libel" being stated. That is exactly what Rabbi Arthur Green has done here.
We call on Rabbi Arthur Green to publicly withdraw his comment and issue a full public apology for the use of the term rodfim. We call on Jewish institutions affiliated with Rabbi Arthur Green and that work with victims of violence to condemn his comments and distance themselves from him until he takes those steps.


Articles on rabbi Gafni, born Marc Winiarz
By Levi Ford
October 3, 2004
 
My personal experience with rabbi Gafni. I heard him lecture for an hour at UCLA in 2002. I saw him hustle Dennis Prager to get a half hour on Dennis Prager's radio show the next week. I considered what Gafni had to say worthless (both in person and on the radio). I read about half of his book Soul Prints. I considered it worthless. Just New Age nonsense.
 
Gafni struck me as a charlatan.
 
I have an ex-girlfriend who was deeply moved by his book.
 
I understand that Rabbi Gafni's greatness as a religious teacher, such as it is, is not in coming up with original material, but in taking other people's ideas and restating them more clearly than the original thinkers. He's an excellent mimic and actor.
 
This is not a bad quality so long as one attributes one's sources. Dennis Prager is a popularizer of other people's ideas, but he attributes his sources. Rabbi Gafni frequently takes without attributing (as does Dr. Laura Schlesinger, who takes a lot from Prager without attribution). Many of his Renewal followers, who are so ignorant in Torah that they don't know any better, think he's a genius. He certainly knows more Torah than 99% of Renewal Jews.
 
He's been to yeshiva. He's well read. He knows how to speak. He's charismatic. They're dying for a guy like him.
 
Rabbi Gafni's main problem is not his sexual philandering, say his critics. Those sexual sins are but a symptom of a larger problem -- he's a creep.
 
Rabbi Gafni, and Rabbi Arthur Green and his other supporters, are convinced that there is a small group of people who are destroying his career.  They are right. There is a small group of people destroying his career (well, he's destroyed his own career with his creepy behavior). They pushed Gary Rosenblatt to write that expose in The Jewish Week.
 
They are also the group of people who have known Rabbi Gafni best and longest.
 
If Rabbi Gafni has truly done teshuva, why hasn't he contacted the long list of innocent people he hurt and made restitution?
 
Gary Rosenblatt writes: "Avraham Infeld, now the president of Hillel, was heading an educational program in Israel called Melitz when he hired Gafni in the late 1990s, despite pressure not to do so. Infeld has said he had no regrets. Rabbis Saul Berman, who heads the Modern Orthodox group Edah, and Joseph Telushkin, the writer and ethicist, also defended Gafni, asserting that he is a gifted teacher and that they have heard no credible reports against him of improper behavior in the past 15 years or so."
 
Rabbi Gafni has gone through more reinventions (not to mention name changes, marriages and relationships) than any rabbi I know.
 
When he was young (mid '70s), he saw himself as the next rabbi Shlomo Riskin. He was delivering rabbi Riskin's talks, word-for-word, better than rabbi Riskin. Rabbi Riskin didn't mind this. On the contrary, he was flattered to have a protege. Rabbi Riskin speaks personally, as if he is giving you some secret (with the way he uses his delivery and moves around the room). Mordecai imitated him exactly.
 
Then Rabbi Gafni graduated from Riskin and decided he was going to be the second coming of Rav Yosef Soloveitchik. He claimed to be the Rav's disciple. Probably another of rabbi Gafni's exaggerated claims. Perhaps Gafni heard a lecture or two of the Rav's in person.
 
The Rav was completely out of Rabbi Gafni's range, but he used his terms.
 
This didn't last long. Next (around 1980) Rabbi Gafni wanted to become the next Shlomo Carlebach (including Carlebach's creepy history of sexual abuse, including of underage girls).
 
In The Jewish Week article, Rabbi Gafni admitted to committing statutory rape. He said "She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her." That's an argument Luke Ford would use.
 
It's true people won't leave Mordecai alone. It's because of what he has done.
 
He's been married three times. He was engaged for a fourth time. He walked out on his first wife when she was three months pregnant.
 
He ran an organization called JPSY (Jewish Public School Youth). He was hired by Ellen Lieberman (who is now married to South African rabbi Ian Azizolohof). When Ellen left on maternity leave, Gafni took the organization from her.  He seduced the board. She came back from leave to find she was out of a job.
 
Rabbi Gafni is insatiable for power and his sexuality is just a part of his power thing. Some of his supporters, such as Mark Belzberg (wealthy Canadian family) have said, "Yeah, Mordecai has a yetzer hora." As the Talmud says, the greater the man, the greater the yetzer hora.
 
Once in control of JPSY, Mordecai Gafni self-destructed. On his second marriage, he got caught molesting an underage girl. I understand that a similar problem broke up his first marriage.
 
When Mordecai was in high school, he was accused of various crimes and misdemeanors and use of credit cards. But how could the good rabbi effectively preach against sin if he hadn't experienced the pleasure of it first hand?
 
It's the people who know him longest and best who are most scared of what he can do. People he went to high school with. Today they are high profile Orthodox educators. They have made sure he can't get jobs in the Orthodox community, which is probably why he drifted out of Orthodoxy in the past four years and into Renewal, a place with loose enough standards to take someone with his history.
 
Also, he probably ploughed through the furrows of available Orthodox girls and women and he needed the type of female refreshment (Wilt Chamberlain understands what I'm saying) that is more easily available outside of Orthodoxy.
 
After he sexually abused this 16 yo Judy girl in JPSY a couple of times (and after that she turned him down), he hounded her for about a year.  He went on a preemptive strike against her.  He tried to destroy her life. He spread rumors that she was crazy. That she had a crush on him. That she was trying to destroy him.
 
Judy told her story to rabbi Shlomo Riskin. He chose to believe Rabbi Gafni instead and discounted her story. Rabbi Riskin told her to stop bothering the good Rabbi Gafni.
 
Judy told one of her counselors in JPSY. She confronted Rabbi Gafni. He sexually assaulted her as well.
 
A Beit Din was convenened in New York. He was told to quit his job and move from New York to some unsuspecting community and make a new life (this is how these things were handled until recently, the new community of these sexual predators never got warned what hurricane was headed their way).
 
Around 1984, Rabbi Gafni had problems with the IRS.
 
Rabbi Gafni moved to Boca Raton around 1985. He did a great job in outreach. He was charismatic. He touched people deeply with Torah and other things. He built up the community (Boca Raton synagogue) that rabbi Kenneth Brander is leaving for YU. Rabbi Brander inherited the community from Mordecai in 1987.
 
Rabbi Gafni left the Boca Raton community suddenly. There were rumors that he'd had an affair with a married woman. There were a string of sexual allegations against him. He had to pick up in the middle of the night and move to Israel (and then took on the name Mordecai Gafni?).
 
Before the scandal broke, he was considering moving back to New York to run for Congress going into politics. The guy is obsessed with power.
 
He also wanted to become a television anchor man. He knew he spoke well and he was just looking for ways to put his face before a lot of people.
 
He kept a scrapbook with clippings from every article he was in.
 
He kept coming up with various schemes for getting the most love.
 
There was a wealthy Jew in Boca Raton, the late Jerry Hahn, a big Aish Ha Torah donor who loved Mordecai.
 
Gafni took the three day Aish Ha Torah Discovery seminar around 1987. He then went into the office and took all the original Discovery files. A week later, Rabbi Gafni started teaching the Discovery seminar in Israel.
 
Rabbi Gafni was confronted on this. He said to Aish -- you guys don't own this. It's Torah. Anybody can teach it.
 
Rabbi Gafni went around and taught the Discovery seminar for a year month or two. He was a great teacher.  He started parroting the teachings of Aish Ha Torah founder Rabbi Noach Weinberg. Rabbi Weinberg, when he found out, was amused.
 
Rabbi Gafni decided to follow Rabbi Riskin's blueprint of becoming chief rabbi of his own town. Rabbi Riskin became chief rabbi of Efrat by creating his own town with his own community.
In Israel, to become a rabbi of a city, it takes a lot of political savvy and support. If you wanted to become the rabbi of Jerusalem, you'd have to hire a PR firm and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and have major support in political places. Major Torah scholarship won't be enough to make it happen.
 
Rabbi Gafni cut a deal with the contractor so he could become the rabbi of Beit Tzufim.
He got a job in the Israeli city of Kfar Saba. Every fourth shabbatot, he was the guest rabbi. People loved him. He was charismatic. He made friends.
 
One man approached him for help with his 22 year old daughter. She needed counseling. She was dating a guy the father considered inappropriate. Mordecai agreed to counselor.
 
He shaved off his beard. He got up in front of the synagogue and said he had found the woman of his dreams. He was leaving the rabbinate. He was leaving his wife. He was going to spend the rest of his life with this 22 year old.
 
His second marriage came to an end. The father of the 22 year old went berserk. He contacted the Chief Rabbi's office and filed a complaint.
 
Mordy's relationship with the 22yo broke up quickly.
 
Mordy left the rabbinate for about a year.  Rabbi Shlomo Riskin was still in Mordy's corner.
 
At this point, around 1992, no American or Israeli institution would take Rabbi Gafni. So Mordecai Gafni left for Australia. Rabbi Riskin had funding there. Rabbi Riskin wanted to spread his empire to Australia.
 
Rabbi Gafni was caught in some obvious lies and his credibility down under was shot.
 
Rabbi Gafni has no contact with his child from his first marriage. He has three kids from his second marriage. He's now married for five years in his third marriage and I don't think he has any kids this time around.
 
Mark Belzberg hired Mordy (they'd known each other from high school, Mark was a surrogate older brother for Mordecai) as a software salesman. Mark had a business partner, a wealthy lawyer baal teshuva who moved to Israel. He's reported that Mordecai used the company credit card for all kinds of immoral things on business trips (that he was made to pay back out of his own pocket).
 
Mordy walked into this guy's office and said he wanted to be president. The guy said Mordy would have to buy him out (Mordy doesn't have any money). The guy went away on a business trip for three weeks. He finds out that Mordecai Gafni had told everybody that he was president. So he fired him on the spot.
 
Mordecai couldn't stay away from teaching Torah. He couldn't stay away from the limelight. Rabbi Riskin helped Mordecai get a job around 1996 with Rabbi David Aaron from Israel (Isralight).
Rabbi Aaron's web site uses a promo from that litigious, and in my opinion, nogoodnik Deepak Chopra (who successfully sued the Weekly Standard and the New York Post for saying he patronized hookers): "Inspirational, wise, warm and witty... David Aaron gives us a down to earth understanding of the Kabbalah, revealing the secrets to living a soulful, happy, and more meaningful life."
 
Rabbi Gafni had one or two flings with his Isralight students. Rabbi David Aaron won't speak about it. Rabbi Gafni got fired from Isralight.
 
He got a job with a group called Milah (Jerusalem Institute for Education). He became high profile in Jerusalem around 1998. He got fired because of money and power issues.
 
(A source writes: "Milah was an adult education ulpan for Americans and ethiopians who finished the regular ulpan and were still not comfortable in Hebrew. Gafni used this role as head of the organization, not to teach Hebrew, but to teach his theories of pagan Judaism and a parashat hashavua class.")
 
A rabbinical student at Hebrew University around this time had a moral dilemma. He worked for a famous rabbi as a research assistant. "I listen to tapes of other well-known rabbis. I write them up for him. Then he gives over their classes."
 
It was obvious the student worked for Rabbi Mordecai Gafni.
 
So whose tapes was he stealing these days? Rabbi Noach Weinberg among others.
 
Rabbi Gafni would often give over the teachings of other rabbis word-for-word, without attribution.
There was an eccentric, a Yaakov Fogelman, a Harvard-educated lawyer, who ran around the old city of Jerusalem. He swore by Mordecai. He publicized whenever Mordecai would speak. He thought Mordecai was a genius. 'He's the most brilliant educator of the past 500 years. I heard Soleveitchik. I heard this rabbi and that.'
 
So what genius things did Mordecai say? Yaakov would quote something that Mordy had stolen from some other rabbi.
 
Mordecai has great taste. He knows how to steal things from great people.
 
Another man had a moral dilemma. His wife had moved to Israel two months before him. He suspected that she had had an affair with a rabbi. Guess who he suspected of cuckolding him?
A lot of high profile Orthodox rabbis (until this Gary Rosenblatt article) did not know that Marc Winiarz was Mordecai Gafni. His name change worked. He succeeded in reinventing himself.
In the past four years, Rabbi Gafni had developed an effective new strategy of admitting he did some bad things when he was a kid. Confession gains credibility. "I've done teshuva. I have a good marriage. There are people who are stalking me." He turns the accusations around.
A healthy baal teshuva is one who can forgive himself for his sins. In this sense, Marc is very healthy. A part of me admires him for everything he's been able to get away with, like the Tom Hanks crook in Catch Me If You Can.
Rabbi Gafni is great at identifying people with big money. And what they believe, he will believe and preach. He's a purported TV star in Israel. It's paid television. He's paying (or his backers are paying, such Shari Arison, then the richest resident of Israel) for him to be on TV. It's like 6 a.m. for three minutes.
For a while, Rabbi Gafni defined himself as post-denominational. Let others fight these petty fights between Reform and Orthodox. Rabbi Gafni is beyond such things.
According to the recent Haaretz profile, it sounds like Rabbi Gafni's latest theology comes straight from the Da Vinci Code -- the best-selling novel that claimed that ancient Christianity believed in two divinities, Jesus and Mary. In Rabbi Gafni's enlightened theology, he claims the Jews have gotten rid of the erotic and chased away the female deity. He makes his brachot using the name of the shekhina to re-unite the male and female sides of God.
My sources tell me that the Master of the Universe mightily appreciates Rabbi Gafni's good works in this respect, and the Holy One, Blessed Be He and She, feels much more united and whole since Rabbi Gafni adjusted his brachot.
And what's a few molestations by Gafni compared to the Almighty's wholeness? Shall we talk of the things of girls or of the things of G-d?
Rabbi Gafni is mighty different in private than in public. In public, he's full of love and cheer and performance. In private, he curses and talks like a slob.
Rabbi Gafni is a terrific actor, and for that, I salute him.
I am, however, skeptical of his claims of credentials.

By Levi Ford
Protocols Blogspot - Monday, October 04, 2004
I got an email from Dr. Norman Solomon, a retired professor in Oxford's Oriental Studies department, in reply to my questions:
Dear Levi:
Re Gafni's claims:
1) Teaching graduate seminars on mysticism at Oxford University in England
Gafni has spoken on mysticism at my seminar, at my invitation. It could be misleading to describe this as "teaching graduate seminars", since this might be taken to imply that he is or has been a member of staff here, which is incorrect.
2) A fellow at the Oriental Institute of Oxford University
Gafni is not and never has been a fellow at the Oriental Institute (in fact there is no such category).
3) An Oxford-trained scholar
He has worked towards a D.Phil (we have no degree of Ph.D.) under my supervision, but has not not submitted.
4) He also holds a Ph.D. from Oxford
He does not hold a Ph.D. from Oxford. Should it be confirmed that he has made such a spurious claim it would be regarded here as an extremely serious breach of discipline.

Case of Rabbi Mordechai/Marc Gafni
By Steven I. Weiss
Protocols Blogspot - October 4, 2004
http://protocols.blogspot.com/
Well, it seems that no J-pub has as yet had the guts to try to report out this Arthur Green business. He's presently on sabbatical from his position at Brandeis, so I reached him at home.
I opened by asking him who he thinks are the ones leading the charge against Gafni, to which he replied, "I just don't want to have this conversation, I don't want to put my foot in my mouth," saying that he didn't know enough about the situation and those involved to comment, and that I should contact Gafni for that information.
I then asked him to address his use of the term "rodfim," of which he said "I certainly didn't mean it in any kind of technical halachic sense." He said he was using the term to mean "pursuers," declaring that those going after Gafni are "certainly pursuers."
I then emphasized to him the heat of the term "rodef" as part of the present discussion regarding Ariel Sharon, and in recollection of the discussion regarding Yitzchak Rabin, to which he replied that the situations have "no connection whatsoever," that rodfim is "a Hebrew word" and that "I use it as a Hebrew term, they are certainly pursuing him."
What do those people whom the term would most likely be applying to think of his usage and explanation? More to come.

By Rabbi Saul Berman, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and Rabbi Tirzah Firestone
Jewish Week (NY) Letters - October 08, 2004
http://www.thejewishweek.com/top/letters.php3
There was a time when the Jewish community too glibly and carelessly disregarded words of accusation of sexual abuse against clergy. That was clearly wrong, and Gary Rosenblatt of The Jewish Week helped to correct that. The pendulum has now swung to the opposite extreme, as evidenced in Rosenblatt's column ("The Re-Invented Rabbi," Sept. 24).
The column reports an allegation concerning a relationship from 25 years ago — when Rabbi Mordechai Gafni was 19 and 20 and not yet a rabbi — in a situation where he had no pastoral relationship with the person in question.
Furthermore, we can attest firsthand that several years ago Rabbi Gafni made serious attempts through an intermediary to contact this woman in a therapeutically mediated context — to clarify the gulf in their understandings of what happened and, if necessary, to apologize for any way in which she felt hurt. This offer was rejected.
The story also reports unsubstantiated allegations that are 20 years old. The story critically omits the fact that the professional to whom Rabbi Gafni (then Winiarz) was responsible at the time conducted an investigation and concluded that the accusations "were not true and were not substantiated."
We have collectively looked at this issue again in the last six months, and come to a similar conclusion. Further, Rabbi Gafni has long expressed his desire to meet with any of the parties who believe he has wronged them — even when he has a completely different account of the situation.
We, like Gary Rosenblatt, have struggled with the question of what gravity to assign to recycled allegations. Our conclusion differs from that of Mr. Rosenblatt. We have collectively, over many years, spoken to virtually everyone who would speak to us who was directly involved in order to examine the accusations against Rabbi Gafni. We have found them totally unconvincing. Further, there is simply no evidence that Rabbi Gafni constitutes a risk to Jewish women, or to anyone for that matter.
We pray that this unfair, scandalous moment will soon be forgotten and that Rabbi Gafni will be able to free his spiritual energy and formidable intellect in order to help build Jewish consciousness and commitment.
Rabbi Saul J. Berman (Director of Edah)
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone (Congregation Nevei Kodesh - formerly, the Jewish Renewal Community of Boulder, Colorado)

Protocols Blogspot
http://protocols.blogspot.com/
The following are comments made to:
Here's the letter from rabbis Telushkin, Berman and Firestone:
SWG @ 11:46PM | 2004-10-05|
As one of the victims of Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni, I am writing to express my outrage at the supporters of Gafni who, without ever having spoken with me or the other victims referred to in Gary Rosenblatt's article (Sept. 24) claim that all the allegations were explored and found to be completely unsubstantiated.
First, none of the three of us were ever contacted by any agency or by Gafni and/or any of his followers for the purpose of conducting any sort of investigation of what occurred many years ago. It's outrageous that they claim that they delved into every allegation and spoke with numerous people and rabbis and completely exonerated Gafni. Who do they think they are?
The fact that Gafni is a charismatic and effective speaker and writer is irrelevant when serious charges of rape/ sexual abuse of minors and sexual abuse/harrassment of a young adult are the issues. His own quotes in Rosenblatt's article are his own worst enemy. And, whether or not "teshuvah" has been sought by Gafni is for G-d to determine--not Rabbis Berman, Telushkin, and Carmi(?)
When I sought help from various rabbis in the Orthodox community after my and another young girl's experiences, I was shocked at the vigorous attempts of rabbinic "leaders" to quash our attempts to pursue a true investigation. A well-known rabbi in Lawrence said, "Sometimes the bigger person is the one who can just let things go."
The woman sexually assaulted by Winiarz when she was 13 attempted to contact Berman many times. He refused to take her calls and has never spoken with her.
Kudos to Gary Rosenblatt for his courage and willlingness to explore this ugly issue which exposes the hypocrisy of so-called "rabbis" and defenders of Winiarz/Gafni.

by Bob Lamm
Jewish Week (NY) Letters - October 08, 2004
http://www.thejewishweek.com/top/letters.php3
I was horrified by two direct quotes in Gary Rosenblatt's column about the allegations against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni ("The Re-Invented Rabbi," Sept. 24). In a counter-attack against one of his accusers, Rabbi Gafni pointed out that he was only 19 or 20 at the time they knew each other and said "she was 14 going on 35." This is a classic case of blame the victim. So the 14-year-old girl, who said the rabbi began sexually assaulting her when she was 13, was at fault rather than the 19- or 20-year-old guy? This ugly distortion by Rabbi Gafni certainly does not demonstrate any teshuvah, or repentance.
Then, in dismissing the allegations against Rabbi Gafni, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi said: "If you want to find fly specks in the pepper, you can always find them." So the rabbi views women's complaints of sexual abuse as "fly specks"? Shameful.
Bob Lamm
New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz from the Reconstructionst Rabbinical College regarding Rabbi Arthur Green
Protocol Blogspot - October 6, 2004
http://protocols.blogspot.com/
 
To Whom It May Concern:
Arthur Green left the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in 1994. Since that time he has had no formal affiliation with RRC and is indeed the Dean of another rabbinical program entirely.
The use of the term "rodef" to describe people seeking to publicly discredit another person is inflammatory and therefore, in our opinion, ill advised.
Dan Ehrenkrantz


 
Rabbi Mordechai Winiarz (AKA: Marc Gafni)
October 10, 2004
Interviewed by Levi Ford
I talk by phone October 10, 2004 to the Susan in Gary Rosenblatt's article (New York Jewish Week):
A woman named Susan, who at the time was a 22-year-old adviser in JPSY, said she believed Judy's account. She said that when she took Judy's side, Gafni made harassing phone calls and threats against her.
"He told me I would regret it," Susan said, adding that the rabbi made inappropriate advances to her, as well.
Susan: "I became an advisor for JPSY (Jewish Public School Youth) in 1985. I was 21. I was responsible for a club at a high school in Queens, NY.  Mordecai Winiarz was the head of JPSY. There were Shabbatonim -- weekends when all the Jewish public school kids were invited to experience a Shabbat together... The goal was to help these young adults become connected with Judaism.
Rabbi Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordecai Winiarz)
"My initial impression of Mordecai Winiarz was that he was charismatic, appealing to kids, and successful as a speaker. He's engaging. These characteristics are typical of people who have been accused of the things he has been accused of. He knows how to capture people's attention. The kids were enthralled by him.
"I developed a relationship with one of the kids quoted in the [Gary Rosenblatt] article named Judy."
Gary writes:
The second woman, Judy, said that when she was 16 and deeply unhappy at home, she joined a popular Orthodox outreach group for teens that Gafni was leading called JPSY (Jewish Public School Youth), and was drawn to his charisma and concern for her.
During a two-week period when she ran away from home and was staying with Rabbi Gafni, who was then 25 and married, Judy said he abused her sexually on two occasions. Even more upsetting, she said, was that afterward, the rabbi tried to convince her the encounter did not happen, and then harassed her for many months. He threatened to keep her out of Jewish schools (she was seeking to transfer from public school to a yeshiva), called her home at all hours of the night and then hung up, mailed pictures to her home of naked men and had her followed.
"He attempted to destroy my life for a year and a half," she said.
Gafni said that Judy was a troubled, unstable teenager who fabricated the story after he rebuffed her advances.
Susan: "She came from a troubled home, so she was excited about JPSY. Mordecai took a great interest in reaching out to her.
"At that time, Mordecai had married his second wife. They lived in Brooklyn and they took Judy into their home. Judy was happy living in their basement. It gave her a feeling of worth. Wow, she was living with Mordecai.
"I remember once hearing Mordecai speak [Susan was in her teens] and I remember thinking of him then what you wrote in one of your articles. Yes, he was charismatic, but there was something about him that cult-like.
"When I started working at JPSY, I heard from people that he was peculiar. When you wrote that he's a creep, I thought wow, I've also heard that word [applied to Gafni] several times.
"[Gafni's second wife] had been a JPSY adviser. Mordecai was single. So many people were warning her to stay away from him because there were so many questions about his character -- That he was a dangerous person. That he had a dark side. That he had a sordid past. It was something that some of the JPSY advisers were talking about. People were taking her aside and warning her not to marry the guy.
"They married November 13, 1985. They invited all the JPSY kids to the wedding. I was asked to take a group of kids to the wedding. It was on Long Island. I remember the aura of disbelief among the advisors. People were worried for his wife-to-be.
"I didn't have that much to do with him. He was always very warm and friendly. He always had a way of looking at people and making them feel important. He would joke around a lot with me. He's witty and I can be witty. We would have our repartee. I was never interested in him. It was never an issue.
"We were having a meeting at my home at 6 p.m. one Sunday in May 1986. Mordecai was supposed to be there as the head of JPSY along with several other advisers and me. About 4:30 p.m., I was the only one at home. I hadn't gotten ready yet. I was wearing a robe. Just a regular robe. And the doorbell rang. I got the door.  Mordecai was standing at my front door in a dark suit with a yarmulke on his head, holding a large gemara in his hand. I just looked at him, 'Mordecai, what are you doing here? Our meeting is at six o'clock.' He said, 'Oh, I was the neighborhood. I figured I'd stop by early. Don't mind me. I have my gemara. I'll just learn while you're getting ready.'
"I was shocked. I was uncomfortable. I had no idea what it would be like to have him waiting in the living room while I was getting ready for the meeting. It seemed very odd (and somewhat rude) to me that he had come by so early, but. I didn't know how to say that his presence made me feel uncomfortable and that I would have preferred that he leave. Afterall, he I worked for him, and he was 'the rabbi,' so I said, ok, Mordecai.  Please stay in the living room. I didn't know you were coming this early, so I need you to stay put here.
"I ushered him into the living room. I closed the french doors.  I went back to my room to get dressed. No sooner did I get to my room than I turned around because he had left the living room and walked all the way to my bedroom , opened the door and said, 'Susan, Male Sexual Health,' as he pointed to a book he had taken from a shelf in in the corridor near my room.
"He had taken a book off the shelf right near my room. My father is a psychologist and had many books in the hallway right near my room. Mordecai had taken a book off the shelf entitled, Male Sexual Health. He held it in front of me and said, 'Male Sexual Health. I bet there's a lot you could teach me about that.'
"I was shocked. There he was standing so inappropriately and looking at me with what seemed to me to be a suggestive stare. I didn't know how to handle it. I felt scared but felt I needed to remain calm. I just looked at him and said, 'Mordecai, what are you doing here? You were supposed to stay in the living room. I'm trying to get ready.' Please leave. I purposely didn't even respond directly to his crass comment.
"So he put the book back on the shelf and walked a few steps closer to me. He said, 'You really shouldn't be wearing that robe because it shows me your shape.'
"I just felt this shudder go through me. I said, 'Mordecai, please leave right now.' He was just trying to get a response from me to see if there was any interest. It was clear that he realized that there was none.
"I was shocked and frightened.
"He ended up returning to the living room. I closed the door.  I threw on my clothes.
"I was uncomfortable throughout the meeting. Did I approach Mordecai afterwards about it? No. Because nothing happened. And I was scared of the look he had given me during the incident. He had given me a look that terrified me.
"Soon after that, Judy called me. 'I'm shocked. Mordecai came downstairs to the basement and he started touching me.' She ended up crying to me about the two experience she had had with Mordecai. Soon she started telling me the details about what happened to her, which did involve a lot of sexual contact [but no intercourse]. I think he was smart enough to know that she was 16. She told me that he asked her when she had last gotten her period at a point when he seemed positioned for intercourse.
"It immediately clicked with me that this guy is so capable of that because I knew how he had been with me. I knew that so many people talked about his past. The rumors I had heard began to make sense. I realized what could have happened had I not made it clear to Mordechai that he was to stay away from me.
"It was totally unacceptable and immoral behavior Although she was enthralled by the guy and enamoured by his charm, what made her incredibly angry and hurt and terrified was the way he planned the subsequent mind games.
"He came back downstairs and said to her, Judy, I'm worried about you. I think you're imagining that something happened between us.
"When he began playing mind games with her--making her think that she was crazy--fabricating everything, everything started to fall apart for her.  Mordechai and (Wife #2) had been parenting her.

She had placed her trust in him. She could not believe what had occurred. He made her think that she was crazy and fabricating the whole thing. That, in addition to destroying her trust in him, frightened her. He started to threaten her. 'I don't know what you think happened here, but you will be sorry and I will destroy you if you tell anyone stories about what you think happened. I will make sure that you will never get into any Jewish school. Your reputation will be destroyed.'
"Of course I wasn't in the room when this happened. People in his position do not invite witnesses to observe their behavior. They don't sell tickets for the event. But as an intelligent person who had experienced Mordecai's inappropriate behavior and had heard a lot allusions to his past, I believed that this guy was capable of what Judy described.
"To validate my thoughts, Mordecai called me. 'Susan, it's Mordecai. I need to talk to you. It's really important.' This was right after I had hung up with Judy. 'Susan, you're one of my top advisers. You're terrific. I'm really worried about Judy. My wife and I took her in.... I'm a friendly guy. I went downstairs to say goodnight to her one night. She thinks that something happened. Something physical. Some sort of a relationship. If she says anything to you, please let me know.'
Rabbi Kenneth Hain
"I began to plead with other rabbis in the Jewish community [to do something about Mordecai]. His position enabled him to be in constant contact with young women and kids, and what I knew firsthand and, as a confidante of Judy was enough to make me feel that rabbis in the Jewish community needed to do something. Rabbi Kenneth Hain is a friend of Mordecai's. It was clear that Mordecai was dangerous and needed to be stopped based on what I knew at that point. (At this time I did not know about his repeated sexual assaults on the thirteen year old girl- over nine months earlier in his life--sexual contact to which Winiarz/Gafni admitted in Gary's article. He [Mordecai] needed to be stopped in his tracks.
"Rabbi Hain called me to to tell stop what I was doing, which was taking Judy's and my experiences to the appropriate people at Yeshiva University, the main group supporting JPSY. I cried on the phone to Rabbi Hain.. I told him exactly what had happened to me, and I told him how Mordechai had been threatening both Judy and me.
(Yeshiva University (Washington Heights, NY)
"Rabbi Hain knew me. There was no reason for me to fabricate a story. I had heard of all these other stories of people who had various negative experiences with Mordecai. Rabbi Hain said to me in his deep voice, 'Sometimes the bigger person is the one who can just let things go.' He kept telling me to move on.
"I was shocked and disgusted. He knew I was trying to reach the right people [to do something about Mordecai]. I did not have a lot of support. People were telling me be quiet. How dare rabbinic leaders turn their eyes and ears away from crying victims! How dare anyone say that Mordecai was exonerated! There was never any Bet Din nor were there any attempts to contact me or us to do "teshuvah" as (Mordecai) claims he did. And it is not for Rabbis Saul Berman and Joseph Telushkin and the others to claim to know who has done teshuva. They are not G-d. G-d handles exoneration of sins, and we women were never contacted by anyone supposedly exploring this case.
Rabbi Yitzchak Adler
"There was a rabbi in Jamaica Estates, Rabbi Yitzchak Adler, who also told me to move on. Since I wasn't there, [when Judy says Mordecai got sexual with her]. I had no right to spread lashon hara.
"I am learned. I have a strong Judaic background. I went to yeshiva. I know the laws of lashon hara. I know when it is permitted and not permitted to speak ill of someone. There are certain situations when it is required [to bring up harmful details about somebody's past to protect innocent people in the present].
"[In the summer of 1986] I was on an Israel program. I went to Efrat, where rabbi [Shlomo] Riskin was rabbi. He ultimately revoked [in 2004] Mordecai's ordination [after earlier being a big supporter of Mordecai]. I told rabbi Riskin everything. He was extremely unsupportive. I think that these rabbis were afraid of what a scandal might mean for the Orthodox rabbinate. He listened to me and I think he believed what I told him, but for some reason he didn't want to do anything about it.
Shalom Lamm / Dr.  Norman Lamm
"I met with JPSY advisers and filled them in on what I knew. There was a meeting at YU [not a Beit Din]. Shalom Lamm, the son of the president of YU, Norman Lamm, was there. Judy and I told of our experiences. Soon after that, Mordecai was ousted from JPSY. Throughout the process, as soon as he knew that I was making known to the appropriate people what he had done, I received harassing and threatening phone calls at my phone at home. One was traced by the Annoyance Call Bureau (which had put a tap on my phone) to Mordecai's home. The others came from pay phones. I would get heavy breathing. I would get the sounds of someone smashing a hammer into something. I couldn't press charges since the Annoyance Call Bureau needed three phonecalls traced to the same number. The calls I received were traced to different numbers. It was almost as if Mordecai knew how to make harassing phone calls without being caught.
"He would also call me and say that he was going to make sure that I was sorry. That he was going to sue me for libel. I remember thinking, for an intelligent guy, why are you using the word 'libel'? I haven't written anything.
"He said I was trying to destroy his marriage. That I had no basis. That I was making everything up."

Rabbi Mordecai Gafni's Teachings to a Teenage Girl
By Secoya (The anonymous girl in Gary Rosenblatt's article in the New York Jewish Week)
Rabbi Winiarz (AKA: Marc Gafni)
I was thirteen, entering 9th grade at a yeshiva high school in NY. Mordechai Winiarz (AKA:  Marc Gafni) appeared at my parent's shabbat table, I think in early September.  He was a Rabbinical student at YU. He offered to tutor me in Talmud, a new subject for girls in 9th grade in my school. He invited me over to Lincoln Square Synagogue, where he offered to help me out with learning Bava Metziah, if I would meet him on Shabbat afternoon in one of their class rooms.
 
After our first lesson, he walked me home, and proceeded to tell me how "special" I was, and that he really liked me. I got a weird feeling about this, but being completely inexperienced with adult men, I didn't have a clue about how to respond to this. I was a very sheltered religious girl. I wore long skirts and long sleeves, had told boys in 8th grade that I would not touch them as I believed in "negiah". I had no experience with boys, or men, for that matter, except for a few wonderful teachers I had in school.
 
Also, there was a lot going on for me and my family at the time. My mom was just getting over breast cancer, having gone through a year of chemotherapy. She was very sick and we were all frightened. My rather large family was in crisis due to this, and I would say that due to this trauma, not a lot of attention or attentiveness was being sent my way. Considering the circumstances, my family was doing the best they could. Mordechai asked if I would like to "learn" with him, and I said OK.
 
Over the next month, he continued to tell me how much he liked me and how "special" I was, but told me that I must not tell any one that he felt this way. He told me that if my parents knew about it, they would blame me for associating with him, and that I would be shamed in my community. He told me that we had to keep it a secret, because most people just wouldn't understand. As far as I understood at that point, we had a friendship, and I was getting some extra attention from an adult at a time when there wasn't a lot adult attention to go around in my family. My Dad was overworked, and my mom was recovering from cancer. I didn't quiet understand why I should be silent about the things Mordechai told me. He hadn't touched me yet, but was doing a fine job of "grooming me" into being silent and fearful. He convinced me that I had to be loyal to him, and "not tell" about how he felt about me. I believed everything he told me. In retrospect, he calculatedly brainwashed me into silence, hooked me into an emotional trap, ensuring that I wouldn't tell my parents.
 
Then he asked my parents if he could stay at our house over shabbat, because he wanted to be able to walk to a synagogue in our part of the city. They said OK. (My parents had no idea that they should suspect him of anything. After all, he was a religious guy from Yeshiva University.) It was then that he started coming into my room after I had fallen asleep, and waking me up. I remember clearly that when he tried to touch me, I pushed him away repeatedly. I remember saying, "no, no, no!" I knew intuitively that it just wasn't OK with me. But he was larger and stronger than me, and after a huge struggle, he overcame me. Week after week, he would come into my bedroom and woke me up in the middle of the night, and I would fight to keep him from touching me. Every time, I was overcome by him physically. He had already done the job of convincing me that if I told one I would be shamed by my family and my community, so I kept silent about what was going on. I hated it, was disgusted by it, and I was terrified, but there was no place I could talk about it or get help. I also had no words for what was happening to me, it was horrible and indescribable. I think of myself back then as a 13 year old girl who had to become disconnected from the world around her, it was full of contradiction and betrayal, and I had been trapped in this horrible situation with, as far as I could see, no way out. I walked around my neighborhood, a place that had always been familiar and safe for me, and I no longer felt connected to anything.
 
Rabbi Dovid Winiarz
I remember on one of the nights that he came into my room, woke me up and was trying to molest me, he told me that he and his brother (rabbi Dovid Winiarz) were abused by their mother, who was a holocaust survivor.

He told me that she stuck their heads in the kitchen oven. There was a very clear message that because of what had happened to him, he couldn't help but doing what he was doing to me, and he pleaded with me to understand that, have compassion with him, and comply. More than once, he told me what he was doing was because of the way I looked, or because he just couldn't control himself. He described the world to me as he saw it, full of boys and men who just could not control their sexual impulses, and like them, he really couldn't help himself- he just had to do what he was doing to me. He just had no choice. He added, as part of his rationalization, that the guys at YU were always masturbating, but no one talked about it.
 
But he was tormented by the fact that he had no control over himself. Each morning after the molestation experience, I would wake up and walk into the living room, and see him shuckling wildly, beating his chest, doing "teshuva" for what he had done the night before. He told me that I should join him in doing teshuva too! Amazingly, he really believed that I was a partner in sin. Of course, I didn't "daven" or do "teshuva", but just stared at him in disbelief. And even after this fervent bout of repentance, he would wake me up in the middle of the night the next week.
 
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
I also remember him practicing sermons in front of me. He would pace around, gesticulating and dramatizing this or that phrase from the Torah. He wanted to be just like Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, and he did a great job emulating Riskin's body language and speech patterns. He talked a lot about gaining popularity and getting to be a powerful leader. Mordechai made it clear that he wanted to be a "big Rabbi", a "tzaddik". It seemed to me that he just loved to hear himself talk.
 
The abuse went on through the year I was in 9th grade. The school year was almost over, I remember it was warm out. He called me on the phone one day to tell me that he would no longer be coming over.  He realized that what he really needed was to get married soon, and he explained that this would give him a proper outlet for his sexuality. Its hard to describe how I felt at that moment, because it is complex. My molester finally decided to stop abusing me, to leave me alone, to move on. You would imagine I would feel great relief, but actually the full weight of the abuse I had endured in silence came crashing down on me. Here I was, left with this horrible experience, still with no one to talk to about it, and no language for it anyway. And he wasn't retreating because I had some how managed to make him stop, but because he decided it just wasn't worth the risk any more. He was terrified that he would do more and make me pregnant- then there would be no way to keep his secret. Until then, his abuse included exposing my body against my will, forcibly touching my breast, grabbing my hand and forcing me to touch his penis, and forced digital vaginal penetration. All were the most horrifying, degrading and painful experiences for me. All this only a year or so after my bat mitzvah.
 
After his phone call, I knew that I no longer had to endure his abuse, but now I had to figure out how to survive it, and what I really wanted to do was escape the world that had allowed this to happen to me. I understand that what I was going through is called post-traumatic stress these days. But in those days, and in my community, the words sexual violence, sexual abuse, or molestation, sexual trauma, were just not house-hold concepts. I knew there was no way any one would believe my story, and if anything, what happened would be misunderstood or minimized and dismissed.
 
After a while, I figured the best thing to do was to "put the experience away" until I could figure out how to deal with it. During the abuse, I had, out of necessity, become pretty good at compartmentalizing myself, and leaving my body when something was happening to it that I hated, but couldn't control. I was also good at "putting away" the things that were just too complex and painful to deal with at the time. This is how I survived the rest of high school.
 
I tried to escape the trauma I had endured by spending the next school year in Israel, doing my best to push it out of my immediate reality. Upon returning from Israel for the 11th grade, I began to withdraw from the Orthodox world. I made it to college and embraced college life. My twenties were about getting as far away from what had happened to me as possible. I was determined to be free of a world that had betrayed me, and to embrace the world as a secular Jewish college kid. It wasn't until much later that I was really able to deal with the trauma of what had happened.
 
While in high school, I had told some of my siblings, who were shocked. No one knew what to do with my story. I told a male NCSY counselor, who had no response, except to look very uncomfortable. When I was 18, I told my parents, who were also shocked, and enraged. But no one knew how to deal with he information I was sharing.
 
It wasn't until about 10 years ago, that I began to speak out more widely about what had happened to me. In 1994, I wrote a letter to Rabbi Riskin, and told him my story. I never received a response from him. I continue to tell the story to any one who wants to know about it. Many people have contacted me over the years. People who had a "creepy" feeling about Mordechai, or who had heard rumors, but wanted to hear a first hand account.
 
I tell my story for the following reasons:
If there is any way I can protect another girl or woman from going through what I went through, I will do it. If there is any way I can protect a parent from having their child victimized, and having to deal with the pain and guilt of not having known enough to protect their child, I will do it.

Unfortunately, I knew Mordechai very well. He told me a lot about himself, and I knew him as a sexually compulsive, sexually violent man. After talking with counselors, lawyers, and professionals who advise and counsel sexual perpetrators, I learned that in 99% of cases, people who compulsively sexually abuse girls or women, especially those who were abused themselves as children, don't stop. These are dangerous people. The more we are silent about them, the more they have the freedom to act out their sexual compulsions. Further first hand accounts show that Mordechai continued to molest young women after he was married. Unfortunately, marriage did not solve his problems. There is no reason for me to assume he is not still victimizing girls and women. Back when I knew him, he was a refined manipulator, "groomer", "brain-washer", and he used those skills in order to victimize girls and young women. I have no doubt that, years later, he has honed his skills as a predator.

A couple of years ago, Mordechai asked one of his supporters to contact me, to see if we could meet. I was told that he wanted to make peace with me. I read a letter that he wrote, stating that he regretted that our "relationship" didn't work out, and that he wished he had waited for me to come of age and had married me. He really thought that we had a mutually consenting relationship, and that I was hoping that he would take me as his bride! There was no acknowledgment that he did anything against my will, and certainly no recognition of the gravity of his actions. He was trying to contact me because he knew I was telling my story, and he wanted to stop the bad PR, not because he wanted to make amends, do "teshuva", or own up in any way to what he did. His statements to Gary Rosenblatt, "I never forced her...she was 14 going on 35" are the farthest from the truth. Anyway, I expected that he would be smarter than to make these transparently self incriminating statements. 
 Like your classic pedophile, he claimed that the child was consenting, loved him back, and really liked what was going on. There is no reason for me to believe that Gafni has reformed his ways. There is every reason for me to speak out and protect others from him.

Of all people, Mordechai should not be teaching people about Judaism - any "variety of Judaism" - Orthodox or Jewish Renewal, or any other Jewish trend. Yes, he is smart, charismatic, knows how to excite people, bring people in. Are we that desperate for someone to attract wayward Jews to Judaism, that we condone a sexual predator doing it?

Should Judaism be taught to spiritual seekers by someone who has molested minors and attacked young women? If we want a formula for misrepresentation...and turning people off to Judaism for good - we've got one.


Perplexed Reader - Letter to the Editor
By Judy Klitsner
The Jewish Week - October 15, 2004
http://www.thejewishweek.com/top/letters.php3
 
After reading the letter signed by Rabbis Berman, Telushkin and Firestone, I wonder if they read the same column ("The Reinvented Rabbi, Sept. 24) that I did.
 
Gary Rosenblatt cites three women who claim they were victimized by Rabbi Gafni. It is difficult to recognize these allegations in the version of these incidents presented by the three rabbis; they refer to the women's accusations as a "gulf in understandings" between the women and Rabbi Gafni, as "recycled allegations," and "way[s] in which [alleged victims] felt hurt." The rabbis inform us that they have conducted their own exhaustive investigation and have found all allegations to be "totally unconvincing."
 
The perplexed reader is left wondering, are these comments a response to the quotes offered by Rosenblatt, or did the rabbis conduct a different investigation? If they did not question these women, on what basis did they conclude that all allegations are totally unconvincing? If they did question them, are we to understand that the rabbis have judged the women to be untruthful? Or are the rabbis asserting that the women are so obtuse as to misconstrue consensual acts of love for abuse and harassment?
 
And what of the rabbis' own colleague, Rabbi Riskin, whom Rosenblatt reports was approached by many additional women over the course of years "with similar patterns of complaints of seductive and harassing behavior toward young women, charges which he takes seriously"? Was Rabbi Riskin included in the rabbis' thorough investigation of Rabbi Gafni's background? If not, why not? And if so, did the rabbis conclude that all those women must also have suffered from gulfs in understanding with Rabbi Gafni? Or are they implying that the women lied? Or that Rabbi Riskin lied?
 
Rabbis Berman, Telushkin and Firestone accuse Rosenblatt of succumbing to an overreaction to previous incidents of rabbinic abuse. I fear that in their haste to vindicate their colleague, the rabbis have chosen the much more dangerous and well-tread path of underreaction. It is always easier to accept the claims of the charismatic and powerful religious leader while agreeing to participate in delegitimizing the accuser.
 
Judy Klitsner
Jerusalem, Israel


On Gafni, Round 2 - Letters to the Editor
The Jewish Week - October 15, 2004
http://www.thejewishweek.com/top/letters.php3
 
Apparently some have misread my earlier letter regarding the charges against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni to imply that I know the allegations against him to be valid ("Abhorrent Column," Oct. 1). Nothing could be further from the truth. I have no independent knowledge concerning the allegations, have not investigated them and have no interest in doing so. I do have full confidence in the investigation undertaken by Rabbis Saul Berman and Joseph Telushkin, and I support their findings.
 
Rabbi Arthur Green
Boston, Mass.


Psychology Of Abuse - Letters to the Editor
By Nechama Liss-Levinson
The Jewish Week - October 15, 2004
http://www.thejewishweek.com/top/letters.php3
 
As a psychologist with more than 25 years of experience, including extensive work with survivors of sexual abuse, I applaud The Jewish Week for its leadership and integrity over the past number of years in its investigative reporting regarding instances of rabbinic sexual abuse. Your articles have inspired changes in the way that allegations of abuse are viewed in the Jewish community by laypeople and professionals.
 
So I was perplexed by your particular spin on the article regarding Rabbi Mordechai Gafni ("The Re-Invented Rabbi," Sept. 24). It was unsettling to see allegations of sexual abuse framed as something to consider in this "season of repentance and forgiveness." Whether or not Rabbi Gafni has "done teshuvah" doesn't lessen the burden on the Jewish community to prevent him from working with people at risk through the educational outreach, teaching and seminar work in which he is still engaged.
 
Some of the issues you describe are particularly endemic to sexual abuse and abusers. For example, you quote people describing the rabbi as "exciting and charismatic." Many sexual offenders are charismatic. The rabbi described one of his accusers as a "troubled, unstable teenager" Again, it is not uncommon for victims of such abuse to be vulnerable young people, easy targets for charming, persuasive leaders or teachers.
 
Third, the technique of the abuser is similar in each case described, with each of the three women who spoke to The Jewish Week citing his threatening and harassing behavior regarding the possible revelation of his abuse to others.
 
I am distressed that the article cites respected figures discussing Rabbi Gafni's prowess as a gifted teacher. Whether he is a talented teacher or an incompetent one is irrelevant to the issue of whether he has committed sexual abuse.
 
Nechama Liss-Levinson
Great Neck, N.Y.


Full Human Being - Letters to the Editor
By Dr. Maury Hoberman
The Jewish Week - October 15, 2004
http://www.thejewishweek.com/top/letters.php3
 
I learned recently of some unfortunate comments about my respected teacher, Rabbi Mordechai Gafni ("The Re-Invented Rabbi," Sept. 24). From my experience and observation, I know that in addition to being an overwhelmingly inspiring teacher, Reb Mordechai exhibits all the characteristics that our sages have told us constitute a full human being.
 
I have witnessed Reb Mordechai working with those in need into the early hours of the morning, difficult as that is for the cynical to comprehend. Reb Mordechai truly loves the Divine spark in his students. Yet even when he overflows in love, hugging all around him — men and women, young and old — he is scrupulous about boundaries, meeting people only in public spaces. As he has told us time and again, hurt by old false accusation, he does not take on women for long-term counseling.
I am not easily trusting, but in my personal encounter with Reb Mordechai, I found his character, trustworthiness and integrity above reproach.
 
I learned recently of some unfortunate comments about my respected teacher, Rabbi Mordechai Gafni ("The Re-Invented Rabbi," Sept. 24). From my experience and observation, I know that in addition to being an overwhelmingly inspiring teacher, Reb Mordechai exhibits all the characteristics that our sages have told us constitute a full human being.
 
I have witnessed Reb Mordechai working with those in need into the early hours of the morning, difficult as that is for the cynical to comprehend. Reb Mordechai truly loves the Divine spark in his students. Yet even when he overflows in love, hugging all around him — men and women, young and old — he is scrupulous about boundaries, meeting people only in public spaces. As he has told us time and again, hurt by old false accusation, he does not take on women for long-term counseling.
I am not easily trusting, but in my personal encounter with Reb Mordechai, I found his character, trustworthiness and integrity above reproach.
 
Dr. Maury Hoberman


 

Judy's Story - The Case of Rabbi Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Gafni)

If at first you aren't heard . . . 

Rabbi Mordechai Winiarz (AKA: Marc Gafni)
© (2004) By Judy

ALSO SEE: The Case of rabbi Mordechai Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Winiarz, Marc Gafni)

The overwhelming exhaustion that has washed over me from existing as a victim for the past eighteen years has ultimately been my silencer. Any remaining strength is channeled into the necessary tasks of parenting and daily survival. I will no longer be a victim.
The better part of my childhood was spent lost and invisible. My earliest recollections are of pleading to an unnamed supreme being.
"Please," I'd say, "I'll do anything, anything at all if you'll let her find me. I know she must be looking for me."
I'd scream and cry into my pillow at night. I remember waiting at the door. Anger was not an issue. If I was angry with anyone, it was the other "she", the one who had taken me away. That was how my childhood psyche worked. Adoption was not a warm fuzzy word defined by "we really wanted you". I read it as; the one person who truly mattered didn't, couldn't or was convinced not to.
So, I kept searching for my mother, for someone to love me the way I needed to be loved.
At that time, my family was in constant turmoil. My father had brushed with death far too many times. In 1985 he underwent his second open-heart surgery – a quadruple by-pass. I hit puberty and my emotions, hormones and home-life were in shambles.
Mordechai Winiarz paid attention to me. He told me how intelligent and special I was. I spent many Shabbat lunches with him and his wife feeling like I had finally found a family. I began keeping kosher and abiding by the laws of modesty.
Mordechai had awarded me JPSYer of the Year. My sadness and isolation at home had me frustrated and doing poorly academically. I asked Mordechai if I could live with him and his wife. At the time I was hoping for a more permanent arrangement, but we agreed on taking things one week at a time. I had just turned sixteen when I moved in with them the first time.
The week went by rather uneventfully with one exception. I awoke one evening from a disturbing dream. It was maybe midnight and I heard someone awake upstairs. I decided to get some milk and try and relax and think. I soon realized it was Mordechai who was awake. He heard me in the kitchen and asked me to talk to him. When I approached the study, Mordechai was in his robe, preparing a shiur on something.
"Why are you still awake?" he asked me. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing" I said. "I just needed a drink."
"I can tell there is something wrong, talk to me."
"Really, it's O.K.; I just had a bad dream. I am going back to sleep."
"You'll never be able to sleep if you don't tell me."
He wouldn't give up. I felt trapped. Not physically mind you, but emotionally. I enjoyed talking and sharing with him because he listened, but the dream I had was strange, it involved me as a young child and the typical scenario of walking in on your parents' lovemaking (in the dream he and his wife were my parents). I had had general dreams involving them as my parents previously. I didn't want to share it. I wanted time to think about it. He wouldn't take no for an answer. When I finally described my dream to him, he interpreted it as my being sexually attracted to him. I felt he was completely off base. I quickly changed the topic and was able to return to bed.
After the agreed upon weeks' stay came to a close, my parents insisted I come back. So, much to my chagrin, I returned home. Things there went from bad to worse when my mother fell at work and was hospitalized with a broken hip. Now my mother was hospitalized and my father was trying to recoup from open-heart surgery. I felt helpless and lost. I couldn't cope. I had no siblings and no family lived nearby. So off I ran – back to Mordechai, his wife, and the warmth and safety I felt there.
This time however, it was very different. It was Tuesday evening after at school when he made his first trip into what was then my bedroom - the basement. It was very late and I had already been asleep when the door opened. From the door, he said, "You look like you need a hug". I pretended to remain asleep. He approached the bed and repeated himself. I still did not answer and conveniently I was turned away from him. My mind was racing. I was overwhelmed. I didn't know what to say. I was shomeret negiah (abiding by the stringent Jewish laws prohibiting premarital touch). Why was he in my bedroom? Why was he asking to touch me at all? I knew it was wrong. He knew it was wrong – didn't he? Certainly I needed a hug, I always needed a hug, but a hug from him was wrong. Wasn't it? If it were so wrong, why would he have offered it? I could not keep up with the fears and questions flying around inside my brain.
Before I could process them, react or respond he was sitting on my bed. I sat up to tell him "No, it's O.K. I don't need a hug. And why are you even offering?" when he put his arms around me. For a brief moment it felt good - like I was a little kid and my daddy was giving me a hug. Then I realized this was not right I tried to pull away but he held onto me and fell on top of me. He began touching me under my nightclothes. I said "No." and tried to move his hand away. He kept fondling me. I said "No." again and he stopped, abruptly stopped. It was the most bizarre thing. He rose from the bed, told me not to say anything about what happened because no one would understand. He promised me it wouldn't happen again. And I believed him. I had to.
Thursday was an early release day from school. I was emotionally exhausted and went straight downstairs for a nap. Mordechai was at the house. I thought that was odd – why was he not working? He tried to stop me, to talk again. I told him to leave me alone – I was tired and I needed rest. I had been asleep no longer than 30 minutes when Mordechai arrived in my room once again. Now he was in robe. He didn't bother to knock. He stood at the door and said something to wake me. I startled. He arrogantly stated, "You know what you want."
"What?" I asked. I truly had no clue what he was talking about and why the hell was he in his robe in the middle of the day?
"You know what you want. I will go out of this room and come back in. You just give me a sign." He stepped out and closed the door.
The shaking started again. What the hell should I do? What did he say? I was half asleep. I sat up in bed. I was fully clothed, under a thick blanket, warm and uncomfortable. I had layered my clothes so that my elbows would be covered. I removed one layer, completely covered myself up to my neck with the comforter and turned to stare at the wall hoping that he'd just not come back. I felt like such a child. I wanted him to love me, but not like this. I wanted to be their child, just start over with a new family who paid attention, cared and understood.
Then he was there in my room, standing over me at my bedside in only his underwear. I had not even heard him come in the door. He lay down next to me and began touching me again, like he had previously. I said, "Mordechai, no, this is wrong." It was as if he didn't even hear me. I just shut down and let him do what he was going to do. He continued fondling me, took off all of my clothes and his. He positioned himself on top of me ready for intercourse.
"When did you get your last period?" he asked. What a weird question. I wasn't sure of the answer. I just made something up. "That's no good." He replied. "You know I could get you pregnant." He seemed disappointed as he lay beside me. Mordechai took my hand and forced me to help him climax. I had never done anything like that before. I had never even seen a man naked. He ejaculated all over me. I felt horrible. When he was finished he stood abruptly.
"Get cleaned up and come upstairs," he ordered and left the room.
I was now shaking so fiercely I could barely follow the instructions. When I finally ascended from the basement, he was waiting in the living room, in his typical starched white shirt and dark dress pants. "We are going for a walk," he said.
We walked around Flatbush (a section of Brooklyn, NY) for the better part of an hour. First he attempted to make me think that nothing ever happened; that it was all a figment of my imagination. When that didn't work he tried to convince me that I would never be believed because he was a Rabbi and I was just a kid. Who was more credible? He asked rhetorically. He was still unsure that I was buying his argument so he moved on to threats. He would destroy my life. I would never learn in yeshiva, never get married, on and on. Now he had my attention. What was he capable of? I couldn't be certain. But I knew one thing - I was scared. Emotionally destroyed, hating myself, and hating him, just wanted to disappear.
He left me there at the house and headed toward Manhattan. I was alone in every sense of the word. I knew his wife would be home from work soon. I went to the kitchen, found the sharpest knife I could find and sat on the dining room floor screaming, crying and trying desperately to break the skin of my wrist with the blade. I had just made a few superficial cuts when his wife walked in.
My gut instinct was that he had already told her some crazy story about me. She saw me there curled in ball on the floor crying. She didn't even acknowledge my existence. Maybe she couldn't. She just walked by and went into their bedroom. I knew I needed to tell someone. I called Susan (a JPSY advisor and friend) three or four times before I reached her. I went to school the next day in shock. I was due at Susan's house for Shabbat later that evening. The evening before, I had told her briefly what had occurred. When I returned to his home after school to pack for Shabbat he was there. Again, he insisted I not tell anyone. He made me promise not to.
The train ride to Susan's house was surreal. I was crying and shaking all the way from Brooklyn to Queens. I had never been so confused. I desperately wanted to tell Susan everything that had happened but I was afraid. I felt like I was drowning, like I could barely breathe.
There were other girls there that Shabbat and I could not find the privacy necessary to continue discussing what had happened. I fell asleep crying, hoping that things could just go back to the way they had been only days before. When Motzei Shabbat arrived one of the other girls left and only one other JPSY teenager and I remained. I talked Susan's ear off about nonsense until the other girl nodded off, and then I told her the details of what happened with Mordechai. I was shaking like a leaf.
It was then that Susan told me that she had already heard from Mordechai.  He had called her prior to Shabbat "warning" her about my "delusional" stories, my emotional instability and attempting to compel her into allegiance. Susan diligently listened to the facts, my fears, and unequivocally assured me of her loyalty and confidence in my credibility. She told me that he had made inappropriate advances to her in the past.
Susan was there for me through what would be the remaining eighteen months of hell. We were kids trying to figure out how to handle this trauma with no help or support from our parents or the community. I don't remember much after that conversation.
I do remember telling my parents with Susan by my side what had occurred.
Rabbis Kenneth Hain, Yitzchok Adler and Shlomo Riskin
I remember how they blamed me since it was I who left the house to begin with. I remember the next year and a half of harassment and mental games. I clearly recollect the "camps" of people who believed what really happened and those who refused to. I remember the telephone calls at all hours of the evening – the hang-ups, the heavy breathing. Then the photos of naked men arriving at our home because Mordechai had taken out a personal add in a gay men's magazine using our P.O. Box address as the return. I remember the Rabbis telling us to "let things go" and "move on": Kenneth Hain, Yitzchok Adler, and Shlomo Riskin. I remember the ridiculous meeting held at Yeshiva University at which I had to bare my soul to men I had neither previously met nor trusted.
People keep telling me that times are different now. People will listen. Things will change. I don't know. I want to believe that. I want to believe that he will be stopped. That he will no longer hurt anyone. All the talking, emails and articles seem very empty to me.
I am placing the truth out into the world once more and putting it formally into print. If this gives other young people the courage to speak out when they are betrayed, hurt or violated by an adult maybe something good will come out of this. Maybe others perpetrators will be stopped. Maybe community leaders will learn to take a stand on crucial issues before victims accumulate in silence, erupting unpredictably later in life with unified inner-strength and piercingly powerful voices. I won't be silenced again. I'm no longer a victim, I have a voice.
 



Rabbi Yosef Blau On Mordecai Gafni
By Levi Ford
Thursday, October 14, 2004

I speak by phone October 12, 2004, with rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University.


Rabbi Yosef Blau
"Mordecai Winiarz was a student [in the mid '70s] of rabbi Shlomo Riskin in his high school in Riverdale, Queens -- Ohr Hatorah AKA Manhattan Hebrew High School (MHS). Rabbi Riskin also operated a girls high school. My wife was principal of the girls high school - Dr. Rivkah Blau.
"Mordecai was close to rabbi Riskin.
Mordecai Winiarz (AKA Mark Gafni)
"I first recall him seriously when he was running JPSY (circa 1983). My wife was now principal of a different school -- Shevach. He called her and asked her to take a girl [Judy] from JPSY who had been staying at his home. My wife took the girl into the school. Clearly, the young woman had issues. She arranged for the woman to see an Orthodox psychologist in Queens. The psychologist told my wife the story about what happened between Mordecai and herself. The psychologist reported to my wife that he believed the girls story.
"I recall a conversation from that time with another psychologist who had a child who was an advisor to JPSY. He had Judy stay at his home for Shabbos a couple of times. I discovered that he was aware of the story and that he believed the girl.
Dr. Rivkah Blau and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
"My wife was very upset about the story.
"During this time, I received a call from Susan, who told me about the incident she described to you.
"At some point, I became aware of problems in his first marriage. I knew his first wife. She came from a small town in Maine. She was sweet and naive. He was a sharp operator. It did not seem like a good match.
"I know loads of people tried to convince the woman who became his second wife not to marry him.
"At one point, Mordecai came into my office and told me he'd get my wife. I was stern with him. He was threatening. That obviously solidified my concerns.
"JPSY came apart. The official story was that one of the major funders of the organization had economic reversals in the real estate market. There was resentment that Mordecai managed to protect himself financially but left others unpaid.
"He managed to get himself into an advanced kollel at Yeshiva University. I was perturbed about it. I realized that this was a troubled fellow who seemed to cause trouble for other people.
"Rabbi Riskin had a beis medresh. He was the only one to get semicha [rabbinic ordination] under that system. He studied under Riskin. Mordecai did not get semicha from YU.
"There is one rabbi who has repeated over the years that he won't give anybody semicha. He gave it once and regretted it eversince. It is thought that he is referring to Mordecai.
"Mordecai ingratiates himself with people. For two weeks, he was a star teacher at JSS (James Streir School, a school for baalei teshuva [returnees to Judaism] at YU. The kids were enamored with him. He made a wonderful first impression. And then it disintegrated. He didn't last the term.
"I know the administrator (with a background in psychology and social work) who made sure that Mordecai had nothing to do with YU anymore.
"Mordecai spent a short time in the rabbinate in a couple of different places. He was in Stamford, Connecticut, in-and-out quickly. He was in Boca Raton for a few months. He came into my office at YU one day to say that he was doing wonderful things at Boca and taking over the world and he is going into politics and he will become a senator from Florida. He is always grandiose. He was going to prove to me the enemy...
"Then something went wrong in Boca and he left suddenly. There were rumors of scandal.
Rabbi Kenneth Brander
"Recently, I called two people from the community. One said everything was fine. There was a difference of opinion on some issues. The second one was so apprehensive that before he would speak to me, he asked me a question about when I first met rabbi Kenneth Brander, the current rabbi of the Boca Raton Orthodox shul, and his wife. Rabbi Brander's wife was a student of my wife at MHS. So then he was fine.
"I asked him why he did this. He said I had no idea how powerful Mordecai is. How dangerous he is. He was nervous that maybe I was an agent for Mordecai. I couldn't get from him what happened except that Mordecai was evil.
"Mordecai moved to Israel and moved to Israel and changed his name. He was still married to his second wife. People would inform me of things. Mordecai applied to the Chief Rabbinate. Someone called me and asked me to speak to the Chief Rabbinate. I did.
"One night [circa 1995] Mordecai showed up at the Beis Medresh at YU. He walked over to me and said, 'I'm coming back. And when I'm back, I'm going to get you.'
[Circa 1999] I got a phone call from a private investigator in Israel. He said he was hired by a foundation which was considering giving Mordecai money for a television program. The head of the foundation is suspicious of him and wants me to do an investigation. He said he was coming to New York in two weeks.
"Sure enough, two weeks later, I got a phone call from the man. I went to meet him at his New York hotel. He takes out a volume of all the stuff he has. I said to him, why do you want to talk to me if you have all this material? He said, 'Because I have to be complete, and Mordecai had mentioned your name as going on a vendetta against him. And that he said your wife has always been jealous that he is rabbi Riskin's favorite and not him.'
"I said, that is absurd. She ran a school for rabbi Riskin for six years.
Meir Palevsky
"I have the investigator's name -- Meir Palevsky of AMN Investigation Services in Tel Aviv. I have his card in my wallet. I have told people over the years to call the investigator in Israel. I've seen the man's name in the Israeli media.
"Meir told me two things. One, he was wasting his time because the daughter of the man who ran the foundation was enamored with Mordecai and he will get the money anyway. Two, he had an employee interview Mordecai. After Mordecai gave his version of the story -- that Judy propositioned him -- and that if he hugged her, it was only because he felt sorry for her. Mordecai then made some vulgar comment about the girl's anatomy.
"Over the years, people in Israel have sent people to talk to me about Mordecai. He keeps changing jobs and organizations.
Rabbi Heshy Billet
"During this entire time [until circa 2001], he was still Orthodox. Saying that certain Orthodox people are opposed to him because he is no longer Orthodox is nonsense. Rabbi Heshy Billet was his teacher in high school. If you say people have a vendetta against him, it's an old one.
"Mordecai would reinvent himself. He was Carlebachian for a while. Then he became New Age. Periodically, people would show me articles he wrote. He managed to get his name in all kinds of publications. A number of the articles revolved around eros. Doing sins for God's sake. There was always a sexual component.
"My connection with the thing in The Jewish Week started several years ago. For the 50th anniversary of Israel, there was a special supplement and Mordecai came across as this new religious personality who was beyond everything else, was going to impact on the country. I was upset. I contacted Gary Rosenblatt [a longtime friend of Rabbi Blau's] and said, you are giving such a troubled person a free ride.
JJ Greenberg
"I called the late J.J. Greenberg [son of rabbi Yitz Greenberg]. He had worked for JPSY. 'J.J., nobody is going to accuse you of being right-wing Orthodox. Could you explain about Mordecai?' He said, everybody knew about Mordecai. This is not a secret. Unfortunately, J.J. was subsequently riding a bicycle and hit by a car and killed in Israel.
"After the Lanner scandal broke, several people contacted Gary Rosenblatt and said, why don't you write about Mordecai Gafni.
"Over the past year, I've spoken to the unnamed woman in Gary's article [who says that Gafni raped her]. The story was totally new to me.
"Someone from the Jewish Renewal movement contacted me a couple of years. He'd known Mordecai from Israel. He said this dangerous man is moving into the Renewal movement. I need to do something about it.
Rabbi Daniel Siegal
"Rabbi Daniel Siegal [from the Renewal movement] called me. I directed him to the private investigator in Israel. He said the people were taken with him but his son had come back from hearing him and said, there is something wrong with this guy.
Rabbi Danny Landes
"Rabbi Gafni applied for a job at Pardes. Rabbi Danny Landes liked him. He defended him in Gary's article. The three [Israeli] women rabbi Landes spoke to are different women from the three [Gary's article talks about]. There were and are teachers at Pardes who were upset [when Gafni came in to teach] because they knew his story. A friend of one of my son's who was teaching at Pardes quit over this.
Rabbi Richard Joel
"Mordecai came to American and spoke at some Hillel conferences. They weren't interested in him. rabbi Richard Joel [now chancellor of YU, formerly head of Hillel, a Jewish organization on college campuses] says Mordecai came in and complained -- they're telling lies about me. Richard said, 'I have no idea what stories are true or not true. But I heard you speak and you said "I" 35 times and "God" no times. We're not interested.'
"At one point, Mordecai was going to have an article in a symposium in Tradition magazine. A YU student who had heard him at Hillel, and knew something about him, saw Mordecai's article and contacted me. I spoke out. The comment that came back from the editor was -- I knew about Mordecai Winiarz. I didn't know it was the same person. Mordecai's article didn't appear.

Migdalia Alvarez and ex-rabbi Marc Gafni
"Then I heard Mordecai was involved in Jewish-Buddhist things in Israel. Then Bayit-Chadash came.
"Over the past six months, I've had numerous telephone conversations with the three women [in Gary's article]. Most of it was me listening to them. You never know what affects people's lives. In two of the three cases, it has had a dramatically negative affect on their Jewishness and their other things. They're still traumatized and petrified.



"Rabbi Pam Frydman Baugh from the Renewal movement contacted me. She spoke to one of the
Rabbi Pam Frydman Baugh
women. I was not taken by her. She complained about The Awareness Center and other things. She never called me back. I got an email from someone else in the Renewal movement who heard there was a controversy. I responded. I never heard back.
"Last year, rabbi Saul Berman came to see me. We're old friends. We had a long conversation. We are clearly not on the same page. I can't explain other people's attitudes. I told him about the women. I gave him the name of the private investigator.
"My wife and I went to a lecture given by rabbi Joseph Telushkin. We are close to the head of the organization that hosted the lecture. After the lecture, rabbi Telushkin came over and wanted to talk to me and my wife about Mordecai. What do we have against him? My wife did most of the speaking because she has known Mordecai longer and better than I. Afterwards, she thought he had understood. I said, no, he didn't. Unfortunately, I was right.
Rabbis Joseph Telushkin, Saul Berman and Tirzah Firestone
"They [rabbis Joseph Telushkin, Saul Berman and Tirzah Firestone] said they did some kind of investigation. Rabbi Berman did speak to Judy. She thought that he understood her, but again, probably not. One of the other women called him a number of times and he didn't respond. To the best of my knowledge, rabbi Telushkin has spoken to none of these three. They are not the only ones. I don't have an investigative agency.
"My sense of Mordecai is that he is a profoundly troubled person who can be very dangerous. I have no reason to believe he's done teshuva. Every time he has to deal with a real case, he basically says, I didn't do it. He says he's changed. He's done teshuva. But for what? He says he's never done anything wrong.
"There are the same common patterns between Mordecai Gafni's situation and that of Baruch Lanner. Admitting a little bit one time and that you've stopped. The next time saying you've never admitted it. In the first article [The Jewish Week], he says: 'I don't work with kids, I don't counsel men or women and I don't meet alone with women.' In the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles article, it is as though he did nothing wrong. His story changes. Arthur Green's letter says that he did terrible things 20 years but he's done teshuva. How would Arthur Green know aside from what Mordecai tells him? In the letter from rabbi Berman and Telushkin, it seems that he never did anything bad. This is classic pattern. Admit it when you have to. Deny it later.
"I've never fully understood the fear of Mordecai, but clearly many people see him as very powerful. When he threatened me, I didn't take it seriously. To take something seriously, you have to find it credible.
"Mordecai is good at bouncing back. He is not going to go away."
What did you think of Gary's article?
"Gary is a friend of mine. I've known him forever. We worked together on the Baruch Lanner thing. I would've preferred a stronger article.
"Most of these people bury themselves. Same thing with the article on Mattis Weinberg. It was the quote from Rabbi Weinberg that was devastating. The arrogance of these people gets them. And they're all arrogant. It's part of what makes them what they are."


 
Ways of Pleasantness
By Sherri Makover-Balikov
Photography By : Arik Soltan
Maariv / Sofshavua (Friday Weekend Magazine) - October 15, 2004
(Translated from Hebrew to English by Avraham Sonenthal)

"I touched. So what"
 
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, the one who smiles at you from the television, loves the sheep of his flock. So why is he associated with sexual harrasment?
 
Charismatic, connected, original, abhorrent to the rabbinical establishment, head of congregation "Bayit Chadash" (New Home) and possesing unabashed political ambitions. And also a big proponent of fondling and touching, out of love of the others, aparently. Rabbi Mordechai Gafni has to come to terms first of all with many episodes from his past which connect him to sexual harrasment and molestation, some of which he as emerged from unscathed, and from others injured. "I believe that everyone needs to decide where they will take a chance. And I prefer to take chances with love".
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, head of the God fearing congregation of the movement "Bayit Chadash", receives me in an elegant shanty at his Beis Midrash in Yafo, surrounded by colorful macrame hangings, barefoot meditating girls, and five stone crystals. I greet him first but modestly, and hesitantly extend my hand. Gafni loves people fervently to the depths of his soul. "Why shake hands, sweety? Come here, give me a hug", he embraces me emotionally, drawing me to him with deep affection.
 
Deep in the fragrant scented bosom of Admor Gafni you will be enlightened, and which is better: a hidden tzadik who speaks to women from behind a curtain, or a joyous rabbi whose blue eyes dance and whose embrace is pure? We sit across from each other, and between us is an ancient wood table loaded with hasidic writings rich in spiritual illumination. But nonetheless despite his lofty position this righteous rabbi is concerned that I feel comfortable, and from time to time places a joyous hand on my shoulder.  I am worthy. Occasionally he adds a comforting carress on my head, bent over my papers.
 
Putting aside his honor, but that is not how a Rabbi acts.
 
"According to halachah, hugging a woman without sexual intent is a legitimate possibility. Not all the rabbis agree with me, but modesty is always a contentious issue. To me, to dress in haredi clothes that are very tight, so that the skirt fits perfectly across the ass, is as if the woman is saying "fuck me" even though she is dressed modestly. In contrast to this, it is permitted for a man to hug a woman according to halachah if his sexuality comes from a deep place and is pure and flows out naturally".
Halachah permits hugging women?
 
"I know for a fact that Orthodox rabbis shake hands with women. Also in Israel. I won't mention names, but this includes the biggest rabbis. I saw some of them hug women. I hug all of the men and the women in my congregation, and I show this love to a 97 year old elderly woman as well as a young girl of 18. I am not prepared to live in a world without hugs. In the haredi world all sexual energy is invalid. No erotic meaning is permitted. But even the hasidic masters said that the movement during prayer is like the movement of a couple together with each other. Is it chutzpah to say this? The Baal Shem Tov himself said that prayer is coupling. I am not saying that prayer is sex, I am just pointing out that prayer is the existence of complete presence, like a woman who can only be reached through the act of love. Both during prayer and during the act of love one succeeds to be completely in th epresence of and to feel the other. To leave narrow egocentrism and to love the other."
 
This is how you feel when you pray?
 
"Every member of my congregation feels this way when they pray. We sit in pairs, men opposite women, without any regard to family, and call out the prayers. Then we look at each other deeply and lovingly in the eyes. This is not a sexual act. This is an act of love between a man and a woman in prayer. At Bayit Chadash prayer is erotic being. I'm not saying you have to exagerate it. We also have limits and prohibitions. I have heard of a religious movement that has naked communal immersion in a mikvah. This won't happen with us. With us we are all dressed and every touch is a caress of love."
Even this little bit is foriegn and strange to the Orthodox world.
 
"I know, I know. But I think everyone needs to decide where he takes a chance. I prefer to take chances with love."
 
WHY ARE THERE STORIES ABOUT HIM?
Perhaps Rabbi Gafni took chances with love a little too far, since the reason for our meeting is a stubborn wave of publicity connecting him to harrasment of a sexual nature. Let it be said immediately that the two main incidents occurred over 20 years ago, and according to the words and documentation of Gafni, they probably flow from the pursuit of a group of people jealous of his success. But it is hard to rationalize this rabbi flowing with love, when his most prominent traits are hugs and touches, and the main topics of his conversation touch on sex, eros, and erotica. At any rate, with the growth of the flourishing Torah community of Gafni, these incidents have also grown, and today they are emerging anew, becoming better known in his immediate circle and threatening to stain the name of a man that his students see as a "gadol" in Torah and Halachah.
 
"There are those who say Gafni has gone too far with love of the other" blushes the young head of the congregation, shaking with indignation and rustling some papers attesting to his innocence. "There are those who seek to defame me out of envy and spite, and since you can't defame a man for his ideas, then they say Rabbi Gafni is an ego maniac, and there stories about him concerning sexual exploitation. In order to destroy congregation Bayit Chadash and to distance me from the Rabbinate they bring up these old incidents everywhere and each time add new fictional details.
 
"We don't have any problem with the success of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni", says a rav who lives in the US (name witheld by editors). "We have a big problem with the testimony of women who have been harmed by him. I have known Gafni 30 years, and once we were friends. Even when he was very young rumors circulated about him and women and primarily young women where he exploited his rabbinical ordination to harrass and touch them sexually, but there was never any hard proof. All the complaints ended with documentation that Gafni presented attesting to his innocence.
 
Several years ago it became aparent that Rabbi Baruch Lanner, who was thought to be a very successful educator in New York and worked with youth, acted to molest girls for 30 years. The Jewish Week in New York (a small American weekly popular in the Jewish community of New York) succeeded to interview several girls who were hurt by Lanner and exposed his deeds of molestation. They fired him from work, brought a complaint to the police, and today this rabbi sits in jail. Right after this affair exploded, women found courage and started to tell of other rabbis that had molested them. The first was Gafni.
 
Three women came to Vicki Polin, an activist in the Baltimore Jewish community who deals in supporting Haredi female victims of rape and sexual violence, and the women complained about Rabbi Mordechai Gafni. Polin turned to me and to Rabbi Yosef Blau, the spiritual advisor of Yeshiva University, and we all spoke with the women and helped them through their silence, and in the end we understood that Rabbi Gafni had destroyed their lives.
 
After all this I distanced myself from Gafni. Prior to that I requested to meet with and speak to him. We sat together for five hours. Gafni had already established himself in Israel and was in contact with girls and women as a Torah authority. I feared for them. But Gafni said that Vicki Polin was crazy and that Rabbi Blau was crazy and that the girls were in love with him and clung to him because he wasn't prepared to get involved with them. He even compared himself to Yosef in Egypt who withstood the advances of the wife of Potiphar. And all the while he shouted that everyone is jealous of him for his success in Israel.
 
I said to him, `Mordechai, listen, there are many successful Rabbis in Israel, and people that are jealous of them. But why are such ugly stories told only about you?' and he didn't know how to answer.  At a certain point in the conversation I looked at him and I said to him, `Gafni, you need help, you are a sick man.' He obviously didn't accept my words. I then distanced myself from him and cut off contact".
 
Text Box
WAYS OF PLEASANTNESS
 
The girl from New York: "I was 13, and Gafni was 20. He offered to help me with Talmud lessons. Afterwards he started to tell me that I was very special and that he liked me. A month later he requested permission from my parents to sleep in our house. That night he entered my room and started to touch me and encouraged me to touch him. I started to cry."
 
Rabbi Gafni: "I was in love with a 14 year old girl. We had an amazing spiritual bond. She wrote me a letter and described in it our beautiful and delicate love. We were young and didn't do anything wrong other than flirting. You know, a little kissing and glances"
 
The first incident occurred 23 years ago, when Gafni was 20. "I was in love with a 14 year old girl. We had an amazing spiritual bond. She wrote me a letter and described in it our beautiful and delicate love. We were young and didn't do anything wrong other than flirting. You know, a little kissing and glances. After a year we broke up. Then I was not yet a Rabbi and I haven't heard from this girl again. 
 
Five years ago, when congregation Bayit Chadash began to develop and to gain notice in the general public, suddenly they started to tell me that the girl was spreading lies about me and slandering me by saying I had sexually exploited her when she was young. A group of people who don' t like the friendliness and the ways of Bayit Chadash publicized these stories. When they asked for my reaction I said that as far as I can remember I was a stupid boy and in love, and she was mature beyond her age, and at any rate I didn't do anything bad to her, and in my whole life I have never attacked a woman, not sexually or in any other way."
 
"I was 13, and Gafni was 20", said the girl in a telephone interview from New York. "I was a little girl and didn't understand very much. Gafni offered to help me with Talmud lessons. Afterwards he started to tell me that I was very special and that he liked me. He also warned me not to speak of his love to anyone, or they would think I was crazy and imagining things. 
 
A month later he requested permission from my parents to sleep in our house. He said he wanted to go to a synagogue in the area. That night he entered my room and woke me. He started to touch me and encouraged me to touch him. I started to cry and I pushed him away, but he was much stronger than me. He said if I told anyone he would hurt me and my parents.
 
He did this every week, over eight months. Every Shabat morning he would pray fervently and tell me that I needed to repent over what we had done at night, because he had already prayed and repented. He didn't have sex with me for fear I would become pregnant. At a certain point they started suggesting women for him to go out with and he said he was going to get married and that his problems would be over.  Then he left me. Only after several years did I have the strength to tell what had happened to several girlfriends. With their help I wrote a letter to a known Rabbi who was friendly with Gafni in Israel, and I told him about all that had occurred. But this Rabbi never answered me."
 

THEY ARE PURSUING ME
 
The second incident occurred when Gafni was already a young 24 year old Rabbi and married to Doris, his first wife. In that same period he lived in New York, and ran a network of Jewish clubs within a network of public schools in the city. "We had a large house with an attic that attracted a group of young runaways who were involved with drugs and sex" Gafni recollects. "They received warmth and support, and among them arrived a young girl named Judy, who was hard and wild, but we had compassion on her and helped her in any way that we could. At a certain point she started to seduce me.
 
One night I arrived home alone. Judy called to me from the attic and propositioned me explicitly. Of course I refused, and contacted my wife. That same night we asked Judy to leave, and she, in return, went to everyone in her group and told them I had slept with her.  I said to her, `Go to a doctor who can examine you and prove that you are lying.' Then she changed her story and said I did not sleep with her, but had harrassed her sexually.
 
From that point things began develop rapidly. We had with us a counselor named Suzie who believed Judy and brought her to Rabbi Yosef Blau, the spiritual advisor to Yeshiva University. I don't know him, but him and his wife are strident oponents of Bayit Chadash. Since I have made aliyah and have brought people into the community, they pursue me, oppress me, and tell to everyone that I come into contacte with the story of Judy".
 
Gafni turned to one of the senior advisors at Yeshiva University and requested that he investigate the matter in order to discover the truth. "I said, invite me and the women who are complaining and meet with us in the presence of police, psychologists, whoever you want, just so long as the truth come out and they will finally cease oppressing me. And indeed, the matter was investigated, and an official letter went out from the Rav who conducted the investigation, and he stated in no uncertain terms that I didn't do anything wrong to any girl or woman and that the accusations were baseless. But the stories continue to circulate, and spring up in every possible place, until they have become a legend."
 
"Judy was 16 when Rabbi Gafni, whose name at that time was Winiarz, sexually assualted her according to her complaint", says Vicki Polin in a telephone conversation, who is a psychotherapist who treats female victims of sexual assault in the Jewish community of Baltimore. "There was no one to help and guide her. She was afraid of this man, was charismatic and impressive but also very threatening. Only after several years had passed did she come to us and tell us what happened to her.
We wanted to go to the police, but Judy had already married and had a husband and children, and it was not in her interest to revisit these issues and deal with them all over again. Since everything had taken place 20 years ago, the statute of limitations had passed. All that was left for us to do was to publicize the story and warn the American public about this man. And then more rumors started to come in, and more girls and women complained, when the matter became known publicly, Mordechai changed his name from Winiard to Gafni, left the US and moved to Israel. In Israel he transformed into a new person, and once again became involved in the Rabbinate and founded his community. And this bothers us. We think it is wrong for a man like this to be involved in counseling and to come into contact with the girls of his community, because he is dangerous and libel to hurt more women."
Gafni replies: "Vicki is outright lying. I did not move to Israel because these things were becoming known about me in the US. Nothing was becoming known about me. We came to a decision based on Zionism alone to make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, and like most people who move to Israel we Hebraicized our name and changed it to Gafni."
 
"As part of my duties as spritual advisor to Yeshiva University I am involved in supporting families where there is a suspicion that someone of them may have been sexually assaulted" says Rabbi Yosef Blau in a telephone interview with him from New York. "I didn't know Gafni until his story with Judy the young little girl. We all tried to help. It was impossible to prove anything, since Gafni denied everything and claimed it was said maliciously.
 
"Later we received more stories about this man. When he understood that the local community already did not trust him, he changed his name, left New York and moved to Florida. From there he made Aliyah to Israel. What he does in Israel, from a Torah standpoint, is not my business, but I've already heard reports that Gafni is harrassing women also in Israel. Therefore I am issuing a warning. I am not making a practice to contact every institution that Gafni is working with, but if they ask me, I tell them about Gafni's background. I think this is my obligation".
 
Gafni: "Blau and his friends heard that my congregation intends to have me in politics. It was already difficult for the Rabbinate, and the idea that I would advance politically destroyed them completely. That is when they brought out the slanders against me. In the beginning I said to myself, don't react, don't raise up a storm any greater than what is already happening, let things calm down, it's not likely people will pursue incidents from the past, they'll just distort them and they could destroy me with their baseless words. But at a certain point it became clear to me that it was impossible to stop the snow ball."
 
HALACHAH TO THE TUNES OF LED ZEPPELIN
If the Orthodox community indeed were to take a large step backward, for Rabbi Gafni there would be much to lose. In the last few years hundreds of secular and religious Jews have taken up his spritual practices, who see him as heralding the new post modern religious movement. He is 43 years old, born in Fistville, Massachusetts. From a young age he knew he would be a rabbi, "...because I loved Torah books and philosophical texts, the psychological and the theological". At the age of 25 he was appointed Rabbi of a congregation in the area of South Palm Beach. The he was still a staunch Orthodox and a proponent of the religious establishment. The turning point was when he read a letter of Rabbi Sharira Gaon, "...and in his letter he claimed that everything that happens in the world is for the sake of Torah and Judaism and the Land of Israel", he remembers. "I was young and impudent in those days, and I asked the Rabbi who was teaching us, if a couple in China, on a moonlit night, feel a physical attraction to each other and make love, is this also for the sake of Torah and Judaism and the Land of Israel? The rav answered yes. Then I understood that there was something distorted in the traditional Orthodox approach. Because it can't be that everything in the world is necesarily enslaved. The world is rich and varied and changing".
 
He made aliyah to Israel in '92 and served as the rav of the settlement Tzufim in the Shomron. In that same time period he began to participate in an international discussion group on the internet , "World Sages", and through it was able to have discussions on theological, Torah, and philosophical topics. He also met with the Dalai Lama, and had discussions with him on the connection between religion and society. Slowly he gathered strength among the newly Orthodox public, and also among the secular community, which was thirsting for spiritual meaning. Gafni wrote and disseminated books of Torah thought, including "Lilith" (together with Ohed Ezrahi, published by Modan) "About the immodest, provacative, sexual and sensual apperance of Lilith according to Torah and kabalah".
Very quickly Gafni came to the small screen. For three years he had a personal program on Channel 2, "Under his Vine (Tachat Gafno)", that dealt with the connections between faith, society and halachah. Last year he presented a broad look at the weekly Torah portion with with Gil Koftesh in the cultural program "The Seventh Morning" on Channel 2. In November Channel 10 will debut a program hosted by him.
 
In recent years Gafni has based his postition as Rav of congregation Bayit Chadash that he set up in Yafo, on a study center and a rabinnical ordination and on studies in kabalah. He marries and divorces the members of his congregation, organizes communal Shabatot, teaches and guides, and primarily advances by means of his books and lectures his halachik vision and its suitability for new times. Through the force of his charisma and his sweeping ideas he is guiding a new spiritual religious movement, sensitive and symphonic, user friendly, pluralistic and egalitarian, that sanctifies the honor of the woman and the man.
 
The rabinnical establishment despises him. "The image of a Rabbi in the haredi and religious world is too perfect", he complains. "He never makes mistakes and his customs must be followed as law and all his instructions must be obeyed. I say to my congregation, `If someone wants a Rabbi like that, he shouldn't come to me'. I have made a lot of mistakes in life, and in spite of that I am a Rabbi. Because a Rav has to be first of all a lover of people and a lover of Torah, and after that someone who can admit to a mistake. Therefore in Bayit Chadash the Rabbi is not the center, the Rabbi is the congregation".
 
And therefore, even Gafni's outward appearance does not jive with the commonly accepted appearance of a Rabbi. His hair is long, his beard is short and his clothes are nice and stylish. With his velvet jacket and his understated glasses he looks more like a movie actor that came around to academia, than a modest and diffident Rabbi leading his community of followers.
 
Quietly and persistently Gafni works among the members of his congregation most of whom are not religious. He also invites non Jews to his communal Shabatot, marries same sex couples, and fights for halachic feminism. Due to the fervent adoration he gets from his believers, Gafni has withdrawn somewhat from his lifes work, so in order to spread his ideas to others, he has certified 17 women and men to the rabbinate and to communal leadership. The members of the congregation do not pay dues, and Gafni lives off of a small salary that comes from contributions.
 
Conversation with him is exciting, and his ideas are quick, confusing almost. Gafni throws out Torah proofs, philosophical arguments and logic from the Zohar and the Kabalah into a strange mix, yet one which stimulates thinking. At night he dances a dance of closeness in the study hall after he finishes studying, sometimes to Beethoven and sometimes to the music of Led Zeppelin. And when Chaya, his third wife is in Israel, sometimes she dances with him.
 
"Chaya lives in San Francisco, studies psychology and writes poetry" says Gafni sadly. "I don't want to leave Israel, and therefore we are only together three months out of the year.  We have a trans Atlantic marriage, primarily by means of telephone. We are a post modern couple and we love each other from afar. My friends say, `How can you leave such a beautiful wife by herself outside of Israel?' , and I say to them, `How can I force Chaya to come to me if it is hard for her to live here?'. I can only hope that it is at least as hard for her to live without me as it is for me to live without her.
 
"I am very feminist in everything connected to marriage. We were taught that if we are not married plus three kids with a house and a garden and parents that come for Passover seder, we are somehow damaged goods. Nowadays we know that the family covers up many crimes and exploitation and cruelty, with the main thing being that the neighbors don't know and everything looks ok from the outside. Therefore I believe that the correct model for our time is marriage to more than one spouse. I think it is good to marry and divorce a few times, and not to strive at any price for a marriage that will last 70 years or more. We now need the attitude that it is possible to marry and divorce several times and this is the correct model. Rabbi Nahman of Breslov says that there is a spouse for an hour.

A nice concept. His meaning was that if they are married 5-6 years, and afterwards it ends, then it was wonderful to marry and even more wonderful to divorce". "Divorce is not a failure but a great happiness", says Ziv Rabinowitz, a member of Bayit Chadash. "Rabbi Gafni explained to us that it doesn't make sense that at a wedding we make a big meal and we have a photographer and flowers, whereas with a divorce we are sinking into some hole and we feel sad in a short and painful ceremony. We in this congregation believe that marriage should end with a big party, just like a wedding. Therefore we created a special divorce ceremony, that during it they prepare a meal and separate in happiness, and each one gives a dollar to the other in order to discharge karmic debts (nullification of negative energy) , and they understand that just like they entered into the framework of marriage in holiness, so too they need to leave it in holiness.
 
POLITICAL AMBITIONS
Gafni's ability to dig paths to the hearts of his people brings to him primarily the young, whose intention is to run him for a coveted Knesset seat. Gafni doesn't deny the timing of the revelations of sexual harrassment to time when the students came out with an announcement of their political intentions. Either way, the resolve of the sheep of his flock always holds firm, even if the heart of he who stands at their head is somewhat weakened from shame.
 
In the first years of operation of congregation Bayit Chadash in Israel the incidents of the past were forgotten. Rabbi Blau and Vicki Polin tried to inform institutions that were in touch with the Rabbi and with some of the members of his congregation, but people refused to believe or cooperate, and dismissed the allegations as a personal vendetta.
 
Except that also in Israel the name of Gafni continued to be connected to incidents of a sexual nature. Perhaps not crimes by law, but certainly acts unfitting for a married Orthodox rabbi. In the beginning of '94 as the rav of the settlement Tzufim, and as a visiting rabbi in the religious council of Kfar Saba. "We heard good things about him, and we requested that he meet with our daughter and convince her to stop seeing a boy that we thought was unsuitable", explains the mother of a young girl from Kfar Saba. Gafni met with our daughter, who was then 23, pure and delicate and very religious, and simply fell in love with her.  He was at the time married and came to us in a Torah capacity. Our daughter was drawn in by this story, Gafni promised to marry her, and the sky fell in on us.
 
"It was a long time before we realized how dangerous this man was and we started to fight for the life of our daughter.  We recorded him saying to my daughter: `I love you very much, and I dream of the day when we will be together. You are the light of my life. I know I have a lot of problems, but I will go to therapy, the main thing is for you to be mine.' We heard this and we were shocked. We tried talking to everyone possible. We tried to contact his wife but she was not in the area. Then we took off the gloves. We definitely weren't acting like Britons. In order to save our daughter we felt that anything was permitted.
 
"When the story became known, Gafni left Kfar Saba, but not with our daughter.  In the end we were able to save her. She left Gafni and got married to a wonderful boy, and today she is happy and has three children. After all this was over, Gafni stood to accept work with a group of girls in the high school. We disagreed. We said this is like sending a cat to guard the cream. Its crazy."
 
"I can say in full fairness that there was no sexual harrassment on the part of Rabbi Gafni against me.", says the daughter. "We were two souls that came together.  I am a musician and I sang to him, and he was incredibly charismatic. He enchanted me. There was nothing forced or cult like between us. He simply wanted to marry me. We didn't kiss and he didn't make any sexual propositions. Just hugs."
 
Did you know he was a married Rabbi?
"He said that his marriage was not stable, and that I was the catalyst for its termination. The religious council did not know about our romantic relationship. He always said he had a great love for me, a once in a lifetime love. I was a religious girl, innocent, and to hear words like this from such an impressive man like Gafni...today I feel like I was very lucky. Both because I heard that I was not the only one, and also because I knew Rabbi Gafni had problems. He always needed affection."
 
Gafni replies: "I have a letter from the girl saying I did nothing bad. I met a wonderful girl and we fell in love. This was at a time that Lisa and I had decided to divorce. I never met her in a framework of rabbinical counseling. This is a lie and a falsehood. I knew her from giving her rides each morning to the university. We decided it would be impossible to go out until after the divorcel, out of respect for Lisa. But the parents were angry and influenced the girl to leave me, and that is what happened. I loved her greatly and wanted to marry her. But six weeks after we separated she got engaged to another."
 
In January of '97 Meir Polovsky, head of a private investigators office, was asked to prepare a comprehensive report on Rabbi Gafni by a certain customer there. Polovsky prepared an investigation on Gafni in Israel and outside of Israel. "I can't relate the findings in detail", he says today. "I can just say that during the course of time, many suspicions were brought regarding Gafni, but he was never investigated by any body, he wasn't judged and wasn't convicted. The suspicions were primarily in connection with young girls, which like I said before were never substantiated. I can't go into details, I can only point out that the results of the investigation in any case aren't very complimentary to the man".
 
LOVE IS MY MIDDLE NAME
Last September the Jewish Week in New York published a profile of Mordechai Gafni. There also suspicions were brought up against the head of congregation Bayit Chadash, and the stories of sexual harrasment became widely known. Kerry Rosenblatt, the papers editor, started the aritcle on a personal note. "Rabbi Gafni is a successful personality in Israel", he wrote about him. "He is the leader of a large and flourishing congregation, appears on radio and television and writes articles for newspapers. His popularity is rising and so publicity is following him. Therefore it is apropos to mention these stories, which accuse him of sexual harassment. There are times when it is possible to determine for sure whether someone being examined is guilty or innocent beyond doubt. In Gafni's case it is impossible to judge one way or the other. But it is important that the public know these things, because the man stirs strong feelings wherever he goes and leaves behind either points of light or points of darkness, depending on how the impression of his soul is received".
 
Gafni: "I didn't know where to bury myself. Sexual exploitation is a horrible thing. For 2000 years women have been exploited in every way and have not had a voice. And today, when the shechinah is demanding honor, they put me into this basket? This is absurd. Anyone who knows me would never believe this."
 
If this is all lies and falsehood, how come it is connected specifically to you?
 
"My energy is threatening. It is no secret that they are talking to me about politics, and my congregation is gathering strength and acceleration. People are jealous. Jealous and afraid. Therefore they oppress. Blau is contacting every place I am in contact with and sends emails against me and copies of writings. He is simply obsessed. Vicki Polin set up an internet site whose sole purpose is to spread rumors about me and to write theoretical accusatory articles against me. These two and their friends came to the Steven Wise synagogue in Los Angelos, where I teach, for the Jewish renewal movement, to order the management of Bayit Chadash, to obtain television programs. Until they destroy me they won't have any rest."
 
"When we started to produce `Under His Vine' , people came to me and told me that Gafni had sexually harassed women and young girls", tells Zivit Davidowitz, executive producer at Channel 10. "They sent me email and harassed me by telephone. It seemed like we were talking about a group of obsessives. After every program they would call and say, `See how Gafni touches women during the program, shakes their hand and hugs them'. They demanded that I fire him. But to me this didn't seem reasonable. I knew the man, I saw how he worked with the women in the crew, how he loved them and honored them. When I told this to Gafni he was depressed and embarassed. He obviously denied everything, and that was the end of it."
 
"Many times I thought of suing these people", raged Gafni. "But my lawyers told me that if I do that perhaps I could win in court but I would lose in communication. A headline that says: Rabbi sues girl over false accusation of rape sounds much worse than a woman who tries to impugn these terrible acts to a rabbi and he hears his accusation but doesn't respond."
 
Have you tried to talk to Judy or with the other girls?
 
"Today Judy is a plaything in Rabbi Blau's hands. Thats like asking Bill Clinton to get in touch with Monica Lewinsky. I have nothing to say to her. She crossed all reasonable lines. My first girlfriend, who was then 14, I would love to meet with. A few years ago I tried to turn to her in a friendly way and offered to meet with a rav or psychologist and to settle things once and for all. I also tried to contact her family, but they absolutely refused".
 
So why don't you lower your profile, and at least stay away from the hugs and talk of love? Maybe they do come, in your words, from a pure place, but they don't add to the good name of an Orthodox G-d fearing rabbi.
 
"Love is my middle name. I cannot live in a world where there is no open affection and love. From the great struggle against sexual harassment, which is incredibly important, there is also room for an awareness in the opposite direction, that because of it I am forbidden today to hug too much, and teachers in school cannot caress a student. This is horrible. We have created a sterile world where people cannot touch because they are afraid of being sued. I am not prepared to give in to this fear.

This is completely against my faith. On the other hand, I have made a few changes in my management style. I don't see women for extended periods of counseling, since this leaves me open to suspicion. I also don't meet women alone, but only with at least one other person present. This is how I protect myself. I also don't teach youth. I prefer to work with adults who are responsible, not with children".
 
What does you wife say about this story?
 
"She is more agressive than me. She knows me well enough to understand that they are comitting character assasination against me when I haven't done anything wrong".
 
And indeed, in a telephone conversation with the third Mrs. Gafni, it seems she is even more angry than her husband. "I lived with Mordechai for six years, and I know him through and through", she says. "The rumors about him are simply disgusting and dirty. There is no chance that my husband would hurt or exploit someone. Since he is loving and open and ready to help and to listen, it is easy for someone who is not pure to misunderstand his pure love"
 
Is it possible that the fact that you don't live together most months of the year influences your judgement?
 
"The distance is hard on me, and this won't continue forever.One of these days we will decide how to resolve this issue. I want Mordechai to set up a rabbinical school in San Francisco, and Mordechai wants me to come to Israel to help him with congregation Bayit Chadash. We'll see what happens. Either he'll break, or I will".
 
Gafni listens to his wifes words and laughs bitterly. "If the attacks against me continue, perhaps I won't be able to teach any more, not in San Francisco and not in Israel', he says and a thread of hopelessness colors his voice. "And I love to teach. I love the G-dly spark in all my students. I am their teacher, friend, and student. And I intend to fight for my right to teach until the day I die. I am not some perfect rebbe and I am not a perfect teacher. When I started `Under His Vine' my promo was that whoever is looking for a perfect rabbi should tune to a different channel.
 
"I have made mistakes in my life, and I have had connections that in the course of time I am not happy about, but never have my mistakes had any connection to sexual exploitation. So I try to hide from the rumors.
 
"It comforts me that someone who supports us so much is sorry over my insult, and contributes a double what he usually does. But lately new students come to my lectures and are caught up in deeply spiritual words. They come home and ask themselves, who is this Gafni, whose words are sweeter than honey and who loves G-d and man? Then they open the internet, and they look for my name with a search engine, and read all sorts of ugly things about me. And oops, they stop coming. Thats why I have chosen to speak".


Facts about Rabbi Mordechai Gafni
Bayit Chadash - October 17, 2004
http://www.bayitchadash.org/facts/index.htm
 
Introduction
Recent items in a Jewish newspaper and on several internet sites have raised questions about certain aspects of the personal life of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni. This web site will provide factual information related to that recent coverage, to help interested parties determine the accuracy, truthfulness, and fairness of those recent reports.
 
Jewish Week Article
A weekly newspaper, The Jewish Journal, published in New York City, carried a story on September 24, 2004, in which the paper's editor, Gary Rosenblatt, extensively reviewed several purported events in Rabbi Gafni's personal life. The original story can be viewed online here.
 
This article contains factual errors, as well as quotes from Rabbi Gafni that were taken out of context from an interview conducted four years ago, in 2000.
 
Responses to that article include a letter signed by Rabbis Saul J. Berman, Joseph Telushkin, and Tirzah Firestone, available here, and Rabbi Arthur Green's letters here and here.
 
Internet-Based Reporting
An Internet site that says it is "dedicated to Addressing Childhood Sexual Abuse in Jewish Communities Around the World" has posted materials about Rabbi Gafni. The person responsible for most, if not all, content on that web site has also posted materials extensively on a few other "blog" web sites. That individual is Victoria Polin, Executive Director of The Awareness Center.
 
Perhaps the single most insightful portrait of the way she operates is a memo she recently circulated to many parties, and posted on the Internet, in response to correspondence from Rabbi Arthur Green, Dean of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College, Newton, MA. His entire letter is available here.
Ms. Polin responded to this letter by sending emails "to every news media source possible" (her words) claiming that in this letter Rabbi Green is "calling for the death of Child Victim Advocates."

That malignant distortion of Rabbi Green's words is based on Ms. Polin 's misuse and/or misinterpretation of a single Hebrew word, rodef, which translates as "pursuer." The word is widely used in the Jewish community with a variety of meanings, including, often, in the name of many temples, Rodef Shalom, which means "Pursuers of Peace." Readers of the letter can readily discern for themselves what Rabbi Green's actual use of the word meant – and it was not a call for the death of anyone. Ms. Green's unfounded, irrational, and irresponsible response to this letter is unfortunately representative of her normal modus operandi.
 
In response to that internet posting, and other statements by Vicki Polin, Rabbis Berman and Telushkin have sent a letter to Rabbi Josef Blau at Yeshiva University, discussing the credibility and motives of Ms. Polin and the Awareness Center, which she completely controls. That letter says, in part, "The Awareness Center posts and distributes material which is totally false, describing as fact occurrences which simply never took place. The clear intent is the character assassination of those whom Vicki has decided are deserving of public defamation." The entire letter is available here.
 
Luke Ford
A Los Angeles-based individual who represents himself to others as a "freelance journalist" has been making inquiries about Rabbi Gafni, and has posted material on his web site regarding Rabbi Gafni that is malicious, factually inaccurate, and libelous. This web site will not dignify Ford's internet postings about Rabbi Gafni with specific responses, because the lies are too numerous and blatant to deal with. Following is material from third party sources that interested parties can use to determine for themselves whether Luke Ford's writings should be trusted as factual.
 
Is Luke Ford a journalist? He is not a "journalist" in the accepted sense of the word. He runs a web site that is devoted to chronicling the pornographic film industry. He has had a book published, a history of pornographic films. He is quoted in news stories as saying that his primary source of income is advertising from pornographers that runs on his web site.
 
Is Luke Ford a journalist? He has disavowed that title. In an interview published in The Village Voice (March 9, 1999) he said, "I don't claim on my news pages that they're journalism. There is an element of journalism. But there is a much bigger talk-show element. People call me up, and they tell me something and I run it. An hour later or three days later, people will write and tell me more about it, and I will run that. It's more of a stream rather than filing one story. I've almost got a self-writing Web page. I've got people who read it all the time and they constantly e-mail me. I just cut and paste."
Does Luke Ford care about the accuracy of what he puts on his web site? In the Village Voice article, he states, in response to the question, "Do you vet your stories?": It depends on the importance of the story. If one porner says that another porner sticks bananas up his ass, I will quote that. I don't really care. But if he says, "This guy threatened my life with a gun," that's important and I wouldn't run that until I had more information. If someone will put their name on it, I will pretty much run anything. (emphasis added.)
 
Also in 1999, Ford told the New Times Los Angeles, "I never publish anything I know to be false unless I am quoting somebody...sometimes I will insert the truth in brackets and sometimes I will not." The same article said, "And sometimes his misinformation comes in king-sized doses. Last year Ford ran a story/rumor stating incorrectly that retired actress Kaithlyn Ashley was infected with HIV. It was not a case of the deadly virus but a case of a deadly lack of fact-checking."
 
Even by the extraordinarily low standards of the pornographic film industry, Luke Ford is found lacking in honesty. The New Times story also says: "'He lives for negative attention,' says Mike Albo, executive editor of Hustler Erotic Video Guide. `He plagiarizes material, he lies, he's probably the most unscrupulous person masquerading as a journalist I've ever had the misfortune to run into.'"
How does Luke Ford conduct himself personally? See his own words, for example on his web site here. (Warning: sexually explicit material!)
 
Also, in its July 31, 2001 issue, Jerusalem Report wrote: "Ford covers the pornographic film industry. He interviews performers, producers and distributors; he reports back from shooting sets and trade shows and awards ceremonies; he hangs out with people from the business to elicit the latest `dirt'...Ford, however, is not your everyday journalist. In fact, some of his philosophical leanings would be hard for anyone to swallow: He often cites the writings of a rabid American neo-Nazi, William Pierce, and views liberalism, communism, socialism, feminism and Freudianism as largely Jewish-instigated afflictions every bit as perfidious as the field he covers." In the same article, Ford states, "Nazism is my own favorite kind of pornography. I'd say I find myself agreeing with anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of what Dr. Pierce has to say." (emphasis added)
 
What is the primary source of income for Luke Ford? In the same Jerusalem Report article, Ford stated, "Yes, my website is sponsored by porn companies. So yes, I do make money from porn. That is very troubling from a Jewish perspective. I have no answer to that." (Note: Ford claims to have converted from Christianity to Judaism in 1992.) (emphasis added)
 
Does Luke Ford engage in spreading lashon hara? From the New Times article: "'The biggest conflict I've been having is in the area of gossip,' he says. `Judaism is very strict. The Torah says do not go about as a tale-bearer. And that's what I'm doing for a living.'"


 
Letter from: Rabbi Saul J. Berman & Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
http://www.bayitchadash.org/facts/blau.htm
September 13, 2004
 
Dear Rabbi Blau,
 
Since we met some months ago to discuss some issues related to sexual abuse and the role of The Awareness Center, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and I have been maintaining a continuing interest in the activities of The Awareness Center.
 
My recent letter to Vicki Polin and the members of the Executive Committee of The Awareness Center included a list of suggested policy recommendations which would have made the operation of The Awareness Center website a fair and effective instrument in the battle against sexual abuse in the Jewish community. Unfortunately, Vicki, in the name of the Executive Committee, dismissed all of the suggestions with a single condescending brush stroke.
 
Permit us to be perfectly blunt. The Awareness Center website as it currently stands is often misleading, its truthfulness cannot be assumed, and, in the name of justice, it has itself become an instrument of vicious abuse. We are moved to make this harsh evaluation in the light of the following points and more:
  1. The claim that the site will only report previously published accusations is an outright lie.
  2. Vicki has herself sent anonymous slanderous postings to web blogs and then cited them on The Awareness Center site as the basis for serious accusations.
  3. The Awareness Center posts and distributes material which is totally false, describing as fact occurrences which simply never took place. The clear intent is the character assassination of those whom Vicki has decided are deserving of public defamation.
  4. The site does not remove accusatory material even after full and multiple investigations have concluded that they are false.
  5. The Awareness Center has initiated campaigns to destroy the reputation and work prospects of accused persons, even after their names have been formally cleared and/or full resolution between the parties has been achieved.
  6. The site will provide no opportunity for response by accused persons, other than an admission of guilt.
  7. The attempt to destroy people's reputations long after their death is not the pursuit of justice, it is journalistic pornography.
These and many other serious offenses (of which we have extensive substantiation) have made The Awareness Center an untrustworthy and deplorable repository of falsehoods, innuendoes, and scandal mongering. It is a disgrace to the Jewish community and we will not abide its continued destructive activities.
 
We fear that your own reputation for probity and for responsible communal response to the vital issue of sexual abuse may be seriously injured by your continued association with The Awareness Center. We urge you, as we will be strongly urging all others connected with it, to disassociate your name from The Awareness Center until such time as responsible policies and honest procedures are implemented for its future operation.
 
Sincerely,
Rabbi Saul J. Berman
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin


CALL TO ACTION: Gafni and Walmart
By Jewish Whistleblower
Jewish Whistleblower - March 1, 2005
Help stop the promotion of child molester Rabbi Mordechai Gafni at Wal-Mart - phone 1-800-WAL-MART and complain
 
When you call make it clear that this is not about book banning, but rather the promotion by a of a dangerous religious guru with a history of child molestation. This is not in line with the Wal-Mart philosophy of being a "family" store with "family" values.
 
Refer them to the Awareness Center webpage:
 
Also note that the books have false biography information:
"He teaches graduate seminars on mysticism at Oxford University..."
Which is a complete misrepresentation. He never taught graduate seminars at Oxford University. He is nothing but a mere student.
 
See Wal-Mart website:


CALL TO :
Stop the Promotion of a Confessed Child Molester By The News Media
 
Born as Marc Winiarz, went to New York from the Midwest for high school and college, became a youth leader and rabbi, was accused of sexual assaulting two teenage girls, and attempted sexual assault of a young adult woman.  He was also accused of cult like practices.  In 1991 he left the Unitied States to start a new life in Israel, changing his name to Mordechai Gafni.
 
Marc Gafni:  "I was a stupid kid and we were in love," the rabbi said. "She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her"
 
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the spiritual leader of the Israeli community of Efrat, was going to revoke the rabbinic ordination he gave Rabbi Gafni many years ago when they had a close rabbi-student relationship. When Gafni heard of Rabbi Riskin's wishes, he wrote a letter "returning" his semicha to spare his former teacher any further embarrassment.
 
Rabbi Gafni serves on the spiritual advisory council of Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, a national organization based in Philadelphia; leds retreats at Elat Chayyim, a Jewish Renewal center in the Catskills; preached frequently at the Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles; and founded Bayit Chadash ("new home"), a New Age Jewish community in Israel that he said strives "to restore the spark of holy paganism."
 

Rabbi Marc Gafni & Andrew Cohen
Enlightenment, Evolution, and the Future of Judaism
January 1, 2005
http://www.wie.org/unbound/media.asp?ifr=ra&id=50
 
Enlightenment, Evolution, and the Future of Judaism Rabbi Marc Gafni is not your average Rabbi. He's an unorthodox Orthodox Rabbi, a passionate Kabbalist, a popular Israeli television host, and the founder of Bayit Chadash, an international spiritual community and retreat center committed to Jewish renaissance. Yet no matter how far from the established order he may travel, Gafni never loses sight of those most basic Judaic tenets: pray to God and live a moral, ethical, and generous life, because this life is the one that matters most!
In this videotaped conversation between two spiritual masters, Andrew's original conception of an evolutionary enlightenment engages with Rabbi Gafni's soul-level understanding of Judaism's timeless mystical teachings. Together, these two free-thinkers propel an enduring ancient tradition into the exhilarating and uncharted terrain of the future.

The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter (Message 5205) - March 9, 2005
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/TheAwarenessCenter/message/5205
The following is a discussion between one of our subscriber's and Rabbi Eric Yoffe, President of the Union of Reform Judaism (Reform Rabbinical Association).
The subscriber had contacted Rabbi Yoffe regarding their concerns of Rabbi Marc Gafni presenting and being an honored member of Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles, California.
If you would also like to send an e-mail, Rabbi Yoffe's email address is:  PresUahc@urj.org
For more information on the Case of Rabbi Marc/Mordechai Gafni, go to:
______________________________________________________________
-----Original Message-----
From: Name withheld upon request
Sent: Saturday, February 26, 2005 4:36 PM
To: Office of the President
Subject: Appearance of "rabbi" Gafni at Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles
Dear Rabbi Yoffe:
I would like to call your attention to the lecture series being presented by the above mentioned "rabbi" at the Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles, California.
The man is a sex offender and his presence in any Reform Temple is a disgrace to our Reform community.
Thank you for your attention to this email.
Sincerely,
Name withheld upon request
Member of a Reform Synagogue
-------------------------------------------------------
Tue, 1 Mar 2005 15:27:44 -0500
From:"Office of the President" <PresUahc@urj.org>
To:Name withheld upon request
Dear Name withheld upon request:
The rabbi of Stephen S. Wise Temple, Eli Herscher, has informed me that the allegations against Rabbi Gafni have been investigated again and again and have been proven to be simply untrue. Rabbi Herscher is a man of great integrity and I rely on his judgment in this matter.
Sincerely,
Eric Yoffie
 


Why am I not a Buddhist?
By Gil Kopatch
Haaretz - June 2, 2005
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/583841.html
--------------------------------------
CALL TO ACTION: Please read the newest article published by Haaretz and then feel free to write to Haaretz, and ask them to tell the whole story about regarding Marc Gafni. 
Please remember that Rabbi Mordechai Gafni confessed to having sexual relations with a 13 year old girl. "She was 14 going on 35"

Send the letter to letters@haaretz.co.il or fax it to 972-3-5121156.
----------------------------------------
Dali Lama with ex-rabbi Marc Gafni (2005)
Both Moses and Buddha grew up without a mother's love and apparently longed for it all their lives. Buddha was orphaned at an early age; the infant Moses got a one-way ticket for a Nile cruise. Both of them grew up in palaces as pampered princes. Both of them ventured out of the royal hothouse and were astounded to encounter the suffering of their fellows. Both of them turned to meditation for many years - Buddha under a tree, Moses in the wilderness of Midian. 

So much for the similarities between these two spiritual giants. But what are the differences? And if there are no differences, why am I not a Buddhist?
I decide to pay a two-week visit to India. To find myself with alacrity. And to return as enlightened - and as delighted - as possible.
The king-god
On the day after Pesach, at 6 A.M., I pick up Rabbi Mordechai Marc Gafni from his beit midrash (house of study) in Jaffa's Ajami neighborhood. The rabbi is impossible to categorize. He is certainly not Reform. He is committed to Jewish law, but could not be considered classically Orthodox. He's spontaneous, ecstatic, profound, filled with joy - and embraces and loves everyone he meets. Gafni is among the most important of the new generation of religious leaders in Israel today, a profound teacher and thinker, a serious scholar and an original philosopher who addresses and provokes both mind and heart. He is much more of an Eastern-style spiritual master, a kind of Jewish Bodhisattva, than an establishment rabbi. Together with fellow scholar Avraham Leader and businessman Jacob Nir David, he founded Bayit Chadash (literally, New Home), a new national spiritual movement, which includes a research center and rabbinic certification program, and appeals to people who are dissatisfied with the world of the religious establishment. Many of his students are former India backpackers, who are now yuppies and part of the mainstream of contemporary Israeli society. The rabbi is also my good friend and partner on a Channel 2 program about the weekly Torah reading, in which he usually explains and I usually nod.
A few weeks earlier, he told me about a dialogue he had intended to hold with a friend he met at a meeting of clerics in Rome and asked if I wanted to be the moderator. His friend's name? Tenzin Gyatso, better known as the Dalai Lama - the great ocean of compassion, guardian of the white lotus, who looks down with mercy.

According to the tradition, the 14th Dalai Lama, who will turn 70 on July 6, is the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama and, in fact, of all those who preceded him. He is a Bodhisattva - a soul who, because of his love and compassion, does not seek liberation from the cycle of human suffering, but remains within it in order to help others end their suffering. The Dalai Lama is the political as well as the religious leader of the Tibetan nation, and for his struggle to hold a peaceful dialogue with China, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He is admired around the world and is sought out by Hollywood's top stars. For his believers, who call him "Kundun," he is more than the pope for Catholics: He is the king-god. He himself has said that he is "simply a human being and, incidentally, a Tibetan who chooses to be a Buddhist monk."
On the flight to Jordan, from where we will proceed to Delhi, are three Israeli Buddhists who are going on a pilgrimage to Dharamsala, the city in northern India where the Dalai Lama's temple is located. Rabbi Gafni immediately invites them to a kabbalat Shabbat (the ceremony welcoming the Sabbath) that he is planning to hold there. They recoil. It sounds too Jewish. They don't need it. They are already very spiritual without that; they have already done Vipassana and they have incense and everything.
"Rabbi, why the Dalai Lama? Why now?" I ask him.
"Today Tibetan Buddhism is flowering in the Western world," he replies, "and therefore a Jerusalem-Tibet conversation is the spiritual dialogue of the generation. Just as in the past there was the Greece-Jerusalem conversation through Maimonides, who dialogued with Aristotle in his writings."
And why Buddhism?
Gafni: "Tibetan Buddhism is, in certain dimensions, very close to some forms of kabbala [Jewish mysticism]. Both kabbala and Buddhism share some common language that speaks to the heart of the modern seeker."
But isn't it true that there is no god in Buddhism?
"It is true that the term `God' in Buddhism is different from our understanding according to biblical Judaism. It is not the God of the Bible who speaks in a thunderous voice and reprimands everyone. They do not have an external God who is above nature. He is not external to creation, but is interiorized. From this point of view, Buddhism is close to Hasidism - in terms of the internal work, the work you do on yourself, from which emerges your relationship to the world around you."
It's clear to you, is it not, that all the Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] rabbis will assail you for meeting with idol worshipers?
"Anyone who says that simply does not understand Buddhism; he is speaking from ignorance. The Buddha was a human being, he is not God, and therefore it is clear that his statue is also not God, but only a symbol. So there is no idol worship here."
Travel as thriller
Our hotel is situated in a good neighborhood of New Delhi, meaning that people do not live on the street, but in grimy, neglected apartments. Connaught Place, one of the most magnificent of the city's squares, looks like Kikar Hamedina in Tel Aviv and more especially like "Bread Square," the former protest site of the poor and homeless there. My fastidiousness surges. My only nourishment is nuts and hermetically sealed water.
At night we tour Old Delhi. It's not crowded here at night, only 7.3 Indians per square meter. All of whom are wandering the street in groups. No one suffers from loneliness here. In the West people feel alone in villas; here they sleep two-three to a porter's wagon and don't look especially sad. It's hard to find an Indian depressive who is hooked on Prozac or its ilk. They don't have the leisure for that.
Carpets of people are sleeping on the traffic islands. The drivers of the three-wheeled cabs sleep in their vehicles. It's astonishing, the balance that is needed to sleep on the seat of a bicycle.
The next day we set out in the most expensive taxi we could find; the important thing is just to get out of here. Traveling on the roads of India is like being in a thriller. You watch the developments on the road with disbelief, waiting for the catharsis that will purge you of your fear. It's a terrific movie. Anything can happen. Driving against the traffic, veering out of the way a split second before a bicycle holding an entire family splatters all over you.
To the drivers' credit, they obviously feel their car. They probably live in it. The car is part of their body and they behave on the highway as on the street, in a state of patient, moderate, smiling chaos. Not that there are no accidents. Here and there we see overturned buses along the road. But they, too, are accepted with equanimity.
Many of the vehicles sport a sign saying "Honk, please." In driving there is nothing like the sense of hearing. In Israel every honk can send the honkee out of his car and spark a blood-drenched incident. Here it's a happy thing - people merrily honk at one another. You could mistakenly think that driving here is an ear-splitting experience until you realize that honking is like saying "hello."
At a "workers'" restaurant by the roadside we are careful not to enter the stinking pit called a "lavatory." A large indifferent bull strides in. Guess who's coming to dinner. They feed it fresh chapati and in response it oozes a lot of spittle and strolls off, languidly escorted by an entourage of 200 flies.
Our driver Pablo, an Indian hunk who looks like singer Eyal Golan, travels this road every day for 13 straight hours. His favorite god, he says, is Ganesh, the mischievous Hindu god with the head of an elephant. Ganesh is the most popular god in India. He is responsible for pranks and intrigues.
We crossed the rich state of Punjab and the poor state of Uttar Pradesh and we arrive in the north, in the state of Hiamachal Pradesh, the paradise of India. The weather is far more pleasant. Which is to say, the air moves. In Delhi it's different: There the mosquitoes hold the air between their teeth.
We start to climb the Himalayas. Pablo is very tired - he hasn't slept in three days. Rabbi Gafni encourages him with sacred songs and some tunes by Simon and Garfunkel, too. Pablo has never heard of them but he wakes up, no doubt also aided by the light massage the rabbi applies to his shoulders.
The road bends sharply and the turns begin. Dharamsala is at an altitude of 2,000 meters. High, but still only considered to be at the foothills of the Himalayas. The turns are terribly sharp. Good thing it's been dark for some time. That way we don't see the potholes or the abyss alongside the road.
At 3 A.M. we reach upper Dharamsala. After the Dalai Lama fled from the Chinese and made his way stealthily across the Himalayas on the back of a yak, the Indian government granted him political asylum and this village, Macleod Ganj, adjacent to Dharamsala. Here, like our Yohanan Ben Zakkai, he reinvigorated the Tibetan people and its culture after the terrible destruction.
The Chinese killed more than one million Tibetans and destroyed some 6,000 monasteries. Holocaust is something else we have in common with them.
Your original face
Already during the tour of Macleod Ganj in the morning I was ripped off by shoe-shining Rajasthani kids. The rabbi hinted that I should upgrade my appearance before going to see the Bodhisattva of compassion. So I abandoned my shoes to the kids. They asked for 350 rupees, which is about NIS 35. I paid them a month's salary without haggling and got a serious scolding from the owner of a Tibetan store, who said I was spoiling the young generation. Fortunately it's Rajasthani youth, not Tibetan, so there isn't much to spoil.
There is tension between the different communities in the village. The Tibetans are angry at the Indians and call them slothful, while the Indians are vexed by the industrious Tibetans. They arrived only 50 years ago and already have developed the village and made it one of the major tourist centers of India. It's a small village, with a population of 6,000, of whom about 1,000 are Israelis.
There are three lanes in the village and they all lead upward. The homes snake their way up the side of a green hill and on the rooftops are cafes with a view that makes your heart go pitter-pat. In front of the central house of worship are cylinders on which are drawn colorful verses of prayer. When you turn them they create a kind of mantra, which is delivered to the ears of the universe.
There are fine restaurants in Macleod Ganj. Italian, Japanese, Korean and of course Tibetan and Israeli. True, the lanes are narrow and the cows crap, but it is clean here, the air is clear and the water fresh, direct from the Himalayas. It rains twice a day and the drops are heavy.
The Israelis are concentrated in the neighboring villages of Dharamkot and Bhagsu, which are less crowded. The view is a lot better there, too, but the monkeys are more impertinent. Surprisingly, most of the Israelis here have a busy schedule. A meditation course in the morning, followed immediately by a massage lesson, then cooking and drumming. They don't have time for shanti (total tranquillity) here - that they reserve for Israel.
The next day it was pretty clear that the hawks were looking for food. Because we are situated on the edge of an abyss, they fly pretty much at eye level, just meters from me. Today we have a meeting with Tenzin Geyche Tethong, the secretary of the Tibetan government, about the rules of protocol and the content of the meeting with the Dalai Lama.
Rabbi Gafni wears his special Hasidic garb. The Tibetan government has a special minister in charge of robes and they attribute great significance to this. We don't want to foment a diplomatic scandal because of mistaken fashion considerations.
In the government compound soldiers are playing badminton. There is a great splash of flowers here and their aroma accompanies us to the bureau. The secretary, formal but smiling, waxes enthusiastic over the rabbi's Hasidic robe. "The Dalai Lama is in the middle of writing a book," he says, "but he loves Rabbi Gafni and has specially made time for him. He has an interest in being in contact with the Israeli community. You are our neighbors here and we should get to know you."
He asks about the Israelis, why there are so many of them here. Rabbi Gafni replies that they feel a deep connection to the spirit of the place, perhaps because both the Tibetans and the Jews have suffered oppression and sought to maintain their identity in difficult conditions of exile. I ask why the Tibetans are always laughing. His eyes lighting up, he replies: "The original face of people, beneath all the masks, is a smiling face."
Amen.
The encounter
The Tsuglagkhang compound, the Dalai Lama's official residence, is a few minutes' walk from the center of the village. The morning of the meeting, a Friday, finds the rabbi in good spirits. He takes bills out of his pocket and distributes them to the lepers of the neighborhood. They smile, happy with their lot.
In the Namgyal temple, Tibetan monks are conducting a lively argument. They clap their hands vigorously to emphasize a solid point and snort mockingly to disparage their adversary's argument. Just like the hair-splitting debates that took place in the plaza of our Temple.
The conference room contains luxurious low sofas and silkscreen prints on the wall. Even though this is supposed to be an intimate encounter, a few Israelis who were born again in Indian ashrams have managed to infiltrate the gathering. They are on the verge of a mild orgasm at the meeting with their God.
The Dalai Lama enters. He has nice eyes, his presence is pleasant, that is clear. He and Rabbi Gafni embrace, bow to each other and place cheek by cheek, showing more affection than what is customary. Both the rabbi and the Dalai Lama laugh heartily; indeed, they seem to share a great love for laughter.
After the greetings the rabbi reminds the Dalai Lama that he gave His Holiness his skullcap in Rome. "I hope you still have it," he says. The Dalai Lama nods in affirmation. "I hope that one day it will be useful to me when I visit Jerusalem or Jewish institutions," he says in English, and laughs.
Following are some excerpts from the conversation.
"I represent not only Gafni, but the Jewish tradition," the rabbi said, "and I want to thank you for receiving us in your home. The subject we want to talk to you about is how the world of the spirit can have a practical influence and change the very real world of politics and economics."
Dalai Lama: "That is a good subject. It is very important."
Gafni, with a smile: "That is why I brought Gil with me - he's the Richard Gere of Israel [Gere is active in the movement to free Tibet], because he gets better ratings than I do."
"Your Holiness," I said, "I have a few questions that are bothering me. My first question is what love is, actually. And how do we teach people to love in a practical way?"
Dalai Lama: "I cannot say what the exact meaning of love is. But when I use that word, it means that something is very precious to me. I feel not only closeness, but also caring and respect. For example, I love my watch but there are no relations of closeness between us, we do not share the same experiences. Love is for people who have the same experience as mine - feelings, pain, pleasure. That is why we should respect others, because they are part of myself.
"We learn our first experience of love from our mother," he continued. "The infant wants to be close to its mother. Sometimes, unfortunately, there are unwanted children, but in general the mother sees the baby as part of her body. That is the height of closeness. This feeling is essential in reality for survival. This feeling becomes an important part of our life and it continues until our death. All the spiritual concepts speak about this being the most important feeling."
Gafni: "I want to offer from the kabbala a comment on the words of wisdom of His Holiness."
Dalai Lama: "So I can learn, very good!"
Gafni: "To learn from the tradition of our forefathers. The kabbala says that love, at its core, is not an emotion, but a perception, a way of seeing the world. The emotion then wells up from the perception. Once we understand that, we can train a perception, and we can also train ourselves to be lovers. Love is to see with the eyes of God. To love someone is to see them in their highest, most beautiful place. To love someone is to perceive their infinite specialness, with that divinity. The model for love in this sense is the way the mother sees her child. Even if the baby grows up and falls, the mother will always hold that at his core, he is beautiful and holy, and divine. This is why in Hebrew mysticism we call God `shaddai' - it is the divine breast of the mother who nourishes us all. And because we are all part of God. We are all divine miniatures. So we all have the ability to be lovers, that is, to access our divine perception and see others with the eyes of God."
The Dalai Lama and ex-rabbi Marc Gafni (2005)
The Dalai Lama was impressed: "Beautiful! The idea that love is a type of seeing, that it is possible to train it, is a good idea. It is hard to train a feeling, but sight is easier. We are all creatures of God. God is everlasting love. If I love God, I have to maintain a loving feeling toward all creatures, who are part of God. These feelings should be cultivated by logic, by meditation - there are methods for doing that. What is certain is that even people who do not have an interest in religion need a warm heart. A warm heart leads to inner quiet and to a tranquil and meaningful life. If the parents grow up in this atmosphere, they will educate their children accordingly. And that is the right way to change humanity."
"If all the religions talk about love of mankind and compassion," I asked, "how is it that so much hatred and wars are the fruit of religious education?"
The Dalai Lama laughed. "Religion has a big umbrella and under it you can do what you want," he said. "The spiritual tradition represents good values for the long range. When people are in a desperate situation, their emotions become more negative. When anger is strong, the long-range considerations are forgotten. Therefore it is easier to believe in the values of the spirit when you have a comfortable life, but the wisdom is to do that during hardships.
"There are people who use religion for political or financial purposes and manipulate human belief. In Northern Ireland, for example. The naive people have stronger feelings and it is easier to work them up. That is why certain conflicts in history happened because of religion. But if you look closely you will see that the real considerations were different.
"The fundamentalist believes only in his religion and is afflicted with lack of knowledge and lack of esteem for the other traditions. He feels sincerely that he is serving God - and destroys and lays waste. The method to dissolve this is by means of talks between the traditions. Knowledge should be increased. Harmony should be created between the faiths. I was in Jerusalem twice, not only as a tourist but as a pilgrim, and I spoke with Jews and Muslims and Christians. Despite the different philosophy, they all carry the same idea. A message of love, compassion, forgiveness and self-meaning. That is why I feel more contact is needed. More dialogue. I have friends from all religions. If I am ever exiled from here, I will have somewhere to go."
Gafni: "The most important idea I want to share with you is about why people who are deeply religious can behave in a terrible way. In what I call integral kabbala, and in modern integral thought, we say there are stages and states. States mean that which I achieve and lose - like an altered state or mystical state. A stage is a permanent achievement; I have developed to a particular stage of achievement and I do not lose it. In moral development, there are four major stages: egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric (feeling care and compassion for all people), and also the stage of being compassionate for all living beings and not only human beings.
"Now here is the deep idea. All states, mystical ones included, are interpreted through the prism of stages. If I am at one level - let's say, egocentric - and I have a mystical experience, I might think I am Jesus. If I am at the ethnocentric stage, then I might think that only my people is holy ... The secret is that all states are interpreted through the prism of stages, one's moral stage of development. Therefore, even people who reach genuine mystical states can behave in morally reprehensible ways."
The Dalai Lama listened carefully, nodding, seemingly excited to hear this new wisdom.
Gil: "Politicians and businessmen only want to be in control all the time, whereas one of the principles of the spirit is precisely to give up control. How is it possible to combine the two?"
Dalai Lama: "The success of the modern economy depends on other elements, such as clients. A good politician is usually voted into office in elections, so he depends on people. Therefore, they are not actually in control. Politics and the economy need a great many people. Religion, in the end, is the business of one person. Religion depends on the individual.
"If your belief is clean, if you have a healthy and true motivation, all your actions can be constructive, filled with compassion and beneficial to the world. It does not matter what your profession is - politician, scientist or teacher. If your motivation is to be self-centered, then every religion becomes dirty and destructive. All human activity depends on the individual who does it. Therefore, religion has an important role. To instill values in those who make the economy and the politics, to change the way of thinking toward compassion and love.
"Not long ago we had a state meeting with the government of India. And one of the country's most important ministers was there, too. Humbly he said that he is a politician and therefore does not have enough spiritual knowledge. I said to him that a person who is a public figure needs religion more than someone who lives alone in a remote place. Someone like that does not cause much harm even if he goes crazy [laughs loudly]. But the leaders, if they are not mentally balanced, if their brain is complicated and sophisticated, but their heart is poor and wretched, that has serious implications" (laughs in satisfaction).
Sexuality and divinity
Gil: "Let's talk about sexuality in Buddhism and kabbala."
Gafni: "I want to offer from Jerusalem a scientific method of how religion can teach the individual change. Because I do not have the courage to speak in my name, I ask all the angels and sages to speak through me and they will do it better than I can by myself."
The Dalai Lama listens attentively. Gafni concentrates silently for a few seconds and continues:
"In the Temple in Jerusalem, above the Holy Ark, were pictures of two angels. They were embracing in a kind of sexual tantric yoga posture. In the kabbala we call this `the secret of the Cherubim.' The secret is that one of the ways to teach personal transformation and love is through using the principles of sexuality as a spiritual model. Why? Because sexuality illustrates all the principles of religion.
"For example, giving up control, which Gil asked about. In sex it is not good to be always in control. Sex works only if we are willing at times to give up control. So sexuality exemplifies a spiritual principle. There is also another element in kabbala, which is called `the secret of the kisses.' Let's say I go to the bank and ask the teller to record that I as though deposited money. He will look at me as though I am crazy. In this world, after all, either you take or you receive. But in sexuality, giving and receiving are collapsed into one. So the sexual models the holy, the holy way of living."
The Dalai Lama was a bit surprised by what seemed to be a new approach, but listened carefully.
Gafni: "Another spiritual thing that is illustrated by the sexual: to do something for its own sake, not in order to gain some other advantage extraneous to itself. Sex according to the kabbala is meditation of the ordinary person. Because sexuality is for the thing itself. These are but examples of a core kabbalistic idea. The kabbala says that sexuality, which the whole world is afraid of, actually incorporates astounding spiritual principles that should be applied as the model for living in all the nonsexual areas of life."
The Dalai Lama laughs appreciatively. He bursts with laughter. It takes him time to calm down. Sex is something that Tibetan monks of his level are not supposed to take an interest in.
Dalai Lama: "It's complicated. Sex is mainly a matter of culture. That is its main role in nature. We cannot say that there is any religious meaning in it. Animals do it and we cannot say that they are religious."
Gafni: "But animals have a soul, too. You see? I am a good Buddhist."
Dalai Lama (laughing): "In the Indian tradition there may be something similar to what you are saying. But in Buddhism it is different. All the internal feelings and the sexual feelings are related to `internal air,' and we have to control this internal air, the movement of this internal energy. We use the sexual organs to create movement, to make the energy flow, not for the purpose of culture, but to achieve a deeper experience of consciousness. And then the sexual energy melts away. Only trained people are capable of this.
"Good and proper sexual relations are a way to get close to one another," he adds. "but they are also the source of a problem. You are happy for a few months and then the problems come up."
"There seems to be a lot of energy in envy, in ego and in violence," I ask, "and the energy to do well by others is far less powerful. Is it possible to learn how to channel the energy of evil toward the doing of good?"
Dalai Lama: "That is very clear. A negative feeling creates energy immediately. So negative feelings are stronger than positive ones. Through training, positive feelings can also give energy. Compassion, for example, by training one's thinking, can give endless energy. But it is not easy. You need a sharp mind and a developed consciousness to make these distinctions."
Gafni: "There is the story about the founder of Hasidism who was approached because an infant had fallen ill, and instead of going to 10 righteous men, he asked 10 thieves to pray for him. All the Jews were angry with him, and he said, `The gates of heaven are locked and only a thief knows how to pick the locks of heaven.' Maybe that means that we need the highest level of consciousness to access the energy of the thief in us in order to storm heaven."
The Dalai Lama laughs and stamps his feet. "God is nice," he says, "and he may be especially nice to the sinners. That is very true."
The rabbi takes out the fabric he bought in the market the day before, orange silk cloth such as the Tibetan monks use. He asked an Israeli woman named Idit to sew tzitzit (ritual fringes) in each corner and then he had a totally kosher tallit (prayer shawl). With much grace and decorum, he presents it to the Dalai Lama.
"Ho!" the Dalai Lama calls out, moved. "This is wonderful Jewish-Tibetan merger. How wonderful." After the rabbi explains its kabbalistic meaning to a very attentive Dalai Lama, he wraps himself in it, chortling delightedly. Then he gives us white silk scarves, as is the custom when parting - and gets a skullcap. He and the rabbi embrace and their love for each other is felt by everyone. Everyone bows to the Dalai Lama; he bows in return and leaves.
I was caught in the garden. Suddenly the Dalai Lama emerged from behind me, wearing the skullcap and prayer shawl, on the way to his next meeting. "I am a Tibetan Jew! A Tibetan Jew!" Pleased as punch he was.
The differences
The rumor of the visit spread through the foothills of the Himalayas. Dozens of Israelis, young people in search of serenity, arrive for the kabbalat Shabbat at the Hotel OM (symbol of the presence of the universal in the individual). On the porch, which seemed to be suspended in mid-air between the tops of green pine trees, Rabbi Gafni - warmly greeted by many travelers who knew him from Israel - succeeds in creating a moving experience for them, in part thanks to India, which has milked the Zionism out of them. During "Shir Lama'alot" (Song of Degrees), they all lift their eyes to the snowcapped peaks, knowing whence their help shall come.
In our last conversation en route to the airport, I talk with the rabbi again about the differences. Buddha said: Elimination of suffering is all. Suffering is my identification with this world. And this world perishes. The more I am attached to this world, the more I suffer. It is better to sit under the tree, concentrate on one's breathing, do stretching exercises and not identify too much.
Moses, in contrast, foments a political and cultural revolution that is called the Exodus from Egypt. He is a political activist. He operates in this world, influences history, repairs reality and not just one's personal karma.
And there is another difference: What a beautiful land it turned out to be for Moses here. Only when you get back from India do you see it. The streets here are so clean. I feel like getting out of the car and licking the road. Allenby Street never looked so polished. The houses are so white. The dogs are so sated and the flies are so lonely. More power to a sense of perspective. More power to Moses. More power to the Israel Defense Forces.



CALL TO ACTION:  UJA Federation of NY Sponsors Event with Rabbi Marc "Mordechai" Gafni
July 3, 2005
An oversized card, called "Enjoy autumn in the Berkshires at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center" has been sent out. It it includes a Shavuot event on June 1-4, 2006 conducted by Rabbi Mordechai Gafni. It appears this is an agency sponsored by the UJA Federation of New York. Rabbi Gafni confessed to having sexual relations with a minor .
Please call : Morris W. Offit - Chair of the Board, of the UJA Federation of New York, and Lauren Katzowitz Shenfield - Executive Director (Philanthropy Advisors – A Service of UJA-Federation of New York).  Let them know how you feel UJA funds being used to support the teachings of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center.
Morris W. Offit - Chair of the Board
UJA Federation of NY
130 East 59th Street
New York, NY 10022
212-980-1000
Lauren Katzowitz Shenfield - Executive Director
Philanthropy Advisors – A Service of UJA-Federation of New York
130 East 59th Street, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Telephone: 212-836-1358
Fax: 212-836-1199


CALL TO ACTION:  UJA Federation of NY Sponsors Event with Rabbi Marc "Mordechai" Gafni
The Awareness Center - Sunday, September 11, 2005
http://jewishsurvivors.blogspot.com/2005/09/call-to-action-uja-federation-of-ny.html
An oversized card, called "Enjoy autumn in the Berkshires at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center" has been sent out. It it includes a Shavuot event on June 1-4, 2006 conducted by Rabbi
Mordechai Gafni. It appears this is an agency sponsored by the UJA Federation of New York. Rabbi Gafni confessed to having sexual relations with a minor (see below).
Please call Morris W. Offit - Chair of the Board, of the UJA Federation of New York. Let him know how you feel about Rabbi Mordechai Gafni representing the JUA at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center.
Please also call:
Lauren Katzowitz Shenfield - Executive Director
Philanthropy Advisors – A Service of UJA-Federation of New York
130 East 59th Street, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Telephone: 212-836-1358
Fax: 212-836-1199
UJA Federation of NY
Main Office
130 East 59th Street
New York, NY 10022
212-980-1000
contact@ujafedny.org
Case of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni
(aka: Marc Gafni, Mark Gafni, Marc Winiarz, Mordechai Winiarz, Mordechai Winyarz)

Born as Marc Winiarz, went to New York from the Midwest for high school and college, became a youth leader and rabbi, was accused of sexual assaulting two teenage girls, and attempted sexual assault of a young adult woman. He was also accused of cult like practices. In 1991 he left the Unitied States to start a new life in Israel, changing his name to Mordechai Gafni.
Marc Gafni: "I was a stupid kid and we were in love," the rabbi said. "She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her"
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the spiritual leader of the Israeli community of Efrat, was going to revoke the rabbinic ordination he gave Rabbi Gafni many years ago when they had a close rabbi-student relationship. When Gafni heard of Rabbi Riskin's wishes, he wrote a letter "returning" his semicha to spare his former teacher any further embarrassment.


CALL TO ACTION:  Rabbi Marc Gafni (Winiarz) - How can any paper publish an article by this man anymore?
Jewish Survivors Speak Out - Monday, December 05, 2005
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3177690,00.html

CALL TO ACTION:   Stop The Promotion Rabbi Marc Gafni (a Confessed Child Molester) in the News Media

ex-rabbi Marc Gafni in Israel
Post a "comment" and write to Ynet News to let them know how you feel about them promoting Marc Gafni. How can any paper publish an article by this man anymore, especially when it has to do with "To love our children is to perceive their soul prints, to see them in their unique, infinite beauty"?
Also post the comments you put up at YNet on this blog. Just hit the button below that says comments.
Born as Marc Winiarz, went to New York from the Midwest for high school and college, became a youth leader and rabbi, was accused of sexual assaulting two teenage girls, and attempted sexual assault of a young adult woman. He was also accused of cult like practices. In 1991 he left the Unitied States to start a new life in Israel, changing his name to Mordechai Gafni.
Marc Gafni: "I was a stupid kid and we were in love," the rabbi said. "She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her".
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the spiritual leader of the Israeli community of Efrat, was going to revoke the rabbinic ordination he gave Rabbi Gafni many years ago when they had a close rabbi-student relationship. When Gafni heard of Rabbi Riskin's wishes, he wrote a letter "returning" his semicha to spare his former teacher any further embarrassment.
Don't forget there is still a CALL TO ACTION regarding Elat Chayyim allowing Marc Gafni/Winiarz teach at their retreat center. Please contact executive director Bennett Neiman and let your voice be heard:
(800) 398-2630, ext: 221 - Toll Free
(845) 626-0157, ext. 221 - International and Mid-Hudson local
director@elatchayyim.org
Rabbi Gafni serves on the spiritual advisory council of Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, a national organization based in Philadelphia; leds retreats at Elat Chayyim, a Jewish Renewal center in the Catskills; preached frequently at the Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles; and founded Bayit Chadash ("new home"), a New Age Jewish community in Israel that he said strives "to restore the spark of holy paganism."


CALL TO ACTION:  Marc Gafni Speaking at the Omega Institute (Being Fearless)
The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter (Message 6384) - Mon Dec 26, 2005 7:19

Marc Gafni is scheduled to present at the Omega Institute conference in New York City on March 31 - April 2, 2006. Please contact the Omega Institute (Stephan Rechtschaffen and Skip Backus) and let them know how you feel about Marc Gafni presenting.  

Please provide them with the following background information and history on Rabbi Mordecai Gafni (AKA: Mark Gafni, Marc Gafni, Marc Winiarz, Mordechai Winiarz, Mordechai Winyarz).

Omega Institute Contact Information:
Stephan Rechtschaffen and Skip Backus
Toll Free: 800-944-1001
Direct Number: 845-266-4444
Fax: 845-266-3769
registration@eomega.org
Faculty Profile
Rabbi Marc Gafni is the founder and head of Bayit Chadash, an international spiritual retreat center committed to Jewish renaissance in Israel. Gafni is the author of Soul Prints: Your Path to Fulfillment, which was the subject of a nationally aired PBS special. Translated into many languages, it received the NAPRA Nautilus Award as Best Spirituality Book of 2001. His second book, The Mystery of Love, draws from the ancient texts of the Kabbalist tradition to explore the relationships between sex, eros, love, and holiness.
Along with Erica Fox, Rabbi Gafni is developing the Harvard Negotiation Insight Initiative at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. This project engages cutting-edge conversation between the fields of conflict management and wisdom traditions.
Currently completing a doctorate program through Oxford University, Rabbi Gafni is also a contributing editor to Tikkun magazine, and Chayim Acherim, Israel's leading spiritual magazine.
Upcoming Conferences:
Being Fearless - New York, NY
March 31, 2006 - April 2, 2006

 
CALL TO ACTION: All Rabbis and Rabbinical Organizations - Rabbi Marc Gafni (AKA: Rabbi Mordechai Winyartz)
Monday, January 16, 2006
 
Once again a newspaper in Israel is publishing articles written by a rabbi who admitted to having sexual relations with a minor. Once again The Awareness Center, Inc. is going to ask everyone to contact the paper -- asking them to stop promoting an alleged sexual predator as a Torah scholar.
As we all know, sexual offenses have nothing to do with religion. This is NOT an Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Traditional or Jewish Renewal problem. Alleged and convicted sex offenders is everyone's problem.
QUESTION: Does someone who admits to having sexual relations with a minor have a right to be teaching Torah?
Marc Gafni has been hopping around in all movements of Judaism. For this reason we ask ALL rabbis and rabbinical organizations to make a public statement denouncing Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Winartz) behavior. We do NOT want one more person to be manipulated or violated by this man.
Remember the article "Post-Orthodoxy Journey" that was published in Ha'aretz? Marc Gafni said that his community in Israel "aspires to be a new stream in Judaism, and, in his words, "to restore the spark of holy paganism."
I'm sure you would agree with me that Judaism should never be considered to be any form of "holy paganism".
Is Marc Winiarz (Mordechai Gafni) trying to create his own new religion, and then call it Judaism? We all need to ask ourselves if Mordechai Winyartz is nothing more then a modern day Jacob Frank or Shabbetai Zevii?
What will it take for the rabbunim of the world to take action?
Please contact all rabbis you know and every rabbinical organizations and demand they make a public statement regarding this man.
Please call and write (in alphabetical order):
 
Agudath Israel of America - Orthodox
Rabbi Avi Shafran - Program Director
42 Broadway
New York, NY 10004
212-797-9000
FAX: 646-254-1610
E-MAIL: shafran@amechad.com
 
Aleph : Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Debra Kolodny - Executive Director
7000 Lincoln Drive #B2
Philadelphia, PA 19119-3046
215-247-0210
(Please note that one of the Jewish Renewal Teachers on thier site is Marc Gafni)
 
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Harry K. Danziger - President
355 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10017
(212) 972-3636
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation - Reconstructionist
Daniel G. Cedarbaum - President
7804 Montgomery Ave., Ste. 9
Elkins Park, PA 19027
212-782-8500
Fax: 215-782-8805
Rabbinical Council of America - Orthodox
Rabbi Basil Herring - Executive Vice President
Phone: 212-807-7888 x 105
Fax: 212-727-8452
Rabbinic Assembly - Conservative Rabbis
Rabbi Joel H. Meyers - Executive Vice President
3080 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
Ph: (212) 280-6000
Fax: (212) 749-9166
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Brant Rosen - President
1299 Church Road
Wyncote, PA 19095
215-576-5210
Fax: 215-576-8051
Please send a note to Ynet News, and let your voice be heard!
Here is the "Torah Portion" written by Gafni and published by ynet news: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3199899,00.html
Ynetnews Editorial Department: news@ynetnews.com
Editor-in-chief, Ynet: editor-in-chief@y-i.co.il


Call To Action:URGENT - Gafni and Worch Speaking in Chicago?
The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter - April 20, 2006
Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor" (Leviticus 19:16).
According to a blog ran by Yori Yanover, Marc Gafni and Hershy Worch are planing on speaking at a cafe in Chicago. I have not been able to verify that this is true, yet due to the shortage of time I thought I would make sure you are aware of this possible situation. I've tried calling the "No Exit Cafe," yet no one answered.
I understand that the majority of people in the conservative or orthodox community would not attend this function, the problem is that many unsuspecting Jew's and non-Jews may attend.
Please calll the "No Exit Cafe" to help verify that Marc Winiarz (AKA: Mordechai Gafni, and Hershy Worch are speaking. If they are, please WARN the owners of the cafe that both of these individuals have serious allegations of sexual violence made against them.
No Exit Cafe:
(773) 743-3355
To remind you about Gafni and Worch, please read the following two web pages:
http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/gafni_mordechai.html
http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/worch_hershy.html
_____________________________________

USAJEWISH
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Mordechai Gafni and Hershy Worch in Open Dscussion of the Izbicer
A gig for Chicagoans... There will be a Symposium at the No Exit Cafe 6970 N. Glenwood, Chicago this coming Sunday afternoon with Rabbi Gafni and J. Hershy Worch and friends - between 3:00 pm and 4:30 pm. If you'd like to come and meet some of the other local Chevrah, you'd be most welcome. Bring your questions and curiosity... Yours truly will be listening online via Skype and might get into the discussion if they'll let me...
posted by Yori Yanover at Thursday, April 20, 2006


Call to Action: Jerusalem Post Promoting a confessed child molester
The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter (Message 6876) - Tue May 9, 2006 8:50 am
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/TheAwarenessCenter/message/6876
Rabbi Mordecai Gafni is presenting at a festival in Israel. Please contact all Israeli newspapers and demand they stop the promotion of a confessed child molester. For more information regarding Marc Gafni go to: http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/gafni_mordechai.html

Three days of purple haze
By DIANE MESKIN,
THE JERUSALEM POST - May. 9, 2006

According to alternative healing methods, visualizing the color purple will help you connect to your spiritual self.
It is no wonder then, that the name of Israel's only festival dedicated to meditation and love is called Sagol, Hebrew for purple. This is the sixth year in a row that the bi-annual Sagol Festival is being put on, making it the 12th time that Israelis will gather in nature - this time at Ganei Choga Springs near Beit Shean - to practice alternative methods of movement, awareness, and healing.
Held every year on Sukkoth and Lag Ba'Omer, the festival brags of a calm and family-oriented atmosphere with a plethora of treatments and workshops led by professionals from all over Israel and the world. Some of the workshops being offered - of which there are over 200 in over 15 subject areas - are meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, various forms of therapy, music, theater, Tantra, Reiki, and more. This year they have also added a workshop on the relationship between men and women.
Judaism's take on self-awareness and awareness of our surroundings will also be addressed in the sections of the festival dedicated to Kabbala and Zohar, run by Rabbi Mordechai (Marc) Gafni, founder and head of the holistic Bayit Chadash movement.
Make sure to enter the haze with a pillow, towel, and socks to allow participation in all treatments and workshops.
The Sagol Festival takes place from May 11-13. Tickets are NIS 250. Children under four get in free, ages 4-12 NIS 10. The price includes participation in all workshops and activities as well as camping. Tents should be brought from home or lodging reserved beforehand. For more details see www.sagol.org, Tel. 08-9933960/50.



Gafni Strikes Again
by Mobius // May 11th, 2006
People, Crime, Renewal
http://jewschool.com/?p=10573

There was once a time when I stood up for Mordechai Gafni. Not for the man himself, precisely, but rather the notion that a man is innocent until proven guilty. On one occasion, in the midst of an argument with Jewish Whistleblower here on Jewschool, I was explicitly warned by several of my most esteemed jblogger friends to diassociate myself from such remarks because, when the shit hits the fan, I'm not going to want to be seen in any way, shape or form, to be among his sycophants. So before I break this story, let me just clarify: I have have always been suspicious of Gafni. Though I have never met him or conversed with him (perhaps luckily, as I've never come under the sway of his "charismatic leadership"), I have heard one-too-many alarming tales from his students and would-be victims to remain ambivalent towards him. In turn, I have inquired of all allegations against him to both prominent Renewal leaders and their staff members, as well as some contributors to Jewschool who have been in close contact with him. Their responses have hardly satisfied me, and I have since made it a point to warn every person in the Renewal community I know to steer clear of him.
That said, the shit has hit the fan. Gafni, nee Marc Winiarz, who reportedly fled the United States for Israel to avoid either prosecution for previous charges of sexual assault or the social repercussions of such allegations, has been oustered from his position at Bayit Chadash, the spiritual community in Tel Aviv-Yaffo, amidst five distinct allegations of sexual harrassment and one charge of rape.
Letters are presently circulating to the directors of various spiritual communities here in North America at which Gafni regularly teaches, warning them not to invite the man onto their premeses. I should have one of these letters in my possession shortly. More details will follow.
Gafni, by the way, also writes parshat hashavua for ynet. I can't wait to see how they report this when it hits the press, if they report it at all.
I cannot divulge the source of this information, lest it be said that it comes from someone whose word I value and trust, and I am therefore taking these charges very seriously. I hate to say it, because it's a bridge I so don't want to burn, but I think it is high time to demand accountability from Renewal leaders for brushing off previous charges and giving a predator the space and the legitimacy he needed to strike again. They have a responsibility to act, and if they do not act accordingly this time, they will have lost one of their biggest and most vocal young supporters — me.
The teshuva clock is ticking.


Mordechai Gafni/Winiarz Accused of Rape
AKA: Marc Gafni
By Steven I. Weiss
Canonist - May 11, 2006
http://www.canonist.com/?p=778
One of the most-tailed alleged abusers in the Jewish community, he has had a sort of reprieve for a while now, as various Jewish Renewal and Modern Orthodox leaders have defended him, to the point of threatening lawsuits against those who maintained profiles of his alleged abuses.
Then there was Gary Rosenblatt's apologetic for the man, despite essentially confirming two separate acts of molesting underaged women.
And now, Jewschool's Dan Sieradski writes, Gafni/Winiarz "has been oustered from his position at Bayit Chadash, the spiritual community in Tel Aviv-Yaffo, amidst five distinct allegations of sexual harrassment and one charge of rape." Sieradski declares:
I hate to say it, because it's a bridge I so don't want to burn, but I think it is high time to demand accountability from Renewal leaders for brushing off previous charges and giving a predator the space and the legitimacy he needed to strike again. They have a responsibility to act, and if they do not act accordingly this time, they will have lost one of their biggest and most vocal young supporters — me.
Good, strong words from a young fellow who really does stand to lose a lot if the Renewal community turns against him on this.
Let the shame of these acts rain down upon those who chose to keep this man in positions of power and influence, and enabled him to continue:
Rabbi Saul Berman;
Joseph Telushkin;
Rabbi Arthur Waskow;
Rabbi Zalman Schechter-Shalomi;
Rabbi Avraham Infeld;
Gary Rosenblatt.


 
Rabbi Arthur Waskow issues a letter on Marc Gafni
Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence Speak Out - May 14, 2006
http://jewishsurvivors.blogspot.com/2006/05/rabbi-arthur-waskow-issues-letter-on.html
The following message went today to every one of the thousands of subscribers to The Shalom Report. You can subscribe by clicking to www.shalomctr.org/subscribe

Dear friends,
Once again we face the news that a position of spiritual leadership has been turned into a platform for sexual abuse.
I am sending you a statement issued Friday by Avraham Leader, head of the Board of Bayit Chadash in Israel — a community dedicated to the spiritual renewal of Judaism.
The statement announces that its Board has just fired Rabbi Mordechai Gafni (its founder and chief teacher) because of his actions described in the formal depositions of four women, and the statements of others – some who had been students and subordinate staff – that he had had sexual relationships with them, and had sworn them to secrecy. Leader affirms his and the Board's conviction that the assertions are true.
I hardly need to say how sad, how angry, and how betrayed Gafni's behavior makes me feel. (To me they spell "abuse' because of the power differentials, even if there was formal consent by the women.) — And how much it raises questions once again about how to walk that thin line between spiritual ecstasy and the domineering frenzy that is not only damaging in itself but sometimes even leads to sexual abuse.
I am grateful that these women have come forward to say the truth.
There is a lot more to say. Some of it I will say below, after inserting here Avraham Leader's announcement so that we can all know what we are talking about.
******************

Avraham Leader's statement:
Back to me, Arthur Waskow:
 
There is a great deal we could do in all communities of spiritual depth – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, no doubt others — to prevent or minimize this deformation of the Spirit into an idol – an event that has happened in each of these traditions, and not just once.
Not only must the teachers who might fall into this idolatry be taught how to celebrate in joy but not in frenzy; those learners or on-staff subordinates who might fall into the role of victim also need to empower themselves to access their own inner "rebbe," not feel that the only rebbe-energy that they can access comes wrapped in domination.
And in this they need the help of the community in creating a culture that encourages each of us, all of us, to see ourselves as rebbes, able to be in touch with God.
Of course this involves not just theory or theology but also the real-life suffering of many people. (Truthful theology always flows from the lives of the people – the Images of God.)
Avraham Leader says on his own behalf and that of Bayit Chadash, "At times like this our sages say that one should scrutinize one's own actions, and meditate upon why one is part of such a story."
True enough. And I ask myself the same question. Mordechai Gafni taught at both ALEPH Kallot and at Elat Chayyim retreat center. Both organizations will need to respond in their own voices. What I know, having also taught and learned at both places, is that both have extremely strong and clear prohibitions on any sexual relationships between teachers, davvening leaders, and other such persons in positions of authority with any students, participants, etc. Those prohibitions are communicated not only to the teachers but to all participants.
When reports surfaced about Gafni having been an abuser 25 or so years ago – none till now ever surfaced about any occasions more recent –rigorous investigations went forward. Persons in leadership at Elat Chayyim deliberately interviewed women who were in a position to know whether Gafni was violating the ethics standards. No evidence surfaced that he was. Outside the sexual sphere, he was rebuked several times for behavior in classes that was domineering, and seemed to restrain himself thereafter.
I myself have been accused by a few people on the Internet of having "defended" him. What I did defend was a process for investigating allegations – a process that insisted on serious evidence, not second-hand or third-hand statements like " I have been told that ... " I continue to believe that this is the only way to deal with any allegations of wrongdoing, including this kind. 
And in this case, nothing emerged that indicated any problem less than 25 years old – and even those seemed unconfirmable.
It is true that there is an unusual problem in applying this standard in this kind of situation. Some or all of the women who have made statements in regard to his behavior at Bayit Chadash have said that Gafni swore them to secrecy —and they agreed, till now. The fusion of spiritual power and sexual abuse is liable to create such a situation when even people who might be thought to have every reason to reveal violations feel so overawed or so "beloved" by the abuser that they do not define what is happening as abuse, or are unwilling to talk about it.
So that means it is a lot harder to get the kind of evidence that can justify dismissal, etc. At Bayit Chadash, when such evidence did surface the institution responded. I am open to suggestions on how to act in some other way that as the tradition commands, will pursue justice, justice –pursue the ends of justice by using just means.
For some of my thoughts of how we might address and act on this whole matter of the relationships among spiritual leadership, sexual energy, and sexual abuse, see my essay on our Website –
http://www.shalomctr.org/node/1118 (It was written years ago in response to a previous case, and of course I will continue to keep thinking and writing about this issue.)
May all those who are involved in this, the victims first and most of all — and ultimately the perpetrator too – find a healing that includes tzedek and mishpat,, both restorative & transformative justice.
To use the Kabbalistic language about God's aspects or emanations – not just Chesed (overflowing lovingkindness) and not just Gevurah (rigorous boundaries) and not just a "balance" between them – but their profound synthesis in Tiferet / Rachamim, that womb-like, heart-like outpouring of life that is rooted in powerful boundaries, just as the powerful and strongly boundaried heart-muscle sends life-blood pouring through the body, and the powerful and strongly boundaried womb-muscle births new life into the world.
In setting forth this prayer, I do not mean to leave its fulfillment "in the hands of God." Or rather, I do – in the sense that when human beings act in a holy way, they are indeed "the hands of God."
Shalom, Arthur
Rabbi Arthur Waskow

 
Rabbi Marc Gafni and Sexual Improprieties
Ken Willber - May 15, 2006 21:48
http://www.kenwilber.com/ruby/public/blog/show/33
On Tuesday, May 9th, 2006, three women from Bayit Chadash, a spiritual community in Israel headed by Rabbi Marc Gafni, filed complaints of sexual misconduct against Gafni with the police. Upon reviewing relevant testimony, the steering committee of Bayit Chadash decided to remove Marc Gafni from the Bayit Chadash staff. (See below for the formal announcement.)
Subsequently, rumors have been rife. After long conversations with many of the concerned parties, I have come to the following conclusions. At this time, these are my personal opinions, and are open to immediate revision in light of any further evidence. Marc Gafni is a close friend of mine, but in circumstances like this, friendship decidedly takes a backseat to ethics and justice. In my opinion, the viewpoint that takes the most number of perspectives into account is the more likely to be the better moral judgment, with the Basic Moral Intuition the ultimate guide.
These are my conclusions at this time:
1. There is substantial truth to some of these allegations.
2. This has caused something of a feeding frenzy for the mean green meme, which is understandable but I believe inexcusable. Frankly, some of these have reached pathetic portions.
3. Nonetheless, there is some truth to these allegations because of grave wrongdoing on Marc's part, and I believe this wrongdoing is due not just to bad judgment on Marc's part, but to a pathology or dysfunction affecting Marc.
4. Marc, in a letter to Bayit Chadash, agreed that some of his actions indeed stemmed from a pathology or, as he termed it, a "sickness."
5. I do not believe that somebody with an acknowledged emotional illness or sexual pathology is competent to be a public spiritual teacher. Therefore, at this time, Marc will not be involved in public teaching or presentations of any sort at Integral Institute.
6. With Marc's agreement, I have asked Frances Vaughan to begin a consultation with Marc focused specifically on his dysfunction.
7. I have other suggestions for therapeutic work that I believe would be helpful to Marc, and I believe he is sincere in pursuing them. He will be stopping in Boulder/Denver periodically to consult with me and with Rabbi Zalman as to these directions.
[Correction: Since having written this, I have spoken with Rabbi Zalman. Zalman has decided that it is best neither to meet nor speak with Mordechai until further notice.]
8. I realize that some people doubt Marc's sincerity. This is understandable. My strong recommendation has therefore been to create a board of advisors to oversee Marc's therapeutic work. This board would biannually review Marc's progress, and make specific recommendations at each juncture. This board would have to be composed of individuals completely acceptable to both sides (i.e., to Bayit Chadash and to Marc Gafni).
9. I have stated my conclusion, after reviewing the evidence and as many perspectives as I can, that there is truth to some of these allegations and that this is due in part to Marc's illness, and that as long as this dysfunction is not addressed, I do not believe that Marc should be teaching. But I want to point out that emotional illness can be treated and in many cases cured. Marc may or may not be sincere, and his therapy may or may not be effective—but that is exactly the purpose of the therapeutic board: namely, to make that decision, and not to let either of the partial sides do so. I do not know if this solution will work, but to date it is the only rational, compassionate, and fair one that I have heard, and therefore the only one which serves justice.
10. Whatever is decided on that issue, my understanding is that there is no objection to Marc pursuing his writing. We all recognize the brilliance of his contributions in this area. If we are accepting a "levels and lines" argument, then allowing Marc to pursue this line seems reasonable to me, and is something I would certainly recommend.
This is an extraordinary difficult period for all parties concerned. Bayit Chadash has been hurt. Integral Institute has been hurt. Mordechai has been hurt by his own actions. And most of all, the parties directly involved have been hurt.
But I beg all of you—all of us—not to inflame the situation further by demanding more pain, more suffering, more agony. Inflicting more pain on Marc will not take away the pain that all of us are already suffering. Let us not have an eye for an eye, but justice and mercy in equal proportions. Please don't let hatred into your soul, I beg you; that serves nobody, least of all those who offer hatred a home.
My heart goes out to the women involved—I am so deeply, deeply sad at the pain and turmoil they have suffered; and my heart goes out to the men and women who have been affected by these tragic events. My heart goes out as well to Mordechai, a dear friend whose very bright light has cast a very sharp shadow, and in a way that has inadvertently caused such harm. I do believe, however, that emotional illness can be cured; I believe that reasonable restitution can be made; I believe that forgiveness and compassion are stronger than any evil in this world; and I know that the outreach of our own tender mercies and loving kindness will ultimately carry the day.
Sending all of you much Love, Light, and Life,
Ken
Appendix: Stay tuned to this blog, and I will attempt to keep you up to date on these issues as best I can. Here is the formal announcement sent out by Bayit Chadash:
Dear Ken,
We must share with you that on Tuesday, May 9, 2006, three women from our community filed complaints of sexual misconduct against Mordechai Gafni with the police. We were aware of this situation because on Monday, May 8, 2006, we had previously read the depositions that these women had declared to an attorney. We also personally heard the testimonies of these women, as well as that of another woman from an institution where Rabbi Gafni previously worked. We shared our findings and recommendations with Shantam Zohar, a Bayit Chadash teacher and leader; and with Or Zohar, a Bayit Chadash teacher and our CEO.
Our colleagues agreed with us that in the present situation, we should recommend to the Bayit Chadash steering committee that Mordechai Gafni's tenure in Bayit Chadash be ended immediately, or alternatively, we would collectively resign. After the members of the steering committee read some of the depositions, they decided to remove Mordechai Gafni from the Bayit Chadash staff. The decision of the steering committee was further reinforced in light of the complaints filed with the police.
Were this was a matter solely related to Mordechai Gafni's private life, it would be of some concern to us and to the community. The problem is greatly exaggerated by the fact that this involves women from our community, staff members and students. It is our position that there is no place for relations like this between a rabbi and his students or between an employer and his employees, whether consensual or not. It would seem that this is also the opinion of Mordechai, since he swore all the women involved to eternal and absolute silence.
Some women, however, decided to speak. We have no doubt that they speak truth, and willingly risk our personal credibility and integrity in support of their testimony.
As to the criminal aspect of his actions, that is up to the police and the courts to decide. Beyond that, judgment is in the hands of the Judge of all the world.
The sense of disappointment is very great, for us personally as well. Mordechai always treated us with friendship and respect. At times like this our sages say that one should scrutinize one's own actions, and meditate upon why one is part of such a story. Certainly there is much to learn from such a difficult and painful experience.
May we all see, fear and tremble, may healing to our shared soul come swiftly, and may this healing encompass all involved and all who are witness, in this and all worlds.

May 15, 2006
To my holiest friends,
I want to say I understand I have made grave mistakes. I made choices that clearly hurt people I love. I am infinitely saddened and profoundly sorry for the pain I have caused.
I take full responsibility for all the pain I have inflicted. Clearly all of this and more indicates that in these regards I am sick. I need to acknowledge that sickness and to get help for it. That is what I am doing in this letter.
I want to state clearly and unequivocally that I now recognize that I am sick in these ways and I am committed with all of my energy to check myself into the appropriate programs that will get me healing on this. I have already turned to a leading figure to guide my treatment program and am entering treatment immediately. want to enter into the most appropirate healing process with both myself and where appropirate with the others involved.
I promise you from the bottom of my heart and in the name of everything that is holy, I am taking this crisis with utmost seriousness. I am making healing the number one priority of my life. I must act now to discover what led to me to make these damaging choices that hurt people I care about, hurt my community, and hurt the people who have supported me for years in building Bayit Chadash.
In light of all that has happened I am leaving all of my rabbinic teaching capacities. I am looking now, together with a professional team, for in-house treatment centers where I can go and learn about what led me here, where I can grieve for all the pain that I have caused, and where I can
heal so that this never happens again. I apologize with all of my heart and soul to everyone.
With love and pain beyond words,
mordechai

History Channel - Tuesday, May 16 @ 11pm ET/PT
http://www.historychannel.com/global/listings/episode_detail.jsp?EAirId=16963519&page=listings
THE BIBLE CODE introduced millions of people to the controversial theory that the pages of the scriptures contain a code holding the secrets to past and future events. This follow-up program, again assembles some of the code's leading adherents and practitioners to show how to read the Bible's shadow text, while critics persuasively rebut their extraordinary claims and interpretations with a host of arguments suggesting the code is a statistical anomaly at best. Learn of the military's interest in the code, and compare what it purportedly says with other sources of Biblical prophecy.
As we delve further into the provocative theory that a cryptogram exists in the Bible outlining past and future events, we learn how the Code works from supporters and examine supposed examples of precise messages. And we hear from critics who present compelling arguments that the Code is merely a statistical anomaly. We uncover how military and intelligence organizations interact with the Code, and compare it with other sources of biblical prophecy.

STILL THINKING ABOUT
Rabbi Marc Gafni
Naomi's New Morning - May 17, 2006
http://www.newmorningtv.tv/rabbimarcgafni.jsp
"We all have a box, and in that box is our stuff, it's our things, and it's not our degrees and it's not our status, and it's not our job and it's not our piety, and it's not our religiosity, and it's none of our credits in the world.
It's our fears, our hopes, our dreams, our pathologies, our unique silliness, it's the stuff that we are. That's the stuff that I wanna call with you, not our finger print, but our soul print.
We have a soul print. And "the inability to share my soul print with another human being is the definition of loneliness." That's what loneliness means. My soul print is the DNA of my soul. My soul print is the unique, swirls and curves that make up my infinite specialness and uniqueness. Right, that box that I carry around with me, that's who I am in the world."
"What is love? Love is not an emotion at its core. The core of loving is to perceive the infinite specialness in another human being. Love is a perception. I perceive your infinite specialness. I see you at your highest. I experience your soul print.
All right, love is - is to see with God's eyes. To see with God's eyes means to see you at your highest. I'm packed and I'm folded by your very being in my presence, your soul print comes to the fore, I see you soul print and I identify you with that soul print. I know that's who you really are.
Right, love is a soul print vocation. Now, not just love. When you think deeply, all that we look for in the world - joy is a soul print vocation. product of actively and passionately pursuing some other activity.
To be joyous means that I can only attain joy as the by-product of the pursuit of something else and that something else can only be ultimately to live my story. To live my soul print in the world.
So why are there lonely people? (claps) OK let's learn. Well, A: there are lonely people because there's no one available to receive those people's soul print. I need someone to receive my soul print, what gets in the way, in our world, of soul print receiving? What gets in the way? The first thing that gets in the way is labels. Labels prevent me from seeing you as you are.
The second I lock someone into a label, I no longer am able to see them with God's eyes. The essence of soul print receiving is to go on a journey where I can receive the [Hebrew] right the deep soul print self of other."

By Ahiya Raved
YNET News - May 18, 2006
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3252577,00.html
Three women file complaint with Haifa police against modern-Orthodox rabbi, claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons, promised to marry them; Gafni meanwhile flees country to US
Three young women in their twenties who reside in the heart of Israel filed a complaint several days ago with Haifa police against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons conducted at his Jaffa center.
The women's attorney, Tami Olman, told Ynet that the police did not take the allegations seriously, allowing the rabbi to meanwhile leave the country.
Rabbi Gafni (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
Haifa police officials admitted they have collected the complainants' testimonies, in which they claim the rabbi promised each of them separately he would marry her if she had sex with him. Some of the women were Gafni's students.
According to Attorney Olman, the complainants accused Gafni of rape, sexual harassment and indecent assault and notified police that once the rabbi learns of the complaint against him he is likely to try to flee the country. However, Olman said, no measures have been taken to prevent Gafni's departure.
To make matters worse, Olman said that once in the United States, Rabbi Gafni sent a letter addressed to his congregation in which he apologized to its members for what he had done.
Attorney: Police failed in handling case
In a letter Attorney Olman sent to the officer in charge of the investigation, she stated: "It is curious that the suspect, whom you said there was no hurry to interrogate, confessed to the allegations against him in a letter from the United States, after he fled the Israel Police's 'effective investigation'... the manner in which this affair has been handled does no honor to the police, to say the least."
Olman also said she intends to demand that an investigation be launched against the relevant elements at the Haifa police who neglected the treatment of the complaint.
Chief superintendent of the Haifa police Ahuva Tomer told Ynet in response that although the complaint itself was not filed with the Haifa police, officers at the station were willing to make an exception and collect the testimonies in Haifa, in order to save the women the trip to Tel Aviv.
Rabbi Gafni, 44, was born in the US and educated at Modern-Orthodox yeshivas. He made aliya to Israel 12 years ago and served as rabbi of the West Bank settlements of Tzofim. Over five years ago he opened the Bayit Chadash spiritual center in Jaffa, where he resided, teaches Torah and ordinates to the rabbinate.
Gafni, who studies and teaches Kabbalah, published several books, hosted his own television show on channel 10 and wrote a weekly column for Ynet.
Avi Cohen contributed to the report.

 
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni accused of sexually exploiting women
By Roni Singer-Heruti, Haaretz Correspondent
Haaretz - May 18, 2006
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni
Rabbi Mordechai
Three female members of the international spiritual community "Bayit Chadash" (New Home) last week filed complaints of sexual exploitation against the head of the community, Rabbi Mordechai Gafni.
The three were Gafni's students and worked beside him within the community. They accuse him of using his authority over them to take advantage of them.
Gafni, 44, is the founder of Bayit Chadash, a self proclaimed "neo-Orthodox" spiritual-cultural Jewish community. Gafni is also known for his research work as well as being the author of several books and host of a television show on Channel 2.
Gafni accused of sexually exploiting women
The three women, along with another woman who has decided not to make an official complaint, all claim that they were manipulated into having sex by Gafni, who used his authority as their rabbi. The women told the police Gafni swore them to secrecy after having sex with them.
The affair came out accidentally when two of the women discussed their respective sexual relationships and realized both of them had been sexually exploited by Gafni. After discovering that two other women had had similar experiences, the four women approached "Bayit Chadash" leaders and told them about the encounters.
The women were then referred to the organization's lawyer, to whom they gave detailed depositions, and to the police.
The three separate complaints were filed at the beginning of May. Gafni fled Israel a few days later, headed to the United States.
The heads of the "Bayit Chadash" community decided to remove Gafni from all of his positions within the community following a detailed investigation into the matter.
In a letter sent to hundreds of community members the Bayit Chadash leaders wrote: "We must inform you that official complaints against Rabbi Gafni have been filed with the police. He is charged with sexual offenses against women in our community.
"We unanimously agree that under the circumstances we must recommend to the organization's committee to terminate Rabbi Gafni's employment. It has been decided that he will be removed. The situation is extremely serious because of the involvement of women from within the community. We will not tolerate this kind of behavior between a rabbi and a student, or between an employer and his employees. We have no doubt that the women are truthful. Rabbi Gafni does not deny the accusations. We feel cheated."
Gafni wrote a remorseful letter to the members of the community Tuesday, saying that he understands he is ill and must undergo treatment. He added that he takes full responsibility for hurting the women and regrets having done so.
Rabbi Jacob Ner-David, a leader of "Bayit Chadash," told Haaretz that he hopes that Gafni will in fact get treatment, but even so, will probably not return to the community.



Rabbi dogged by sex scandal
Breaking News
JTA - May 18, 2006
http://jta.org/page_view_breaking_story.asp?intid=2690
A U.S. born rabbi was forced to resign from an Israeli synagogue following allegations of sexual misconduct.
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni had stepped down from the Bayit Hadash center in Jaffa after several female congregants filed police complaints against him, alleging that he had abused his position by seducing them. According to the report, Gafni, who is back in the United States, admitted his guilt and apologized.
In his apology, he said he would seek treatment for his "sickness."
Gafni, whose original name was Marc Winiarz, is a charismatic leader of the Jewish renewal movement.
He had been dogged by sexual abuse allegations in previous posts as well.


 
Note From The Awareness Center Regarding The Forward and New York Jewish Week's Articles
The Awareness Center, Inc. - May 18, 2006
Rabbi Saul Berman
It's interesting that neither paper (Jewish Week or the Forward) mentions the fact that The Awareness Center has been vigilantly sending warning out over the last few years to Jewish communities regarding Marc Gafni. Both papers were aware of our attempts to protect unsuspecting individuals from becoming the next victim. Because of our efforts Saul Berman orchestrated a campaign to discredit our work along with the other Gafni supporters mentioned in this article.




The following letter was sent to numerous individuals who supported The Awareness Center, Inc.
To Whom It May Concern,
I have had occasion during the spring, summer and fall of 2004 to conduct an extensive personal inquiry in response to accusations which have been made against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni and publicized on the Internet. A more balanced version of these same issues than that on the Internet was raised in an editor's column by Gary Rosenblatt published in the Jewish Week newspaper, in which Rosenblatt asserted that he was unable to draw either a negative or positive conclusion about these issues, calling his extensive research into the issue an "investigation without a conclusion".
I have invested literally hundreds of hours in talking to parties directly and indirectly related, reading public statements posted on the Internet, and following the unfolding of this issue. I have come to a number of clear and unequivocal conclusions.
First, as I have written in a public letter together with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, we have found the decades-old accusations against Rabbi Gafni to be unconvincing now, as they were dismissed in responsible contemporaneous investigations. We believe that these accusations have been intentionally distorted, kept alive and circulated by a small group of people who have waged a vendetta-like campaign against Rabbi Gafni, creating a false and unfair impression of his character.
Second, the material posted on the Awareness Center website and related Internet blogs is not credible. Both in regard to Rabbi Gafni as well as to other cases posted there, the Awareness Center has grossly distorted facts and blatantly lied. Indeed, working together with a small team I have collected a host of examples of such behavior on the part of the Awareness Center. While the Awareness Center does address an issue critical to the Jewish community, that of sexual harassment and abuse, the center itself has unfortunately become an abuser itself of the first order. The major other Internet poster of accusations against Rabbi Gafni is a certain Luke Ford. Luke Ford, who poses as a journalist, also runs a pornography site. He is a discredited Internet gossip columnist for the pornography industry, who, by his own written admission, regularly publishes libelous material as truth without even the slightest attempt at verification.
Third, I have urged Rabbi Gafni to continue actively writing and teaching his communities of students around the world. I have done so based on my firm conclusion that he poses absolutely no danger or threat to anyone. Indeed, I firmly believe that the notion suggested by Vicki Polin of the Awareness Center that he poses any danger whatsoever is patently absurd. While in some areas I would take issue with Rabbi Gafni's thought, particularly in areas where he departs from classical Orthodoxy, the work he is doing is serious and is of great benefit to the Jewish community worldwide.
I urge the readers of this letter to continue to support Rabbi Gafni's work, including his public teachings, writings, television projects and social activism. We are in need today of hearing the emerging voices of the next generation of Jewish leadership, and Rabbi Gafni's voice is one of them. I look forward to learning what he has to teach in the decades to come.
Rabbi Saul J. Berman

By JENNIFER SIEGEL
Forward (NY)
May 19, 2006
http://www.forward.com/articles/7809
An Israeli-based spiritual institute has fired its main rabbi over sexual abuse claims, less than two years after several prominent American religious figures rallied to defend him against earlier allegations.
At least five female students and staff members have come forward to accuse Rabbi Mordechai Gafni of luring them into sexual relationships through intimidation, psychological manipulation and deception. Late last week, Gafni, an Orthodox-trained rabbi who has become a star of the New Age-style Jewish Renewal movement, was dismissed from his position as the head of Bayit Chadash, a center on the Sea of Galilee that he co-founded six years ago.
Gafni subsequently issued a public apology for having "hurt people I love," and said that he would seek in-patient treatment for what he called "a sickness."
A number of prominent American rabbis who publicly backed Gafni when allegations surfaced in the fall of 2004 have said that they now regret their previous support. Among those voicing regret are Rabbi Saul Berman, the leader of the liberal Orthodox organization Edah; Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, an Orthodox author best known for his accessible books on Judaism; Rabbi Arthur Green, dean of the rabbinical school of Hebrew College in Newton, Mass., and former president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, leader of Congregation Nevei Kodesh, a Jewish Renewal community in Boulder, Colo., and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia and a leader of the Jewish Renewal movement.
In recent years, the Orthodox Jewish community has suffered several high-profile sexual abuse cases. It also has been accused by some critics of being insufficiently alert to the nature of abuse and overly protective of leaders at the expense of alleged victims. The dismissal of Gafni — who had been dogged by a welter of rumors and allegations over the past two decades — has shone a similar spotlight on the responses of a number of individuals on the liberal end of the Jewish spectrum and in liberal Orthodox circles generally untainted by previous scandals.
"The saddest part of the story is that there were these women from the past who had the courage to speak up despite their isolation and their own pain, despite being threatened by him repeatedly, and nobody came forth to give them support," said one of the current accusers at Bayit Chadash, who did not want to be identified by name. "People in this culture [chose] to support the male predator rather than...the women's voices that were alone."
Earlier this week, Jacob Ner-David and Avraham Leader, the two other founders of Bayit Chadash, sent out an open letter announcing that Gafni would be seeking intensive therapy for his "sickness" and that they would be contacting all organizations to which he has been connected.
Gafni, who is in his mid-40s and been married three times, was born Marc Winiarz and moved from the Midwest to New York for high school and college. He was originally ordained as an Orthodox rabbi and moved to Israel more than a decade ago, after leaving posts in New York and in Boca Raton, Fla., amid rumors of sexual misconduct. He assumed an Israeli name and transitioned into the world of Jewish Renewal.
In September 2004, as Gafni's profile was rising again back in the United States — where he had become a frequent guest lecturer and visitor at several spiritual centers and synagogues — the editor and the publisher of The Jewish Week, Gary Rosenblatt, wrote a column reviewing some of the long-standing allegations against him.
Rosenblatt said he had interviewed about 50 supporters and critics, including two prominent Orthodox leaders — Rabbi Yosef Blau, spiritual mentor at Yeshiva University, and Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Efrat — who had known Gafni since the 1980s. Blau and Riskin, who both criticized Gafni, told Rosenblatt that over the years they had spoken with a number of women who had complaints about the rabbi.
Rosenblatt interviewed several alleged victims. One was a woman named Judy, who first accused Gafni of molesting her in 1986, when she was a 16-year-old member of a youth group he directed. Shortly thereafter, Gafni left New York for a pulpit job in Florida. Another woman, Susan, who was an adviser for the group at the time, said that Gafni had threatened her when she tried to intervene on the girl's behalf.
When asked about the allegations, Gafni told Rosenblatt that Judy was a troubled, unstable teenager who fabricated the story after he rebuffed her advances.
But he admitted to having had a sexual relationship with another girl, when she was 13 and 14 and he was 19 and 20, studying to become a rabbi.
"I was a stupid kid and we were in love," Gafni was quoted as saying in The Jewish Week. "She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her."
The woman told Rosenblatt that Gafni had "repeatedly sexually assaulted her" when he stayed at her house for the Sabbath. The rabbi also told her that she would be "shamed in the community" if she told anyone.
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who is widely credited as the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement, went on the record in Gafni's defense.
"If you want to find fly specks in the pepper, you can always find them," Schachter-Shalomi told Rosenblatt. "But I've watched him teach. He is learned, exciting and charismatic."
In the weeks after Rosenblatt's column appeared, several Jewish communal leaders vigorously defended Gafni in letters sent to The Jewish Week and attacked the newspaper for running the story. Berman, Telushkin and Firestone wrote a joint letter stating that together they had conducted a thorough investigation and found all the accusations against Gafni "totally unconvincing." This week, in a statement to the Forward, the three rabbis said that they are "deeply regretful of our prior support of Rabbi Gafni."
In a subsequent e-mail to the Forward, they argued that "it is vital to distinguish between past accusations against Rabbi Gafni and the current situation."
Green, who in 2004 penned one of the most vociferous letters in defense of Gafni, agreed that the new batch of allegations were different from the ones that plagued the rabbi two years ago.
"The stories were from long ago, and he had rejected and outgrown that side of himself," Green said in an interview with the Forward. "These are now new cases and new investigations."
In a 2004 letter to The Jewish Week defending Gafni, Green said that he had not investigated the allegations and had "no interest in doing so." This week, Green told the Forward that he felt "victimized" by Gafni's lies and actions, while acknowledging that the accusers have suffered more.
Less than a month after the four rabbis wrote their letters to The Jewish Week in October 2004, the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv reported allegations, dating from 1994, that mirror the current accusations against Gafni. According to an Orthodox couple interviewed for the lengthy Ma'ariv profile on the rabbi, he sexually preyed on their 23-year-old daughter while serving as a visiting rabbi in Kfar Saba. He went so far as to tell her that he wanted to leave his wife and marry her.
"We taped him saying to our daughter, 'I love you very much. I dream of the day we will be together,'" the couple told Ma'ariv. "When the story became known, Gafni left Kfar Saba." The couple's daughter told Ma'ariv that she subsequently found out that Gafni was having similar relationships with other young women.
The Bayit Chadash accuser contacted by the Forward said that the five women who recently came forth had all been told by Gafni that he wanted to marry them — and the accuser said that all the women had been dumped shortly after being told he was committing himself to celibacy.
In response to an e-mail from the Forward asking if he ever contacted anyone connected to the Ma'ariv story as part of his investigation, Berman wrote that the "article was no more than a repetition of earlier allegations which had been part of our original inquiry."
Rabbi Mark Dratch, who last year founded JSafe, a new organization to help counter sexual abuse in the Jewish community, said that the lesson of the Gafni case is that rabbis do not have impartiality or the expertise to conduct professional investigations involving friends or colleagues.
Dratch said that, in his view, the rabbis who investigated Gafni were handicapped by their own lack of understanding regarding the nature of sex crimes.
One misconception among rabbis, Dratch said, is that their knowledge of someone as a friend or colleague gives them insight into whether he or she is a sex offender. Another mistake, Dratch said, is discounting incidents based on when they occurred, since "what studies show us is that recidivism is very high."
The Bayit Chadash accuser who spoke with the Forward said she hopes that by sharing her experience, she has helped spare other women pain. So far, four of the original five accusers have made sworn statements and three have filed complaints with the police. And since then, three more women have come forward in the Bayit Chadash community, along with three women from Jerusalem.
The line between teacher and perpetrator, the woman said, is far too easy to cross, and any violation of boundaries must be taken seriously as a red flag for abuse.
"Seduction and education, they come from the same root as educe, which means to draw forth," she said. "So with education, you're drawing someone forth and helping them see themselves. With seduction, you're drawing someone forth and leading them astray."

By  Gary Rosenblatt - Editor And Publisher
New York Jewish Week - May 18, 2006
http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=12468
Mordechai Gafni, 46, a rabbi whose charisma and brilliance dazzled students and large audiences in spiritual renewal communities in Israel and America even as he dodged rumors and accusations about improper sexual behavior for more than 25 years, has been dismissed by the leadership of Bayit Chadash in Israel, a Tel Aviv-based prayer and study group he co-founded and where he served as teacher and religious guide.
The move came last week after four women, including students of his and a staff member, filed complaints of sexual misconduct against Rabbi Gafni with the police in Israel.
?We feel we were deceived,? Jacob Ner-David, a co-founder of Bayit Chadash, told The Jewish Week, which first reported on allegations against the rabbi in September 2004.
?He should not be called a rav [rabbi], his was not the behavior of a rav and he should not be in a teaching or counseling position,? said Ner-David, who noted that the incident ?is my worst nightmare come to life.? He added that Rabbi Gafni is ?a sick man, and has harmed so many.?
A statement issued by Ner-David and his Bayit Chadash co-founder Avraham Leader said ?there is no place for relations like this between a rabbi and his students or between an employer and his employees, whether consensual or not. It would seem that this is the opinion of Mordechai, since he swore all the women involved to eternal and absolute silence.?
Rabbi Gafni achieved much attention here and in Israel as a leader of the New Age Jewish movement. He taught classes, led retreats, wrote several books and appeared in a PBS documentary about the quest for spirituality.
In a statement this week to his followers, he took blame for his actions and said he was ?infinitely saddened and profoundly sorry? for the pain he had caused. He acknowledged that he was ?sick,? and said he planned to enter a treatment center and leave his ?rabbinic teaching capacities.?
Rabbi Gafni, who was divorced from his third wife about a year and a half ago, told The Jewish Week in 2004 that he had ?made mistakes in my life? and had ?a sense of exaggeration? and was ?too ambitious.? But he insisted he had done teshuvah [repentance] and was the victim of a longstanding ?witch hunt? from a small cadre of women accusers and Orthodox rabbis jealous of his success.
?I am moral and ethical,? he said during a series of conversations with this reporter in 2004, during which he asserted that he was sharing his ?deepest truth.?
Ner-David told The Jewish Week that one of the women involved with Rabbi Gafni over the last 18 months came forward to Leader, and that soon after, another woman spoke out about her relationship with the rabbi. ?And then we discovered there were two more.?
Leader and Ner-David asked the women to give sworn statements to an attorney, which they did. At this point the police have not acted on the complaints, which address the boundaries of relationships between teacher-student and employer-employee.
?We have no doubt that they [the women] speak the truth, and willingly risk our personal credibility and integrity in support of their testimony,? Leader and Ner-David said in their signed statement.
?For us it was a complete surprise,? Ner-David told The Jewish Week, noting that as recently as a month ago he had a conversation with Rabbi Gafni affirming that immoral behavior could never be tolerated within Bayit Chadash.
Ner-David, who first met Rabbi Gafni when he was a 13-year-old at summer camp in the United States and the rabbi was his counselor, said he had long known of the allegations about the man born Marc Winiarz in the Midwest. Winiarz moved to Israel in 1991 and took the Israeli name Gafni after a series of controversies about sexual improprieties dogged him when he was a youth leader and later a rabbi in several U.S. communities.
He was ordained by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder of Lincoln Square Synagogue here and now chief rabbi of Efrat, in the West Bank. Rabbi Riskin revoked his ordination in 1994 after his former student, in a lengthy interview in Haaretz, called for restoring a balance between the erotic and the spiritual in Judaism.
Rabbi Gafni?s response was that he had other ordinations and had moved beyond Orthodoxy.
Ner-David said he was guilty of having relied on information from others in seeking answers to questions about Rabbi Gafni?s past. Several prominent Israeli educators hired the rabbi as a teacher despite complaints from some women and rabbis who asserted he was unfit to work with students. Those who hired Rabbi Gafni said he was a gifted teacher, that he acknowledged past wrongdoings (though he was vague about them) and that they could find no current cases of women with complaints against him.
Some of the charges went back more than two decades.
Ner-David said he realizes now that Rabbi Gafni was ?a master manipulator,? but in the past he had felt justified in working with him because no one had come forward with recent complaints about the rabbi?s behavior.
Rabbi Saul Berman, the founder and director of Edah here in New York, has been an outspoken defender of Rabbi Gafni. In a letter taking this reporter to task for writing about the controversy in 2004, Rabbi Berman, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone and ethicist and author Joseph Telushkin said they had looked into past allegations and found them ?totally unconvincing.? They described the article as ?unfair? and ?scandalous.?
This week, Rabbi Berman said he is ?deeply regretful? of his prior support for Rabbi Gafni, and worried that his past defense may have prolonged the rabbi?s ?predatory behavior against women.?
?I was clearly wrong in stating that Rabbi Gafni?s continued role as a teacher within the Jewish community constitutes no risk to Jewish women,? he wrote in a statement.
Rabbi Berman said he had felt the earlier accusations ?were not justifiable foundations for public disgrace and exclusion,? and noted that he will ?continue to struggle with the ideal line between presumption of innocence and protection of potential innocent victims.?
He told The Jewish Week the Gafni case underscores the ongoing need for a mechanism to investigate allegations against rabbis ?in a way that the community has confidence in, so that when it?s over, it?s over.?
He said that rabbis are ?not capable of enough objectivity to handle such matters themselves,? and called for a collaborative effort of rabbis, lay leaders and professionals in the health care field who deal with abuse.
Other institutions and individuals who had supported Rabbi Gafni in the past also spoke out this week. Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia said he felt ?sad, angry and betrayed? by Rabbi Gafni?s behavior, noting that it ?raises questions once again about how to walk that thin line between spiritual ecstasy and the domineering frenzy that is not only damaging in itself but sometimes even leads to sexual abuse.?
One of the criticisms of the spiritual renewal movement is that its emphasis on charismatic teachers and the search for religious bliss lends its members to being emotionally manipulated.
Jacob Ner-David, acknowledging that he will be asking himself ?for a long time what lessons can be learned? from the Gafni episode, said that Bayit Chadash ?must make sure not to allow anyone to become a guru.?
He said the members of the group, which includes hundreds of Israelis who pray and study together, are determined to go on with their work even though Rabbi Gafni, their spiritual leader, has been removed.
As for whether Rabbi Gafni truly understands the pain he has caused and can be rehabilitated and return, Ner-David said it was too early to say.
It is hard to tell if he really means it or not,? he said.

By Gary Rosenblatt
New York Jewish Week - May 19, 2006
http://www.thejewishweek.com/top/editorials.php3
Two very different cases of alleged sexual misbehavior by rabbis were in the news this week, pointing to the ongoing need for the community to find a respected mechanism for investigating and dealing with these problems.
A major piece in New York magazine ("On The Rabbi's Knee," by Robert Kolker) focuses on Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a longtime rebbe at Yeshiva Torah Temimah of Brooklyn, who faces a $20 million federal lawsuit, alleging his sexual abuse of young boys in his charge in school and in summer camps going back more than 35 years.
One of the rabbi's former students, David Framowitz, now 48 and living in Israel, brought the suit, which blames the yeshiva and its rosh yeshiva for "a campaign of intimidation, concealment and misrepresentation designed to prevent victims from filing lawsuits."
It is a deeply disturbing story, particularly because of the alleged cover-up and the indication that it could be, according to the article, "just the tip of the iceberg" of "rabbi-on-child molestation" in the haredi community, which continues to deny the problem.
While some in that community would call the magazine piece a chillul Hashem, or desecration of God's name, for publicizing the issue, many readers are certain to conclude that the real embarrassment is over the refusal of community leaders to address the situation.
In the meantime, the spiritual renewal communities in Israel and the United States are reeling from the news that Bayit Chadash, a New Age prayer and study group in Tel Aviv, has removed Rabbi Mordechai Gafni as its rabbinic leader after four women — his students and a staff member — filed complaints of sexual misconduct against him with the police. (See story, page 16.)
Rabbi Gafni is no stranger to such allegations, which have followed him, here and in Israel, for more than two decades. But in the past he managed to convince a number of leading Jewish educators that he was the innocent victim of a runaway rumor mill.
Several organizations and rabbis took it upon themselves to investigate the allegations and concluded that they were false and unfair, and that Rabbi Gafni deserved to have his name cleared. Now that he has admitted the pain he has caused, it is worth reflecting on the lack of professionally conducted and communally accepted inquiries to deal with charges made against religious leaders. What is required is the formation of a respected body of rabbis, community leaders and professionals versed in the legal and psychological matters at hand. Ad-hoc investigations simply are ineffective. And as spiritual renewal organizers acknowledged this week, efforts must be made to prevent rabbinic teachers from being looked upon as gurus, able to use their charisma to manipulate followers emotionally and otherwise.
Sadly, cases of rabbinic abuse and calls for a coherent communal response are not new. As noted by Rabbi Mark Dratch, founder of JSafe, an organization to deal with abuse in the community, the disconnect is that rabbinic authorities feel critics are out to embarrass them, when in fact the critics are disillusioned to find that some rabbis seem more concerned about protecting their colleagues than the children and others who are vulnerable. Until the situation is confronted more openly and directly, embarrassing cases of abuse are certain to continue, and to become public.

By MATTHEW WAGNER
Jerusalem Post - May 18, 2006
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1145961373537&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, a charismatic but controversial leader of the Jewish renewal movement, was dismissed last week from his position as spiritual leader and lecturer at Bayit Hadash, a Tel Aviv-based prayer and study community, amid allegations of sexual misconduct and exploitation of employee-employer relations.
With the help of sympathetic rabbis, Gafni, co-founder of Bayit Hadash, has been dodging accusations and rumors of sexual wrongdoings both here and in the US for two decades.
But even Gafni's most ardent supporters were forced to backtrack when, on May 9, three women filed a police complaint against him and provided attorney Eitan Maimoni with a sworn statement of his misconduct, and a fourth women, from an institution where Gafni previously worked, gave similar testimony before Bayit Hadash heads.
Jacob Ner-David, a co-founder of Bayit Hadash, who has known Gafni for 24 years, told The Jerusalem Post that he felt betrayed by him.
"I find it hard to respect him," Ner-David said. "He lied to me."
Ner-David said that in a personal discussion with Gafni just recently the subject of sexual misconduct among rabbis had come up.
"I remember him telling me, 'I would never have any kind of relationship,'" he said.
Ner-David and Avraham Leader, another co-founder of Bayit Hadash, wrote in a letter to its board members that in the present situation, "we should recommend to the Bayit Hadash steering committee that Mordechai Gafni's tenure in Bayit Hadash be ended immediately, or alternatively, we would collectively resign."
They wrote that Gafni's sexual misconduct involved women from the Bayit Hadash community, both staff members and students.
"It is our position that there is no place for relations like this between a rabbi and his students or between an employer and his employees, whether consensual or not. It would seem that this is also the opinion of Mordechai, since he swore all the women involved to eternal and absolute silence," they wrote.
In a statement to his followers this week, Gafni took blame for his actions and said he was "infinitely saddened and profoundly sorry" for the pain he had caused. He acknowledged that he was "sick," and said he planned to enter a treatment center and leave his "rabbinic teaching capacities."
Gafni left the country last week before Jewish and Israeli news media broke the story. Sources close to Gafni said he stayed first in Boston and then in Boulder, Colorado, with New Age philosopher Ken Wilber.
Wilber issued a statement on his Internet site that "after long conversations with many of the concerned parties," he had concluded "there is substantial truth to some of these allegations." And that there was "grave wrongdoing on Marc's part, and I believe this wrongdoing is due not just to bad judgment on Marc's part, but to a pathology or dysfunction affecting Marc."
The Jewish Week's which began reporting Gafni's misconduct in 2004, said that Rabbi Saul Berman, the founder and director of the modern Orthodox Edah organization, who had been an outspoken defender of Gafni, backtracked.
Berman said he was "deeply regretful" of his prior support for Gafni, and worried that his past defense may have prolonged his "predatory behavior against women."
Ner-David said that he and Leader were notifying all possible teaching venues frequented by Gafni to prevent this from happening again.
A rabbi familiar with Gafni and his teachings said that "re-eroticizing" Judaism was a major theme. "He talked a lot about ecstatic worship that could be equated with sexual union. There is plenty of symbolism in the Zohar and other Jewish sources to support this idea.
"He knew how to draw a crowd. He was a really good speaker. A lot of people could not stand him, but people who did like him were entranced."

Rape charge against controversial rabbi offers rare chance for bi-partisan, international cooperation
By Andrew Friedman
YNET - May 18, 2006
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3252738,00.html
In 2002, U.S. Rabbi Baruch Lanner was convicted of aggravated sexual contact and sexual contact, and of endangering the welfare of two teenage girls by touching their breasts while serving as principal of the Hillel Yeshiva in Ocean Township, New Jersey. The girls testified that Lanner also telephoned them at home, made lewd and sexually suggestive comments, and promised one that he would marry her.
But the real tragedy of the story is that Lanner had been accused for years of sexual impropriety, inconsistent and occasionally violent behavior, but students' calls for help were routinely ignored by Lanner's superiors, both at school and at the Orthodox Union, the parent group of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth group that Lanner headed. It took a media expose by the New York Jewish Week to finally force the rabbi to resign both posts and Orthodox Union officials to admit they had allowed a dangerous situation to fester by ignoring warning signs that Lanner posed a danger to his students.
Years of accusations
Israel now finds itself in a similar position with regard to Mordechai Gafni , the charismatic but troubled former leader of the Bayit Chadash community in Jaffa who now stands accused of rape and sexual misconduct. Like Lanner, Gafni is a talented speaker with a magnetic personality. And also like Lanner, he has been dogged by accusations of impropriety (sexual and non-sexual) for years. And, again like Lanner, Gafni has managed to avoid prosecution and punishment for his accused actions for years.
Since the 1980s' Gafni – also known as Marc (Mordechai) Winyarz – has been accused of molesting teenage students as a young rabbi with the now-defunct Jewish Public School Youth organization, and of plagiarizing influential rabbis such as late Yeshiva University rector Rabbi Joseph Dov Soleveitchik and Shlomo Carlebach. One former colleague who experienced Winyarz's sexual advances first-hand says he had a magnetic charm, but was entirely unpredictable and manipulative. "He simply couldn't control himself," she says.
Censure and revocation
As a rabbi in Boca Raton, Florida in the late 1980s, Gafni was censured by the South County Rabbinical Association for ''denigrating'' other congregations, for "undermining" the work of the local kosher food authority and for raiding other synagogues for members. The censure was eventually revoked.
And Rabbi Shlomo Riskin says Gafni's was the only ordination he has ever revoked. Riskin is the chief rabbi of Efrat and one of Modern Orthodoxy's leading spokesmen.
Since then, there have been no shortage of accusations about Gafni/Winyarz, but like Lanner, nothing has ever been proven.
Unflattering picture
In a 2004 interview with New York Jewish Week editor Gary Rosenblatt, Gafni admitted committing statutory rape as a young rabbi, but dismissed the allegations because he was a "stupid kid and we were in love."
"She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her," said the rabbi. But unconfirmed reports attributed to that victim paint a rather less flattering picture of their "affair":
"(There he was) in my room, standing over me at my bedside in only his underwear. I had not even heard him come in the door. He lay down next to me and began touching me again, like he had previously. I said, 'Mordechai, no, this is wrong.' It was as if he didn't even hear me. I just shut down and let him do what he was going to do. He continued fondling me, took off all of my clothes and his. He positioned himself on top of me ready for intercourse.
"'When did you get your last period?' he asked. What a weird question. I wasn't sure of the answer. I just made something up. 'That's no good.' He replied. 'You know I could get you pregnant.' He seemed disappointed as he lay beside me. Mordechai took my hand and forced me to help him climax. I had never done anything like that before. I had never even seen a man naked. He ejaculated all over me. I felt horrible. When he was finished he stood abruptly.
"Get cleaned up and come upstairs," he ordered and left the room. But by the time this interview was published, the New York State statute of limitations had expired, and Gafni was never prosecuted.
Extradition
Now that a formal police complaint has been filed against Gafni regarding his latest his behavior as rabbi of the Bayit Chadash community, there is a rare opportunity for religious, civil and political leaders to cut across partisan, and international, lines.
Especially in light of the apparent failure of Haifa police to act quickly on the current complaints, thus allowing Gafni/Winyarz to flee the country, Israel's legal establishment must move quickly and strongly to investigate the matter, and to determine if indeed there is enough evidence to warrant a trial.
On a political level, Prime Minister Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni and Justice Minister Chaim Ramon must make clear that they will demand Gafni/Winyarz's extradition from the United States should such a move be necessary to bring Gafni to justice.
Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar should also join the call for a full investigation, especially in light of the corruption allegations hanging over Metzger's head. Their support for an investigation of Gafni/Winyarz would do something to repair the damage those allegations have done to the profession of "rabbi," and would strengthen ultra-Orthodox claims to be concerned for the ethical make up of this country.
In addition, several well-known rabbinic and civic leaders in both the United States and Israel have supported Gafni/Winyarz for years, and consistently defended him against his many accusers. Now, individuals such as Jacob Ner-David, a Jerusalem-based social activist and entrepreneur, U.S. rabbis Joseph Telushkin, Arthur Waskow and others, must join the call for Gafni to be returned Israel to stand trial, should legal authorities find sufficient basis for such. As individuals who have defended Gafni for many years, their names have also now been called into question.
Whether eventually proven guilty or not, the Gafni/Winyarz case presents a rare, and unfortunate, opportunity to bring justice to a man who has long avoided it. It is an opportunity that must not be squandered.
Andrew Friedman is opinion editor of Ynetnews

By ANGELA MONTEFINISE
New York Post - May 21, 2006
http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/66361.htm
May 21, 2006 -- A popular New Age rabbi accused of sexually abusing three co-workers in Israel has fled to the United States - to the horror of several New York women who say he molested them as children and walked away scot-free.
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni - born Marc Winiarz - was fired this month from the Israeli spiritual center he founded after three women filed complaints of sexual misconduct with Israeli police. He is believed to now be in Massachusetts or Colorado.
Gafni, 46, worked in New York in the 1980s as a rabbi for the now-defunct Jewish Public School Youth program. But he was offering young girls more than spiritual counseling, his alleged victims claim.
Judy, whose last name is being withheld by The Post, said she was 16 and suffering in a "tumultuous" home environment, including ailing parents, when Gafni invited her to stay at his Flatbush home, where he lived with his second wife, to "escape."
One night 20 years ago this month, Judy said Gafni came into her room, told her he knew what she wanted and took off her clothes. He climbed on top of her as if preparing for intercourse, then asked her when she last had her period.
Then, deciding she could get pregnant, "Mordechai took my hand and forced me to help him climax," she said. "I had never done anything like that before. I had never even seen a man naked. He ejaculated all over me. I felt horrible."
He then threatened that he would "destroy" her if she told anyone, she said.
With the support of her JPSY advisers, she decided to tell her story anyway - and he "ruined" her life for two years.
Another woman said was only 13 when Gafni came into her room and molested her. The abuse went on for a year.
"He believed it was a mutually consensual relationship," she said. "Which was really horrifying because it was sexual violence, it was physical domination."
Gafni left New York for Florida in 1988 and eventually settled in Israel.
In a letter to members of the Israeli organization that fired him this month, Gafni wrote in vague terms about allegations against him:
"I take full responsibility for all the pain I have inflicted. Clearly all of this and more indicates that in these regards I am sick. I need to acknowledge that sickness and to get help for it."

by Eitan Amit
Ynetnews, Israel
May 22, 2006
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3253650,00.html
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, who escaped Israel after three women accused of him sexually abusing them, is either Colorado or Massachusetts, according to the New York Post.
The newspaper reported that Gafni, 46, who was born Marc Winiarz, sexually exploited young Jews in New York as well. In the 1980s, Gafni was an adviser for educational programs in Jewish public schools, but he offered female students more than spiritual advise, the paper said.
Two American women provided the Post with details on how they were sexually exploited by the rabbi 20 years ago, when they were 16 and 13.
"Judy, whose last name is being withheld by The Post, said she was 16 and suffering in a "tumultuous" home environment, including ailing parents, when Gafni invited her to stay at his Flatbush home, where he lived with his second wife, to 'escape,'" the Post reported.
"Mordechai took my hand and forced me to help him climax," she said. "I had never done anything like that before. I had never even seen a man naked. He ejaculated all over me. I felt horrible," Judy recounted. He then threatened that he would "destroy" her if she told anyone, she said.
Gafni abused the 13-year old girl for almost a year.
"He believed it was a mutually consensual relationship," she said. "Which was really horrifying because it was sexual violence, it was physical."

From: Chaia Lehrer, Elat Chayyim Jewish Retreat Center
Sent: Thursday, May 25, 2006 5:29 PM
Subject: Announcement from Chair of Elat Chayyim Board
Dear members of the Elat Chayyim community
I am very saddened to share with you a situation about which I have recently learned. Mordechai Gafni, a talented rabbi who has taught at Elat Chayyim and in many other places, has been accused of sexual misconduct by women within his spiritual community in Israel, several of whom have filed complaints with the police.  He has not denied the allegations.  These are serious offenses because although these relationships were apparently consensual, there is no place for relations like this between a rabbi and his students or between an employer and his employees.
Some of you may have studied with Mordechai Gafni, or participated in other events with him.  For others he might be a complete stranger, and this letter may be irrelevant.
I am writing to you because experts who deal with abuse of power indicate that the first thing that must happen after the revelation of sexual abuse and/or abuse of power by clergy is full and honest disclosure to the community of the facts, as accurately as they are known.
It is in this spirit that I am passing on to you the information that I received from Israel, and informing you that Mordechai Gafni will no longer teach at Elat Chayyim.  Those who have registered for his classes have been notified, and may either choose another workshop or receive a refund.
The Program Committee of Elat Chayyim had, in anticipation of our move to Isabella Freedman, begun to review our Code of Ethics, which all teachers are required to abide by. This unfortunate incident has strengthened our determination to maintain our high standards and continue to create an environment that is safe and heartfelt for all our guests. 
The Committee continues to work in this regard.
This situation is only beginning to unfold.  As always, at moments like this, there is a tendency to want to share and speak about what has happened.  I urge all of us to do so with the highest awareness of what our tradition teaches about lashon harah, negative speech.  We have both the obligation to know and to teach about abuse of power, and the obligation to strive to refrain from gossip -- and any harm that we may cause others by our speech.
This is also a moment to send our love and support to those women who have been harmed, and to acknowledge their courage in coming forth. 
May we each send forth our blessings for healing, for all those who are involved in this situation and for each of us as we face our own shadows in the journey through our lives,
b'shalom
Lynne Iser
Chairperson, Board of Directors
Elat Chayyim Jewish Retreat Center

by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor
Jewish Journal of Los Angles - May 26, 2006  
Revelations about sexual misconduct have led to the cancellation of an upcoming local event featuring prominent Rabbi Mordechai Gafni.
Gafni had been scheduled for a public talk at Stephen S. Wise Temple on June 9. Over the past two years, since being appointed to the Wisdom Chair in September 2004, Gafni has returned every few months to the Bel Air shul, where he's had a loyal following.
Last week, four women in Israel — students and staff members at Tel Aviv's Bayit Chadash, the Jewish renewal center that Gafni co-founded — filed complaints of sexual misconduct with Israeli police. In a public letter, Gafni, 46, admitted to being "sick" and promised to seek therapy. Leaders of Bayit Chadash immediately dismissed him.
Gafni was appointed to the Wisdom Chair at Stephen S. Wise two years ago — despite anecdotal allegations that he had a history of sexual misconduct. The temple's senior rabbi this week issued a short statement denouncing Gafni.
"It is with a deep sense of shock and disappointment that I have learned of the sexual misconduct that has led to Rabbi Mordechai Gafni's dismissal from Bayit Chadash," senior Rabbi Eli Herscher said in a written statement responding to an inquiry from The Journal. "His actions, including vast deception, are indefensible."
Herscher declined further comment, but the temple canceled Gafni's June participation in a public conversation with commentator Dennis Prager.
Before being appointed to the Wisdom Chair, Gafni had been a regular scholar-in-residence at the 3,000-family Reform synagogue since 2002. His lectures and sermons attracted thousands.
Congregant Alan Finkelstein said he remembers Gafni's 2003 Rosh Hashanah sermon as, "my finest moment in shul. He involved the crowd, He helped you connect with the person next to you. It was one of the best sermons I've ever heard."
Finkelstein said he was moved to go back to hear Gafni on several other occasions.
But Gafni's popularity was undermined by persistent rumors that he had, in the past, manipulated women into sexual relationships. In October 2004, The Jewish Journal reprinted a Jewish Week article exploring allegations that Gafni had inappropriate sexual contact with students when he was 19.
Attendance reportedly decreased at Gafni's events following the publication of the article.
At the time, Herscher said he had discussed the rumors with Gafni and, after investigating them on his own, found them baseless. Herscher was in good company defending Gafni, as some of the country's top Jewish thinkers, of all denominations, called Gafni a remarkable teacher who was the target of a malevolent campaign. Herscher also decried Jewish newspapers for printing lashon harah (malicious gossip).
"Rabbi Gafni coming to teach here makes a deeply important Jewish statement - that if rumors and allegations and innuendo are allowed to destroy someone who only wants to teach, Jewishly, that is tragic," Herscher said in October 2004.
This week, Hersher's sympathies lay elsewhere.
"I pray that all who have been misled and hurt by him — first and foremost the women he has harmed — will soon recover," Herscher wrote.

May 26, 2006
Jewish Whistleblower :
Zalman-Schachter Shalomi statement on Mordechai Gafni - note no apology, no acceptance of responsibility for treatment of Gafni's survivors.
Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence:
Marc Gafni has lost his ordination from both Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Rabbi Zalman-Schachter Shlomi. Does he have a rabbinic ordination from anyone else? Do we still have to refer to him as "rabbi"?
***************************
Blessings and Shabbat Shalom.
Susan (on behalf of the ALEPH Board)
I'm getting pulled from all sides to make statements that I'm unprepared to make.
What I can say at this time is that I'm in mourning, in some form of Shiv'ah, I'm grieving like one bereaved for an ideal that I held in my mind of a genius, though erratic, but ultimately at the service of the values he claimed for himself. This image has been shattered.
I'm also devastated by what see as my gullibility, to be taken in by a brilliance that had a dark center. And this way I am chiding myself, although that is too mild a word for the feelings that I have, for having been an unwitting accessory to his depredations.
It goes without saying that I withdraw my support of the Smikhah he obtained from me by deceiving me concerning his past unethical behavior. It is null and void.
In searching my conscience I find that I was influenced by the fact that my daughter had attended one of his seminars then called Torah Light or some such name, an event that turned her from a worldly secular person to one who is deeply committed to a beautiful Judaism.
I'm praying for clarity and discernment.
What is yet to happen beyond all the tempests, beyond quarantining him, a surgically separating ourselves from him, is not yet clear to me. So please allow me my process of grieving, praying and learning more about the devastation he caused before you ask me to make any other statement.

by Gary Rosenblatt
Jewish Journal of Los Angeles - May 26, 2006
Mordechai Gafni, 46, a rabbi whose charisma and brilliance dazzled students and large audiences in spiritual renewal communities in Israel and America, even as he dodged rumors and accusations about improper sexual behavior for more than 25 years, has been dismissed by the leadership of Bayit Chadash in Israel, a Tel Aviv-based prayer and study group he co-founded and where he served as teacher and religious guide.
Gafni also has had a large following in Los Angeles, where he frequently preached and served as a scholar-in-residence at the Stephen S. Wise Temple. During one such stay, 1,000 people came to hear him even on the second day of Rosh Hashanah — traditionally a low-attendance day at Reform congregations — and hundreds more came to evening lectures during the week.
Gafni's dismissal came last week after four women, including students of his and a staff member, filed complaints of sexual misconduct against Gafni with the police in Israel.
"We feel we were deceived," Jacob Ner-David, a co-founder of Bayit Chadash, told The Jewish Week, which first reported on allegations against the rabbi in September 2004.
"He should not be called a rav [rabbi], his was not the behavior of a rav and he should not be in a teaching or counseling position," said Ner-David, who noted that the incident "is my worst nightmare come to life."
He added that Gafni is "a sick man, and has harmed so many."
A statement issued by Ner-David and his Bayit Chadash co-founder Avraham Leader said "there is no place for relations like this between a rabbi and his students or between an employer and his employees, whether consensual or not. It would seem that this is the opinion of Mordechai, since he swore all the women involved to eternal and absolute silence."
Gafni achieved much attention here and in Israel as a leader of the New Age Jewish movement. He taught classes, led retreats, wrote several books and appeared in a PBS documentary about the quest for spirituality.
In a statement this week to his followers, he took blame for his actions and said he was "infinitely saddened and profoundly sorry" for the pain he had caused. He acknowledged that he was "sick," and said he planned to enter a treatment center and leave his "rabbinic teaching capacities."
Gafni, who was divorced from his third wife about a year and a half ago, said in 2004 that he had "made mistakes in my life" and had "a sense of exaggeration" and was "too ambitious." But he insisted he had done teshuvah (repentance) and was the victim of a longstanding "witch hunt" from a small cadre of women accusers and Orthodox rabbis jealous of his success.
"I am moral and ethical," he said during a series of conversations with this reporter in 2004, during which he asserted that he was sharing his "deepest truth."
Ner-David said that one of the women involved with Gafni over the last 18 months came forward to Leader, and that soon after, another woman spoke out about her relationship with the rabbi.
"And then we discovered there were two more," he said.
Leader and Ner-David asked the women to give sworn statements to an attorney, which they did. At this point the police have not acted on the complaints, which address the boundaries of relationships between teacher-student and employer-employee.
"We have no doubt that they [the women] speak the truth, and willingly risk our personal credibility and integrity in support of their testimony," Leader and Ner-David said in their signed statement.
"For us it was a complete surprise," Ner-David said, noting that as recently as a month ago he had a conversation with Gafni affirming that immoral behavior could never be tolerated within Bayit Chadash.
Ner-David, who first met Gafni when he was a 13-year-old at summer camp in the United States and the rabbi was his counselor, said he had long known of the allegations about the man born Marc Winiarz in the Midwest. Winiarz moved to Israel in 1991 and took the Israeli name Gafni after a series of controversies about sexual improprieties dogged him when he was a youth leader and later a rabbi in several U.S. communities.
He was ordained by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder of Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City and now chief rabbi of Efrat, in the West Bank. Riskin revoked his ordination in 1994 after his former student, in a lengthy interview in the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz, called for restoring a balance between the erotic and the spiritual in Judaism.
Gafni's response was that he had other ordinations and had moved beyond Orthodoxy.
Ner-David said he was guilty of having relied on information from others in seeking answers to questions about Gafni's past. Several prominent Israeli educators hired the rabbi as a teacher despite complaints from some women and rabbis who asserted he was unfit to work with students. Those who hired Gafni said he was a gifted teacher, that he acknowledged past wrongdoings (though he was vague about them) and that they could find no current cases of women with complaints against him.
Some of the charges went back more than two decades.
Ner-David said he realizes now that Gafni was "a master manipulator," but in the past he had felt justified in working with him because no one had come forward with recent complaints about the rabbi's behavior.
Rabbi Saul Berman, the founder and director of Edah in New York, has been an outspoken defender of Gafni. In a letter taking this reporter to task for writing about the controversy in 2004, Berman, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone and ethicist and author Joseph Telushkin said they had looked into past allegations and found them "totally unconvincing." They described the article as "unfair" and "scandalous."
This month, Berman said he is "deeply regretful" of his prior support for Gafni, and worried that his past defense may have prolonged the rabbi's "predatory behavior against women."
"I was clearly wrong in stating that Rabbi Gafni's continued role as a teacher within the Jewish community constitutes no risk to Jewish women," he wrote in a statement.
Berman said he had felt the earlier accusations "were not justifiable foundations for public disgrace and exclusion," and noted that he will "continue to struggle with the ideal line between presumption of innocence and protection of potential innocent victims."
He said the Gafni case underscores the ongoing need for a mechanism to investigate allegations against rabbis "in a way that the community has confidence in, so that when it's over, it's over."
He said that rabbis are "not capable of enough objectivity to handle such matters themselves," and called for a collaborative effort of rabbis, lay leaders and professionals in the health care field who deal with abuse.
Other institutions and individuals who had supported Gafni in the past also spoke out this month. Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia said he felt "sad, angry and betrayed" by Gafni's behavior, noting that it "raises questions once again about how to walk that thin line between spiritual ecstasy and the domineering frenzy that is not only damaging in itself but sometimes even leads to sexual abuse."
One of the criticisms of the spiritual renewal movement is that its emphasis on charismatic teachers and the search for religious bliss lends its members to being emotionally manipulated.
Ner-David, acknowledging that he will be asking himself "for a long time what lessons can be learned" from the Gafni episode, said that Bayit Chadash "must make sure not to allow anyone to become a guru."
He said the members of the group, which includes hundreds of Israelis who pray and study together, are determined to go on with their work even though Gafni, their spiritual leader, has been removed.
As for whether Gafni truly understands the pain he has caused and can be rehabilitated and return, Ner-David said it was too early to say.
"It is hard to tell if he really means it or not," he said.
This article appears courtesy The Jewish Week.
Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher of The Jewish Week.

Jewish Week (NY)
June 2, 2006
Eating Crow
I remember the abuse Gary Rosenblatt took when he wrote about the New Age rabbi and his conduct [in Sept. 2004]. Now he can open a restaurant and serve large helpings of crow to that whole crew. ("Gafni Ousted For Sexual Behavior," May 19)
The spice is the self-righteousness that echoes even now. It is another moment of vindication.
Jacob Neusner
Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.
Too Little Too Late
Shame on you, Gary Rosenblatt, for not coming down on the side of Mordechai Gafni's victims of sexual abuse in your article "The Re-invented Rabbi" of Sept. 24, 2004. Had you taken a stand back then the recent alleged crimes he committed may not have come about. ("Gafni Ousted For Sexual Behavior," May 19)
You interviewed the victims back then and were too worried about lashon horah instead of the lives of the women he was to ruin. Now what you wrote is too little to late.
Miryam Kabakov
New Haven, Conn.
Gafni Enablers
So the spiritual and communal leaders who have insistently and vigorously promoted Mordechai Gafni throughout the years now feel "betrayed" and "deceived" by the abusive rabbi ("Gafni Ousted For Sexual Behavior," May 19). In essence, they feel that they too have been his victims. While admitting errors in judgment, they continue to insist that without concrete, recent evidence of wrongdoing, theirs was the most just path available. Only now— with the pending police investigation — could they cease their aggressive support of him and their adamant dismissal of the persistent accusations they have heard against him.
One has to wonder: Would our leaders apply these same exacting standards if the commodity in question were Jewish money and not Jewish bodies and souls? Would they hire a bookkeeper if they received numerous warnings — from varied, unrelated sources — that, although nothing was ever proven, the bookkeeper left all previous positions abruptly, changing his name and location, always under deep suspicion of embezzlement? Would our Jewish leaders campaign for the hiring of the suspected embezzler, giving him free reign over their hard-earned donations?
No one is asking these leaders to publicly vilify a rabbi who is dogged by persistent reports of sexual impropriety. We are only asking that they exercise the same caution with our spiritually thirsty young women and men that they would with their tax-free dollars. If you don't have incontrovertible proof, you don't have to publicly disgrace him. But you don't have to hire him either, giving him unlimited and unsupervised access to our most precious and vulnerable: our congregants, our students, our children. Not without being absolutely certain that, despite the heavy stench of smoke wherever he goes, there is in fact, no fire.
Mordechai Gafni has, after decades of predatory behavior, finally admitted that he is sick. But you, our spiritual and communal leaders, are not. You ask for an authentically Jewish alternative to giving the suspected abuser the benefit of the doubt. Certainly, that would be the biblical injunction: "You must not stand by as your fellow's blood is spilled." Following your lead, the community has stood by as the psychological, emotional and spiritual casualties have risen yet again. You cannot claim to be Gafni's victims when you have, in fact, been his enablers.
The writer is a bible instructor at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.
Judy Klitsner
Jerusalem

By Yael Eftar
YNET News - May 26, 2006
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3255489,00.html
 
Yaakov Ner-David, who founded Bayit Chadash with suspected sexual offender, says `for years we supported him despite the allegations, but know we know the truth. This was a blow to many people.' Community director: The hearts of many people here have been broken, but we must not allow one man's disease destroy our spiritual world. We will not replace a guru with another guru'
Yaakov Ner-David, who founded the Bayit Chadash community six years ago in Jaffa, said of co-founder and suspected sexual offender Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, "For years we supported him despite the allegations, but know we know the truth. This was a blow to many people."
Sex Scandal
Rabbi Gafni accused of sexual assault / Ahiya Raved
Three women file complaint with Haifa police against modern-Orthodox rabbi, claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons, promised to marry them; Gafni meanwhile flees country to US
 Last week it was reported that three young Israeli women in their twenties filed a complaint with Haifa police against Gafni, claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons conducted at his Jaffa center. Gafni fled the country for the US following the report, but left a letter in which he apologized to the women and his followers.
 Two American women later came fourth claiming they too had been abused by Gafni, who now stands accused of rape and sexual misconduct, when they were still minors.
 Bayit Chadash Director Or Zohar said, "I protected Gafni and forgave him for verbally assaulting and manipulating me, because I thought to myself that although he is not perfect he does do good in this world.
 "As a young director who tried to organize things in a rational manner, I noticed the problems," he said. "I sensed that a lot of dark things were taking place, but I could not even imagine the extent of what was really going on."
 `He is not some demon with horns'
 Rabbi Ohad Mizrahi, director of the "Hamakom" community, worked in close contact with Gafni for several years.
 "In our culture it is customary to hug and say hello, but obviously there are different kinds of hugs," he said. "The problem was not his alleged sexual addiction; it was that he preyed on women from his own community.
 "Gafni reads a lot and always quoted from books and dropped names of philosophers and scientists. People were affected by this; he was actually employing brain-washing methods."
 Mizrahi continued: "He is not some demon with horns; he is a very caring, warm and intelligent person. It was very pleasant to discuss ideas with him.
 "We heard of the allegations, but he was able to convince us that they were unsubstantiated. I also thought he was being persecuted, as many vanguards are; I thought the religious community was after him."
Rare Opportunity
Facts in Gafni case must be brought to light  / Andrew Friedman
Rape charge against controversial rabbi offers rare chance for bi-partisan, international cooperation
Zohar said he admired Gafni's drive, saying he thought it came from a pure place.
 "Now I realize this was not the case," he said. "The hearts of many people here (Bayit Chadash) have been broken, but we must not allow one man's disease destroy our spiritual world. But we did come to the conclusion that we will not permit anyone else to attain such status. We will not replace a guru with another guru."

May 28, 2006
WARNING: To all of the survivors of Gafni.
Be very careful accepting money from any organization. Consult with an attorney first. By accepting money raised you may become ineligible to file a civil suit against them. If you need help finding an attorney call The Awareness Center at 443-857-5560.
From Vicki Polin, Executive Director
The Awareness Center, Inc.
I want publicly state that at this time the Bayit Chadash community and those connected with Jewish Renewal movement have not apologized to the three survivors of Mordechai Winiartz/Gafni who came forward back in 2004.
Various leaders in the Jewish Renewal movement, Rabbi Saul Berman, Rabbi Yosef Telushkin and several other individuals attempted to silence the voices of three women when they attempted to warn everyone that Marc Gafni was a sexual predator.
Can you imagine the psychological damage our community leaders and other members of our communities have caused the three survivors?
These three brave women also NEED and deserve to be financially compensated! Remember their voices have been ignored for over 20 years.
_______________________________________
Helping Gafni's Victims
http://trueancestor.typepad.com/true_ancestor/2006/05/helping_gafnis_.html
This just in from the Jewish Renewal movement, on how they've set up a fund to help pay for treatment of the victims of abuse at the hands of Rabbi Mordecai Gafni, and an e-mail address to send messages of support to those victims.
There's plenty of blame to go around. Here's a way to actually help.
Dear Friends,
In response to numerous inquiries as to what people can do to help the victims of abuse in the Bayit Chadash community, we contacted the folks over there to find out what is actually needed. The women who came forward to give depositions, and others also hurt by this terrible betrayal, have sustained great economic hardship and are greatly in need of financial assistance.
In response, the ALEPH Board has authorized setting up a "BAYIT CHADASH CHESED FUND." People wishing to contribute to this fund can do so via ALEPH's secure server. Just go to our member/donor page www.aleph.org/join.html and give by credit card exactly as if you were making a donation to ALEPH, but flagging it for the Bayit Chadash Chesed Fund by putting "Bayit Chadash" in the second address line. If you do not do this, we have no way of knowing your intention and your gift will be automatically processed as a donation to ALEPH's general fund.
Donors will receive a computer generated e-receipt for tax purposes. The receipt will be from ALEPH since we are the legal entity receiving the donation, but the proceeds will go to the Chesed Fund.
REMEMBER: YOU MUST EARMARK YOUR DONATION BY PUTTING "BAYIT CHADASH" IN THE SECOND ADDRESS LINE.
Dispersal of funds: The Bayit Chadash leadership in Israel will set up a confidential process whereby therapists treating the victims will apply to a panel on behalf of the clients without revealing their identities, and funds will be dispensed on the basis of need. The panel will report back on the use of the funds for the purpose of accountability, but preserving the privacy of the recipients.
Those wishing to send prayers and messages of support can contact the women directly at bayitchadash@walla.com. This is a special address set up for these women only. It is not a general address for Bayit Chadash or their staff. Please be mindful in your contact with them, allowing them the dignity of their own process at their own pace and respecting what is left of their privacy.
I'm glad ALEPH took this step, glad that they gave the rest of us an opportunity not just to opine but to assist in the very beginning stages of the healing process. I hope they can oversee this fund in a fair and efficient way.
Again, Shabbat shalom.
--T.A.

May 28, 2006
Jewish Whistleblower is launching a Campaign Against Edah for Justice for Survivors of Rabbi Mordecai Gafni.
For the past years, Rabbi Saul Berman has proclaimed Rabbi Gafni's innocence, claimed publicly that he conducted an investigation despite refusing to speak to key parties and has attacked publically both the allegations of brave women who came forward and the names of anyone who supported them.
To this day, Rabbi Berman has refused to make any public apology or done anything resembling teshuvah.
As such we call on Edah contributors to pull their financial support for Edah and Edah directors to either demand Berman do public teshuvah or fire him.
Sincerely,
JWB
____________________________
2002 contributions
Avi Chai $ 51,299
The Bendheim Foundation 25,000
Sender Cohen 25,000
Mark Galler Research FDN 10,000
Alan Goldberg 125,000
Michael Jesselson FDN 50,000
Howard Jonas 10,000
Keren Keshet 50,000
Morty Landowne 10,000
Murray Laulicht 10,000
Avi Naiman 12,200
Robin Neustein 25,000
Shimon Neustein 25,000
The Adina & Jefferey Rubin FDN 6,250
Eli Salig 35,000
Ron Stern 12,000
Straus Quintas FDN 16,250
Daniel E Straus Family Fdn 6,250
Zah and Nosh J Straus Fam Fdn 6,250
Total identified contributions 510,499
Total contributions 587,632
Board (as per latest public information):
Jack Bendheim
Dr. Giti Bendheim
Daniel Besdin
Michael Feldstein
Allan Galper
Phyllis Getzler
Alan Goldberg
Dr. Robert Goldberg
Rabbi Irving Greenberg
Blu Greenberg
Jan Goveman
Dr. Phyllis Hammer
Rachel Neumark Herlands
David Jacobwitz
Howard Jonas
Dr. Norma Baumel Joseph
Michelle Greenberg Kobrin
Rabbi Simcah Krauss
Charles Kushner
Dr. Gila Leiter
Nathen J. Lindenbaum
Evi Mushner
Shimon Neustein
Bethia Straus Quintas
Joseph R. Rackman
Adina Raskas
Judy Rosenblatt
Dr. Norm Shudofsky
Maurice Spanbock
Michael Stein
Daniel Strauss
Moshael J. Strauss
Mark Charendoff
Sender Cohen
Shelley Cohen
Rella Feldman
Michael Jesselson
Suri Kasirer
Lawrence Korbin
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein
Matthew Maryles
Linda Sterling
Linda Levi Tarlow

By Yair Sheleg
Haaretz - May 30, 2006
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/721493.html
At first glance, the police complaints lodged against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni constitute one more case of sexual exploitation. Once not so long ago, it was enough for a rabbi to be accused of a fraction of the number of the suspicions raised against Gafni for the walls to tremble. In our present era of progress, statements by two dozen victims can be airily dismissed until the legal system steps in ?(because a few of the women finally dared to complain?) before the community leaders realize that they will not be able to continue enjoying the rabbi's "spiritual abundance."
At first glance this is an individual case, and the fact that a rabbi is involved is merely coincidental. Or not: Gafni has a friend, the co-writer of two of his books, named Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi. Ezrahi is a newly observant Jew who was once secretary to the extreme right-wing Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg. A few years ago he left his previous pursuits and established a commune based on the study of love and sex "in the spirit of the ancient myths" ?(including kabbala?.) And within the rather small community of teachers of "Jewish Renaissance" ?(the revolution of non-observant Jews studying Judaism?) in Israel, there are at least two other prominent teachers who had extensive extramarital relationships that caused a storm in their communities.
But surely each case should be judged on its own merits and is connected to the personality of each teacher. Still, perhaps these coincidences point to a common denominator. It does not take much effort to find one: The aspiration toward spirituality that characterizes the "new religiosity" ?(in its secular version, too?) is a very emotional aspiration that can involve primal instincts and urges, and in any event it automatically rejects "bourgeois" baggage ? at first that of halakha and Jewish law, and later those of basic human morality. That is how the New Age version of the "ubermensch" is created, the one who is "above" the common morality of the common man.
Yes, Jewish history has seen this phenomenon before; it is called Sabbateanism. Its prophet, Shabbatai Zevi, believed that spiritual elevation and the desire for redemption released him from the mitzvot, and particularly from the sexual prohibitions. Ohad Ezrahi speaks explicitly about Shabbatai Zevi and his follower Yaacov Frank as a model. But apparently the others are also persuaded to follow this course, even without explicitly championing it. In truth, all those who ignore moral distortion in the name of spiritual exaltation are active partners in this worldview.
In one sense, it is apparently an inseparable part of the affair that Western culture, including Judaism, is having with Eastern religion. The story of Gafni and Ezrahi are very reminiscent of a few prominent Eastern gurus who ran sex communes, and the line of admiring female students in their bedrooms was an integral part of their "spiritual" activities. The conclusion: The romance with the East has some unsavory characteristics. The "liberation" that it provides is too great ? this liberation first brings moral liberation from the need to deal with the material hardships we face, while focusing in a self-centered manner on "spiritual elevation" and then on the "liberation" from moral norms.
Many of us, whose spiritual world is defined by the boundaries of Judaism, occasionally complain about the nature of the bonds of halakha. Now it turns out that even if the very detailed character of the prohibitions is sometimes infuriating, there is deep justice in the principle that seeks to bind life in general, and spiritual ambitions in particular, within the bounds of moral and religious rules. It is precisely because spirituality is so enchanting, so groundbreaking, that great danger can arise if it is not anchored with a few ironclad moral principles. Therefore it is precisely because the "Jewish Renaissance" movement is so important that it must not take on a New Age tone that focuses on emotional spirituality, and it must be clearly identified with moral responsibility toward the surrounding community as well as toward the lifestyle of its leaders.

by Paula Amann
News Editor
Washingtong Jewish Week - June 1, 2006
http://www.washingtonjewishweek.com/main.asp?SectionID=4&SubSectionID=4&ArticleID=5384&TM=39212.11
In early April, Rabbi Mordechai Gafni brought his supercharged teaching style to a weekend retreat at the District's Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.
Two weeks ago, the Shabbaton's featured speaker resigned from Bayit Chadash, the spirituality center he founded and led in Jaffa, Israel, amid allegations of sexual misconduct by five women students and staffers there.
Three young women in their 20s filed a complaint in early May with Haifa police against Gafni, claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons conducted at his center, reported YNet, a Web site for which Gafni had written a weekly column. The thrice-married rabbi, who is in his mid-40s, allegedly pledged each of the trio that he would marry her if she had sex with him.
After fleeing Israel for the United States, the Orthodox-educated Gafni confessed his guilt and apologized in a public letter to his followers, saying he would seek treatment for his "sickness." The U.S.-born Gafni, who hosted a TV show in Israel and had appeared in a special on PBS, had been dogged by sexual abuse allegations throughout his career.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat, had ordained Gafni, but revoked that ordination in 1994, according to The Jewish Week in New York. That took place, the paper reported, after Gafni had been quoted in Ha'aretz as calling for restoring balance between the erotic and the spiritual.
The author of Soul Prints: Your Path to Fulfillment and The Mystery of Love, Gafni had appeared in D.C. April 9 under the auspices of the Am Kolel Sanctuary and Renewal Center and the Bethesda Jewish Congregation.
Rabbi David Shneyer, who directs Am Kolel, reacted to Gafni's forced departure from Bayit Chadash via voice mail.
"It's really sad," Shneyer said. "I just wish healing for everyone involved."
The current president of Ohalah, the Jewish Renewal rabbinic association, Shneyer notes that the group was already readying ethics training for its conference next January when the news surfaced about Gafni, who does not belong to Ohalah or to Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, the corresponding lay organization.
"Before this all broke, we had planned a track on ethics and relationships and boundaries in our community," Shneyer said in a later interview.
BJC's spiritual leader Hazzan Sunny Schnitzer said he had been aware of 25-year-old charges of sexual impropriety with teenage girls.
"He had personally refuted all the allegations," Shnitzer said of longtime rumors of such misconduct that swirled about Gafni.
The situation, he added, spotlights the tension between twin Jewish injunctions in Leviticus 19:16 to avoid lashon hara, or gossip, and yet not stand idly by when people are being hurt.
"You shall not go about slandering your kin," reads the verse, which goes on, "You shall not stand over the blood of your fellow man." (Translation from Robert Alter's The Five Books of Moses)
The silence around Gafni's alleged misdeeds, said Schnitzer, represents "the downside of the Jewish rules of lashon hara because on the one hand, we refrain from anything that is rumor or hearsay, but on the other, there is an obligation to protect the community."
An Aleph spokesperson, Rabbi Daniel Siegel, stressed that his organization had long maintained both ethical guidelines and trainings for all teachers at its biennial Kallah, or retreat week.
"No romantic liaison can be undertaken under circumstances between a teacher and a student," Siegel said.
Aleph's director of spiritual resources and the group's former executive director, Siegel also noted that no complaints of sexual misconduct about Gafni had emerged when he taught at the Kallah.
"Mordechai's relationship to us was as a popular teacher," Siegel explained, noting that the Israeli rabbi did not ever join Aleph. "There has always been a certain caution around him. When he has in the past stepped over lines set by mutual agreement, we have called him on it."
Gafni also co-led a two-week session, "The Maggidic Journey: Developing Jewish Spiritual Literacy," last August and previous summers at Elat Chayyim: The Jewish Retreat Center in Accord, N.Y.
Bennett Nieman, the center's executive director, said his group had checked on 25-year-old rumors of sexual impropriety and could not substantiate them.
"There were some complaints that he was like a televangelist," said Nieman, but no complaints of sexual abuse by Gafni were leveled by Elat Chayyim participants, he said.
Both Aleph and Elat Chayyim have nearly identical guidelines that mandate "refraining from beginning a sexual relationship with any participant in our class, group, workshop, prayer group or healing session" at any of the events the groups sponsor.
Roni Posner, a District resident and board member of Elat Chayyim, which moves to Connecticut in September, said retreat center leaders were working to strengthen existing ethics guidelines, in light of the Gafni scandal.
"The ethical issue at the heart of this is ... the issue of the abuse of power that can happen in any teaching environment, whether in a formal school setting or retreat setting," Posner said. "Especially now, as we look at whole new era for Elat Chayyim, as we look at a move, we're reviewing all our policies, including our code of ethics."
 
Bethesda's Judith Dack, a summer staff member at Elat Chayyim, saw Gafni evoke strong, contrasting emotions from Renewal leaders and students there.
 
For some participants, Gafni born Marc Winiarz seemed "deeply inspired" and "brought people back to Judaism," recalled Dack.
 
Other observers, she noted, were "seriously concerned and frightened by this energy he was churning up."
 
At Aleph, Siegel said he would be preparing a document in the coming month on the difference between "true channeling" of the divine by spiritual leaders and the "shadow side" of religious charisma.
 
"We want to raise this issue into a public discussion because it's clear there's a need," Siegel said.
Schnitzer, meanwhile, flagged the pitfall of elevating a spiritual leader above his or her message.
"Guruhood is a really toxic place when it's all about the teacher and not the teaching," Schnitzer said. "We need to keep our eyes wide open and when the inconsistencies show up, we need to be aware enough to step back."


People of the blog
By Rachel Silverman
NJ Jewish Standard - June 15, 2006
http://www.jstandard.com/articles/1203/1/People-of-the-blog
 
Sermonizing mingles with sex talk as Jewish surfers pick up blogging
 
At times, the chatter between American Jews can seem hushed, even silent.
 
While questions about assimilation, Israeli politics, and Jewish identity swirl overhead, many American Jews maintain an arms-length complacency about it all.
 
Blogger
But a post, click, and hyperlink away, the burgeoning blogosphere offers a forum for Jewish conversation.
 
Jewish blogs, or Web diaries, run the gamut from kosher cooking to Israeli advocacy. They include leftist rants, dating melodramas, rabbinic ruminations, and secular musings from all corners of the globe.
 
Last year, the Pew Internet and American Life Project estimated that 8 million American adults had created blogs. Though the number of specifically Jewish blogs is unconfirmed, those with knowledge of the blogosphere say the pool is substantial.
 
"I'd estimate the number of active blogs at some several thousand," says Steven Weiss, who blogs about religion (www.canonist.com), food (www.kosherbachelor.com), and the Jewish college experience (campusj).
 
"Among young highly-affiliated Jews, J-blogs are very popular," the 24-year-old New Yorker continues. "As you move up the age brackets, the popularity drops off somewhat, though many in the organizational and rabbinic establishment have started paying a lot of attention to them."
The Religious Action Committee of Reform Judaism, for instance, launched a blog of its own last year at rac.org.
 
"The amount of interest in blogging has just gone through the roof," confirms Alexis Rice, the RAC's communications director. "I think the Jewish community is more connected now than ever before.
"A Rabbi used to give a sermon and it was heard by 200 people in services Friday night," Rice continues. "Now he puts the sermon on a blog, and thousands of people access it."
What exactly are these Jewish bloggers seeking on the Web?
 
Some, like 30-something New York blogging guru Esther Kustanowitz, say the blogosphere connects them to a larger, global Jewish community. (See related story.)
 
"I started looking at other Jewish blogs to see if there were other people like me out there - single, Jewish, and blogging," explains Kustanowitz, who grew up in northern New Jersey and who's mother is a former managing editor at The Jewish Standard.
 
Alternatively, some blog to seek community with or build bridges to "the other."
 
Thanks to blogging, Rachel Barenblat, the theology student behind the Velveteen Rabbi blog (www.velveteenrabbi.com), has become close to a Buddhist nun in Korea and a Baptist minister in San Antonio.
 
"I've come to feel very much like these people are my friends," says the Massachusetts resident, 30. "That we're sitting around a virtual coffee table."
 
Tel Aviv resident Lisa Goldman began her site, On the Face (http://ontheface.blogware.com), as a means of catharsis and consensus-building during the Palestinian intifada.
 
"I try to go beyond the headlines and present people as individuals — not just the Palestinians and the Israelis," says Goldman, 38. "Maybe my stories will help them to discover that the things we have in common outnumber the things that define our differences."
 
Blogging has provided solace to communities outside Israel as well. After suffering substantial damage during Hurricane Rita, the Baton Rouge-based Cong. Beth Shalom looked to the blogosphere for respite (http://rabbizamek.blogspot.com).
 
"When the hurricanes hit, we felt the need to get information out regularly," says the congregation's rabbi, Stanton Zamek. "It was a way of not forgetting this history in motion."
 
In addition to helping his congregants stay connected during a difficult period, the blog attracted significant media buzz.
 
"At first I was saying, `Who's going to read my musings about this or that?'" Zamek recalls, laughing. "But something caught the eye of the office of presidential speech-writing, and I was invited to the White House Chanukah party."
 
The blogosphere is not just a feel-good forum. In many instances, it's a place for real debate and democratic engagement.
 
"Blogging has saved the Web from its abysmal fate as just another corporate content delivery system," says Jerusalem blogger Dan Sieradski, whose family lives in New Milford. "Blogs provide public spaces - and safe spaces at that - for people to discuss what matters most to them."
 
Sieradski´s Orthodox Anarchist site (www.orthodoxanarchist.com) illustrates his unconventional, off-the-cuff ideology. In one post, he explains that he's a committed Jew but he strongly opposes authority, religious dogma, and nationalism.
 
"My life is exemplified by tensions and contradictions," says Sieradski, who will turn 27 on Monday. "Orthodox Anarchist is an attempt to embrace those contradictions, and even to try to make sense of them."
 
In the blogosphere, this type of friction generates attention.
 
But his blog Jewschool has some 50,000 readers per month, he told The Jewish Standard. The site, he said, in an e-mail, has about 30 contributors on no particular rotation, but the roster includes virtually a Who's Who in what is young and hip in Judaism these days, from editorial staffers at Heeb Magazine, to Atlanta Jewish Life, Jewish record label JDub, to The Jewish Fashion Conspiracy.
But its content is far from kitchy fluff.
 
In recent months, the site broke the story about the dismissal of Jewish Renewal leader Mordechai Gafni, and it had early reaction to an inflammatory speech outgoing Jewish Theological Seminary chancellor Ismar Schorsch gave at the school's commencement. It also broke a story about a girl whose acceptance on a Birthright Israel trip was withdrawn because of her plans to follow it with a Palestinian encounter tour.
 
Sieradski has also recently started a blog, radicaltorah.org, that features parshat hashavua commentary on social justice. Contributors, he said, have included rabbis such as Arthur Waskow and Michael Lerner, as well as Jill Hammer, Alana Suskin, and the Velveteen Rabbi.
 
One well-read thread on Jewlicious (www.jewlicious.com), a group blog focusing on Judaism, Israel, and pop culture, addressed premarital sex in the Orthodox community. It pulled in 676 comments.
Another post, with 502 responses, tackled an equally contentious topic- the identity of Conservative Judaism.
 
Often, noisemakers walk a fine line between healthy debate and mudslinging.
 
"There are definitely blogs where the conversation tends to be acrimonious," says Barenblat, who has received anonymous hate mail. "People feel free to be obnoxious because it's just through a computer screen."
 
Fiery language also peppers the Jewlicious site, with posts often descending into vitriolic exchanges.
"It's a paradigm for disagreement," Kustanowitz said. "I think because of the anonymity and lack of accountability, people tend to not think before they write."
 
One thing's for sure - this wrangling free-for-all is not the mainstream media.
 
That's because blogs assume a vastly different tone and style than their journalistic counterparts, online communications expert Diane Schiano says.
 
"There is this loose, free-floating, casual, even intimate approach to writing blogs," explains Schiano, an adjunct professor at Stanford University. "It's like teenage angst is being poured out."
 
Dan Gillmor, a Palo Alto-based activist, blogger (http://bayosphere.com/blog/dangillmor), and author on civic journalism, noted that the unregulated atmosphere emboldens the citizen-blogger.
 
Take "Aussie Dave," the moniker behind Israellycool (www.israellycool.com/blog). His blog acts as a symposium for issues of Israeli politics, pop culture and news.
 
"When you have people reading you and listening to you, it's like you have your own little soapbox," the 31-year-old Beit Shemesh resident says. "It empowers the individual."
 
Some claim blogs still act like an insiders' club, however.
 
"The people who spend time to sit down and write on blogs have very strong opinions," explains Paul Golin, associate executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute. "You might have unaffiliated lurking on these Websites, but they don't feel confident enough to comment."
 
Others admit the blogosphere tends to attract wannabe journalists, who see the Web as a viable marketing tool.
 
"A lot of writers use them to test the waters for their writing," Schiano said. "It's a new form of publishing."
 
As a freelance writer who has gotten jobs from blogging, Kustanowitz affirmed this.
 
"I'm not going to lie — it's also a place for self-promotion," Kustanowitz says. "It's doing P.R. work for me even when I'm not doing anything for me. That's the Internet for you."
 
And it is interesting, says Sieradski, that sub-niches are being carved out in what is already a niche market.
 
"There's a small community of Orthodox Jewish bloggers who, rejecting the Jewish megablogs like Jewschool and Jewlicious (our clean-cut, well-behaved younger cousin, so-to-speak), have appointed themselves the epicenter of the Jewish blogging world and are carving out a niche for themselves cyberspace, either in hopes of supplanting us or in gaining relevance in their own right," he said.

"Consistently griping about how they've been neglected by the JTA and other Jewish media which covered the Jewish blogging world without paying them any mind, they've launched a series of new sites which aim to put themselves at the center of a revolution that was long over before they arrived on the scene."
 
Where exactly this blogging phenomenon is going remains unseen.
 
Schiano, for one, predicts a continuously evolving blogosphere.
 
"I think there will always be this room for grassroots voices on the net," she says.
 
And as long as rabbis continue to preach, advocates to crusade, singles to gripe and ideologues to spar, Jews will continue clicking - and posting - away. JTA
 
Jacob Berkman and Rebecca Kaplan Boroson contributed to this report.


Charisma and its Dangers: Mordechai Gafni as Nazirite
Tikkun Magazine - June 12, 2006
http://www.tikkun.org/magazine/blogs/joellen/blogentry.2006-06-12.8801652345
 
I like Rabbi Waskow's comparison of Gafni to a Nazirite (Samson was one).
 
In recent weeks, the Renewal world has been in an uproar over allegations that Mordechai (Marc) Gafni abused his role as a Torah teacher and chevra leader by making sexual advances to his students and staff. (For newspaper stories on the allegations see http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3252738,00.html and
http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/66361.htm. For the most positive spin on the situation see http://www.kenwilber.com/blog/show/33 ; For the most negative spin see http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/Gafni_Mordechai.html
 
For many, these allegations have raised the spectre of Shlomo Carlebach, one of the founders of Renewal, whose predations on his female disciples were exposed by Lilith magazine (Vol. 23.1, Spring 1998—unfortunately not available online). Nor is Renewal alone in facing these issues. The Hasidic world, which also embraces charismatic leaders, has recently grappled with similar failings on the part of its rebbes. Rabbi Jill Jacobs and others have suggested that the problem lies in part with our desire to embrace charismatic leaders.
 
This past week, Renewal Rabbi Arthur Waskow used the parsha (the weekly Torah reading in Jewish communities) to approach the question of charismatic leadership. The reading was from Numbers 6, on the role of the Nazirite. The Haftorah (reading from the prophets) was on Samson, mainstream Judaism's most famous Nazirite (tho Jesus of "Nazareth" may well have been a Nazarite too).
Here is part of Rabbi Waskow's drash. I like the openendedness of the questions. I invite you to respond here or on Waskow's blog. You can read it all at http://www.shalomctr.org/node/1142 (if the link breaks, go to Home>Torah>Commentary>Parshat Hashavua>The Nazirite in us all: Ego, Anokhi, Samson & Abuse)
 
Waskow: According to the Torah's rules, anyone can choose to become a Nazir for a limited time, abide by its rules, and then give up the status. Samson does not choose, he is made a Nazir for life, and he breaks many rules of community. We asked: What is the Torah teaching us by affirming the Nazir consecration on the one hand and juxtaposing it to Samson?
 
Samson twists the holy specialness of the Nazir into destruction -- in a way loosely analogous to the experience of a charismatic Torah-teacher who becomes a sexual abuser and ultimately damages those around him and destroys his own consecration. So here is where our explorations became especially connected in content to our recent on-line conversations.
 
Trying to understand the role of the self, its value, and its danger in these stories, we talked about three versions of "I": "ani," the plain everyday unconscious "I"; "ego," (Latin) the self-obsessed "I"; and "anokhi," the "I" of expanded consciousness that called the universe together when "Anokhi" spoke at Sinai. Through this Anokhi, every "I" can become not domineering but an awesome holographic fractal fragment of the awesome Whole.
 
So today, do we throw out not just the Nazir label but the role itself -- in which people can choose to become spiritual adepts -- because that role is risky? Do we try to keep it but set the kinds of strict rules and boundaries that Naso describes? Do we just let go and take our chances on destruction? Do we learn to let our "I" become a Nazir in the sense of becoming a fractal fragment of the universal Anokhi?
 
If we choose the Anokhi approach, is Ahavah Rabbah ("expansive love") a crucial part of this? Is there a sacred, boundaried role for sexual energy, for eros, in embodying Ahavah Rabbah? If so, how do we use sacred boundaries to channel that energy into sacred pathways?


Deconstructing The Gafni Case
Gary Rosenblatt - Editor and Publisher
Jewish Week - June 9, 2006
http://www.thejewishweek.com/top/editcolcontent.php3?artid=5105
 
I was not surprised when I learned a few weeks ago of the public downfall of Mordechai Gafni, the charismatic figure who had transformed himself from an Orthodox rabbi in America to a New Age spiritual guru based in Israel, with a loyal following in the U.S.
 
Only after sexual abuse complaints against him were filed with the police in Israel by several female students and an employee of his at Bayit Chadash, the spiritual renewal community he helped found in Tel Aviv, was he dismissed as religious guide, teacher and rebbe. And at that point Gafni apologized publicly to those he had hurt, said he was "sick" and in need of treatment, and disappeared from view.
 
The fact that he managed to avoid such a humiliating outcome for more than 20 years — during which time he was surrounded by a cloud of accusations of improper sexual behavior — is a testament to his persuasive powers of argument, the support of well-meaning rabbis and educators who believed him, and the unwillingness of those who felt victimized by him to go on the record with their accounts.
 
I hasten to add that I fully understand why the women in question did not want to speak out on the record, using their names, and I empathize with them. They felt they were the victims, that they had suffered enough and did not want to go through a public scrutiny of past abuses and humiliations. His former wives and the other women had new lives to live and reputations to protect.
 
But for a journalist probing these accusations and knowing that the resulting expose could destroy the subject's career, professional standards require offering up real people and real names to make those charges. That is why I spent three years on the Gafni trail, interviewing dozens of people about the allegations of sexual misbehavior, before publishing anything. And at that point, in September 2004, I wrote an opinion column rather than a news story because I still did not have anyone with first-hand experience of abuse speaking on the record.
 
I tried to present both sides, offering damning accounts from several women who claimed to have been victims of Gafni's abuse when in their teens, and rabbis and others who supported their claims. And I offered up Gafni's denials, and other rabbis defending him. They said that even if these things had happened, it was a long time ago and he had done teshuva (repentance).
 
Not surprisingly, the column was criticized harshly from both sides. The defenders, several of whom I greatly respect, said I had besmirched Gafni's name; the women said I had been too sympathetic to him rather than expose him for the criminal they believed him to be.
 
My role is journalist, not judge. But in hindsight, I think I should have written at the time that I found the women far more credible than Gafni.
 
In the wake of Gafni's apparent downfall, I spoke about the case to several colleagues who practice and teach journalism. One thinks I should have acted on my instincts and been tougher on Gafni, even though I had no first-hand accounts on the record. Another said I was right to have held out for on-the-record attribution.
 
Several of Gafni's most fervent defenders in the community now acknowledge that they were taken in by his protestations of victimization. Each seemed to rely on the other as the source of proof of Gafni's innocence, underscoring the lack of serious and professional investigations into such murky matters. At least one rabbinic defender was so upset at the time with the tone and tenor of Gafni's critics, particularly on blogs and Web sites, that he seemed to conflate their stridency with Gafni's claims of innocence.
 
But just because critics can be zealous and over the top at times doesn't mean the source of their ire is blameless.
 
In the past, when Gafni said he had made mistakes in his life but that he had done teshuva, some were ready to believe him; others were not. At some point in the future he is sure to reappear, eager to resume his role of spiritual guide and teacher, insisting he has gone through therapy and is cured.
Will we believe him then?
 
Gary Rosenblatt can be reached by e-mail at Gary@jewishweek.org


 
Is Gary Rosenblatt reinventing history when it comes to the case of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni?
(© 2006) By Vicki Polin
Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence Speak Out - June 16, 2006
Early in 2003, while The Awareness Center, Inc. was in its infancy, several orthodox rabbis (who had a connection with the Rabbinic Council of America and Agudath Israel) started calling to request our organization to do something about Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Winiarz). In order to comply with wishes of the rabbonim, our board and volunteers attempted to track down three known survivors of this alleged sex offender.
 
We had very little difficulties tracking down the second and third survivors, yet had trouble locating the first. Gary Rosenblatt was the link to finding the first survivor.
During our initial conversation with Winiarz/Gafni's first survivor, we learned that several years prior, she had provided Rosenblatt with her story. Back in the 90's Gary had heard rumors and tracked her down. The first survivor stated that she was not seeking an opportunity to share her abuse history, but was convinced by Rosenblatt that sharing the story might spare future women the pain of abuse at Winiarz/Gafni's hands.
 
This survivor shared every painful detail with Gary Rosenblatt. Gary promised that he would publish a story right away. Years went by, there was no further contact and a story was never published. The survivor felt exploited and betrayed.
 
In 2004 finally Gary Rosenblatt reestablished contact with the first survivor, providing her with the contact information for The Awareness Center. The survivor was apprehensive, yet followed through and made the initial call.
 
I'll never forget the day Survivors two and three communicated with the first survivor. It was amazing to watch; a day filled with old terror and pain transforming into tears of healing, joy and empowerment.
 
Amazingly the three survivors were eager to work with Gary Rosenblatt. The intention was and always has been to prevent any more women from being victimized by Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni. The Awareness Center did it's best to work with Gary Rosenblatt as well, and provided him with names of individuals who had first hand knowledge of Gafni's past.
 
Gary had ample information and factual content from highly respected rabbis and members of the community. The original story Gary wrote was to be published in the spring of 2004, yet nothing happened. Every week Mr. Rosenblatt told the survivors it would be published the following week, yet nothing happened. It wasn't until September 24, 2004, that an extremely watered down version of what was originally written was published.
 
In Gary Rosenblatt's most recent article "Deconstructing The Gafni Case" he wrote:
"They felt they were the victims, that they had suffered enough and did not want to go through a public scrutiny of past abuses and humiliations. His former wives and the other women had new lives to live and reputations to protect."
 
The problem with this statement is; Gary ceases to mention that in the code of journalistic ethics created by the US department of Justice, one should never publish the names of victims of sex crimes. Three women spoke directly to Rosenblatt with the understanding that thier names would not be used, all of whom were quoted in his original article. It is common journalistic practice to have unnamed sources. Remember Watergate?
 
Rosenblatt continued:
"But for a journalist probing these accusations and knowing that the resulting expose could destroy the subject's career, professional standards require offering up real people and real names to make those charges. That is why I spent three years on the Gafni trail, interviewing dozens of people about the allegations of sexual misbehavior, before publishing anything. And at that point, in September 2004, I wrote an opinion column rather than a news story because I still did not have anyone with firsthand experience of abuse speaking on the record."
 
"And I offered up Gafni's denials, and other rabbis defending him. They said that even if these things had happened, it was a long time ago and he had done teshuva (repentance). . . I think I should have written at the time that I found the women far more credible than Gafni. . . One thinks I should have acted on my instincts and been tougher on Gafni, even though I had no firsthand accounts on the record. Another said I was right to have held out for on-the-record attribution."
 
The survivor who was thirteen at the time of her abuse stated that it wasn't until years after her initial contact with Mr. Rosenblatt that he connected her with The Awareness Center. The survivor had already given a detailed account of her sexual assault directly to Rosenblatt, yet she requested that her name be withheld from the story. From the point this survivor contacted The Awareness Center, it was another six months before Gary's watered down article was published. He promised the survivor years before that he would publish the story the week following the initial interview, yet nothing ever happened.
 
Back in 2001, survivor number one received a telephone call from Winiarz/Gafni supporter Naomi Mark, ACSW. Naomi's goal was for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to meet with her offender. Naomi told this survivor that Marc Winiarz/Gafni wanted to make amends. She told the survivor that Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni had wrote a letter stating: "he thought the survivor was hurting because he ended their relationship instead of marrying her". He wanted to apologize for "breaking her heart."
The survivor told Ms. Mark that she would not meet with the man who raped her. The survivor disclosed that she let Naomi Mark know that "the relationship" Winiarz/Gafni was referring to should be called RAPE. A far cry from what Winiarz/Gafni called a "heartache, or a fallen romance."
 
The Survivor believes the reason Winiarz/Gafni wanted to contact her at the time was because he learned of the interview she had given to Gary Rosenblatt. The survivor was sure that Winiarz/Gafni was worried about what Rosenblatt would publish. Winiarz/Gafni wanted the survivor to say that she had forgiven him for the assault. Marc Winiarz/Gafni neither acknowledged that he had sexually abused a child, nor admitted to any violent acts.
 
It appears Gary Rosenblatt's attempt to re-create history has been influenced by his long time friend, Rabbi Saul Berman -- who to this day is believed to be a defender of Mordechai Gafni.
If Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni has done teshuva, why has he not contacted the other women whom he victimized? Why didn't he ever offer to pay for the pain and suffering all three women endured because of his offenses?
 
Once again Rosenblatt's affiliation with Rabbi Saul Berman influenced his ability to get the facts straight. Gary Rosenblatt had firsthand accounts. He spoke to three women who were sexually victimized by Mordechai Winiarz (AKA: Marc Gafni). Two survivors had sexual contact; the third was a survivor of inappropriate sexual advances by an orthodox rabbi, who was also a married man.
 
Gary Rosenblatt spoke to numerous rabbis and other credible individuals who backed the survivor's stories. What more evidence did he need?
 
If Rosenblatt really wants to make amends to the survivors of Winiarz/Gafni, he should put an advertisement in the New York Jewish Week calling for the extradition of Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni, and have all those who have blindly supported Winiarz/Gafni sign it.


 
Deposition Of Mordecai Gafni's Third Wife
Lukeford.net - June 27, 2006
(Ex-Wife #3 divorced Marc Gafni in August of 2004.  This was before Gary Rosenblatt's article the original article was published on Mordecai).
 
(Third Wife) Gafni Email Deposition
May 9th , 2006 (revised version)

The following is my personal testimony of what it was like to be married to Mordechai for almost 7 years. I share what I have known of Mordechai's drastic and tragic dark side. I focus upon the shadow aspects of our marriage and his personality, for I believe they are crucial to share, given what has unfolded in these past weeks. Please keep in mind that I could also write pages worth of testimony about the light side of Mordechai – from the beauty of his teachings to his ardent dedication to making a contribution in the world and helping others. May his light side and his dark side know full integration.
 
Also, while you can pass this testimony on to other concerned parties, please do not share my name with the press or in public. I have been advised by lawyers not to let my name to appear in public. Thanks.
 
Background:
I was 19 years old when I first encountered Mordechai. I was studying in Jerusalem the summer after my freshman year of college. I was an eager baalat-teshuva, newly "turned on" to the beauty of Jewish practice. I devotedly went to his classes at Isralight and other venues. We went on our first date the spring after I graduated college. I was 23 and star-struck. He was 15 years my senior. We got married at the beginning of 1998, less than 8 months after our first date. Several people warned me about Mordechai's past. He adamantly insisted that the bulk of the rumors were lies, exaggerations and the evil workings of other people's jealousies. I believed him.
 
He told me early on about some of his sexual misdemeanors as well as affairs he had on his 2nd wife. He assured me that he had done teshuva, changed, and that things with me would be different. I was all too ready to believe this as well. Plus I thought that I could help him, fix him; that my love could help him become the great man he had the potential to be. As soon as we started seriously dating, he pulled me into working for him full-time on writing and organizational projects. I was dedicated to his "mission" of Jewish Rennaissance and gave it all of my time and energy. His emotional abuse and manipulations began immediately upon our marriage. I was so dedicated to the mission that I endured it. Also, the nature of the his manipulations was such that I did not feel I could leave. The years that followed were a strange mix of great excitement, activity and purpose, as well as huge despair, confusion and pain. On the outside I seemed to be living a fairy tale of success. Behind closed doors I was living a life of enslavement, debasement, manipulation and verbal abuse. On top of the abuse, Mordechai was having numerous affairs on me; lying to me on a daily basis.
 
Finally, I found out about one of the affairs. Finally, my eyes were opened and I started to see through the fog of falsehoods. I fled Israel in February of 2004, only to be lured back in June 2004 by Mordechai's promises of change and commitment. But nothing changed. By early August of 2004 I demanded and received a divorce.
 
Soon thereafter, Mordechai came "under attack" by his enemies in America. In the fall of 2004, articles about his sexual misconduct and questionable reputation came out in America and Israel. He begged me to keep our divorce a secret until all of this bad press died down. I reluctantly agreed – mostly because I believed that the work that was going on at Bayit Chadash was valuable and I did not want to jeopardize it. Mordechai lied to the reporters and all who asked, saying that we were still married. He also lied to the Rabbinic supporters who helped wage a campaign to protect him. Mordechai refused to publicly tell the truth about our divorce until Pesach of 2005 (March/April). I am ashamed to admit that I was manipulated into also remaining silent and covering up to protect him, as I had done myriad times during our marriage.
 
Now that I see the damage that Mordechai has caused in so many people's lives I deeply regret that I did not speak out earlier about the abuse that I suffered at his hands and the abuse that I knew that he inflicted upon others. I also deeply regret that I did not speak out about the countless lies and manipulations that I witnessed him engage in on a regular basis. I sorely regret that I led people to believe that we had a good marriage when in actuality it was most often a hell. I have been studying, practicing and engaging in psychotherapy these past two years since I left Mordechai. The more I have learned the more clear it is that Mordechai is a dangerous sexual predator and sociopath. He hurt me in deplorable ways and I fear that he will continue to hurt others if he is not stopped. Indeed, I have already heard first-hand harrowing accounts of his abuse and manipulation of women (many of them friends of mine). In many ways, my story is mild in comparison to theirs. Hearing these tragic stories was the central motivator for my sharing my own. I pray that my speaking out now can help to thwart any and all future abuse at his hands.
 
1. Information about Sexual Abuse/Molestation of a Minor:
Before we got married, Mordechai shared with me that he had indeed had a sexual encounter with a minor. Her name was Judy – a teenager who was in his JYPSY youth movement. He explained to me details of their encounter and how he went about covering it up and discrediting her. He told me that she had seduced him. He said that they did not have intercourse, but that they had at least been undressed, sexually physical and that he had ejaculated. After Judy reported this, he lied to everyone involved, saying that she was emotionally unstable, jealous and had made it all up. He even received a document signed by a Rabbi attesting to his innocence. Judy was under-age, a student of his, and were it not for the statute of limitations, he could go to jail over this.
 
2.  Mordechai also told me stories about various teachers and staff people connected withYeshiva University with whom he had struggles. He told me how he blackmailed a teacher (one of his "enemies" at YU) who tried to block him from studying/teaching there after the Judy incident. He had information about this particular man and threatened to share it if the man continued to try to block him. The man stayed quiet.
 
3. Adultery/Lying:
He also told me of several affairs that he had in Boca Raton while married to his second wife. These affairs were with women in his Congregation (the name of one woman was Fern Weisman). At least one of them was a married woman (whose name I don't recall, though I can find it). There was a scandal at the synagogue over rumors about his sexual misconduct. I do not think that his second wife ever found out about these affairs. They eventually left Boca to move to Israel. I believe that the main reason for this was that he needed to flee before people found out the truth (though he never framed it that way to me).
 
4. Adultery/Lying:
One of the reasons (among many) that I divorced Mordechai was because he had an affair while we were studying in Oxford. It was with a woman named Stutti at Wolfson College. He lied to me on a virtually daily basis to cover up this affair. This went on for approximately 10 months (from December 2002-Sept 2003). It was an agonizing time for me even though I did not consciously know what was happening. I finally convinced him to tell me the truth about the affair when we left Oxford and moved back to Israel. I was devastated, and realized that all of my hopes that he was a "changed man" were baseless fantasies.
 
5. Adultery/Lying:
I also was racked with suspicion that he was having another affair – with his "teaching partner", Erica Fox. On countless occasions I begged him to stop teaching with her and to pull back from their "friendship". He refused. Also on countless occasions I point blank asked him if they were having an affair. In response, he consistently told me how crazy, jealous and insecure I was. I have finally found out that they were indeed intimate with each other while we were married, as well as after. (All of this went on between 2002 until our divorce in August of 2004). I also have heard that he had affairs with two other women while we were together – one a young woman in Israel and the other in America. Since that I time I have found out that he has been having numerous sexual relationships with a variety of women – employees, students and funders (many more than have been reported in the press). At least one of these women is married to another man.
 
6. Debasing/Sexuality:
Mordechai was consistently verbally demeaning to me, particularly in our sexual interactions. Additionally, he viewed pornography on a regular basis; paying money to have memberships to certain sites. Eventually his computer and email were so full of pornography that he paid tens of hundreds of dollars to get it cleaned, for fear that someone may see it and that he would lose his job. I understand from formal depositions made with lawyers and the police in Israel that he had much more "extreme" sexual interactions with other women after our divorce; which involved S&M and also played heavily on themes of debasement.
 
7. Stealing Intellectual Property:
Mordechai used other people's stories/teaching (making slight changes) without attributing them properly. (The story in Soulprints about Eitan giving him a soulprint box was, for instance, based upon a story in one of Robert Fulghum's books.) Furthermore, I worked full time on both books "Soul Prints" and "The Mystery of Love". There are entire sections of these books which I myself wrote – with no public recognition given as to the depth and breadth of my contribution. Just a few of the numerous examples of this are the poem/invocation at the beginning of "Soul Prints", as well as the Parable of the Royal Wine in "The Mystery of Love". I insisted that I wanted at least these pieces to be attributed to me. He refused. Seeing I had no real choice, I gave in in the end and allowed the pieces to be used without attribution.
 
8. Verbal Abuse & Emotional Manipulation:
This is one of the main issues for me about the danger that Mordechai poses to others. Emotional abuse and manipulation was a constant throughout our marriage. I have pages and pages of journal entries describing entire scenes and dialogues full of emotional abuse. His yelling explosions, full of demeaning putdowns and blame, were virtually a daily occurrence. I eventually stopped fighting back and would just dissolve in tears after each explosion. He needed to always be right, always in control. If I didn't agree with him on something then he would burst into a rage and tell me how stupid I was. - But more than that, he would tell me how unloving, insensitive and selfish I was. Convincing me that I was the evil, selfish, unloving one was one of his most powerful tools of manipulation. He capitalized on my natural desire to be loving and giving. My goodness was a knife in his hands with which he carved his sick designs into me. I was utterly bewildered by his manipulations; the way he would turn everything around and make me the bad one. These turn arounds rendered me powerless time and again. In fact, I was so distraught by the nature of his putdowns and manipulations that I had regular fantasies of doing violent and suicidal acts against myself. My most recurrent fantasy during his abusive tirades was of slashing my throat. I was not "allowed" to express or feel anger towards him and so I turned all of my anger at him back upon myself. I had never in my life been suicidal before this time and since I left him I have not had suicidal or violent thoughts at all.
 
9. Verbal Abuse/Manipulation of Others:
I witnessed Mordechai being verbally abusive and manipulative with many other people. I saw it happen most with Dafna, his main staff person, but also - tragically – also saw it with his sons. I found his neglectful and insensitive treatment of his sons to be deplorable. Seeing him with his sons was another big factor in my wanting a divorce. The thought of him mistreating any future children that we would have was just terrifying to me.
 
10. Lies:
As I mentioned above, Mordechai lied about our divorce, his past and other essential issues to the numerous Rabbis who supported him when he was being attacked in the press and at various teaching institutions. The Rabbis he lied pointblank to include R'Danny Landes, R'Joseph Telushkin, R'Art Green, R'Eli Herscher and R'Saul Berman, as well as others. He likewise lied to the press and the entire Bayit Chadash community and Board. Of course, Mordechai was lying to me on a daily basis about the affairs he was having.
 
11. Exaggerations:
Beyond the examples above I witnessed Mordechai lying routinely in most every type of setting. Whether it was in a speech, at dinner with friends, teaching, or in talking to donors. He was consistently aggrandizing himself by exaggerating his successes, popularity, power and connections. He would get furious with me when I myself did not join in on telling these inflated stories about him; saying that I was selfish and unloving for not also telling these tales. Time and again he falsely claimed to be a spiritual/holy person. During his writings and teachings he would claim to pray, meditate, exercise, eat healthy, etc. None of which he did in the least. He led entire meditation retreats without ever having meditated himself. In my opinion, all of his frequent claims to spiritual enlightenment were (and are still) dangerously misleading fabrications.
 
12. Dishonest Financial Dealings:
Mordechai also lied to me (and others) about financial matters. For instance, I have recently been informed that he hid approximately $37K in the Bayit Chadash accounts so that it would not be factored in to our divorce settlement. I understand that he is trying to retrieve and further hide that money so that I can not access it. Who knows what other money he had hidden away so that it would not be factored in. He also hid money from his 2nd wife so that he would not have to give it for child support. She took him to Israeli court over his dishonest financial dealings with her (with their divorce settlement as well as with child support). She won the case. He fought hard against this case being leaked to the Israeli press. Additionally, before I met Mordechai he was fired from Milah for inappropriate financial dealings (although I do not know the details). Whatever the case, he clearly has a spotted history around financial matters.
 
13. Psychological Sickness:
I think it is crucial to share that based on all that I have known of Mordechai I see that he clearly has 2 psychological disorders which are evident and expressed in numerous ways. The most obvious is a narcissistic personality disorder. He exhibited the following characteristics which correlate with the DMS-IV diagnosis of narcissism. In the DMS, at least 5 of the following attributes are requires for diagnosis. Mordechai exhibits them all. I could give numerous examples in each category, but will refrain for lack of space and because they are just so very obvious to anyone who knows Mordechai.):
  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance – exaggerates achievements and talents.
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power and brilliance.
  3. Believes that he is "special" and unique and can only associate with other special or high-status people or institutions.
  4. Requires excessive admiration
  5. Has a sense of entitlement – expecting especially favorable treatment or compliance with his expectations
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative; taking advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  7. Is envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
  8. Lacks empathy; is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
  10. As for the antisocial (or sociopathic) personality disorder. He exhibits the following of the criteria for the DSM (of which 3 are needed for diagnosis):
  11. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors (such as his sexual harassment in the workplace and sleeping with students and employees)
  12. deceitfulness, repeated lying
  13. irritability and aggressiveness (as is known by anyone who has ever worked under Mordechai, or crossed his path politically)
  14. reckless disregard for safety of self or others (such as endangering himself by juggling numerous affairs at once, given his history)
  15. lack of remorse; indicated by rationalizing having hurt, or mistreated others
Unfortunately, with Axis II Personality Disorders the chances for change via treatment are extremely slim; as opposed to Axis I disorders which are considered more treatable. Mental Retardation, for example, is also on Axis II, because no amount of therapy will be able to fully `treat' retardation. The same is understood for Personality Disorders – they are not entirely treatable. Thus, in my opinion, the belief that Mordechai will one day be able to return to being a teacher/leader of any sort is a dangerous one. I personally (and professionally) do not think that he should be "allowed" to return to any such roles at any point in the future. A tragic loss, perhaps, but in the end we as a culture and as a people need to reassess the traits that we value and pull forth from our leaders. May this whole fiasco pave the way for new standards of humility, sincerity and a genuine care for others.


Nuns' accomplishments don't deserve ridicule
Delaware Online - August 16, 2006 
http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060816/OPINION10/608160323/1004

 
I was having brunch on Sunday when I saw the editorial cartoon. Mel Gibson was born in Peekskill, N.Y., grew up and went to school in Australia. I don't know if he ever had nuns teaching him in school, but that is hardly the point.
 
Ridiculing nuns appears to be the last bastion from which to attack, open to cartoonists, comedians and some off-Broadway stage show writers.
 
Individuals who never even had a sister teaching them still consider us fair game for obnoxious humor, and I for one have had enough.
 
When I was growing up in Philadelphia in the 1950s, Sister Margaret Claydon was profiled in the Nov. 2, 1959, issue of Time magazine as one of the nation's youngest college presidents. She was named to Washington, D.C.'s Trinity College. That influenced my decision to enter the convent while I worked for the University of Pennsylvania Children's Hospital and its Virus Diagnostic Laboratory.
I am still impressed by women like Sister Dorothy Stang of Ohio, a 73-year-old activist who was assassinated in the rain forests of Brazil on Feb. 12, 2005, because she stood up for the indigenous peoples against the illegal actions of wealthy loggers and landowners.
 
We don't deserve your ridicule.
 
It is considered politically incorrect to attack members of the Jewish faith, even with the sexual abuse allegations against well known Rabbi Mordechai Gafni.
I have not been loathe to call individuals to account in mishandling the Church's sexual abuse problems recently, whether in the state capitals of Dover or Harrisburg.
 
This mean-spirited diatribe against religious women reaches an all-time low for the Wilmington News Journal.
 
-- Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, New Castle


Call To Action: Locating Rabbi Mordechai Gafni and His Return To Israel
The Awareness Center - September 20, 2006
 
Back in May, 2006, new allegations were made against confessed child molester Rabbi Mordechai Gafni . This time the allegations were made by three twenty-year-old women who filed a complaint with the police in Haifa (Israel). The new claims were of professional sexual misconduct. The alleged offenses occurred during Torah lessons given by Gafni.
 
Immediately after the charges were filed Rabbi Mordechai Gafni confessed and then fled Israel for the United States. He first landed in Boston, MA, where it is believed he stayed with one of his many female friends. There were rumors that soon after arriving in Boston he continued on to Boulder, CO and stayed with a colleague and then moved on to Utah. It is unknown where he is today. It is believed that he is in hiding and will attempt to reinvent himself again as he did back in the 1980's after the first allegations were made against him of child molestation.
 
The Awareness Center is seeking justice for all of the survivors of Rabbi Mordechai Winiarz (past and present). If you have any information regarding the current location of Rabbi Marc Gafni please notify The Awareness Center, Inc. at once.
 
The Awareness Center, Inc.


Call To Action: Protect Women From Rabbi Mordechai Gafni
The Awareness Center, Inc.- May 1, 2007
 
There have been rumors floating around for some time that Mordechai Gafni has moved to Salt Lake City, UT.
 
It is also believed that this confessed sex offender is currently living with a woman who has two female children. We have not been able to confirm this rumor, yet the information comes from an extremely reliable source.
 
The Awareness Center is asking for help. If anyone knows the name of the woman Marc Gafni is living with, please let The Awareness Center know. We want to be sure she is aware that Mordechai Gafni poses a danger to her children. Remember, Gafni is a confessed child molester and less then a year ago confessed to sexual abuse with several adult women in Israel. He left the Israel to avoid having criminal charges pressed against him.
 
The Awareness Center also needs your help regarding Marc Gafni's attempt to recreate himself. This is something he has done before in the past (his birth name is Marc Winiartz).
 
It appears that Rabbi Mordechai (Marc) Gafni has immersed himself in the Zen Buddhist Community in Salt Lake City, UT.
 
We as Jews have a responsibility to protect unsuspecting women of all faiths from this confessed sex offender. I am asking that everyone call the Kanzeon Zen Center and warn them about the dangers of Marc Gafni being around women. Please make sure the director of the Kanzeon Zen Center is aware that if Marc Gafni assault's a woman connected to this center, they could be held responsible -- especially after the have been warned (see contact information below).
 
I've been told that Rabbi Marc Gafni is currently attending a "Big Mind" Zen oriented conference in Salt Lake City, which will continue through this coming weekend. The teacher is Genpo Roshi.
 
Zanzeon Zen Center of Salt Lake - Big Mind, Inc.
1268 East South Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
1-866-759-6137  801-328-8414
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Official Statement from Kanzeon Sangha International
Our Statement Regarding Marc Gafni
May 2, 2007
 
Dear Vicki,
For the sake of clarity, let me give a little history of this situation along with our official position on the matter.
 
A few years ago, when Ken Wilber and Integral Institute began a series of conferences and workshops on Integral Spirituality. This where Genpo Roshi, as a participant in these events, met Marc Gafni, along with numerous other spiritual leaders of many traditions. At one of those events at Integral Spiritual Center, Marc Gafni asked Genpo Roshi to become his spiritual guide.
 
On March 19, 2006, Marc Gafni conducted a one day workshop at our place in Salt Lake in front of a group of about 50. At the time we had no idea of his past history and no reason to suspect anything.
In May of 2006, we began to hear of, and read reports of, the events at Bayit Chadash. Soon after, Genpo Roshi, in consultation with Ken Wilber and others, was asked to help resolve the situation there and  had conversations with the parties involved. For a couple of months  thereafter, Genpo Roshi was available to work with Marc Gafni.  However, Genpo Roshi ended the relationship soon afterwards, because it became too time-consuming for him, as he is president of four non-profit organizations, works with thousands of students, and frequently travels North America and Europe as part of his busy teaching schedule.
 
There is no official relationship between Genpo Roshi, Kanzeon Zen Center or Big Mind with Marc Gafni. He's not a teacher or a member here, nor is he studying with Genpo Roshi privately. We do not endorse or support him in any way.
 
We do not know his address or contact information.
peace,
 
Bruce Hogen Lambson, Administrator
Kanzeon Sangha International
Kanzeon Zen Center Utah
Big Mind, Inc.
www.genpo.org


 
Rabbi Marc Gafni & Sexual Improprieties
By Ken Wilber
May 15, 2008
http://integralnhne.ning.com/forum/topics/rabbi-marc-gafni-sexual


Ken Wil
On Tuesday, May 9th, 2006, three women from Bayit Chadash, a spiritual community in Israel headed by Rabbi Marc Gafni, filed complaints of sexual misconduct against Gafni with the police. Upon reviewing relevant testimony, the steering committee of Bayit Chadash decided to remove Marc Gafni from the Bayit Chadash staff. (See below for the formal announcement.)

Subsequently, rumors have been rife. After long conversations with many of the concerned parties, I have come to the following conclusions. At this time, these are my personal opinions, and are open to immediate revision in light of any further evidence. Marc Gafni is a close friend of mine, but in circumstances like this, friendship decidedly takes a backseat to ethics and justice. In my opinion, the viewpoint that takes the most number of perspectives into account is the more likely to be the better moral judgment, with the Basic Moral Intuition the ultimate guide.

These are my conclusions at this time:

1. There is substantial truth to some of these allegations.

2. This has caused something of a feeding frenzy for the mean green meme, which is understandable but I believe inexcusable. Frankly, some of these have reached pathetic portions.

3. Nonetheless, there is some truth to these allegations because of grave wrongdoing on Marc’s part, and I believe this wrongdoing is due not just to bad judgment on Marc’s part, but to a pathology or dysfunction affecting Marc.

4. Marc, in a letter to Bayit Chadash, agreed that some of his actions indeed stemmed from a pathology or, as he termed it, a “sickness.”

5. I do not believe that somebody with an acknowledged emotional illness or sexual pathology is competent to be a public spiritual teacher. Therefore, at this time, Marc will not be involved in public teaching or presentations of any sort at Integral Institute.

6. With Marc’s agreement, I have asked Frances Vaughan to begin a consultation with Marc focused specifically on his dysfunction.

7. I have other suggestions for therapeutic work that I believe would be helpful to Marc, and I believe he is sincere in pursuing them. He will be stopping in Boulder/Denver periodically to consult with me and with Rabbi Zalman as to these directions.

[Correction: Since having written this, I have spoken with Rabbi Zalman. Zalman has decided that it is best neither to meet nor speak with Mordechai until further notice.]

8. I realize that some people doubt Marc's sincerity. This is understandable. My strong recommendation has therefore been to create a board of advisors to oversee Marc’s therapeutic work. I have not specifically talked with individuals about this board, but what I have in mind is something like Frances Vaughan, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone (who is in Boulder), and Diane Hamilton forming a board that would biannually review Marc’s progress, and make specific recommendations at each juncture. This board would have to be composed of individuals completely acceptable to both sides (i.e., to Bayit Chadash and to Marc Gafni).

9. I have stated my conclusion, after reviewing the evidence and as many perspectives as I can, that there is truth to some of these allegations and that this is due in part to Marc’s illness, and that as long as this dysfunction is not addressed, I do not believe that Marc should be teaching. But I want to point out that emotional illness can be treated and in many cases cured. Marc may or may not be sincere, and his therapy may or may not be effective -- but that is exactly the purpose of the therapeutic board: namely, to make that decision, and not to let either of the partial sides do so. I do not know if this solution will work, but to date it is the only rational, compassionate, and fair one that I have heard, and therefore the only one which serves justice.

10. Whatever is decided on that issue, my understanding is that there is no objection to Marc pursuing his writing. We all recognize the brilliance of his contributions in this area. If we are accepting a “levels and lines” argument, then allowing Marc to pursue this line seems reasonable to me, and is something I would certainly recommend.

This is an extraordinary difficult period for all parties concerned. Bayit Chadash has been hurt. Integral Institute has been hurt. Mordechai has been hurt by his own actions. And most of all, the parties directly involved have been hurt.

But I beg all of you -- all of us -- not to inflame the situation further by demanding more pain, more suffering, more agony. Inflicting more pain on Marc will not take away the pain that all of us are already suffering. Let us not have an eye for an eye, but justice and mercy in equal proportions. Please don’t let hatred into your soul, I beg you; that serves nobody, least of all those who offer hatred a home.

My heart goes out to the women involved -- I am so deeply, deeply sad at the pain and turmoil they have suffered; and my heart goes out to the men and women who have been affected by these tragic events. My heart goes out as well to Mordechai, a dear friend whose very bright light has cast a very sharp shadow, and in a way that has inadvertently caused such harm. I do believe, however, that emotional illness can be cured; I believe that reasonable restitution can be made; I believe that forgiveness and compassion are stronger than any evil in this world; and I know that the outreach of our own tender mercies and loving kindness will ultimately carry the day.

Sending all of you much Love, Light, and Life,

Ken


 
Gafni and Wolfson College, Oxford, England
Letter from Wolfson College - June 17, 2008
WOLFSON COLLEGE OXFORD
OX2 6UD
Tel: Direct line: (01865) 274105
General Office Fax: (01865) 274140
Email: general.office@wolfson.ox.ac.uk
 
From the General Office Secretary, Mrs Rina Carvalho
17 June 2008
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
 
The University of Oxford does not compile academic transcripts on the American model, and its students are not graded on a term-by-term basis for each course. Instead, students are examined at the end of their degree programme, and marks are then awarded for each paper taken.
 
Mordechai Gafni 
 
I am pleased to confirm that the above-named person is a full-time graduate member of this College of the University of Oxford. Mr Gafni commenced his studies towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in Oriental Studies in October 2001. He submitted his thesis in October 2006 and satisfied the Examiners, being granted Leave to Supplicate on 2 April 2008.
Thesis Title: Theology of Acosmic Humanism; Mordechai Lainer of Izbica
Final Result                                    PASS 
 
Mr Gafni will have his degree officially conferred at the Degree Ceremony on 12 July 2008.
Rina Carvollio
 
Wolfson College, Oxford
 

CALL TO ACTION:  Rabbi Mordechai Gafni Living in Salt Lake City, Utah
The Awareness Center - July 2, 2008
 
Over the last few years various individuals have been monitoring Rabbi Mordechai Gafni's where abouts. After fleeing Israel, Gafni took a brief respite in Boston, prior to moving to Salt Lake City, UT. We notified law enforcement there, yet because the women in Israel were to afraid to file a police report, it was impossible for the Israeli police to file a red notice with Interpol.
 
The Awareness Center was just informed that Mordechai Gafni is now going under the pseudonym Marc Israel and has married. He is now on his fourth wife. Considering the fact that Marc Gafni (AKA: Marc Israel) has confessed to sexually assaulting a thirteen-year-old girl over twenty years ago, and two years ago confessed to clergy sexual abuse with several Israeli women -- it is nearly impossible to believe he is capable of stopping his sexual predatory behavior. There have also been rumors going around that Gafni is attracted to pre-pubescent boys.
 
We need your help to make sure all women and children in Salt Lake City aware of Gafni's presence. I've been told the picture above is very close to what he looks like today. If anyone has more updated information and or a more recent picture of him, please forward it to The Awareness Center immediately at: VickiPolin@aol.com


Trial by Internet?  An "archetypal spiritual drama"
by Jeff Bell and Greta DeJong
Catalyst Magazine - July 2008
http://www.catalystmagazine.net/specials/community/trial-by-internet-an-archetypal-spiritual-drama.html
 
Marc Gafni could well turn out to be the hero of a spiritual epic—or, at least, a psychosexual whodunit blockbuster.
 
A rabbi and a Biblical scholar with several published books and a recently approved doctoral dissertation from Oxford, Gafni presently lives in Salt Lake City. (He anonymously authored "Spiritually Incorrect," an occasional column that appeared last year in CATALYST.) He came to the new Zion two years ago from Tel Aviv, Israel, where he led a large, vibrant movement of Jews who lived on the alternative edge, beyond the fringes of organized religion. Perhaps too close to that edge, where dangerous things can happen—and for Gafni, they did.
 
Talking with people about Gafni, a certain pattern emerges: Here's a guy you've hung out with, watching TV and knocking back almond crunch, someone who calls up in the middle of the day and talks your head off, someone who has the usual knotty relational history. He's a friend of yours, a normal, somewhat eccentric guy. Then, little by little you realize that there's something kind of, well, saintly about him.
 
Stories about Gafni's actions lean toward the saintly as well: People say they have seen him go out of his way to bring estranged friends together. They've seen him take an entire room full of people through a journey of laughter and tears. They've felt an atmosphere around him so affectionate and wild that it sparks off energy most haven't felt since childhood. They've heard him speaking about God and human responsibility and what it means to take care of others with a wisdom and nuance that makes them search their souls.
 
And even wilder—they know he is the subject of Internet stories that paint him as a guy who "harasses" women, a "sexual predator."
 
Everything you observe and intuit about him says "Really good person." The Internet gossip sites say "Really bad person." Then you get to see hundreds of documents proving the Internet stories run the gamut from distortion to out-and-out lies, reflecting all the most shadowy sides of the blogosphere. It begins to occur to you that something deep is going on here.
 
On the surface, it's a common story: A coalition of women accuse a charismatic spiritual leader of sexual misconduct. The stories sound convincing. It must be true. The leader falls.
 
Examine the evidence in this case, and you see something quite different: Years of recovered email and instant messages from the women involved, some as recent as three weeks before complaints were filed, flatly contradict their own stories. The messages show that every one of the women was quite enthusiastically involved with Gafni on her own initiative. What happened that caused them to band together and file complaints of harassment? And what caused their complaints to do so much damage? Spiritual politics, "victim feminism," Gafni's human complexities, and the Internet.
 
The more you get to know Gafni, the more you suspect he is being put through an epic spiritual test, what we might call the Test of Slander. It's actually part of the biography of countless other teachers whose lives didn't fit the "normal" social pattern and who ended up redefining a spiritual tradition. Gafni's story is still in process. Perhaps 25 years from now it will be told as a saga of purification, trial by fire and, hopefully, ultimate liberation.
 
In the meantime, Gafni—this larger-than-life presence tucked into the compact body of a playful 47-year—old is living more or less anonymously in Salt Lake City.
 
The story we're about to tell has certain all too familiar elements: one more example of how, in the Internet age, false accusations can become as established as fact, and how a gifted teacher with an anti-establishment bent and a bohemian lifestyle can find his private life subjected to what legal scholar Allen Dershowitz called "sexual McCarthyism."
 
Rabbi Gafni—author of seven books, including the best-selling "Soul Prints," and a popular lecturer and workshop leader—was founder of Bayit Hadash, an alternative spiritual movement in Israel. The organization held retreats, classes and massive services, often gathering hundreds of enthusiasts for Gafni's celebratory Sabbath services, which included music, chanting and dancing. His lectures and classes on Jewish texts, and on the interface between spirituality, ethics, sexuality and what Western moral philosophers have called "the good life," were not only widely attended, but had brought thousands of disaffected young Jews back into conversation with their tradition.
 
"Rabbi Gafni was doing something that had not been done in modern Israel," says Dr. Gabriel Cousens, who attended his teachings in Israel. "He was presenting the traditional Jewish teachings in a way that revealed not only the mystical experience embedded in the tradition, but also offered a powerful experience of ecstasy and community. Most importantly, however, he was the first modern Jewish teacher I met who taught that Judaism was at its core a path to liberation."
 
Born in Massachusetts in 1960, educated in a yeshiva (a Jewish religious high school), Gafni began teaching in the Orthodox community around New York City. From his early days as an apprentice rabbi and youth group leader, Gafni had a gift for bringing together the spiritual with the secular, working with people who wouldn't normally talk to each other, and creating communities. He was known as a passionately committed teacher. He spent time as a rabbi in Florida, tripling the size of a young congregation. Then he moved with his second wife and two children to Israel, where he was rabbi in a settlement on the border of the West Bank. In the '90s, he emerged as a popular public teacher in Jerusalem and then in Tel Aviv, writing books, lecturing to packed houses, and appearing at conferences and spiritual venues in the United States and Europe.
 
Gafni hosted a weekly hour-long national TV show in Israel for several years. In the U.S., he led crowded workshops on the alternative Jewish and spiritual scene. He taught around the world, including appearances at important synagogues and the Harvard Negotiation Project. When terrorists blew up school buses in Israel, he presented a series of spots on national television urging people to hold on to their humanity in the face of horror. He has recorded dialogues with the Dalai Lama, Byron Katie, Ken Wilber and other spiritual and philosophical leaders. "Soul Prints" was a best-seller in this country, won the prestigious NAPRA Nautilus award as the best spirituality book of 2001 and was made into a PBS special.
 
And in a conservative society, he supported gay rights and the ordination of women. His teaching pointed out the presence of a hidden goddess element in the Jewish religion, and called for the re-emergence of the feminine in spirituality.
 
A career like this tends to arouse envy—even, or perhaps especially, in spiritual communities. "People would complain that Gafni took up too much space," says Gershon Winkler, himself an important Jewish teacher and author of many books, including "The Magic of the Ordinary." "After he fell, one guy told me that he was actually relieved, because some of Gafni's people now came to him." There appears to have been a cadre of colleagues, older teachers and even a few students who wanted him out of the way.
 
Gafni's main vulnerability was his counter-cultural and often bohemian lifestyle. Throughout his career, Gafni had several love affairs outside of marriage. "I tried to push the boundaries of what was possible. I experimented," Gafni admits. "I sometimes chose a moment of love over other loyalties. Sometimes I was right, sometimes dead wrong. Where I was wrong, I've tried to ask forgiveness."
During the period following his divorce from his third wife, his lovers included a few women who had worked with him in his community, taught with him, or served on the board of his organization. "I was working literally 24/7, teaching and traveling around the clock," he says. "It seemed natural to be involved with people who were part of my circle. At the time, in my hubris, disguised even from myself, it felt to me that there wasn't a moment free for anything like normal dating or personal life."
He says he kept these relationships private, not because they seemed inappropriate or "wrong," but because, like many people in his position, he preferred not to have his personal life the subject of gossip or attack.
 
One lover wrote after their relationship was over: "It's easy to love you and it has been beautiful to discover you, to feel you, to explore you." And added, "I'm grateful that we touched each other on this path." She then thanked him for being in "full intention and clarity" in their relationship and honoring her "sacred autonomy."
 
This woman would later file a complaint on the advice of a lawyer, saying that Gafni had promised to marry her to gain sexual relations—--a felony in Israel, where they lived. This claim, and the claim that Gafni somehow manipulated her, is refuted by both the tone and content of literally hundreds of her emails to him.
 
In 2005, Ha'Aretz, the leading Israeli newspaper, ran a glowing article on Gafni's work, stressing his belief that the feminine godhead and the softer, more erotic aspects of spirituality need to be restored to contemporary Judaism. The article was widely quoted, causing an incendiary reaction among rabbis in the Orthodox community. Traditionalists who felt threatened by his influence and provocative personal style objected to his stress on the goddess in Judaism, and some of Gafni's former teachers and colleagues denounced him for promoting "pagan Judaism." The Wikipedia entry on Gafni credits him—or accuses, it depends on how you read it—with leading the movement to bring eros back into Judaism.
 
At about that time, and some say as a direct result of the Ha'Aretz spread, a rabbi who had clashed with Gafni in his youth gave a story about him to the proprietor of a website devoted to outing Jewish clerics alleged to be sexual predators. The site collects rumors, innuendos and complaints about rabbis, some of whom are undoubtedly people who indeed abused their position. But the site is also known for its maliciousness, venomous language, and for mixing fact with outright fiction.
The site's proprietor is Vicki Polin, who in 1989, under the name Rachel, presented herself on national daytime television as the survivor of a Jewish satanic cult which sacrificed babies. She claims to have sacrificed—that is, murdered—at least one baby herself. She considers it her mission in life to report those whom she calls "Jewish abusers." Ironically, the site so evokes the energy of anti-Semitic hate sites that several such hate sites link to hers.
 
In Gafni's case, the stories described two relationships, one when Gafni was 19, the other a one-time encounter when he was 24. Gafni insists neither involved more then petting, and that both were mutually engaged. Couched in the hate-speech style that has become so familiar in the blogosphere, the stories called Gafni a "known predator" who had "molested young women" and included purportedly first-person interviews with both of these women by Luke Ford, a former pornographer and a gossip columnist for the porn industry. Gafni's version of these events is supported by two polygraph tests administered by Dr. Gordon Barland, one of the world's leading experts in the field.
The stories on the website make no attempt to distinguish fact from rumor, distorted memory, or skewed interpretation of events. Polin and Ford painted a teenage romance between 19-year-old Gafni and his 14-year-old girlfriend as "child molestation," and among other things, accused him of changing his name to avoid his past. (In fact, Gafni had followed the common custom of hebraicizing his name when he moved to Israel, and always referred to his family name in his books and other publications.) All of this forms the complex background for what happened next.
 
On an evening in May 2006, Gafni landed in Tel Aviv after a 10-hour flight returning from a teaching trip to the United States. He expected to be met at the plane by his girlfriend.
 
As his plane touched down, he dialed the number of his program director to discuss logistics of a workshop scheduled for the next day. Instead he heard an unidentified feminine voice screeching, "You are finished! Go to [a certain lawyer's office in Tel Aviv] at midnight, or go to jail." Gafni thought he had the wrong number. He called again. The same message. He began to tremble as he realized that something terrible was going on. Over the next several hours, he began to piece things together. A former personal assistant, who had been threatening the organization with legal action over back pay, and who over the previous year had sent him dozens of abusive emails, had gotten together with another woman to discuss Gafni. They discovered that Gafni had been intimately involved with both of them. We can't know what exactly motivated them from there. We do know what they did: They went to the Tel Aviv police and filed a complaint.
 
Sexual harassment laws have given women much-needed legal protection and gone a long way to support civil treatment of women everywhere. But when a woman tells the story of a sexual encounter and claims harassment, the man—guilty or innocent—will likely be in deep trouble if he does not have physical proof to the contrary. The woman doesn't even have to seek legal redress—the complaint alone can sometimes be enough to get a professor or executive reprimanded or even fired. To complicate matters for the man, in Israel, unlike anywhere else, sexual harassment is a criminal offense.
 
The women told the police that Gafni had, in one case, used his authority as an employer, and in the other, promised marriage to persuade her to have sex with him. They convinced other women, whom they discovered had been involved with Gafni over the years, to sign their affadavit. In fact, none of the women had been either employees or students of Gafni at the time the relationships began.
 
By the time Gafni arrived in Israel that night, the women had convinced his co-teacher, as well as key members of his staff, that they needed protection, and cited others as possible victims. Members of the community were prevented from speaking to Gafni by the women, who claimed that he was a danger to the community.
 
Gafni says no one asked for his side of the story or checked any facts with him. "It was like a weird dream. I had never sexually harassed anyone. I had proof. I went to my computer for the emails I'd exchanged with these women—there were tons of them."
 
To his shock, a key batch of relevant emails and other correspondence between himself and one of the complainants—his former assistant—were gone. They had been erased from his computer.
Worse than a weird dream, it was now a nightmare. He had no way of refuting the complaints. By this time, the story had been leaked to the Jewish press. Though many people in his community felt that Gafni was being railroaded, hysteria prevailed. Without consulting Rabbi Gafni, without cross-questioning the complainants or checking into their motives, a chain reaction was set in motion which resulted in the dissolution of Gafni's movement. Several newspapers published sensational articles chronicling Gafni's "downfall." One reported (falsely) that he had been accused of rape. Another (again, falsely) claimed that he had made promises to marry five women. Within a few days, Gafni's teaching work and the organization to which he had dedicated his life had been discredited and destroyed.
 
A group of Salt Lake attorneys helped Gafni recover the deleted data from his computer and then carefully review his correspondence with the women. "There is not a credible basis for legal action against [Gafni]," writes attorney Fredrick Thaler of Ray, Quinney Nebeker, a Salt Lake law firm, in a letter posted on Gafni's website. "The complaints have no merit," writes Charlotte Miller, who also served as Gafni's legal council.
 
However, like the many commentators who assumed that the accusations against the Duke lacrosse team were true, people moved to distance themselves from him immediately.
 
According to feminist writers such as Dafna Pattai, Cathy Young, Laura Kipnis and Bell Hooks, the key reason for this distancing is fear. In a culture where truth is less important than perception, people are afraid to be associated with someone accused of sexual misconduct, even when they know the accusations are untrue. Associates fear liability, or being perceived as not protecting the ostensible victims—two consequences of defending the accused in a culture that assumes that women or groups of women always tell the truth about sexual harassment.
 
This belief persists despite data to the contrary, including the recent collapse of the case against the Duke lacrosse players, not to mention the historic experience of black men lynched because a white woman interpreted a casual glance as sexual harassment.
 
Feminist writers such as Laura Kipnis and Cristina Hoff Summers have written extensively to expose this kind of "victim feminism": a stance which assumes that in situations of this sort, the woman is always a helpless victim of male desire.
 
"His best friends basically left him for dead," says Gershon Winkler.
 
Gafni felt he had no choice but to return to the United States to think through what he should do. In the pain and sorrow of those first few days, he decided that as the creator of the organization which had turned on him, he should take on himself responsibility for the dysfunctions that had led to the situation. He wrote a public letter claiming all spiritual responsibility for what had happened. Accepting the advice of a friend and mentor, he took personal responsibility for the "sickness" behind what had happened and volunteered to seek treatment. This seemed, at the time of trauma and confusion, to be the only way to defuse the growing frenzy. Without the missing emails, he had no proof of his innocence, and at that time he had no idea the disappeared computer files would be restored.
 
Gafni refused any interviews and for the next two years maintained public silence, allowing the stories that were circulating to stand as "truth." In the meantime, he began an intensive formal process of self-examination and inner work.
 
It was about this time that Gafni came to Salt Lake City at the invitation of a friend and teaching colleague, mediator and Zen teacher Diane Hamilton and her husband, former Utah chief justice Michael Zimmerman. Gafni was living quietly in a small home in Sugar House. Soon after we met, he told us about a pivotal event that had shown him both the depths of his fall, and the painful but spiritually profound path to turning the pain into compassion.
 
He had gone several times to Sabbath dinners at the house of a local family, mainly for the sake of experiencing community. One night, the host took him aside. "One of our guests read the Internet and says she can't sit at the table with you. I know it's not true, but she thinks you are a child molester," he told Gafni. "I have to ask you to leave and not come back. I'm sorry. There is nothing I can do."
 
Gafni realized that he—who just six months before would have been an honored guest at such a gathering—was in essence a pariah. "I was stunned at first to realize that people were looking at me through the lens of a hate site, and couldn't see who I am," he said. "That night, I was up all night, meditating about it, awash in agonized tears. Suddenly, in the midst of my grief, this profound feeling of joy came over me. In Hebrew wisdom, we speak of how the divine feminine, the Shekhinah, has been exiled by God, and lives as hidden sparks inside human souls. I realized that I was participating in the pain of the exiled Shekhinah, the sorrow of the divine feminine thrown out of the kingdom. I, like her, was wrongly exiled and sat in dust and ashes. We were together. As I realized this, my heart became so ecstatic that I began to dance.
 
"Then I remembered the hidden teaching about the old Hassidic masters. These famous rabbis would sometimes discard their robes and wander as beggars through the villages of Western Europe, knocking on the doors of wealthy devotees. Invariably, they would be thrown out by people who, if they had seen them in full regalia, would have honored them.
 
"It all fit together for me then.
 
"I had spent my life seeking after the goddess, trying to return the feminine to her place...and that in some extreme sense the Shekhinah was testing my love, and she had hurt me because in some sense I hadn't seen something about her. These relationships had hurt women I loved. Even while she was hurting me, she was embracing me. And I was here on the back roads of Utah to discover something about the divine feminine so that I might speak of her in new ways. I danced in real ecstasy for hours on end."
 
Gafni later shared the incident with his friend, Brother David Stendl-Rast, who was reminded of an anecdote about Saint Francis: A disciple once asked, "What would be for you the most perfect joy?" Francis replied that for him, perfect joy would be to seek shelter in a house, be rejected and thrown out, and left to lie in the mud with the dogs.
 
Gafni says this teaching, which might have seemed wildly extreme and weird to him previously, actually described the profound spiritual opportunity that he had begun to see in this moment of his life. So along with examining his part in what he called the "contribution system" that had created this situation, and the qualities in himself that needed to change, Gafni also began a powerful inner journey into the subtleties of the masculine-feminine relationship.
 
"Sexuality creates wounds—sometimes mortal ones," he writes in an unpublished essay called "The Wounds of Love." "But if we learn to live wide open even as we are hurt by love, then the divine wakes up to its own true nature. To be firm in your knowing of love, even when you are desperate, and to be strong in your heart of forgiveness even when you are betrayed, this is what it means to be holy."
 
Along with his inner work, Gafni began collecting documentary evidence to prove the falsity of the claims against him. He took polygraph tests with internationally recognized polygraph expert Gordon Barland which fully supported his assertion that the relationships with these women had been mutual, and had not resulted from any deception or inappropriate deployment of power on Gafni's part.
He underwent an extensive psychological evaluation with three independent evaluators. Their conclusions and his own were summarized by by Paul J. Goodberg, M.A.: "I am convinced that Rabbi Gafni never abusively hurt or exploited anyone. He is completely reputable."
 
Ray, Quinney Nebeker turned his computer over to PeakSpan, LLC, a Salt Lake data recovery firm, which recovered valuable information and proved data had been intentionally removed.
 
"Of course, I regret with all my heart that anyone experienced hurt through their relationship with me. And, remember what Bono sings? `We hurt each other and we do it again.' The key is what we do with our hurt," Gafni says. "But what I most deeply regret is that I allowed myself to jeopardize the work we were doing by engaging in these relationships. I believed that what we were doing was sharing love, and that therefore there was nothing ethically, and certainly not legally, wrong. I still believe that. But I also recognize that a spiritual teacher has to hold strong boundaries around his personal life. Even mutual relationships with powerful and autonomous women are a problem for a public teacher. Moreover, in retrospect, our relationship did not serve the highest growth of these women; it endangered our movement and let down my supporters, friends and partners. In that sense—although I was unconscious of it at the time—they were unethical relationships and I regret that deeply."
 
But even by Israel's strict standard, in no way did he break the law.
 
Gafni has contracts for several new books and is beginning to teach again. He has been invited to create and host a documentary movie that uses the frame of his story to look into contemporary sexual and spiritual politics, and how rumor, innuendo and hysteria can destroy a life. And to show how a life can be rebuilt in love without bitterness. Most of all, he seems committed to helping foster a social justice movement that works to end genocide, human trafficking and sexual slavery in the world. Gafni seems determined not to attack his accusers, unless they leave him with no choice, but rather to facilitate healing.
 
"It is the challenge of the spiritual practitioner," says Diane Musho Hamilton, "and especially that of a teacher, to become intimate with the processes of life and death, of destruction and of transformation. In this way, everything that arises, whether it appears as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unjust, is regarded as the path. To walk it requires great fearlessness, an abundance of compassion, a willingness to accept blame, and the offering of forgiveness."
 
Sally Kempton, a former journalist, leading spiritual teacher and second wave feminist was asked what good might come from this story. She responded, "Marc has gone through a deep evolution. He will be an even deeper, better teacher in the second half of his life than he was in the first. The question is, can the people involved move from victimhood to power and responsibility? If they can, then Marc, the women, and all the shadowy players behind the scenes, will offer us great hope for healing in our world."
 
The third act of this drama has yet to be written. Can this spiritual teacher come back from the dead? The answer is most likely "yes," due to Gafni's unflagging persistence. Did the obloquy and ignominy of the last two years break his spirit? No, though it has left some scars. Yet, throughout the whole of this nightmare, in circumstances that could easily, and forgivably, break the spirit of nearly any other person, Gafni has managed to hold onto his chronic optimism and genuine love for humanity.
Jeff Bell is a writer, part-time indie filmmaker, musician, wonk and political consultant. He is the former Democratic National Committee communications director for Utah and former president of the Children's Justice Corps. Greta deJong is editor and publisher of CATALYST. For more about Marc Gafni, visit www.marcgafni.com


 
Sidebar to this article.
On the 'net: Lies Live Forever
by Jeff Bell
Catalist Magazine - July, 2008
http://www.catalystmagazine.net/specials/community/trial-by-internet-an-archetypal-spiritual-drama.html
 
ex-rabbi Mordechai Gafni in Israel (Marc Gafni)
The nexus of the Gafni story would appear to be women falsely claiming victim status, bent on exacting some form of retribution which, in their view, matched the suffering at having not obtained exclusivity to Gafni and his affections. That is the center and the catalyst of Gafni's current nightmare. But it is, by no means, the whole of the problem.
 
Without the women who filed complaints against Marc Gafni, there would certainly be no story, at least not a story of this depth and magnitude. But without the Internet, and a few "move ahead at any cost" bloggers, the story would have faded away.
 
What has both haunted and hunted Gafni is the relative ease at which rumors and lies have been mixed with more accurate information to paint a picture of Gafni as evil and predatory. Blogs index on the search engines far faster than then traditional websites do. Repeat a phrase or a name, over and over again, link it to other blogs, stories and other articles, and it jumps to the top of the search results in a short amount of time.
 
Take a moment and think about search engine results. The majority of Internet users look no deeper than the first couple of pages of their search results. Top searches have a false weight of authority that can easily lead a reader to unconsciously lend credibility where none should exist.
 
The strange union of self-proclaimed advocate for The Awareness Center, Vicki Polin, and porn industry gossip blogger Luke Ford and their mutual effort to assail the reputation of Rabbi Gafni, and to continue those attacks despite the lack of anything new to write about, is bizarre at best and nefarious at worst.
 
A vocal member of the Memory Recovery Movement, which ruined thousands of lives in the 1980s, Vicki Polin has wrapped a skein of respectability around herself that, when viewed through the prism of her attacks on Gafni, seems patently false and hypocritical.
 
Polin maintains that she is the child of Satanic Jews who raped her on a regular basis and made her eat her own babies. She now claims to be a victim's advocate; but her advocacy seems to have taken all the aspects of vigilante misanthrope, and the power of the blog is her weapon. Polin has a singular focus to not only expose, but to destroy the life and reputation of whatever person that falls into her sights, regardless of facts. Any Google search on her name serves up a fairly even return of Polin's attacks on rabbinical leaders, and pages written by victims of Polin's tactics.
 
ex-rabbi Marc Gafni and Blogger, Luke Ford (2008)
Luke Ford has made a living as one of the world's foremost porn industry gossip columnists and, over the years, has owned and operated several different sites full of lewd pictures, stories and first person familiarity with the adult film industry. Ford also has an alter ego in which he calls himself "Luke Ford: your moral leader," and represents himself as a beacon of decency and Jewish activism.
 
Somehow, Ford and Polin have become compatriots and often work together in boosting their ratings. The cross-indexing between these two and their blogs has, most especially in the area of posts about Gafni and other Jewish leaders, helped push them further and further upward until, for the last two years, they've had ownership of the first page of most engines when their targets' names were searched.
 
What emerges on the Internet is a false image, based on rumor, presented as fact; all in opposition of the axiom "innocent until proven guilty."
 
What makes Gafni's story so interesting to me is not so much that, with hundreds of pages of evidence that exonerate him from these false allegations, he can clear his name in a fair-minded setting, but, on the Internet, it will take him years of exhaustive effort and money to balance his innocence against the two-year head start of those who claim he's guilty.
 
Despite the potential to harm, blogging is the quintessential and idyllic evolution of American and international freedom of expression. The growing influence of blogs and bloggers over the last handful of years speaks volumes about dissatisfaction with the media and generic culture. There also seems to be a need, sometimes nearing addiction, for mass distribution of self-expression held by these exhibitionists of the written word. The acceptance as "meaningful" granted to them by their own ever-expanding membership roster fuels the rapid growth of this amateur medium.
 
I wrote my first blog post in 1996; long before, in time measured by Internet standards, the word "weblog" or "blog" was universally known and accepted into the mainstream lexicon. At the time, some were calling the very public self-publishing of one's own opinions, criticisms, thoughts and life stories to the Internet a "vanity page," an "online journal."
 
My early posts were mostly lengthy, often ranting missives about politics with a lot of time, effort and kilobytes dumped into the 1996 Presidential race. It wasn't long before I received calls, during political primary season, from two different Republican campaigns asking who I was, who I worked for and what my website was about. They didn't like my analysis and they wanted me to stop.
These two different campaign representatives could not wrap their heads around the idea that I was just a guy, sitting in his Denver basement, self-publishing his opinions and analysis on the field of Republican candidates fighting for the GOP nomination. While the number of readers I had at the time would be laughable by today's standards, in 1996 it was enough to garner the attention of two presidential nomination campaigns.
 
There is power in the written word and that power is intensified when any person, from any background, can release those words, unfettered and unregulated, into the world for anyone to digest.
Telling the truth, no matter how partisan your opinion, is an awesome responsibility, if you choose to view it that way. As the community of bloggers and online journalists continues to grow, so, too, do the numbers of the nefarious, the deluded and the predatory. For every handful of personal, political, entertainment or technology blogs online, whatever their motivation may be, there are always some who use their writing for some form of gain at the expense of others. That would appear to be the case regarding Gafni.
 
Reputation has always been a fragile thing, but the future of reputation is uncertain. Blogs have emerged as a quick, cheap and anonymous means of mass communication that can be used to further an agenda, talk about politics, share pictures of your family picnic or a weapon to destroy someone else's life. Things on the Internet never go away. Once you've been dragged through the mud, no matter how innocent you may be, somewhere, on the Internet, you're guilty forever.
 
Jeff Bell is the author of JMBell.org, one of the highest rated political blogs in Utah.
 

 
Serial Sex Abuser Rabbi Mordechai Gafni Returns, Denies Guilt
By Shmyra Rosenberg, Failed Messiah (Blogger)
July 20, 2008
http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2008/07/hes-back-serial.html
 
Mordechai Gafni (Marc Gafni) in Israel
The man has a 30 year track record of seducing and manipulating women he counseled and taught. At least one of those women was very much underage.
 
He ran through a series of defenders in the Orthodox community until there were no more left.
 
Then. . .
 
. . . Gafni admitted his wrongdoing, claimed to be withdrawing from public Jewish life to get counseling, and disappeared.
 
Now, two years later he has resurfaced in Salt Lake City. He's playing the victim, claims to have been set up and railroaded, and he has a whole new set of defenders – many of them non-Jews. The defense rests primarily on what his defenders call consensual sexual affairs with women he taught and counseled during the last years of his career and on a bizarre conspiracy theory that only holds together, to the little extent that it does, if you believe Gafni's personal account of events and take his paid consultants' word as truth.
 
What these defenders do not deal with is the long, clear record of abuse, manipulation, lies and deceit carried out by Gafni over his entire career.
 
Hanging out with shamans and practitioners of the "magik arts," Gafni has again found a group of people naive enough to believe his lies.
 
Catalyst Magazine, a Salt Lake City-based new age publication, has a laughable "exoneration" of Gafni in its July issue that focuses on the personalities of The Awareness Center's Vicki Polin and blogger Luke Ford.
 
No accuser of Gafni is spoken to. No victim is contacted. Indeed, no one critical of Gafni is quoted and exposé's on Gafni abuse – like Ma'ariv's and the New York Jewish Week – are ignored. In the business, this is what is known as a love letter, a piece that your very own PR person could have written.
 
Perhaps that is because for the past year, Gafni has been a columnist for Catalyst Magazine, writing under a pseudonym but with his true identity known to the editors. That Catalyst would allow someone like Gafni to write anonymously speaks to the magazine's lack of credibility and ethics.
 
Two examples:
1. Catalyst claims that Gafni passed lie detector tests administered by Gordon Barland. But Catalyst does not quote Barland or tell us what questions were asked.
 
2. Catalyst also claims "even by Israel's strict standard, in no way did [Gafni] break the law." This is false. Gafni fled Israel as soon as the story about his clergy abuse broke. Israel rarely indicts non-violent criminals who have already fled the country. If Gafni tried to return to Israel, the legal process will restart.
 
Here is Gafni's explanation of his latest actions as quoted by Catalyst, notable for its disingenuousness:
 
"Of course, I regret with all my heart that anyone experienced hurt through their relationship with me. And, remember what Bono sings? `We hurt each other and we do it again.' The key is what we do with our hurt," Gafni says. "But what I most deeply regret is that I allowed myself to jeopardize the work we were doing by engaging in these relationships. I believed that what we were doing was sharing love, and that therefore there was nothing ethically, and certainly not legally, wrong. I still believe that. But I also recognize that a spiritual teacher has to hold strong boundaries around his personal life. Even mutual relationships with powerful and autonomous women are a problem for a public teacher. Moreover, in retrospect, our relationship did not serve the highest growth of these women; it endangered our movement and let down my supporters, friends and partners. In that sense—although I was unconscious of it at the time—they were unethical relationships and I regret that deeply."
 
That's right. An Orthodox-ordained rabbi sleeping with multiple women (sometimes at the same time, each without the other's knowledge) he counsels and teaches views his actions as "sharing love" and sees "nothing ethically, and certainly not legally, wrong." All he sees is the damage the exposure of these "love-sharing" episodes had on his income and power. Like most abusers, it is all about me. It is never, ever about the people he hurt and the lives he ruined.
 
I met Mordechai Gafni on Purim in Jerusalem in 1994 or 1995. As I wrote previously, my reaction – which was shared by the Chabad rabbi whose home we were in, and by all the others present – was that Gafni was a con man and a fraud.
 
None of us knew then about Gafni's history of abuse. But his fundamental dishonesty was strikingly clear.


Luke Ford Interviews Rabbi Mordechai Gafni
By Luke Ford
Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence Speak Out - July 3, 2008
Click here tofor interview

 

Sex Abuser Mordechai Gafni is Back
by Danya
Jew School (Blog) - Friday, July 4th, 2008
http://jewschool.com/2008/07/04/13779/sex-abuser-mordechai-gafni-is-back/#comments

Remember Mordechai/Marc Gafni? He was the guy who fled Israel two years ago to avoid charges of sexual misconduct and possibly rape after he was–once again–found to be using his charismatic rebbe-hood to exploit his female students and followers. It's a pattern that had been going on for some time, with some of his past victims decidedly underage at the time of the abuse. (He was famously quoted in the NY Jewish Week as saying, in response to one woman's claims that he had "repeatedly and forcibly sexually assaulted" her that "she was 14 going on 35...") (The NY Post has some graphic accounts of abuse by some of his victims; Reb Zalman revoked his smicha; Gafni, when the story broke, wrote a letter to Aleph pleading mea culpa and referring to himself as sick–just as he was sneaking to the States and disappearing.)
 
Well, he's back, like a bad penny–this time in Salt Lake City. Failed Messiah reports that he's now in bed with a new age magazine called Catalyst, which has come to his defense. Evidently he's been writing for them for a while under a pseudonym, and now Catalyst is coming out in support of Gafni, painting him as the victim of "sexual McCarthyism"; Gafni, for his part, is now denying his guilt with a bunch of New Age pablum:
 
"Sexuality creates wounds...but if we learn to live wide open even as we are hurt by love, the divine wakes up its own true nature...I believed that what we were doing was sharing love, and that therefore there was nothing ethically, and certainly not legally, wrong. I still believe that."
 
According to the Catalyst article, he's started to teach and has a couple of book contracts going (and, according to other sources, may be operating under the name "Marc Israel.") He's clearly positioning himself for another rise to guru-hood, and there's no reason to believe that he won't continue his pattern of exploitation and abuse. He must be stopped.
 
ETA: It looks like Gafni himself (or one of his supporters) wrote his Wikipedia page, and so, needless to say, it's in need of some correcting–it's nauseatingly sympathetic, and notably absent of links to news sources explaining the "allegations of impropriety" against him. Anyone want to have a crack at it?


Rabbi Arthur Waskow on the Case of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni
Jewschool Blog - July 7, 2008
http://jewschool.com/2008/07/04/13779/sex-abuser-mordechai-gafni-is-back/#comments
 
Dear chevra,
 
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
The greatest damage in the present situation has been created by two public letters from Gershon Winkler. Winkler has done some good intellectual work in the past, especially on minority views concerning sexuality in Jewish law and practice (e..g the non-marital, egalitarian possibilities of the pilegesh relationship). But in this case I think his writing is profoundly slanderous – in the way he attacks women for telling the truth about their relationships with Marc Gafni and attacks "leaders of Jewish renewal" for taking these women seriously.
 
It would take a close examination of the history to disentangle the origins of Winkler's decision not only to leap to Gafni's defense but to traduce those who spoke out about Gafni's abusiveness, from Winkler's previous intellectual work and from his own life-path in the world. But now his attacks must stand on their own, as an action separate from the other strands. Whether Winkler's attacks are so deeply slanderous, what the tradition calls rechilut, as to constitute behavior so unethical as to make Winkler not acceptable as a teacher, must be for those to decide who have treated him as a teacher in the past.
 
I had originally restricted my comments on these matters to a listserve on which Winkler's second message appeared, because I did not want his slanderous remarks to be given even wider currency in the process of refuting them. But the matter has now become widespread enough that I think I need to address it more publicly.
 
These are the offensive aspects of Winkler's messages:
 
1. As Winkler's own words in his second letter make clear, it was after being challenged by his own readers and students that he issued a "clarification." But his "clarification" was only a restatement of his attacks on the women who accused Gafni and on those leaders of Jewish renewal who took them seriously, studied the accusations, and decided to bar Gafni from teaching in Jewish-renewal milieux. The "clarification" was different only in that Winkler did not repeat the extraordinarily offensive words "slander" and "malignant" from his first letter. What he should have issued was a profound and abject apology for his slanderous accusations in the first letter. It is offensive that he did not.
 
2. Winkler says, "Unlike most, I did not jump to conclusions and blindly accept as absolute truth the accusations launched against him in the press and on the internet."
 
This is hazerei and balderdash, not to use the stronger Anglo-Saxon that would be accurate. It is not merely the expression of a different assessment of the facts, but a slanderous attack on the method and behavior of the Jewish-renewal leaders who took action concerning Gafni's violation of all ethical standards of behavior of teachers toward students and bosses toward employees.
 
The boards of Gafni's own organization, Bayit Chadash, of ALEPH, and of Elat Chayyim (and I as editor of The Shalom Report) did not "jump to conclusions ... blindly .." but in fact met with several of the women who charged Gafni with sexual abuse. The board of Bayit Chadash was created and named by Gafni, and had every reason to want to trust and support him until they heard directly from the lips of the women what he had done to them. They looked and listened, with open ears and eyes. All of them made their decisions to bar Gafni from teaching not in schadenfreude (rejoicing at the misfortune of others) but with great sadness and reluctance.
 
3. In fact, Winkler himself has never met with the women and himself has simply accepted Gafni's version of the events and Gafni's "reconstruction" of the "documentation" on which he depends. If anyone has blindly leaped to conclusions, it is Winkler himself. Indeed, Winkler asserts that he "reached out" to Gafni as soon as the accusations became public. If he had been interested in seeking the truth rather than leaping to defend Gafni, why did he not also "reach out" to the women who charged Gafni with sexual abuse?
 
*** 4. The central issue is that Winkler claims that the sexual relationships Gafni had with his students and employees were "consensual." This ignores the clear definition of ethics by ALEPH , Ohalah, Elat Chayyim, The Shalom Center, and other religious and spiritual organizations, Jewish and otherwise, that — given the great power imbalance between a teacher or spiritual leader or boss and his/her students, followers, or employees — true consent to sex is all but impossible as long as the dominant-receptive relationship continues. The rules under which teachers agree to work, including those applied to and known by Gafni, forbid such relationships for that reason.
 
5. Winkler's assertion that the behavior of the women is a kind of coward's feminism that defines women as victims whereas he celebrates a kind of brave feminism that celebrates the strength of women ignores and perverts what happened. These women ceased to be victims, became strong women, precisely by telling the truth of their experience.
 
6. Winkler resorts to the explanation that these events reflect an archetypal tale of the creative, transformative teacher being brought low by false accusations that mistake his charisma for abuse. Perhaps there have been some such false criticisms. But in the overwhelming number of such accusations, the charges have been accurate. The "archetypal" tale of the charismatic leader who becomes addicted and besotted by his own power into becoming a sexual abuser is far more prevalent in real life. The issue is not one "tale" against another, but the facts in each case.
 
7. Winkler's assertion that Gafni was noble and forgiving in refusing to sue the women for the slander he alleges they committed against him and in fleeing Israel posthaste instead of facing the criminal charges filed against him are made nonsense by the fact that Gafni has now attacked the women through interviews with Catalyst magazine and by posting Winkler's own charges on his website. Winkler became Gafni's mouthpiece for saying what Gafni wanted to say, and Gafni then justified himself by quoting Winkler. This is a second stage of Gafni's abuse of these women, abetted by Winkler.
 
I can imagine posts from Winkler in which he might have said that he had examined various pieces of evidence and, even taking into account that he had not met with the women who claimed abuse and even taking into account the definition of sexual ethics required of teachers by Bayit Chadash, ALEPH, and Elat Chayyim concerning power imbalances between teachers and students, bosses and employees, that nevertheless he has doubts about the decisions made two years ago and that while respecting the efforts of those who decided then, he thinks they may have been incorrect. That might have been a responsible and even perhaps valuable contribution to the renewal of Judaism, worthy of further discussion.
 
What he did was not.
 
Shalom, Rabbi Arthur Waskow
—Rabbi Arthur Waskow · July 7th, 2008 at 7:16 am


Rabbi Gershon Winkler with Gafni follower - Rabbi Ezra Ohad
 



Mordechai Gafni is Back
Gary Rosenblatt, Editor and Publisher
Jewish Week (Blog) - July 8, 2008
http://blog.thejewishweek.com/post/Gafni_is_Back.html
 
The last time Mordechai Gafni was in the news was two years ago, when the charismatic and controversial rabbi accused of sexual misconduct here and in Israel was dismissed as the rebbe of Bayit Chadash, a spiritual renewal community in Tel Aviv.
 
Faced with sexual abuse complaints filed with the police in Israel by several women who were former students or employees of Bayit Chadash, Gafni came to the U.S., issued a public statement apologizing to those he had hurt, said he was "sick" and needed treatment, and disappeared.
 
This was the conclusion of the column I wrote then (June 9, 2006): "In the past, when Gafni said he had made mistakes in his life but that he had done teshuva, some were ready to believe him; others were not. At some point in the future he is sure to reappear, eager to resume his role of spiritual guide and teacher, insisting he has gone through therapy and is cured.
"Will we believe him then?"
 
Well, Gafni has resurfaced in Salt Lake City, Utah and is insisting that he, not his female accusers, was the victim of the events of two years ago. He has an extensive web site (www.marcgafni.com), which includes not only his teachings and writings on kabbalah and spirituality, but an aggressive defense of his previous actions, complete with a report on the results of a polygraph test he took and which he claims clears him of abuse.
 
The test indicates that Gafni was engaged in mutual and consensual relationships with the women, he says.

 (Gafni, formerly known as Mordechai Winiarz, was ordained by Shlomo Riskin, an Orthodox rabbi, but later evolved into a spiritual guru who wrote and lectured on incorporating Eros into Judaism. At 47, he has been married and divorced three times, and surrounded by accusations of sexual misbehavior his entire adult life.)
 
Gafni appears to have been embraced by a New Age spiritual community (not Jewish) in Salt Lake City, as evidenced by a lengthy and sympathetic profile in Catalyst, a local magazine focused on "the world's ecological, social and spiritual crises," and to which he has contributed a column called "Spiritually Incorrect."
 
The profile, written by editor and publisher Greta deJong, portrays him as having saintly qualities but hounded by accusers — as often happens with "charismatic spiritual leaders," she notes.
Gafni now says that he wrote his public apology for his behavior two years ago under stress, and that the women accusers banded together to destroy his career. He also argues that his chief critics are bloggers who are irresponsible and untrue in their accusations.
 
On his web site, where he describes himself as "a cutting edge spiritual teacher, author, television personality, mediator, corporate consultant, iconoclast and gentle provocateur," as well as a "Heart Servant," he writes that his primary motto is "Do No Harm."
 
He has done plenty, though, based on interviews I have had with those once close to him, including two of his former wives, and rabbis and Jewish educators who feel he misrepresented himself to them.
 
Gafni has always been best at re-inventing himself, and no doubt he will continue to charm, if not seduce, others with his ideas and personality. But with the attention he has received in The Jewish Week and elsewhere, people can no longer say they were unaware of his past.



Rabbi fights sexual allegations
By Ben Harris
JTA - July 8, 2008
http://www.jta.org/cgi-bin/iowa/news/article/2008070820080707gafni.html
 
A disgraced American rabbi with a tangled history of alleged sexual misdeeds is relaunching his career as a spiritual mentor and backtracking from an apparent confession he signed two years ago

Marc Gafni, left, visits with author Luke Ford in Salt Lake City on July 3, 2008
 
NEW YORK (JTA) -- A disgraced American rabbi with a tangled history of alleged sexual misdeeds is relaunching his career as a spiritual mentor and backtracking from an apparent confession he signed two years ago.
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni acknowledged his "sickness" in 2006 after several students at his Israeli institute claimed they were lured into sexual liaisons through deception and psychological manipulation. For decades Gafni had been dogged by claims he engaged in improper sexual activities, including allegations that he molested two teenage girls.
Now Gafni is back with a new Web site that directly challenges the claims against him.
Based in Salt Lake City, Gafni, now known as Marc, is a practitioner of a Kabbalah-inspired philosophy called evolutionary spirituality.
 
In a statement on the controversy posted to his Web site, Gafni said the relationships he engaged in while in Israel were all "mutual and consensual," broke no laws and did not involve an abuse of authority.
 
He said the letter he wrote was misunderstood to be a confession that he acted improperly.
 
"I believed that writing the letter would, in some measure, end the attacks, and give me time to heal and think things through," Gafni wrote on his site, MarcGafni.com.
 
Gafni did not respond to requests for an interview.
 
A former Orthodox rabbi and later a leading figure in the Jewish Renewal movement, Gafni first gained attention in 2004 when The New York Jewish Week reported on longstanding accusations against him.
 
Gafni told the newspaper that one of the girls was troubled and had made up the story, but he did acknowledge a sexual relationship with the other girl when he was a 19-year-old rabbinical student.
"I was a stupid kid and we were in love," Gafni told The Jewish Week. "She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her."
 
In response to The Jewish Week's reporting, several prominent rabbis -- including Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Arthur Green, Joseph Telushkin, Saul Berman, Tirzah Firestone and Arthur Waskow -- rallied to Gafni's defense, saying the evidence of impropriety was not convincing.
 
Two years later, after the news broke in Israel, several of those same rabbis backtracked, arguing that the new accusations were different from the old ones.
 
Waskow recently told JTA that he has reviewed the material on Gafni's Web site and still sees "nothing whatsoever to change my mind about the wisdom of the decision that several organizations made two years ago that he should not continue to teach under their auspices."
 
A section of Gafni's new site dedicated to the controversy includes letters on his behalf from several spiritual leaders, attorneys and counselors, as well as the report of a forensic psychologist who administered a polygraph test.
 
Several references to e-mails and instant messages between Gafni and the Israeli women that supposedly prove the nature of their relationships were not exploitative. The correspondence is not available on the site.
 
"In each of these relationships, as is usually the case between men and women, there were complex power dynamics in which each side had power and vulnerability," Gafni wrote regarding the Israel controversy. "While I never promised exclusivity to any, in retrospect I see I did fail to recognize two things. First, that my non-exclusivity might in itself be experienced as hurtful. Secondly, that these involvements themselves, and particularly the lack of transparency around them, might be experienced as painful or problematic."
 
Gafni's Web site is filled with allusions to his problems and explanations.
 
"Marc Gafni struggled with the question of whether to teach conventional spiritual wisdom in a conventional spiritual context, or to follow a more post-conventional style of teaching and living," his biography says. "This tension brought great dynamism to his work, but also caused some dissonance."
Now the biography says that Gafni will focus on "intense inner spiritual and psychological reflection on the course of his life" and "partnering with social activist leaders to create a new, grass-roots human rights movement."
 
"While Marc Gafni will continue teaching, he wishes to do so as a spiritual `artist' rather than as a rabbi, guru, or formal teacher," the Web site says.
 
One of Gafni's defenders is Rabbi Gershon Winkler, a New Mexico rabbi who runs Walking Stick, an organization that combines Jewish teachings with Native American wisdom.
 
"Do I believe that the women here experienced pain? Yes I do," Winkler wrote in a letter posted on Gafni's site. "Do I know that this is not a story of abuse of sexual harassment as it was reported in public forums? I am sure it is not. Do I believe that the pain caused by all of us to Rabbi Gafni far exceeds the pain that anyone else can claim to have experienced? Absolutely."
 
In the letter, Winkler acknowledged that he fathered a child with a student, carried on several "intimate relationships" with students over the years and said he is currently in a relationship with two women.
 
Many in the Jewish Renewal leadership, he asserted, have engaged in similar sexual behavior, including some who are now critics of Gafni.
 
Waskow, one of the leading figures in the Renewal movement, rejected that line of argument.
"If there were, years and years ago, people in this or any other movement who did behave in ways that we would now find ethically prohibited, it was precisely because of the experience of the pain and emotional disasters and spiritual disasters created by that kind of behavior that we adopted the ethical rules that now apply," Waskow said.
 
"Maybe some of that did take place, but we grew enough to decide this was not a good idea," he said. "What he's describing as hypocrisy is a shift over a 25-year period of time in which our movement and people in our movement grew considerably."
 
Winkler told JTA that he believes it is wrong to insist on an "across-the-board" ban on sexual relationships involving rabbis and followers, teachers and students, and counselors and patients.
Gafni, he added, is a victim of sexual McCarthyism.
 
"I think it's extreme," Winkler said. "I think it's a sexual ethic that's made out of paranoia."


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Marc Gafni Update & A Confession/Apology 

Integral Options Cafe
http://integral-options.blogspot.com/2008/07/marc-gafni-update-confessionapology.html


For those of you who may have come here looking for my recent post on the current situation with Marc Gafni, which I had found at another blog, it is temporarily pulled from public viewing.

I received a phone call from Gafni today, asking for the opportunity to speak with me about the allegations so that I might willingly pull that post, in which I labeled him an abusive guru, and feel that I have done so with integrity.

I am more than willing to grant his request. However, I asked to do it via email so that there is a written record of the conversation (I lack the know-how or the tools to do it via phone even I wanted to). I am awaiting his reply.

Since receiving the phone call, I have read the recent material in his defense -- Trial by Internet -- posted at The Catalyst. I have also read the newest public statement at his blog. Let's just say that I remain skeptical.

However, I was talking with my closest friend about this situation. What I have realized is that based on some things that happened to my sister when she was young, and to some friends in college, I ALWAYS side with the victim in sexual misconduct/abuse cases. I have little sympathy for the accused, and barring obvious evidence to the contrary, am often all too ready to condemn.

In this case, Gafni confessed at the time. Adding credence to the confession was Ken Wilber's statement at the time (which I believe has been pulled from Wilber's blog). Gafni now says he confessed while in a state of shock:
My initial response emerged from a place of radical shock, confusion, trauma, and fear. All products of the mind’s illusion, yet painfully real at the time.
Though at the time I was not thinking clearly about this, in retrospect I realize that the decision to write the letter was driven by several factors.
I felt that as “Captain of the Ship” I needed to take responsibility for any sickness that appeared in a system that I had created. I also recognized that my bohemian personal life had made me vulnerable to attack. Though I had sincerely believed that I had a right to a private life, it seemed clear that the unconventional nature of my personal relationships could not be held ’safely’ even in the alternative spiritual culture of the movement I headed, and that they had put my work at risk.
I also found the notion of engaging in a sensationalist conflict in the public realm so abhorrent and defiling to my spirit, and the experience of personal betrayal so painful and devastating, that I preferred to fall on my own sword. I believed that writing the letter would, in some measure, end the attacks, and give me time to heal and think things through.
Finally, I had simply been blind-sided by the speed and incomprehensibility of these events.
Sounds reasonable, but this also comes two years after the fact. After fleeing Israel and keeping a very low profile.

I want to give this man a chance to defend himself, but my bullshit detector is going off.

Anyway, so yes, I assumed him guilty as charged based on the confession and other information at the time.

However, I am a pretty damned flawed human being -- what right do I have to pass judgment? And by repeating those allegations here I am indeed passing judgment. Gafni (in his phone message) said that my post was coming up second on Google searches for his name, ahead of his own blog, and that this was causing him and his family considerable hardship and grief.

Part of me wants to say, "Damn right asshole."

But where is the compassion in that? As a Buddhist, I sometimes think, WWBD? (What Would Buddha Do?) For that matter what would Jesus do? Neither man would condemn another person, but neither man would tolerate self-deception nor passing off sexual abuse as the "unconventional nature of my personal relationships," or a "bohemian personal life."

I currently don't know what the truth is. If Gafni agrees to an on-the-record exchange with me, and in doing so I will be as fair as humanly possible, then I will report it here.




CALL TO ACTION:  Stop Marc Gafni From Advertising on GoogleAds 
The Awareness Center, Inc. - July 13, 2008

The goal of the following call to action is to prevent one more child or adult from becoming the next victim of a sex crime.
 
It's come to the attention of The Awareness Center that Rabbi Marc Gafni has an ad on Google. His ad has been seen on several different web pages. The ad reads:
 
Rabbi Marc Gafni
Realize Your Potential A Beautiful Unique Manifestation of The Divine.
www.MarcGafni.com
 
Please contact Google and let them know about Gafni's past history. Make sure they are aware that they could be held liable in a civil suit for promoting this confessed sex offender, especially after they have been made aware of the potential danger to anyone who unknowingly contacts Marc (Mordechai) Gafni after seeing the ad on Google.
 
Click here to Google contact form:
https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/request.py?search_ask=1&subtopic=&contact=rpv&main_topic=other&contact_type=11&contact_topic=Report+a+policy+violation&Action.Search=Continue
 
When filling out the page, the URL is: www.marcgafni.com
The category "OTHER" is towards the bottom of the page.


 
Mordechai Gafni Is Back, And Going On Offense
Rabbi who apologized for conduct in 2006 now says he was the victim.
by Gary Rosenblatt
Jewish Week - July 16, 2008
http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c36_a12915/News/New_York.html
 
Editor and Publisher The last time Mordechai Gafni was in the news was two years ago, when the charismatic and controversial rabbi accused of sexual misconduct here and in Israel was dismissed as the rebbe of Bayit Chadash, a spiritual renewal community in Tel Aviv.
 
Faced with sexual abuse complaints filed with the police in Israel by several women who were former students or employees of Bayit Chadash, Gafni came to the U.S., issued a public statement apologizing to those he had hurt, said he was "sick" and needed treatment, and disappeared.
 
At the time (June 9, 2006), I wrote: "In the past, when Gafni said he had made mistakes in his life but that he had done teshuva, some were ready to believe him; others were not. At some point in the future he is sure to reappear, eager to resume his role of spiritual guide and teacher, insisting he has gone through therapy and is cured.
 
"Will we believe him then?"
 
Well, Gafni has resurfaced in Salt Lake City, Utah and is insisting that he, not his female accusers, was the victim of the events of two years ago. He has an extensive web site (www.marcgafni.com), which includes not only his teachings and writings on kabbalah and spirituality, but an aggressive defense of his previous actions, complete with a report on the results of a polygraph test he took which, he claims, clears him of abuse.
 
The test indicates that Gafni was engaged in mutual and consensual relationships with the women, he says.
 
(Gafni, formerly known as Mordechai Winiarz, was ordained by Shlomo Riskin, an Orthodox rabbi, but later evolved into a spiritual guru who wrote and lectured on incorporating Eros into Judaism. At 47, he has been married and divorced three times, and surrounded by accusations of sexual misbehavior his entire adult life.)
 
Gafni appears to have been embraced by a New Age spiritual community (not Jewish) in Salt Lake City, as evidenced by a lengthy and sympathetic profile in Catalyst, a local magazine focused on "the world's ecological, social and spiritual crises," and to which he has contributed a column called "Spiritually Incorrect."
 
The profile, written by editor and publisher Greta deJong, portrays him as having saintly qualities but hounded by accusers — as often happens with "charismatic spiritual leaders," she notes.
 
Gafni, on his Web site, says he will continue teaching, but "wishes to do so as a spiritual `artist' rather than as a rabbi, guru, or formal teacher."
 
He now says that he wrote his public apology for his behavior two years ago under stress, and that the women accusers banded together to destroy his career. He also argues that his chief critics are bloggers who are irresponsible and untrue in their accusations.
 
Complaints about Gafni's alleged sexual misbehavior first came to light in 2004 when The Jewish Week reported on longstanding accusations against him.
 
Gafni told me at the time that one of the girls was troubled and had made up the story, but he did acknowledge a sexual relationship with the other girl when he was a 19-year-old rabbinical student.
"I was a stupid kid and we were in love," Gafni said. "She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her."
In response to the report, several prominent rabbis — including Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Arthur Green, Joseph Telushkin, Saul Berman, Tirzah Firestone and Arthur Waskow — rallied to Gafni's defense, saying the evidence of impropriety was not convincing.
Two years later, after the news broke in Israel, several of those same rabbis backtracked, arguing that the new accusations were different from the old ones.
On Gafni's Web site, where he describes himself as "a cutting edge spiritual teacher, author, television personality, mediator, corporate consultant, iconoclast and gentle provocateur," as well as a "Heart Servant," he writes that his primary motto is "Do No Harm."
 
He has done plenty, though, based on extensive interviews I have had with those once close to him, including two of his former wives, and rabbis and Jewish educators who feel he misrepresented himself to them.
 
Gafni has always been best at re-inventing himself, and no doubt he will continue to charm, if not seduce, others with his ideas and personality. But with the attention he has received in The Jewish Week and elsewhere, people can no longer say they were unaware of his past.
JTA contributed to this report.



BREAKING: Marc Gafni's Sexual Impropriety Re- Emerges - Will Integral Leadership Step Up this Time? 
Integral Options Cafe - September 12, 2011
http://integral-options.blogspot.com/2011/09/breaking-marc-gafnis-sexual-impropriety.html

[NOTE - the title got confused during editing - the correct title is now attached. My apologies for the confusion on such an important post.]


There have been two recent developments regarding Marc Gafni, already a controversial, polarizing figure following a very public sex scandal five years ago. While many organizations and teachers would have nothing to do with him, the Integral world did seem to believe his version of events and took him back.

What's new:
    Robb Smith, CEO - Integral Life
  • Integral life has removed Gafni as a contributor to their website and as MC of the Integral Spiritual Experience 3 Conference.
  • Sounds True has cancelled publication of his upcoming book and severed ties with his Center for World Spirituality.
In an effort to discover what might be behind these developments, I have been in conversation with both Robb Smith, CEO of Integral Life, and Tami Simon, owner and publisher of Sounds True.

Robb and I have not had a chance to speak personally, but Tami kindly sent me the following response (posted with her permission):

When I first started working with Marc a couple of years ago, Marc and I spoke openly about his history and what he claimed were false accusations against him related to alleged sexual improprieties. Several influential people spoke up in his defense and equally several people warned me not to trust Marc. I came to believe that whatever had
Tami Simon
happened in the past, Marc was beginning a new chapter in his life. Marc explicitly stated to me that he was not going to be involved in sexual relationships with students, that even if he deemed such relationships to be consensual, he did not believe that engaging in relationships with students would support his efforts to be an effective teacher. In considering publishing Marc's work, the most important thing to me was the actual quality of the written work. When he submitted "Your Unique Self" in its edited form, I appreciated the content and message of the book. The quality of the book combined with the force of his conviction regarding how he would conduct himself as a teacher moving forward convinced me to take a risk on publishing his work.

In the past several weeks, new and incontrovertible information came to light that made me aware that Marc was involved in a sexual relationship with a student and that the relationship was shrouded in secrecy. There was an obvious lack of alignment between Marc's words to me and his actions. I learned about Marc's sexual relationship with a student from another woman who was having a sexual relationship with Marc. This woman was also asked by Marc to keep her relationship with him a secret. In talking with this woman, I learned how emotionally damaging this secrecy was for her, how it cut her off from emotional support and connection. I also learned quite a bit about how she felt manipulated by Marc, about how often she witnessed Marc telling lies to cover his tracks, and how upset she was to find herself caught in such a web of lies.

Discovering this new information, it became clear to me that it was not in integrity for me personally or for Sounds True as a company to publish Marc's books or to support him as a spiritual teacher in the world. I do not trust Marc Gafni. I do not trust what he says, and I do not trust that he acts in the best interests of his students or his professional alliances.

~ Tami Simon, Sounds True
Just to be clear here, Gafni was sleeping with two women, both of whom were in a power differential to Gafni - one was a private student.
Marc Gafni and Mariana Caplan

However, the other woman was receiving marriage counseling (as was her husband, separately) as her marriage was ending. To my knowledge, Gafni is not licensed to provide counseling in Colorado (Colorado Mental Health Practice Act), and if he is, sleeping with a client is grounds for censure or the removal of his license.

Both women wish to remain anonymous for a variety of reasons.

All of this was happening while he was "partnered" with Mariana Caplan, who is the mother of his child, and who risked her own reputation to write a chapter in her book, The Guru Question, arguing for his supposed innocence regarding the Israel incident in 2006; even Publisher's Weekly questioned that final chapter.

That a very intelligent woman who has written a book on discernment around spiritual teachers was taken in by one is ironic, but it is also testament to Gafni's ability to seduce otherwise intelligent people. Her fate serves as a stark warning to others who think they are immune from his seduction.

As is his pattern, Gafni has sworn both women to silence (as Tami described above) - and, according to sources in contact with the victims, in this case one of the women came forward and "failed to hold that space." If you look back through the record of allegations against Gafni (this article contains statements by his early victims), it is always the women who come forward who are to blame for not being able to maintain his bohemian, "post-conventional" lifestyle.

In a long and rambling article responding to the Integrales Forum position paper on Integral Teachers and ethics, Gafni essentially offered a defense of his right as an "enlightened" teacher to have sexual relations with students. This is the defense he is currently offering for his affairs: he was involved in post-conventional relationships and the women failed to hold that space. 

I have not had a chance to speak with Robb Smith directly, so the following information is based on reports from various people with access to the inner workings of Integral Life.

Jeff Salzman, Diane Hamilton and Terry Patten
As mentioned above, it seems that Gafni has been removed by Integral Life from his usual leadership role of ISE3. Apparently, he will still be a presenter, but he won't be the MC and won't be running the event as he has for the previous two events (Jeff Salzman, Diane Hamilton, and Terry Patten will be leading this year's event).

Robb Smith was very displeased that I implied Gafni's material (articles, interviews, and so on) had been removed from the Integral Life site in secret. Yet, they removed the content of one of their most visible, most promoted, and most prolific teachers with not a word of explanation and that is "post-conventional governance"? 

Robb and I have been playing phone tag since that Facebook conversation at the end of August. I hope he makes a public statement - and if he wants to alleviate suffering, he will join me in proposing and working to ensure that no student ever engages with Marc Gafni in ignorance of his past behavior.

Gafni's Defenders
Robb Smith, Sally Kempton, Clint Fuhs, and Diane Hamilton
When Gafni first emerged from his two-year absence to resume his teaching (in 2008), his principle supporters were Robb Smith, Sally Kempton, Clint Fuhs, and Diane Hamilton. Robb offered an eloquent defense of Gafni and welcomed him back. I wonder if he now regrets those words, which Gafni has used as confirmation of his innocence and the legitimacyof his teaching. 

Sally Kempton and Ken Wilber offered a long defense of Gafni and asserted that the women in Israel had lied (the letter was posted in the comments on this blog in response to my questioning of Gafni's presence at the 2010 Integral conference)Of those mentioned in the letter, Robb Smith, Rocky Anderson, and Diane Hamilton have all moved away from Gafni.

Gafni posted a good deal of defense on his blog when he first returned to teaching. Most of it is questionable at best - especially the psyche evaluations. I documented that in a post last summer - in that same post I offered a bit of a speculative psychological explanation for Gafni's behavior, which is not to be seen as an excuse. 

Gafni has had many opportunities to confront his own patterns and seek help, but he seems unwilling to do so as long as he has supporters like Sally Kempton and Mariana Caplan who enable his behaviors and find ways to rationalize them.

Going Forward - My Personal Views
Robb seems to think - this is the message he has given to the staff at Integral Life in asking them not to speak with me - that I am "on a mission." Yes, I most certainly am, but not the one he thinks.

My mission is to help prevent any other women from being victimized by Marc Gafni.

It is my hope that this post will offer a place for all of Gafni's victims (many of whom have never come forward publicly because of the fear of abuse and harassment they are likely to receive from him and his enablers) to tell their stories.

It is also my hope that other leaders, especially in the integral community, will follow the fine example set by Tami Simon and make a public stand against Gafni's lies and manipulations. 

Allowing Gafni back into the Integral community - and defending him - has provided him with a platform to teach and begin his own organization - which has allowed him to bring chaos into the lives of two more women (that we know of - there may be others who are still silent). This need not have happened.

With his own organization now established at The Center for World Spirituality, it will be much tougher to discover or monitor his abuses than it would have been if he had never been allowed back into the integral community in the first place. When he is in charge, who monitors him? Who protects his students and employees?

I hold his enablers partly responsible - they willingly disregarded the experience of the women in Israel, the statements of his third ex-wife (much of what she says has been confirmed to me by other women who have been with him - for example, the "debasing sexuality" has been reported to me by other women who have been involved with him), and the statements of other organizations who had removed him from leadership positions.


However, the women willingly entered into these relationships - but would they have done so if there was a more public record of Integral leadership exposing his abuses?

So far, Tami Simon stands as the only leader willing to take a public stand on Marc Gafni. She should be applauded, but it is a sad testament to Integral post-conventional leadership that no one from that world has done the same.



Marc Gafni (AKA: Rabbi Mordechai Winiarz)
The news this week that Marc Gafni faces new allegations of sexual misconduct from those in the “spiritual wisdom” community with which he has been associated the last five years was sad, even tragic, but not surprising. And it brought back a flood of memories.

For much of the last decade, off and on, I followed the career of Gafni, 50, a former Orthodox rabbi who became a leader of the Jewish spiritual renewal movement, here and in Israel, and then a teacher among those in the New Age community seeking life insights. He is a charming, bright and charismatic man, but has been dogged throughout his career by reports of inappropriate sexual activities with women younger than him, many of them his students.

He has publicly acknowledged that he has made mistakes in his life, but always asserted that the accusations were false.


Gafni and I spoke a number of times about what he called “the witch hunt” against him, which he claimed was motivated by a small group of women and a few Orthodox rabbis who he said were jealous of his popular appeal.

Seven years ago I interviewed more than 50 people for a column I wrote about Gafni, and which was published in September 2004. I tried to offer a balanced portrait of a man that some women called a predator and some rabbis defended as a gifted, troubled soul who may have made missteps in his youth but who had done teshuva.

I presented the rabbis’ words of support and the women’s complaints that he took advantage of both their youth and the imbalance of the student-teacher relationship.

In the end, the women thought I was too easy on Gafni, the rabbis thought I shouldn’t have publicly scrutinized him.

At one point during my research on Gafni, in 2003 or 2004, he came to my office for a lengthy interview and insisted that his then-third wife, subsequently divorced, be present. I still have the tape.
I got the impression he felt that if he could sit down face to face with someone, anyone, he could convince that person he was telling the truth. And I think he believed he was telling the truth, even when subsequent events proved otherwise.

That day his wife, 15 years his junior, looked at him adoringly and at times referred to him as rebbe – she had been his student. A few years later she wrote, in an effort to alert others, that she had ignored warnings about Gafni when they dated and that he had lied to her, cheated on her and abused her verbally throughout their marriage.

In Israel, Gafni led a new spiritual group called Bayit Chadash, but he abruptly returned to the U.S. in 2006 when three female members of the community in their 20s went to the police to charge him with sexual harassment.

He downplayed his rabbinic background here, becoming a popular lecturer in the so-called integral community, which promotes spiritual wisdom.  

But William Harryman, a self-described blogger, personal trainer and transformation coach, posted a recent report quoting Tami Simon of Sounds True, a company that publishes books and CDs on inner wisdom, that recent actions by Gafni have left her disillusioned.

Though she said she had believed his denials about past relationships, Simon is quoted as saying that based on “new and incontrovertible information” that Gafni was having secret, sexual relationships with two women, one of whom was his student, her company decided not to publish Gafni’s newest book, “Your Unique Self.” She also wrote, according to Harryman, that she could no longer support Gafni “as a spiritual teacher in the world.

“I do not trust Marc Gafni,” she stated. “I do not trust what he says, and I do not trust that he acts in the best interests of his students or his professional alliances.”

Robb Smith, CEO of Integral Life, which deals with spiritual wisdom, wrote in a blog yesterday that he was ending his organization’s association with Gafni, removing his contributions from the group’s website and calling for a new policy on ethics among contributors to the site.

The last time I spoke to Gafni was several years ago when he called me with an odd request. He said he wanted to fly to New York from the West, where he lived, just to meet with me for an hour or two. He said he didn’t care if I wrote about the meeting or not, he just wanted to present his side of the story to me one more time.

I declined.



Marc Gafni Abuses Again -- and We Share Responsibility
Forward - September 21, 2011
It has happened again.

Confessed sex offender - ex-rabbi Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Winiarz)
Marc Gafni, nee Marc Winiarz, nee Mordechai Gafni, the thrice-divorced rabbi who has been, at times, a hero of Modern Orthodoxy, Jewish Renewal, and the Israeli spiritual renaissance, has again been caught having sexual relations with members of his latest spiritual community. Here are some links to what has happened: Integral Options Café, The Jewish Week.

I was not one of the women Gafni had clandestine affairs with during his time he was a Renewal rabbi, though I was certainly aware (and sometimes the object) of his sexual assertiveness and charisma during the time I knew him, from 2004 through 2006. I am remaining anonymous now because I am afraid of Gafni’s reprisals and am terrified of even receiving an email from him wanting to “talk” or “clear the air,” like the ones he has been known to send his victims. But I am raising my voice to my fellow Jews that we have been silent about this man for too long, and now our silence has led to yet more abuse. In this season of repentance, we should be ashamed of ourselves, and resolve to do better.

Bayit Chadash (Israel)
In 2006, Gafni was discovered to be having three simultaneous affairs with students and members of his spiritual community in Israel, Bayit Chadash. Gafni fled the country, and we thought that was the last we’d hear of him. But in 2008, he reemerged, having claimed to have undergone therapy, and began teaching in non-Jewish spiritual communities.

Those of us who knew Gafni well didn’t buy these claims of healing. We’d been fooled before, after Gafni lied to us to cover up past affairs and whitewash past episodes of assault. We saw the same pattern happening again: a new community in a new place (this time, Utah), new associates who didn’t know him from before, a name change. (All of this, by the way, is based on my opinions and observations, and those of my friends. I may be wrong on some of the facts, but I know I’m right on the primary ones. Certainly, I am not making any kind of legal accusations.) Some of us felt a duty to warn Gafni’s new acolytes that, in many of our opinions, he is a serial sexual predator.

These efforts were met with fierce resistance by Gafni’s new friends, who, despite having never really known him more than a year or two, were sure that he was being maligned. (Right, women who are victims of sexual predators are the real aggressors. Where have I heard that before?) Affiliates of the noted spiritual teacher Diane Hamilton, who posted her half-hearted apology last week, actually threatened some of those people when they tried to tell the truth about Gafni three years ago. Well, Ms. Hamilton, “we” told you so. Your apology should include those of us your friends intimidated. This was not just “your bad” – it was an awful thing, what your associates did. The “women in Israel” did not lie. You were wrong to silence them, and us.

Another time, one of the women Gafni abused tried to stop him from speaking at a well-known spiritual center in California, and was shouted down online by Gafni’s latest band of brainwashed believers. She was called a liar, and worse. This took place in a progressive, integral, spiritual forum – yet it was like something out of The Accused.

And supposedly, there was a letter that rabbis in Renewal and other movements were supposedly going to post, stating to Gafni’s new community that we had been conned by this man before, and that we knew he would strike again. As he now did. Whatever happened to this letter? It was never sent. Last I heard, it was being circulated for signatures. And then it disappeared.

Why? Threats of litigation? Threats of reprisal? Or maybe just cowardice?

Cowardice, like that of the three well-known rabbis who pronounced Gafni kosher way back in 2003 or so. This beit din, which was comprised of three respectable people, made a mockery of their sacred task. They didn’t even talk to some of Gafni’s previous victims, even though one of them is a well-known teacher herself who doesn’t hide this seedy episode from her past. I know they didn’t talk to these people, because I did. They didn’t follow up with congregants in his old congregation, who would’ve told them about Gafni having sex with a congregant there. In fact, they did just about nothing, other than talk to Gafni himself and accept his phony tshuvah as valid. That was an act of cowardice too.

I was one of those suckered by that beit din into believing that Mordechai Gafni had sinned once, but had long since repented. We were told that whistleblowers like Gary Rosenblatt at The Jewish Week were on a witch hunt – even though Rosenblatt was not an accuser, but a journalist who wrote a balanced report on Gafni’s positive and negative attributes. Mr. Rosenblatt, you were right and those rabbis were wrong. You told us so, and we should have listened. Our rabbis told us not to.

And when we found that out, we had an obligation to stop this sexual rodef who we knew would abuse again. Why didn’t we do that? What could possibly have justified our silence?

Should we have publicized the statement of Gafni’s ex-wife, describing Gafni’s weird sexual pathology in horrible, vivid detail? Should we have publicized her statements that she, and not Gafni, wrote most of one of his books? Should we have publicized the statements from another rabbi that he, and not Gafni, wrote yet another one?

Maybe the Renewal community was afraid to act because it is afraid of being tarnished, like the Hasidim were by their opponents, by slanders of sexual immorality. Of course, Gafni is a post-denominational abuser. He has slept with much younger female students in Orthodox, Renewal, and now non-Jewish spiritual communities. And of course, though Renewal has had its share of philandering rabbis, so have all the major denominations. At least no Renewal rabbis are in jail for seducing underage boys online, as one formerly respected Orthodox rabbi now is. But the mainstream media has often fixated on Renewal as if sexual crimes are somehow particular to it. I don’t forgive the Renewal community for failing to act, but I do understand this context.

To be clear: as far as I know, the relationships Gafni pursued at Bayit Chadash, his Israeli spiritual community, were superficially consensual. The women were not raped or physically abused. In fact, contrary to Gafni’s own propaganda, they have never asserted otherwise, except one statement, given in the heat of the moment, that what Gafni did “felt like rape.” No, all three women thought of Gafni as a rebbe, and thus gladly submitted to his sexual advances. If you call that consensual, which I don’t, then the relationships were that. And for all I know, the two women in his most recent spiritual community likewise “consented,” inasmuch as seekers can consent to sex with their gurus.

But that doesn’t absolve us of responsibility for failing to warn his new community loudly and clearly that the man was not to be trusted. Maybe he’s a sexual predator, maybe he just has a lot of sex, I don’t know. But we do know that this is the same pattern we’ve seen over and over again. We all knew it would happen again. Now it has.

It certainly seems that Gafni will never teach in the Jewish world again, baruch hashem. But it’s a wide spiritual world out there, and I assume Gafni will again resurface. For this reason, I am calling on my spiritual sisters and brothers to pull that collective letter out of mothballs and create a non-anonymous letter warning any and all future spiritual communities that Marc Gafni is not trustworthy in these matters. Individuals like me are too afraid to do so openly, because we are alone. But if we joined hands together and acted as one, we could ensure that this man does not abuse again and perhaps do some tshuvah ourselves.


John Dupuy - My Opinion on the Marc Gafni Situation

Integral Options Cafe - Sept. 22, 2011
http://integral-options.blogspot.com/2011/09/john-dupuy-my-opinion-on-marc-gafni.html


John Dupuy on Marc Gafni
I may not be involved with the Boulder version of Integral anymore, but I have not abandoned the people to whom I promised support in the efforts to expose Marc Gafni's manipulations and lies. So here is the latest.

Integral Recovery expert and psychotherapist John Dupuy has offered (on his Integral Life blog) the most compassionate, honest, and psychologically accurate perspectives on the Marc Gafni situation from anyone in the Integral community. If there were more leaders like Dupuy in the community, more of us would have remained involved.

But then there is Robb Smith, CEO of Integral Life, who made this comment on his Facebook page:

I gave Marc a chance many said I should not have. It was probably a mistake to give him leadership authority, but I wanted first hand experience of his character. I read all the material that he presented in his defense and it was convincing. It took me about a year to figure out how he put it all together, and that's when I started to make the separation.
Really, it only took you a year? And yet Gafni kept teaching for two more years - often highlighted as a leader and featured speaker - with no warning to members or his students that he had lied about the Israel situation, that he manufactured the "evidence" that he claimed cleared him? Where is the leadership in that?

I want to believe you are coming from the best interest of the community Robb, but then you reveal how you really weren't stepping up. I'm struggling to understand your actions . . . .

Anyway, here is John's statement:

My Opinion on the Marc Gafni Situation

Posted September 22nd, 2011 by john dupuy in Spiritual Leadership

This is a post that I wrote about 3 days ago, concerning Marc Gafni and the latest debacle. As a courtesy, I sent this post to Marc, saying that I am posting this and quoted the biblical reference Proverbs 27:6: Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. I immediately received a call from Marc, in which he threatened me with legal action and an internet campaign to discredit my character based on all of the personal information that he has found out about me during our years of friendship. To which I say good luck on the legal action and stay posted for the character assassination, which is either going to be very boring or very creative.

In the last few days I have consulted with many friends and colleagues over the nature of this post, to include Ken Wilber and Sally Kempton, and I have decided that I will not be silenced. Ultimately, what influenced my decision to post this was the realization that came out during a conversation with Sally Kempton, myself and my wife, Pam - and that is, I think I owe this to the younger generations of our world-wide Integral community. As this latest sexual scandal emerged with Marc, I have heard from many people who are very hurt by Marc's actions and generally feeling very disillusioned with our Integral spiritual teachers and role models. Based on that, I am posting this. I do this after much reflection and prayer, with sadness and clarity. I still hold out the hand of friendship to Marc but as a real friend, and not as an enabler. And let me be clear, it is not we who are speaking about this who are causing this problem, it is Marc's behaviors and choices that has brought this on. As I teach to my recovery students, the truth hurts, but it doesn't kill, and ultimately, lies kill. So with much love to Marc and all those concerned, and to our worldwide Integral family.
That is the introduction to the post. The threat of lawsuits and character assassination is normal operating procedure for Gafni. A senior student of Marc's named MartyC is currently doing his best to attack me and discredit me wherever he can on the web, so Hey John, join the club! 

Here is the most important passage from John's statement - he confirms and restates what many of us have been saying for years:
It appears to be all part of a single pattern, starting long before Israel, and continuing into the present. As I have struggled with this latest debacle and scandal, I have experienced myriad emotions, from being heartsick, feeling helpless, to being righteously pissed. As I write this, I feel sadness, as I am very loyal to my family and friends. But I believe that Marc has behaved in a way that is unworthy of the position of leadership and authority that he has been granted in our Integral circles. His behaviors, his absolute incapacity to own anything, and his incredible ability to manipulate and play the victim, are simply beyond the pale and unacceptable. I believe Marc is in panic mode right now and his behaviors have caused catastrophic events in his life: losing a major publishing deal, losing his connection as a major personality and teacher at Integral Life, and the questioning by people around the world about his fitness to be a leader in the world spirituality arena. Yet Marc continues to play the victim and spin new angles and even new dharmas to justify his very unwise and dysfunctional behaviors.

In my work with addicts, over the years, I have become very used to seeing lives ruined by addictive acting out. It’s kind of par for the course in the disease of addiction. I have also seen many lives come back from the brink of death and complete dishonor. Not only have I seen lives come back, but I have seen them come back with renewed strength, compassion, devotion, and humility. But it ain’t easy and it takes a lot of work. The first step is to admit that you have a problem and take responsibility. I don’t see this with Marc. Marc is always the victim and always the martyr.

As I have sat with this, talked and emailed with my friends and colleagues in the Integral movement from around the world, I have realized a deep pattern of dysfunction, manipulation, and narcissism in Marc’s case. These are three words that, interestingly enough, characterize the disease of addiction. I had hoped against hope that Marc would learn from his past mistakes and sense of calling, as he brought forth his important teachings of the Unique Self and World Spirituality, and that this would keep his dysfunctional and apparently compulsive behaviors in check. That has obviously not happened. He has hurt his family, his friends, his supporters and our Integral community.
He concludes with this statement, which is both loving and hopeful:
I offer this in the spirit of personal sadness as well as hope that Marc can repent and heal. And I hope that we all can grow up a little bit, though we may have been hurt and disillusioned by the behaviors of our role models and spiritual teachers in the past—that we will not use this as an opportunity to become cynical but that we will challenge ourselves to become those leaders that we had wished we had. God help us all.
But I have already become cynical. So I guess I am one of the lost ones.

Perhaps the only thing that might change my perspective is a direct, video statement from Ken Wilber himself. I'd like to hear an apology for allowing Marc back into the Integral limelight, and for his comments comparing Gafni's accusers to neo-Nazis (the letter was attributed to Sally Kempton and Ken Wilber - it used to be featured on Gafni's blog, but is now gone):
The evidence makes it abundantly clear that the horrendous claims made about Marc on what can only be described as Internet vendetta or hate sites hidden beneath the fig leaf of victim advocacy, are without a shred of truth. To even need say this is in some sense offensive. It is somewhat like a Jewish person needing to deny anti–Semitic claims on a neo–Nazi site.
I was asked to post that letter last summer on the comments section of a post I wrote critical of Gafni being featured at the Integral Theory Conference.There is still a letter on Gafni's site attributed to Robb Smith and Ken Wilber (used to only be Robb) - I wonder if that will also come down?



Final Ken Wilber Statement Dec. 2011, Marc Gafni / Center for World Spirituality

By Ken Wilber
December 25, 2012
http://www.ievolve.org/2011/12/ken-wilber-statement-on-marc-gafni-and-the-center-for-world-spirituality/


Ken Wilber on Marc Gafni
The board of directors of the Center for World Spirituality recently made a public statement, conveying their support for Marc Gafni as a leader and teacher in the Center.

Earlier, in a post on the Integral Life website, I have commented on the situation that developed several months ago in the blogosphere.

I acknowledged in that post that Marc, like most great spiritual teachers and pundits, has great gifts as well as human complexity. I pointed out that everyone must make up their own mind as to whether they want to work with Marc, or to be his student.

I am writing to share that, for myself, I have made up my mind. I am rejoining the Wisdom Council of the Center for World Spirituality, to which I invited many of my colleagues to participate.

I look forward to future work with Marc in articulating and evolving the contours of a World Spirituality based on Integral Principles.

Some of my reasons for wanting to work with Marc are contained in letters I co-wrote with Sally Kempton in 2008. However, there is one piece I want to add. I am working with Marc, not despite this last blogosphere explosion but rather because of his reaction to it.

What impressed me most about Marc’s response to this situation is that though he might well have felt justified in feeling angry or hurt about what happened, by and large he focused on asking for all feedback from every possible source on why this happened. He wanted to know, at a deeper level, how he might have contributed to it himself, and what he could do to help remedy the situation and any part he might have played in this.  Most astonishingly, for a spiritual teacher, he included in this list—in order to make it truly comprehensive—a search for a great therapist that he might see.  He made a serious and widespread search for a therapist, and finally found an incredibly competent and highly respected one—and signed up.

This was not because he necessarily needed therapy, but simply that he told himself he was going to cover every base and make a truly comprehensive and inclusive search for any approach that might help address the situation.  He was, in other words, doing whatever necessary to cover any shadow elements, should they be present.  I know of extremely few spiritual teachers that would do this—that would be committed enough to their own integrity to include all possible angles, and then genuinely follow through on it.  This, to me, is an indication of a genuine spiritual teacher, one dedicated to working on himself no matter how “embarrassing” it might appear to others.  On this issue, even his critics will have few if any grounds for complaint at this point.  Even they have acknowledged that he is, in many ways, a very gifted spiritual teacher, and this recent move simply makes him an even more gifted teacher, in my opinion.

Speaking personally, I feel that any shadow issues that Marc, (like most spiritual teachers), might have are now being actively and genuinely addressed.  I repeat that I know very few spiritual teachers who have the guts to do this, and my hat, for one, is off to the gentleman.

This move also gives me confidence that Marc can and will continue to make a good spiritual leader for the Center for World Spirituality.  Every spiritual teacher, in my opinion, should be doing some sort of shadow work, but Marc is one of the very few whom I know that is actually doing it.  This is indeed, in my book at least, very impressive.

So, I hope everybody out there can join me in wishing Marc the very best in this sincere inner work—or, at the least, congratulate him for being determined and integral enough to decide to cover all the bases and then actually do so.  In many spiritual traditions, forgiveness is a path to God, and I know Marc has worked hard to forgive any insults—real or imagined—that he recently received, and perhaps it is appropriate for others also to  work to forgive any insults—real or imagined—received from Marc.  In this atmosphere of loving-kindness, care, and forgiveness, we can all get back to this incredibly important work of Integral Spirituality.

Ken Wilber
Winter 2011



In Regard to the False Reports and Hate Sites on the Web
By Marc Gafni
May 30, 2012

Vicki Polin, LCPC / ex-rabbi Marc Gafni
False or distorted material about Marc Gafni is posted on the Awareness Center website of Vicki Polin. Similarly, hate blogs such as Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence serve as a front for Vicki Polin. Vicki Polin first came to public attention with an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1989. She claimed that she had been part of a satanic Jewish cult that killed and sacrificed babies. She claimed to have sacrificed an infant herself. 

To find more information about Vicki Polin. To find more information about Luke Ford.

ex-rabbi Marc Gafni and Blogger, Luke Ford
Summation of Polygraph Reports in regard to old claims regarding {Mordechai} Marc Gafni.
The polygraph reports which support {Mordechai} Marc Gafni’s refutation of both the tone and substance of the reports on the web were administered by Dr. Gordon Barland. Barland is one of the leading experts in the world on polygraph testing. Working with the state of Utah, Barland’s specialty is in cases involving claims of sexual abuse or misconduct.

By way of Introduction:
There is a general professional rule that first person testimonies claiming sexual misconduct are not posted on websites dealing with these issues. 

This is simply because first person testimonies are often distorted and not reliable. Moreover the nature of sexuality is such that any reporting of another person’s sexuality outside of its original context is inherently distorting. Any person’s sexuality – even if it was originally mutual and wonderful, can be made retroactively to sound tawdry and worse. 

This is particularly true when a report about sexuality is made years later, or is filtered through a prism of abuse which is suggested to the person making the testimony as the appropriate frame within to understand his or her experience. This kind of suggestion is often made by a certain strain of therapists whose default position seems to be that men are predators and women victims. When this suggestion is made by the powerful suggestion of a professional or professionals the results are often the deep distortion of events through the jaundiced or misapplied prism of abuse.

This kind of distorted reconstruction of events might also take place when a person seeks to retroactively minimize his or her involvement in a sexual experience. It is also true when a person is characterized, often falsely, as a predator, then his or her sexual partners can easily filter there experiences through that prism.

There is also extensive documentation in the literature on recovered memory and in contemporary brain research on recovered memory which validates the possibility or a reconstructed memory which has little or no relation to the empirical facts; what actually happened. 

Blogger, Luke Ford and Psychotherapist, Vicki Polin
On a website run by Vicki Polin {who made the claim on the Oprah Winfery show that she was involved in a satanic cult that sacrificed babies and has claimed that was repeatedly raped on Torah scrolls} and on another website run by a former gossip columnist for the pornography Industry Luke Ford, there are two women who were interviewed by Ford. 

Ford believes that printing slanderous gossip which is unsubstantiated, and which cannot possibly be disproved by the person being slandered is a legitimate form of journalism. Ford is cited as saying, “As long as someone will put their name on it I will print it.” We have no way of independently confirming that citation but that seems to be his modus operandi. 

A distinction, however, needs to be made between Polin and Ford. Unlike Polin, it appears Ford does not make up claims as Polin does. He is simply willing to repeat and publish other person’s claims. Moreover, if given different empirical information, Ford will correct false claims. However, the nature of old claims about sexuality is that they cannot be empirically disproved. 

It should be noted that Polin has a long list of simply fabricated claims against {Mordechai} Marc Gafni which are similar in nature to her claim of participating in a satanic cult and sacrificing babies. She has made the libelous claim that “according to rumor Gafni is attracted to pre-pubescent boys.” That {Mordechai} Marc Gafni has changed his name to Marc Israel, that Gafni has remarried etc. etc.
Name Change:

She also suggests that Marc changed his name from Winiarz to Gafni when he moved to Israel in order to ‘hide his old identity’. Given the fact that both his birth name, Winiarz and hebraicized name, Gafni, are listed in all of this books on the authors page, this, like all of Polin’s claim a simply absurd and patently obvious lie. Marc, like thousands of other people hebraicized his name when he moved to Israel as a sign of identification with the State of Israel. Gafni is an approximate hebrew translation of Winiarz, which is polish for Wine Maker. 

This is clearly stated on the authors page of this book Soul Prints {published Simon and Schuster 2001} pp. 318. Virtually every sentence on her website which makes claims against Gafni is either blatantly false or severely distorted. 

One of the claims reported on the web is that {Mordechai} Marc Gafni is a “confessed child molestor” or “confessed rapist.” This is obviously a malicious slander of the most sick kind of which one sadly expects to appear on hate sites the likes of which are run by Ms. Polin and her associates. It is categorically false. Even to say that it is false, however, is to say too much, for it is such an atrocious lie that it deserves no response. Not surprisingly many anti Semitic and neo-Nazi hate blogs link to Ms. Polin’s hate blog. 

It is obviously categorically false. {Child Molestation refers to sexual contact with pre-pubescent children.}

It is claimed as well that he committed statutory rape, meaning that he had sexual intercourse with a minor. This is categorically false. 

{Mordechai} Marc Gafni asserts that the stories on the web are false or deeply distorted in both tone and substance. {Mordechai} Marc Gafni’s refutation of both the core content and tone of the web stories is supported by expert polygraph.

The facts are as follows and all of these assertions are supported by polygraph: In regard to the first story published on Ford and Polin’s sites, {Mordecha } Marc Gafni was in his nineteenth year at the time, just out of high school. The woman was 14, in the first year of high school. {The way it is reported in casual web postings citing Polin, one is given the impression that “rabbi gafni” in the middle of adult life had sexual contact with a 14 year old. This is of course categorically false}
{Mordechai} Marc Gafni never had sexual intercourse with the minor in question. They never has oral or anal sex and that he did not penetrate her vaginally through masturbation. Again all of this is supported via polygraph. 

{Mordechai} Marc Gafni further states that his experience of the relationship as well as that of the woman was that it was loving and beautiful. 

Nothing of the nature of the sick coercive description depicted almost thirty years later on the web took place. Again this assertion is supported by polygraph. 

This is entirely different then the way it was described thirty years later on the web where she makes the claim that at the time it was a horrifying and coercive experience for her.

He brings evidence that she shared with him the loving nature of the experience at the time – and thus falsifies her retroactive story on the web which she told decades after the interaction in question – by asserting that she sent him a letter after the relationship was over saying that he was her one true love and that they were meant to spend their lives together.

This letter as Marc describes it and its content are supported by polygraph. 

This letter refutes both the tone and substance of the story told by the women on the web to Luke Ford.

It is clear that the relationship was interpreted negatively by this woman significantly after it was over.

Furthermore {Mordechahi} Marc Gafni asserts that in the second story posted on the web, which took place when Marc was in his early twenties and her youth advisor, in which both sides, according to the web report, agree factually, that there was neither sexual intercourse, oral or anal sex or penetration, happened entirely differently from the way it was described twenty five years later on the web. This is evidenced according to {Mordechai} Marc Gafni in a way that is verifiable by the fact that it was she who in fact asked {Mordechai} Marc Gafni to have sexual intercourse with her at the time of their engagement and {Mordechai} Marc Gafni refused. 

This polygraph supported assertion of Marc’s strongly refute the tone and character of the story as currently reported on the web. 

The results of all the tests on all of the aforementioned issues were positive, that Marc has told the truth about all of these issues. The polygraph supported the truth of {Mordechai} Marc Gafni’s assertions in all of these matters.

All of these reports are retained by {Mordechai} Marc Gafni’s legal counsel in Israel and the United States.



Dr. Marc Gafni’s Biography
By Marc Gafni
June 15, 2012

Marc Gafni with Audience 
Marc Gafni, D.Phil., Scholar-in-Residence and Director of the Center for World Spirituality, is a philosopher and public intellectual who is leading the emergence of the World Spirituality movement based on what Gafni has termed the Democratization of Enlightenment. At the core of his teachings is what he calls the Enlightenment of Fullness, the linchpin of which is Unique Self Teachings, a breakthrough technology with the potential to change the source code of the human experience. The Unique Self teaching is now being adapted in leading treatment centers, universities, private schools and spiritual centers all over the world. In each of these fields serious work is being done by leaders in their respective fields to bring Gafni’s teaching to bear in a way that redefines the field. But three examples are: the Catstlewood Treatment Centers which are now working on a revolutionary approach to addiction and treatments based on Unique Self teaching which transcends and includes traditional 12-step work. A leading educator at what is considered the leading institution for higher education at the high school level in the United States has introduced Unique Self teaching into education in comparative religious mysticism. A popular professor at University of Michigan just used Gafni’s teaching on Eros as the core book for his courses last semester.

Over the past 30 years, Dr. Gafni has developed many educational programs and workshops rooted in traditional wisdom and yet fully adapted to the needs of the contemporary world. His acclaimed writings and standing-room-only lectures are known for their unique mix of profound teaching and transmission, open hearted compassion and love, intellectual rigor. Depending on the night, he might include stand-up comedy or storytelling.

An iconoclastic artist and provocative visionary, Dr. Gafni has led spiritual movements and learning communities as well as created and hosted the leading national Israeli television program, on Israel’s leading network, on ethics and spirituality. Now, he is focusing on bringing his passion, brilliance, and ability to transmit an open hearted presence to the World Spirituality movement which he initiated together with Ken Wilber, Mariana Caplan, Sally Kempton, Warren Farrell and dozens of other intellectual and spiritual luminaries which is chaired by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods. 

World Spirituality is a new framework for meaning based on an attempt at the highest possible integration of pre-modern religions, modern scientific principles, and post-modern philosophies based on Integral principles. More than an interfaith movement, and beyond perennial philosophy, World Spirituality thinkers are blazing new evolutionary paths in discovering the New Enlightenment, a path for realizing authentic self-discovery and evolving the source code of human meaning and values.

Dr. Gafni has written seven books including the national bestseller Soul Prints, which won awards including the NAPRA Nautilus Award for Best Spirituality Book of 2001, and the critically acclaimed book The Mystery of Love, which focused on Kabbalah and Eros. Both books were published by Simon & Schuster, and Soul Prints was also made into a National PBS special and both books were made into audio series by Sounds True. All of Gafni’s books are being re-issued by Integral Publishers. Gafni is presenting writing a major new work on World Spirituality together with Ken Wilber. In a series of dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ram Dass, Moshe Idel, Deepak Chopra, Surya Das, Gabriel Cousens, Michael Murphy and many other thought leaders, he advanced the radical notion that all of Hebrew wisdom may be properly understood as a form of evolutionary panentheism whose intended goal is the greatest depth of enlightenment for the greatest possible span of humanity.


Dr. Gafni’s forthcoming book, already considered a classic by its reviewers, is called Your Unique Self, The Democratization of Enlightenment. This work challenges the conventional wisdom of enlightenment as suggests a fundamental evolution of the source code of enlightenment thought. It is the culmination of years of research into Western and Eastern enlightenment traditions and many hours of conversations with cutting-edge thinkers and spiritual teachers from diverse lineages and traditions. His other forthcoming books include a two-volume thousand-page work Radical Kabbalah and Non Dual Humanism, based on his doctoral dissertation at Oxford University, Towards Integral Religion: Dance of Tears, and Between Certainty and Uncertainty: The Future of Faith, and World Spirituality Based on Integral Principles co-authored with Ken Wilber. Collectively these works set the context for and elucidate a teaching he refers to as the Enlightenment of Fullness.

The themes of Dr. Gafni’s early books have been transcended and included in a new paradigm based on Integral principles with Unique Self as its first core principle. The World Spirituality movement brings the Enlightenment of Fullness into practice in real world communities, creating a vibrant and fulfilling context of meaning for people around the globe who can no longer locate themselves in the religious traditions or who no longer feel that one religion can be their exclusive home. The Unique Self principle reconciles Eastern and Western approaches to enlightenment in an elegant, exciting, and original way. Together with Mariana Caplan, Sally Kempton and other leading teachers, he is shaping a revolutionary way of understanding the nature of human existence, a new paradigm which could very well re-make today’s spiritual landscape.

Marc Gafni SpeakingFor a public figure, he has been remarkably unafraid to show his continual evolution as a thinker and in his personal life, at times facing trials to his reputation on hate-sites and in the some corners of the blogosphere. He has lived boldly the mantra of World Spirituality: wake up, grow up, show up, and lighten up. As he defied the odds to successfully overcome injustice and obstacle, he brought his deepened awareness of personal and collective shadow to his writings in such areas as the evolution masculinity and femininity and ethics in spiritual communities.

Dr. Gafni, born Marc Winiarz, is the son of Kehath Winiarz and Claire Subar, survivors of the Holocaust. He earned his doctorate from Oxford University in England and today he lives in the greater San Francisco area. He is the father of four children. He is the director of the Center for World Spirituality and teacher in residence at the Venwoude Spiritual Community in Holland and at the Shalom Mountain Wisdom School in New York. He occasionally forays into the corporate board room leading widely acclaimed seminars for CEOs.
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Last Updated:  07/13/2008
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