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Mordecai Gafni - Let The Healing Begin?

Hilarious posts 5/17/06 from Gafni's friend Ken Wilber of Integralnaked.org. He's all shocked that someone who teaches for something called Integralnaked could commit "sexual improprieties." Here are excerpts from Wilber:

...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.

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

Ken

Rabbi Yosef Blau responds on Jewschool:

Some critics of Jewish Renewal are responding to the accusations against Mordechai Gafni by criticising the movement. This should not lead to the defensive response of refusing to reevaluate the tragic dismissal of earlier accusations.

I have known Mordechai for at least twenty five years starting when he was a student and during the years that he functioned as an Orthodox rabbi. The young women who complained then and have never modified their stories, did not receive much of a hearing then from an Orthodox rabbinate that was impressed by his charisma and talent. A number of us, followed a career of short periods of brilliance as a head of an outreach program, a teacher and a congregational rabbi each ending suddenly with rumor of scandal. After changing his name and moving to Israel the pattern repeated itself. The only thorough investigation of the accusations was made by a private investigator in Israel in 1997 and it did not clear him. Based on my ongoing conversations with women who had made accusations, which was only a portion of the dossier prepared by the private investigator, the supposed investigations by various rabbis two years ago were minimal and their testimony not heard. I suggest that all the defenders read the long interview with Rabbi Gafni in the magazine (sof hashavua) of Maariv Oct. 15, 2004. If he is sick, then it is not the kind of illness that suddenly strikes someone in his mid forties and his earlier behavior should reevaluated accordingly.

Whether one supports Jewish Renewal or not is irrelevant to the fundamental issue of protecting women from abuse from an authority figure.

Micha Odenheimer writes:

Ken Wilbur has an unfortunate history of turning a blind eye, or “rehabilitating” even the most egregious offenses of people he considers “brilliant”–usually those whose ideas conform in some ways to his own. This history includes fawning praise of Da Free John, but even more significantly, continuing association with “enlightened spiritual master” Andrew Cohen, whose history of severe, ungoing and systematic psychological abuse of his followers is well documented in two books: “Enlightenment Blues” written by Andre van der Braak, a student of Cohen for 11 years, and the other, Mother of God, by Cohen’s own mother, Luna Tarno, who was also his disciple until understanding the tyrannical and narcisistic nature of Andrew’s guruship. There is also ongoing documentation on www.whatenlightenment.blogspot.com.

The Gafni connection is that, through Wilbur, Gafni met Cohen and invited him to tour Israel together with him as a guest of Bayit Hadash. I personally contacted Gafni and warned him of Cohen’s systematic humiliation of his followers, and his creation of an almost fascistic hiearchy of people “in favor” or “out of favor” with Cohen–to no avail. Gafni continued to promote Cohen in Israel. Wilbur continues to benefit from his association with Cohen and to appear with him on the pages of Cohen’s magazine “What is Enlightenment”. So there is a triangle of abuse here, with Cohen, Gafni, Wilbur, with Wilbur acting as enabler of both–and with both Cohen and Gafni returning the favor by continuing to promote Wilbur as a great philosopher and theologian of the New Age. Will Wilbur learn from the Gafni incident and reexamine the copious evidence of Cohen’s continued and extremely severe psychological abuse of followers? I doubt it.

Incidentally, as my friend Shefa Siegal has pointed out, one of the aspects of both Wilbur and Jewish Renewal’s promotion of Gafni and failure to truly investigate accusations against him despite repeated warnings is that Renewal, and I assume Wilbur’s organization, made good money from Gafni. Gafni, a facile “charismatic” speaker, was a good draw for Renewal events and for retreat centers such as Elat Chayim associated with Renewal. Whether consciously or not, I assume this was part of what kept the whole kit and kaboodle running forward.

Yeilah writes:

I am more than a little disturbed by Ken Wilbur’s assumption that Gafni’s sincerity is meaningful. People with pathologies like Gafni’s (I am assuming he has a personality disorder of some kind) are frequently sincere in their apologies once they get caught. I have personal experience with this through a family member, who has issued more than eight deeply sincere and moving apologies but hasn’t been able to stop his behaviot. People like this may mean what they say, but will often cycle through the behavior again, and then offer more sincere apologies when they get caught again. Sadly, sincerity is not a benchmark for success in this matter.

Rabbi Marc Gafni & Andrew Cohen 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.

Rabbi Fired Over Sex Claims, Defenders Offer Mea Culpa

Jennifer Siegel writes the first article (I can find) in the Forward 5/18/06 about Gafni:

...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.

"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."

That's nonsense. Plenty of people offered support to Gafni's past accusers and there were those like me who published their stories. Any woman who chose to get involved with Gafni after Gary Rosenblatt's article in 2004 chose to get involved with a sexual predator. It's hard to cry for them.

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.

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 Saul Berman Must Be Removed From Public Jewish Life Immediately

Shmarya blogs in response to the Forward article:

Rabbi Berman found these allegations to lack credibility, even though it now seems clear that he did not speak to Gafni's victims, and even though the 1994 allegations mirror earlier allegations against Gafni. (As the story notes, they also mirror the new allegations against him.) Now, Rabbi Berman "regrets" his support for Gafni. But he has not issued an apology to Gafni's victims, and seems far more concerned about the damage done to his own reputation that the damage done to the bodies and psyches of Gafni's victims.

Also note the following line; "it is vital to distinguish between past accusations against Rabbi Gafni and the current situation." It is vital for Rabbis Berman, Telushkin and Firestone that this artificial distinction be made. With it, their deplorable conduct can be whitewashed.

Gafni has a 30 year history of abuse, a history these scum in rabbis' garments still seek to deny. If the board of Edah does not remove Rabbi Berman, all of us should remove Edah from our checkbooks.

Again, note the lack of concern these "spiritual leaders" have for Gafni's victims. I don't know who is sicker – Gafni the rapist or Berman the rabbi.