Click here for Part One On Mordecai Gafni More
In Defense Of Rabbi Mordecai Gafni
Rabbi Gafni and his supporters widely distributed the following letter from Orthodox Rabbi Saul Berman (from early 2005 until May 2006):
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
Gary Rosenblatt Reports On Gafni In The Jewish Week
He writes in the 5/19/06 issue:
...“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.”
...[Gafni] 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.
...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.
Gafni's friend Ken Wilber is 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.
Rabbi Fired Over Sex Claims, Defenders Offer Mea Culpa
Jennifer Siegel writes the first article (I can find) in the Forward 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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
Jewish Defense Organization (JDO) Vs. Marc Gafni
The JDO has sent out mass emails identifying Gafni's biggest financial supporters, including Shari Arison, once the richest resident of Israel, and Michael Steinhardt (a billionaire who subsidizes the Forward).
These rich Jews got embarrassed and hired lawyers to send threatening lawyers to the JDO. Some of the letters are hysterically funny.
Five JDO activists disrupted a fundraiser (at a Reform temple in the Mid-West) for Mordecai Gafni last month. Gafni was not present. The people in the temple went crazy because they like Gafni.
JDO sent out about 50,000 emails warning people about Gafni by quoting from various news reports about the kinky rabbi.
Feeling his fundraising base threatened, Gafni is consulting with his wealthy advisors and is trying to sue the JDO.
Gafni's wealthiest donors, people such as Shari Arison and Michael Steinhardt, want to sue the JDO. They're embarrassed to be outed as subsidizers of a sexual predator. They want to launch a libel action in England where it is frequently a criminal rather than civil matter and much easier to win than in America.
JDO emailed out a secret list of donors to Gafni's organization/cult Bayit Chadash. The JDO emailed Gafni's donors, telling them we know who you are and we know what you've done.
Shari Arison is in freak-out land and she has her lawyers trying to track down the shadowy JDO to serve them.
Gafni wants to return to America because this is where the money is. He's gone quiet the past five months since Gary Rosenblatt and others revealed his predatory past.
Here's an email the JDO received from a lawyer representing some macher: "How dare the JDO put out my client's name? He is a private person. The JDO has no right to call supporters of rabbi Gafni 'supporters of an evil cult.'"
Here's an email from Shari Arison's lawyer: "I've been a law professor for over [X] number of years. It is with supreme repugnance...the JDO's stance on rabbi Gafni. It demonstrates to outsiders that this organization can not tell the difference between freedom of speech and slander. ...Newspapers will hopefully see through this and not publish this slander."
Steinhardt's lawyer told the JDO to keep Steinhardt out of it. It is no one's business what Michael's connection is to Gafni. Whatever connection he has goes back years.
One of Michael Steinhardt's kids writes to the JDO: "Please stop circulating our father's name. Please do not put out about him and rabbi Winiarz. Putting out this information is only going to hurt Mr. Steinhardt's attempt to help major philanthropic projects across the US."
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."
Someone representing Avraham Infeld contacted the JDO: "We take humbrage at the fact that the JDO is circulating various articles about rabbi Gafni. It is true that the current director of Hillel had him speak prior to becoming the director of Hillel... Just because Avraham Infeld did this...does not mean that Hillel is involved in any way, shape or form, with rabbi Gafni. If any Hillel directors do have rabbi Gafni speak, then bring that to that Hillel director's attention."
Someone from the UCLA Hillel emails the JDO: "We understand that the JDO is circulating various things against rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller [UCLA Hillel rabbi for about 20 years] attacking him for having dealings with rabbi Gafni. Because of JDO's postings, rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller has been spoken to by national Hillel and there is no plan to have rabbi Gafni speak again."
Paul Feldman, a former member of the national Hillel board, emails the JDO: "The JDO must feel real good. You are destroying rabbi Gafni's attempt to make a parnassa [earn a living]. Does the JDO enjoy what they're doing? Does the JDO enjoy lumping rabbi Gafni with Hare Krishnas and all kinds of other evil cults? The emails posted attacking rabbi Gafni and rabbi Seidler-Feller are causing us undue distress. ...If you discredit [rabbi Gafni]. you are discrediting all of us."
The University of Illinois Hillel chapter (where rabbi J. Hershy Worch once worked) tells the JDO they will never have rabbi Gafni speak to them. "We didn't know much about him. Somebody tried to book him to speak here. But we weren't sure of him. Thanks to your emails, we did more background... This prevented us from bringing a man who can only be called a national disaster for Jews."
The JDO fears that rabbi Gafni is misleading people who don't know Judaism. They are like a bunch of people in a darkened room. He lights a candle but it only sheds enough light for them to follow him around the room. He's not turning on a light so they can see their way out of there. Just enough light so he can lead them on a track to nowhere.
If Gafni's financial supporters are written up, they're likely to stop contributing, which will diminish or end Gafni's rabbinic work.
Books by Gafni:
• The Mystery of Love, Atria Books – a Division of Simon and Schuster, 2003
• The Uncertain Spirit – Towards a New Theology, (reclaiming uncertainty as a spiritual value) winter publication, 2000 in Hebrew - Modan Publishing; tentative Publication in English – Shocken, Scribbner 2001
• The Certain Spirit – winter publication, Hebrew Modan. English Publication, Summer 2001
• Soul Prints- a Philosophy of Individualism - Lead Spring Catalogue, Pocket Books, 2000 Division of Simon and Schuster USA
• PBS, Public Television; national network special on Soul Prints, March 2001
• An Academic translation and Study of Mei Hashiloach by Mordechai Lainer of Ishbitz, accepted for publication Jewish Publication Society (with Dr. Don Seeman –Harvard University)
• Lilith and Leah: A Biblical Lurianic Paradigm, with Ohad Ezrahi, for Summer publication 2001 in Hebrew with Modan, in English, Shocken Scribner
• On Laughter and Tears: Re-visioning Ritual, first draft written, anticipated publication, 2003 – no decision taken yet by Curtis Brown – the Agency responsible for publication
• Personal Myth Essays with Ohad Ezrahi, for Winter Publication 2001, in Hebrew - Modan Summer Publication, in English with Harvard or Shocken
Articles by Gafni:
• Lead Essay in Tikkun Magazine on The Erotic and the Ethical, March 2003
• “Walking Together; New Models for Community”, Conservative Judaism, Summer þ2000 (Published)
• Essays in Tikkun Magazine 1999-2003
• Lead Essay in Tikkun Magazine on Philosophy of Individualism – March 2001
• “Nachman of Breslav; Living in the Void”, Dimui, for fall publication.
• Contributor of columns - Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem Report and Chayim Acherim (Alternative Living)
• “On the Commandment to Question”, Azure, Summer Issue, 1996.
• “An Annotated Bibliography of Joseph Soloveitchik”, Da’at, Journal for Jewish Thought and Philosophy, 1992.
• “Against Fundamentalism”, Nekudah Magazine, January 1991.
• “Religious Secular Symbiosis - Philosophical Perspectives”, Nativ, March 1991.
• “The Sacred and the Profane - Legal Perspective”, Machanayim, 1991.
• First Steps in Judaism, (book) recommended by the Ministry of Education of the State of Israel.
• “Left-Right-Left-Attention - Halt! - A Sociological Analysis”, Nekudah Magazine, May 1990.
• “The Conversion Issue, Models for Pluralism”, lead article in Proceedings of the Fellowship of Traditional Orthodox Rabbis, 1989.
• “The Wisdom of Distinctions,” Emunah Magazine, 1989.
• “I Cannot be Silent”, Palm Beach Jewish World, 1989.
• “Jewish Pride”, Palm Beach Jewish World, 1988.
• “Is Religion for the Happy-Minded? Tradition, 1981
Here are excerpts of Mordechai Gafni biographies. I assume he wrote or approved all of these below:
"Described as a cross between Rabbi Soloveitchik and Shlomo Carlebach, Rabbi Gafni has attracted huge numbers of students in Jerusalem and TelAviv ranging from secular Israelis to black hat yeshiva students. He is currently completing a book tentatively titled The Benefit of Doubt."
Where is this book?
"Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, currently lecturer in mysticism at Oxford..."
Mordechai Gafni, Bait Hadash Rabbi Mordechai (Marc) 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 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 two works of Jewish thought in Hebrew with two more forthcoming in the next year. A third book, Soul Prints, 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 many languages and was chosen for the prestigious Napra Nautilus Award for the Best Spirituality Book of 2001. Gafni has also just come out with his second English book, entitled "The Mystery of Love". Gafni's work has deservedly earned him the reputation as a modern philosopher: wise, compassionate, accessible, and universal.
Marc Gafni, a profound thinker, philosopher, and spiritual guide, is the author of the national bestseller Soul Prints, which was adapted into a national PBS special and received a NAPRA Award for Best Spirituality Book of 2001. It was also a main selection of the One Spirit Book Club. In the last ten years, Gafni has emerged as a premier voice in Israeli and international religion and spirituality. He teaches graduate seminars on mysticism at Oxford University and is the founder of Bayit Chadash, an international spiritual movement based in Israel on the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee. He leads retreats around the world on spiritual thought and practice and is the author of three Hebrew works of philosophy.
According to Tikkun magazine: "Mordechai (Marc) Gafni is the leader of Bayit Chadash, a spiritual center in Israel, author of several philosophical works including Soul Prints, and a writer and teacher at Oxford University."
From Gafni's Simon & Schuster biography: "A visiting scholar at Oxford University and the Hartman Institute and frequent contributor to Tikkun magazine, he lives in Jerusalem and in Oxford, England."
1) Letter by Rabbi Causes Flap in House Race
November 2, 1990 The Associated Press
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 Democratseven though Gafnis 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.
Rabbi rolls out Jewish rock album Associated Press August 17, 1987 St. Petersburg Times
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.``
A Q&A With Reform Leader Rabbi Eric Yoffe About Rabbi Marc Gafni
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.
Eric Yoffie replies:
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.
Robert Goodman's Next Documentary - Rabbi Mordechai Gafni?
My friend Rob (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes June 7, 2006:
...I heard no one really read your blog! It seems that people do and that what’s written gets around. I received a bunch of e-mails responding to your post the other day about my idea for a documentary film addressing the “Gafni situation” ... a film I imagine at this point to be more about the response of the “establishment” of the community he was/is in than about the bad behavior itself.
I received a few e-mails from people offering to “dish the dirt” on Gafni: three of these were from people who had crossed paths (spiritual paths?) with Gafni over the years; two were from people who described more on-going dealings with him.
I also heard from a friend today that Rabbi Tirza Firestone said she’s not sure about meeting me when I come to Boulder.
I’ve never met, written about, filmed, or spoken with Rabbi Firestone, but I guess she’s hesitant to meet me because in the blog that you posted I wrote that I believe that there was a kind of iron wall put up by rabbis associated with Renewal against “Gafni accusers” and someone told her about this. Or she reads your blog.
I’m having second thoughts about this documentary. First. I’m not sure I want to spend time doing a Nick Broomfield-type thing where I’m accusing/uncovering/making people uncomfortable. Sounds kinda sad and depressing.
Second, I really like a lot of the people who I believe acted badly in a bad situation and now are just defensive about the whole thing, insulating themselves by saying things like “we need more time to reflect on what’s happened so we won’t say anything now” or “we’re doing our own personal healing with the people affected so we prefer just to keep it to ourselves” or “we’re doing a workshop next Tuesday where we’re hosting a roundtable seminar called “Men, Women and Authority” so we’ll discuss it with you then.”
The irony is that these people are in the spiritual business usually in a capacity of authority so now are really confused.
The best, of course, would be if the film started off as a kind of typical accusation, but through investigation found out that the truth was something different. This would be inspiring. Cynicism turned on its head!
You should know at this point that I also received an angry e-mail from a woman who a few weeks ago on the phone described to me, in detail, her very hurtful sexual relationship with Gafni as well as narrated stories highlighting what a manipulative cad he is (and oh, was he a cad!).
The irony of this story is that last month – just a few days, coincidentally, before the women in Israel made complaints to the police about Gafni – she had contacted me for the first time to get a copy of my film 180 Degrees to Jerusalem, which has a clip of Gafni in it. At that time, she sent me 4 documents defending Gafni. I’ve attached these documents for you.
One of them is addressed “To The Jewish Community worldwide:” and written by 18 people, including Rabbi Tirzah Firestone” and other important Renewal leaders. In it, they write that the focus of their "discussion is Rabbi Mordechai Gafni (but) the issues we address are universal and timeless."
Their letter (GafniSupportLtr.doc) makes the following points:
(1) Several people have led a campaign to besmirch Gafni’s name. These people are bad.
(2) The people writing the letter did their own investigations of Gafni and he is fully innocent.
(3) Anyone who speaks bad or makes false accusations about Gafni is doing lashon hara – fully prohibited by the Torah (and, by the way, an extremely serious “sin” according to many Torah scholars).
(4) Because Gafni has been wronged, we are obligated to “right the wrong” and support him.
(5) The writers have worked closely with Gafni for a long time and say that “Rabbi Gafni is a person of real integrity” and possesses a unique combination of courage and audacity and… genuine humility”.
(6) They “urge the reader …to reject the false reports…and give him your full support, as we all have done and continue to do.”
(7) “If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact any one of us directly.”
What the letter doesn’t say of course is that if in the end they were wrong about Gafni -Very sorry. Really. – contact us only if you won’t take us to task. (Isn’t this what Bush, Rove, Cheney and Rumsfeld said after the conclusions that there really were no WMD in Iraq?)
A few of the criticisms I received after the last blog was that I had unfairly grouped “all Renewal leaders” – as if they spoke in one voice and all had the same information and reactions.
The truth is, the above the letter was written by prominent Renewal leaders – and others. Are these people involved now in healing and helping people affected by Gafni? I’m sure they are.
For me, I’ll do the film if someone’s actions inspire me to believe that the hypocrisy, bad behavior, and self-righteousness isn’t pandemic in “spiritual Judaism” – in places like Renewal – in the same way that it is clear it is in so many obvious places in our modern lives. Come on, people! Stop the double-talk! We're cool Jews; have we become "Them"?
And the whole story’s beginning to bore me anyway.
Remember the B-movie They Live! - with Rowdy Roddy Piper? Get me the people with the glasses.
AwarenessCenterLtr.doc GafniInquiryLtr.doc GafniSupportLtr.doc Jewish Week response.doc
Robert Goodman's Next Documentary - Rabbi Mordechai Gafni?
Rob emails me June 5, 2006:
I want to tell you about the documentary and how it's shaping up. This Friday I leave for a week trip to Boulder where I'll start to meet people in the Renewal movement.
What's interesting to me in the Gafni story is not what he did, but how the "machine" around him responded to his devious deeds. I believe that (1) all the important leaders/rabbis in the Renewal Movement knew exactly what he was up to all along; (2) they conspired to keep it a secret for their own selfish reasons; (3) they attacked all accusers - including me when I alluded to Gafni's indiscretions a few years ago during the filming of the other doc I made in Israel. These Renewal rabbis responded in like fashion to the Bushies' typical response to criticism and accusations from journalists; (3) hypocrisy, close-mindedness and meanness is no more a stranger to the "hippie" Jewish Renewal movement than it is to the Catholic Church. This makes me really sad.
I have a second question I plan to raise in the documentary: how bad exactly was Gafni? Is he just a cad ... or is he more evil than this? How much hypocrisy must we stifle in ourselves when we pass judgment? How much did "we" allow him with a nod and a wink?
From this question, I thought an interesting format for this documentary might be to do two separate 45-minute documentaries - one by me and one by another (I think woman) filmmaker - both addressing these same questions around Gafni. No shared material, just specific questions that must be addressed. Maybe they'd be shown back to back or maybe they'd be cut into each other by chapters.
...I haven't formed a clear opinion about how the "establishment" has responded over the years - and is responding now - to the Gafni story. In truth, I don't need their cooperation and certainly will not disguise my inquiry in some sort of flattery so that they'll open up to me.
If I decide to do this, Rabbi Zalman Shacter-Shlalomi and all the others will be in it - in situations where they agree to speak with me or in situations where they're running away from me as I chase them with a camera rolling. These people need to answer questions about actions they made that have affected A LOT of people.
If they act like Don Rumsfeld and are snide and secretive, then they'll come off as Don Rumsfeld does - dishonest and manipulative. I don't feel I need to be "nice" to them. I feel I need to serve notice about what I'm about to do.
Put it all on your blog. I'm happy to get it out there and see who has integrity and who's the same kind of phony Gafni has turned out to be. (If he's a phony at all - we'll see in the doumentary...)
The only other thing I ask is that you not portray my documentary a type of witch hunt to expose and discredit rabbis in Renewal. I will not try to do this; rather, I want to be clear that I have questions that I will demand be answered, whether it is comfortable for them to answer or not. I believe they ARE involved in this story - the ones who defended Gafni at least - and are therefore it is legitimate to question their actions without consideration for how this will make them feel, or somesuch nonsense.
When A Rabbi Does Wrong
Calev Ben-David writes in The Jerusalem Post about another example of the "yesterday's news tomorrow" approach of establishment Jewish journalism:
A few years ago, while I was still a senior editor at The Jerusalem Post, someone at the paper suggested we do a profile of American-born "New Age rabbi" Mordechai Gafni. At the time, his television appearances and some mentions in the Hebrew media were beginning to gain him widespread notice in Israel. Well before that, though, I had attended a few of his Torah lectures in Jerusalem for the Anglo-Israeli community, and saw firsthand that he was a compelling speaker and charismatic personality.
Unfortunately, I also knew there were some disturbing rumors about him in the Orthodox community concerning inappropriate sexual behavior while he was still a rabbinical student in the US - including an alleged relationship with the underage daughter of one of his patrons. I asked around the paper and one of the reporters said she knew a woman who had been more recently involved in an inappropriate (though in this case not illegal) relationship with Gafni. Though I pressed the reporter to get more solid information, in the end she was unable to come up with anything that could be put on record.
Under these circumstances, especially in dealing with a figure much admired by several people I knew personally, I decided not to go ahead with any sort of profile of Gafni for the time being.
...To my regret, I didn't quite rise to that challenge as a journalist when it came to the case of Mordechai Gafni. It's a lesson that I - and many other people - would do well not to forget next time.