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Letters to The Editor
RE: Gafni Ousted For Sexual Behavior
New York Jewish Week
June 2, 2006
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.
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.
New Haven, Conn.
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.