Monday, May 15, 2006

A CALL TO ALL SURVIVORS of Rabbi Marc Gafni Please Read This!


Case of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni
(aka: Marc Gafni, Mark Gafni, Marc Winiarz, Mordechai Winiarz, Mordechai Winyarz)

If you or anyone you know is a survivor of Rabbi Marc Gafni please ask them to contact attorney Jeffrey Herman.

Jeffrey Herman
Herman & Mermelstein, P.A.
18205 Biscayne Boulevard
Suite 2218
Miami, Florida 33160
Toll Free: 1-800-686-9921
305-931-2200

*******************
Letter from Mordechai Gafni regarding the recent allegations of sexual assault


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. I 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 appropriate
healing process with both myself and where appropriate 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

5 Comments:

Anonymous Arthur Waskow said...

May 15th, 2006 at 6:30 pm

ALEPH: ALLIANCE FOR JEWISH RENEWAL sent its members two messages today. One reported the events at Bayit Chadash and said that Mordechai Gafni would not do any teaching under ALEPH auspices. (Text below) The other enclosed a message from Mordechai Gafni. (Text below, followed by my own comment).

First:

To the ALEPH community:

It is with great sadness to share with you that we have been informed by Bayit Chadash in Israel that women from their community filed complaints of sexual misconduct against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni with the police. As a result of this information and other information made available to Bayit Chadash, Bayit Chadash has removed Rabbi Gafni from its staff.

When ALEPH received this information from Bayit Chadash, the Executive Committee of the ALEPH Board decided that Rabbi Gafni will no longer teach in any venue sponsored by ALEPH.

The criminal aspects of his actions are up to the police and courts in Israel to decide.

We want to acknowledge the great courage of the women who came forward. And may there be healing for all involved.

B’Shalom,

Linda Jo Doctor
Chair, Board of Directors
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.

*************
Second:

Dear Friends,
Mordechai has asked us to post this response to all those who are aware of the accusations against him. These are his words.
Love,
Susan

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. I 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 appropriate
healing process with both myself and where appropriate 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
******************************
My thoughts (Rabbi Arthur Waskow): This kind of behavior did not start with Mordechai Gafni and will probably not end with him. We need to do a series of deep trainings, not only the fullest ethical teaching at the intellectual level but also serious emotional and spiritual training of (a) our teachers & (b) our entire community to make sure that no one claims the spiritual authority to act in this way, that no one succumbs to such a claim, & especially that a demand for silence about such behavior be taken as a signal not of spiritual height and special protection but an alarm bell that something is wrong.

ALL our institutions — not only Jewish progressive and Jewish renewal, not only Jewish, but for sure all our communities of spiritual life — should be planning such workshops. They go to the heart of empowering our WHOLE community not only to act in a more authentically spiritual way in regard to sex but to have fuller intimate knowing (grokking) of ourelves as integral beings in the life and light of the Holy ONE.

As beings in whom sexual joy is neither sent outside our selves nor allowed to take over our selves, for in either case it will crouch at the doors of our senses and come to rule over us. (See Gen. 4: 6)

The alternative? — “Why are your faces fallen? Do what is good, & they will be uplifted!” Do not look down in shame, do not bow your head before someone else to whom you give more honor and whom you think more godly. — Look each other in the face, look even your misdeeds in the face, look your SELF in the face, and you will see the Image of God. — What crouches at the door will no longer rule over you. Us.

Exhortation is not enough. We must learn how, in all four worlds.

Shalom, Arthur
www.shalomctr.org

May 15, 2006 7:05 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca Lesses said...

The following is a cut and past from another blog.

May 15th, 2006 at 12:03 am

I’m quite disturbed by one comment made by Arthur Waskow, which it seems to me blames the victim rather than the perpetrator - “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.” Doesn’t Arthur understand how an unequal power-relationship can lead to the subordinate/learner being seduced by the teacher/rebbe? It seems to me that here he is really saying that both are equally responsible - which they aren’t. The abuser is the one responsible for the abuse, not the victim. Gafni should have known that you don’t sleep with your subordinates or your students - period. Another disturbing thing about his statement is that it still seems to affirm the idea that the rebbe-student model is something admirable and worth propagating in the Jewish renewal movement. Isn’t the renewal movement supposed to be an example of egalitarian Judaism? Shouldn’t the lesson have been learned from the revelations about Shlomo Carlebach, documented in Lilith Magazine years ago? There is *always* a danger in charismatic leadership and it *must* be hedged about with safeguards so that people in a position of lesser power - such as needy people who are seeking something when they get close to a charismatic leader - are protected. This needs to be set up institutionally - it’s not a matter of “empowerment” here.

May 15, 2006 7:08 PM  
Anonymous Arthur Waskow said...

May 14th, 2006 at 3:19 pm

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

May 15, 2006 7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gafnis' apology makes me want to puke.

His "apology" comes only because he's gotten caught.

Every one of his victims AND supporters should read "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout Ph.d.

Those crocodile tears he's shedding are only for himself, for getting caught and being held accountable.

The only 'teaching' he should ever be allowed to do in the future is teaching others how to clean toilets in prison cells.

May 15, 2006 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has he ever shown remorse for the survivors from years ago? You know the three brave women who shared their stories a few years ago.

No one wanted to listen. Everyone attacked them and those who advocated for them. I wonder what Arthur Waskow and the rest of the folks at Aleph have to say now? I sure hope they take them to court.

May 15, 2006 9:43 PM  

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