Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rabbi Kenneth Hain's Part in Protecting Rabbi Mordechai Gafni

Rabbi Hain "Sometimes the bigger person is the one who can just let things go." Rabbi Kenneth Hain - Past President of the Rabbinical Council of America

In 1986 soon after I was a victim of Mordechai Gafni's attempted forced sexual advances, a sixteen-year J.P.S.Y. (Jewish Public School Youth) girl, Judy, confided in me that Mordechai Winiarz (his name prior to his name-change to Gafni) had been sexually abusing and threatening her on several occasions. I realized immediately that I needed to bring these serious concerns to people who would stand up for what was right and put an end to his abuse of power and people. I had seen myself what he was capable of, and I was not going to stand idly by and let him abuse others.

Among people from whom I sought help and guidance, I turned to Rabbi Kenneth Hain, the current Rabbi of Beth Sholom in Lawrence, NY, who had connections with Yeshiva University (which funded JPSY) and who knew Mordechai personally. I called him to tell him my fears and concerns regarding the details of the sexual abuse of and threats made by Mordechai to Judy as well as the experience I had had with Mordechai when he attempted to seduce me. Rabbi Hain listened to everything and said to me, "You weren't there, so you don't know if this is true." When I told him the details of Mordechai's sexual advances towards me as well as his subsequent threats to me and to Judy once he knew that she and I had spoken, Rabbi Hain responded, "Sometimes the bigger person is the one who can just let things go."

Although twenty years have passed, I will never forget his exact words and how they shocked me. Here was yet another enabler of Mordechai--someone who had the responsibility to be as courageous as Rabbi Yosef Blau and at least investigate these allegations and follow-through with a proper course of action; yet, all Rabbi Hain did was quash me and insist that I "let things go." Rabbi Blau listened to victims and acted responsibly to ensure that the many accusations agains Mordechai be taken seriously and that Mordechai not be allowed to continue in his position as leader of JPSY.

Mordechai was eventually ousted from J.P.S.Y. I later heard from reliable sources that it was Rabbi Kenneth Hain who had furnished Mordechai with a letter of recommendation that he travelled with. With this reference, Mordechai fled to Boca Raton, Florida where he managed to dupe the Boca Raton community into accepting him to serve as rabbi of Boca Raton Synagogue in Montoya Circle. Well, it wasn't long before scandal befell the community and allegations of serious sexual improprieties as well as misappropriation of funds shook the community. Changing his name to Gafni, Mordechai fled to Israel, and his string of sexual abuse and lies continued--with support from his enablers--until now, twenty years later—when we finally heard his “confession.”

In 2004, I spoke with another survivor of Mordechai’s sexual abuse. She had been quashed at every attempt to plea for someone to stop him, but her pleas went unanswered. In The Jewish Week in September 2004, Gary Rosenblatt quoted Mordechai’s acknowledgement of a sexual relationship with this then thirteen year old girl— (though he claimed it was consensual) and he STILL succeeded in obtaining support from the enablers mentioned above while this now young woman cried out that she had been sexually assaulted by him repeatedly over so many months.…

In addition to Rabbi Kenneth Hain every single person who supported Mordechai despite the numerous, substantial, and growing allegations--and quashed victims' experiences --claiming that there had been investigations that never took place--should be forced to realize the effects of their actions and inaction.

The letter below was signed and distributed to “The Jewish Community Worldwide” in 2005 in defense of Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni:

To The Jewish Community worldwide:
In this letter we the undersigned ask the Jewish community worldwide to reaffirm its commitment to the Torah, and to the ethical principles of Judaism. Although the specific focus of our discussion is Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, whom have known collectively for many years, the issues we address are universal and timeless.
A group of several people – none of whom know Rabbi Gafni personally in any real way, and none who has had any contact in the past twenty years – have undertaken a systematic campaign to besmirch his name. Their primary method has been to keep alive and distort two very old and long discredited stories. Their attacks have recently increased in volume and intensity. He has consistently and generously offered to meet with them, but they have refused.

Many people who know Rabbi Gafni well, as all the undersigned do, have individually and collectively examined the accusations about him that this group has been spreading. We have found their rumors and accusations to be either wholly without substance or radically distorted to the point of falsification. We conclude that the false and malicious rumors against Gafni constitute lashon hara – and that the dissemination of such lies is prohibited by the Torah and Jewish ethical principles.

Thus we must address and to make right the wrong that has been attempted in regard to Rabbi Gafni, and affirm our support of him as an important teacher and leader in the Jewish community.

We have worked with Rabbi Gafni in many contexts, ranging from colleague to employer. We have published his works in our collections, co-taught with him, and known him in a host of other close relationships. Over the years, we have also extensively discussed with him the different stages of his life and the decisions he has made in relationships, professional choices and more.

We affirm without reservation that in addition to being a person of enormous gifts, depth, and vision, Rabbi Gafni is also a person of real integrity. He possesses a unique combination of courage and audacity coupled with a genuine humility that comes only from having lived life fully – with all of its complexity, beauty and sometimes pain.

Leaders of his caliber and depth who are committed to ongoing personal development are few and far between. From our dual commitment to him as an individual, as well as to the most profound ethical teachings of the Torah, we urge you as the reader of this letter to reject the false reports about Rabbi Gafni, and to give him your full support, as we all have done and continue to do.
If you have further questions, please feel free to contact any one of us directly.

Sincerely,

Metuka Benjamin, Director of Education, Stephen S. Wise Temple
Rabbi Phyllis Berman, Former Director Elat Chayyim summer program
Rabbi Saul Berman, Director, Edah
Zivit Davidovich, Executive Producer, Israel Channel 2 Television
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Congregation Nevei Kodesh
Rabbi Shefa Gold. Director C-Deep, composer and teacher
Rabbi Arthur Green, Dean, Hebrew College Rabbinical School
Rabbi Eli Herscher, Stephen S. Wise Synagogue
Arthur Kurzweil, former Director, Elat Chayyim, Jewish Book Club,
Avraham Leader, Leader Minyan, Bayit Chadash
Stephen Marmer, M.D., Psychiatrist, UCLA Medical School
Jacob Ner-David, Board Chair, Bayit Chadash
Peter Pitzele, Ph.D., Bibliodrama Institute
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbinic Chair, Aleph
Don Seeman, Ph.D. Emory University
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author, Jewish Literacy and Jewish Wisdom
Rabbi David Zaslow, Havurah Shir Hadash
Noam Zion, Hartman Institute

Because of these Jewish community leaders’ blatant dishonor to the rabbinate, negligence and inaction-- many women have become victims of Gafni's sexual abuse. This is a true Chillul Hashem--that supposed representatives of Judaism who should have cared about victims' claims and pleas chose not only to shut their ears but to lend support, encouragement , and financial assistance to the abuser--Gafni. These individuals must be held accountable for enabling Mordechai to add more victims to his list . These individuals need to issue public statements of apology to the survivors whom they ignored and to society at large for endangering all the people Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni encountered over the past twenty five years.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The rabbi's who signed this letter should eat their words and choke on them! They should all be ashamed of themselves. Thank G-d Gafni has been exposed. The rabbi's have also been exposed: "Protect our colleagues at all costs. Women who claim to be victims are not credible."
Tell me something? What makes Jews think they better than anyone else?

May 24, 2006 5:49 AM  
Anonymous tzubruchen said...

Who wrote this and where did it appear?

May 24, 2006 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to write the suvivor who wrote this. I know how much courage it took to write this letter. I wish I had the same courage as you.

I went to Rabbi Hain a few years ago about a similar situation. His response to me was very similar. Maybe if he reads this, he might change his ways.

May 24, 2006 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just this letter, how many others supported Gafni and didn't want to be public about it?

Where's Rabbi Arthur Waskow's name or Rabbi Pamela Frydman-Baugh. They too were vocal supporters of Gafni's.

May 24, 2006 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi Kenny Hain is also Ben Brafman's rov. Brafman is the highest flying and paid, criminal trial lawyer in the country who defends every wealthy pedophile (like Michael Jackson) and filthy mafia murderer. Brafman is reportedly representing Yeshiva Torah Temimah's Lipa Margulies who was the enabler and protector of Rabbi Yudi Kolko.

Brafman wrote a disgusting article that appears in the OU Magazine and the Aish Hatorah website that pats himself on the back as doing a "kiddush Hashem" for defending his scumbag clientele.

What a self-righteous CREEP.

May 26, 2006 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are bad Jews and rabbis just as there are bad imams and priests.

What should you do? Be specific if you make a complaint. Ask that the 3rd party contact the accused with your complaint and respond to you within a given time (one day) with the response from him.

Do not allow the accused to avoid hearing that you have made specific accusations and that you have written details - keep a journal of all details. Make copies of the accusations and send them to the third party. Ask him to forward them to the accused.

Continue in this way with specific written records. Expand the network of those whom you contact until you achieve some semblance of a recognition that you have made credible and serious charges.

Go to the police.

May 27, 2006 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The smear against Ben Brafman is silly, unfounded and pretty disgusting. Sad the way angry idiots slur others under the cloak of anonymity on these blogs.

And I know how quickly some people love to smear Rabbis, of anydenomination. But first, you need to research what they knew and when.

Untill then, don't start bashing them -- even if your self-righteous
excuse of speaking on behalf of the victims is sincere.

May 31, 2006 10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do not fret. Eventually everyone receives their justice in this world or the next, and with the internet much more in this world. Thank you for sharing this information and keep up the good work. Hopefully if enough of these stories come out we can actually own up and fight them.

December 14, 2011 7:09 AM  

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