From: Chaia Lehrer, Elat Chayyim Jewish Retreat Center
Sent: Thursday, May 25, 2006 5:29 PM
Subject: Announcement from Chair of Elat Chayyim Board
Dear members of the Elat Chayyim community
I am very saddened to share with you a situation about which I have recently learned. Mordechai Gafni, a talented rabbi who has taught at Elat Chayyim and in many other places, has been accused of sexual misconduct by women within his spiritual community in Israel, several of whom have filed complaints with the police. He has not denied the allegations. These are serious offenses because although these relationships were apparently consensual, there is no place for relations like this between a rabbi and his students or between an employer and his employees.
Some of you may have studied with Mordechai Gafni, or participated in other events with him. For others he might be a complete stranger, and this letter may be irrelevant.
I am writing to you because experts who deal with abuse of power indicate that the first thing that must happen after the revelation of sexual abuse and/or abuse of power by clergy is full and honest disclosure to the community of the facts, as accurately as they are known.
It is in this spirit that I am passing on to you the information that I received from Israel, and informing you that Mordechai Gafni will no longer teach at Elat Chayyim. Those who have registered for his classes have been notified, and may either choose another workshop or receive a refund.
The Program Committee of Elat Chayyim had, in anticipation of our move to Isabella Freedman, begun to review our Code of Ethics, which all teachers are required to abide by. This unfortunate incident has strengthened our determination to maintain our high standards and continue to create an environment that is safe and heartfelt for all our guests.
The Committee continues to work in this regard.
This situation is only beginning to unfold. As always, at moments like this, there is a tendency to want to share and speak about what has happened. I urge all of us to do so with the highest awareness of what our tradition teaches about lashon harah, negative speech. We have both the obligation to know and to teach about abuse of power, and the obligation to strive to refrain from gossip -- and any harm that we may cause others by our speech.
This is also a moment to send our love and support to those women who have been harmed, and to acknowledge their courage in coming forth.
May we each send forth our blessings for healing, for all those who are involved in this situation and for each of us as we face our own shadows in the journey through our lives,
Chairperson, Board of Directors
Elat Chayyim Jewish Retreat Center