Friday, June 16, 2006

Is Gary Rosenblatt reinventing history when it comes to the case of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni?

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Is Gary Rosenblatt reinventing history when it comes to the case of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni?
(© 2006) By Vicki Polin

Early in 2003, while The Awareness Center, Inc. was in its infancy, several orthodox rabbis (who had a connection with the Rabbinic Council of America and Agudath Israel) started calling to request our organization to do something about Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Winiarz). In order to comply with wishes of the rabbonim, our board and volunteers attempted to track down three known survivors of this alleged sex offender.

We had very little difficulties tracking down the second and third survivors, yet had trouble locating the first. Gary Rosenblatt was the link to finding the first survivor.

During our initial conversation with Winiarz/Gafni's first survivor, we learned that several years prior, she had provided Rosenblatt with her story. Back in the 90’s Gary had heard rumors and tracked her down. The first survivor stated that she was not seeking an opportunity to share her abuse history, but was convinced by Rosenblatt that sharing the story might spare future women the pain of abuse at Winiarz/Gafni's hands.

This survivor shared every painful detail with Gary Rosenblatt. Gary promised that he would publish a story right away. Years went by, there was no further contact and a story was never published. The survivor felt exploited and betrayed.

In 2004 finally Gary Rosenblatt reestablished contact with the first survivor, providing her with the contact information for The Awareness Center. The survivor was apprehensive, yet followed through and made the initial call.

I'll never forget the day Survivors two and three communicated with the first survivor. It was amazing to watch; a day filled with old terror and pain transforming into tears of healing, joy and empowerment.

Amazingly the three survivors were eager to work with Gary Rosenblatt. The intention was and always has been to prevent any more women from being victimized by Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni. The Awareness Center did it's best to work with Gary Rosenblatt as well, and provided him with names of individuals who had first hand knowledge of Gafni’s past.

Gary had ample information and factual content from highly respected rabbis and members of the community. The original story Gary wrote was to be published in the spring of 2004, yet nothing happened. Every week Mr. Rosenblatt told the survivors it would be published the following week, yet nothing happened. It wasn't until September 24, 2004, that an extremely watered down version of what was originally written was published.

In Gary Rosenblatt’s most recent article “Deconstructing The Gafni Case” he wrote:
"They felt they were the victims, that they had suffered enough and did not want to go through a public scrutiny of past abuses and humiliations. His former wives and the other women had new lives to live and reputations to protect."

The problem with this statement is; Gary ceases to mention that in the code of journalistic ethics created by the US department of Justice, one should never publish the names of victims of sex crimes. Three women spoke directly to Rosenblatt with the understanding that thier names would not be used, all of whom were quoted in his original article. It is common journalistic practice to have unnamed sources. Remember Watergate?

Rosenblatt continued:
"But for a journalist probing these accusations and knowing that the resulting expose could destroy the subject's career, professional standards require offering up real people and real names to make those charges. That is why I spent three years on the Gafni trail, interviewing dozens of people about the allegations of sexual misbehavior, before publishing anything. And at that point, in September 2004, I wrote an opinion column rather than a news story because I still did not have anyone with firsthand experience of abuse speaking on the record."
“And I offered up Gafni’s denials, and other rabbis defending him. They said that even if these things had happened, it was a long time ago and he had done teshuva (repentance). . . I think I should have written at the time that I found the women far more credible than Gafni. . . One thinks I should have acted on my instincts and been tougher on Gafni, even though I had no firsthand accounts on the record. Another said I was right to have held out for on-the-record attribution.”
The survivor who was thirteen at the time of her abuse stated that it wasn’t until years after her initial contact with Mr. Rosenblatt that he connected her with The Awareness Center. The survivor had already given a detailed account of her sexual assault directly to Rosenblatt, yet she requested that her name be withheld from the story. From the point this survivor contacted The Awareness Center, it was another six months before Gary's watered down article was published. He promised the survivor years before that he would publish the story the week following the initial interview, yet nothing ever happened.

Back in 2001, survivor number one received a telephone call from Winiarz/Gafni supporter Naomi Mark, ACSW. Naomi's goal was for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to meet with her offender. Naomi told this survivor that Marc Winiarz/Gafni wanted to make amends. She told the survivor that Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni had wrote a letter stating: “he thought the survivor was hurting because he ended their relationship instead of marrying her”. He wanted to apologize for "breaking her heart.”

The survivor told Ms. Mark that she would not meet with the man who raped her. The survivor disclosed that she let Naomi Mark know that “the relationship” Winiarz/Gafni was referring to should be called RAPE. A far cry from what Winiarz/Gafni called a “heartache, or a fallen romance.”

The Survivor believes the reason Winiarz/Gafni wanted to contact her at the time was because he learned of the interview she had given to Gary Rosenblatt. The survivor was sure that Winiarz/Gafni was worried about what Rosenblatt would publish. Winiarz/Gafni wanted the survivor to say that she had forgiven him for the assault. Marc Winiarz/Gafni neither acknowledged that he had sexually abused a child, nor admitted to any violent acts.

[Rabbi Saul J. Berman]It appears Gary Rosenblatt's attempt to re-create history has been influenced by his long time friend, Rabbi Saul Berman -- who to this day is believed to be a defender of Mordechai Gafni.

If Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni has done teshuva, why has he not contacted the other women whom he victimized? Why didn't he ever offer to pay for the pain and suffering all three women endured because of his offenses?

Once again Rosenblatt's affiliation with Rabbi Saul Berman influenced his ability to get the facts straight. Gary Rosenblatt had firsthand accounts. He spoke to three women who were sexually victimized by Mordechai Winiarz (AKA: Marc Gafni). Two survivors had sexual contact; the third was a survivor of inappropriate sexual advances by an orthodox rabbi, who was also a married man.

Gary Rosenblatt spoke to numerous rabbis and other credible individuals who backed the survivor’s stories. What more evidence did he need?

If Rosenblatt really wants to make amends to the survivors of Winiarz/Gafni, he should put an advertisement in the New York Jewish Week calling for the extradition of Mordechai Winiarz/Gafni, and have all those who have blindly supported Winiarz/Gafni sign it.

Gary Rosenblatt can be reached by e-mail at

Don't forget about what Rabbi Kenneth Hain said regarding the Gafni case:
"Sometimes the bigger person is the one who can just let things go."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary Rosenblat likes to pander to a certain crowd .If he would go after this animal Gafni ,he would offend some people.His discretion that was nonexistent in many cases is false.He should be ashamed of himself.His smugness is disgusting

June 16, 2006 11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Vicki on an excellent article.

June 16, 2006 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke Ford says:

Dr Naomi Mark is the sister of Jonathan Mark, associate editor of the Jewish Week. She's long been friendly with both R. Mordechai Gafni and one of Gafni's accuser's sisters. Naomi Mark is speaking at the 1st International Carlebach Conference:

Friday, October 29th (2004) 11:45-12:45 - Workshops/Sessions - 7th floorOpenness and Boundaries - Naomi Mark, and Dr. Michelle Friedman - Maintaining a Balance as a Spiritual Leader.

I can't think of a better example of maintaining balance as a spiritual leader than Mordecai Gafni.

Jonathan Mark says he barely knows Gafni.
more about shlomo carlebach at:

June 17, 2006 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Naomi Mark is part of the faculty of YCT Rabbinical School. This is Rabbi Avi Weiss's yeshiva. Saul Berman also teaches and is on the board of directors. All three of these individuals had a strong connection to Gafni.

I have a question for everyone. What psychotherapist who is qualified to work with rape survivors would ever suggest that a rape victim meet with their offender?

Is Naomi Marks a qualified counselor? She used her degree to promote something that is counter-indicated to benefit a friend of hers. This is an outrage.

June 17, 2006 10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

# jewishwhistleblower Says:
June 9th, 2006 at 4:58 am

My letter to Rosenblatt:

Mr. Rosenblatt, I am outraged by your further spin of the story behind the Gafni story.

Having been the person who assisted in tracking down two of the survivors and having a substantial knowledge of the process behind your story on Gafni, I can say without a doubt that I was horrified by your conduct in the reporting of this story and have lost much of the respect for you that you earned with the Lanner story.

Unlike the above self-serving dreck you’ve written over the past weeks, your true conduct raises serious questions as to your journalistic conduct, integrity and treatment of Gafni’s survivors.

I doubt at this point that you will make full disclosure, but the truth is a funny thing, it tends to come out regardless of the spin. Actually the truth often comes out because of the spin. Truth is funny that way. So am I.

Your sugar coating of the reprehensible actions of Naomi Mark, Saul Berman and others is only part of the story.

All must be told so this never happens again.


June 17, 2006 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Memories Of Shlomo
by Jonathan Mark (Namoi Mark's brother)
November 5, 2004

Conference participants revel in Carlebach on his 10th yahrtzeit.

"Really," Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach used to wonder aloud, "what does anyone know?"

He'd be referring to God's mysteries, or to those conventional Jews who didn't understand the mysteries that were all his own.

Last week, on the 10th yahrtzeit of Reb Shlomo, a four-day conference on and commemoration of the most towering Jewish composer, singer and storyteller of modern rabbinic times reminded most of the participants that they wished they could have known him better and longer, hoping that even now he could know how much he is still loved.

If emotion was more in the fore than academic analysis, well, this was a Carlebach event, after all, held at Manhattan's Jewish Community Center and organized by the West 79th Street shul that bears his name.

The First International Carlebach Conference, as it was billed, attracted hundreds from what have become known as "Carlebach minyans" around the world, services that rely solely on his music and spirit -- perhaps the greatest phenomenon in the Jewish prayer service over the decade of his absence.

Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi, the spiritual leader of the Jewish Renewal movement, said in his taped message from Colorado, "Heilege Reb Shloimoleh, I miss you. With whom can I talk? ... You and I felt the pain of our people who were separated from the Rabbano Shel Olam [the Master of the Universe]. So we did what we could. You and I went with first names, people called you Shlomo, they called me Zalman, never mind Rabbi Carlebach, because we wanted to lower the threshold so that people could have easy access to us, so they could come close."

"Everywhere I go, wherever people are davening, they're using your niggunim [spiritual melodies]. They don't even know where they came from," he said.

Zalman spoke of an ad he saw for a rabbi in a traditional Orthodox shul.

"One of the requirements was that he should have to do a Carlebach service from time to time," he said. "I think that should give you nachas."

Jacob Birnbaum, the founder of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, recalled asking Shlomo to compose what became the great anthem of Jewish activism, "Am Yisrael Chai."

Rabbi Avi Weiss added, "I believe no Jew has met more Jews in his or her lifetime than Shlomo Carlebach. And yes, I remember the way he was shunned, the way he was maligned. Many people promised they would pay him and didn't pay him."

Rabbi Weiss recalled that Shlomo was the musical voice of the Soviet Jewry movement, "but when the movement reached its crescendo in December of 1987, and 200,000 Jews came to Washington ... he wasn't invited."

But a new generation only knows the joy.

Fran Kritz, a writer in Washington, came with her 9-year-old son, Matthew, a Carlebach fan. She wanted him to know that a davening, a weekday davening in particular, could be as ethereal beyond what he had ever been exposed to, a morning service performed with musical instruments and Shlomo's touch.

It was "even a little disorganized," Kritz said, "which was also good for him to see, but once the davening got started it was with everyone's heart."

Zalman spoke of Shlomo's gift for teaching "chasidus," the teachings of the chasidic masters.

"When I think about the sea of books that are coming out about chasidus and Izhbitz [19th century Rebbe Mordechai Yosef Leiner]; Izhbitz was unknown to many people," Zalman said in speaking to Shlomo. "I didn't know about Izhbitz until you told me."

Referring to Shlomo's retelling of chasidic stories and teachings, Zalman said that when he looked up the stories in their original chasidic texts, they were so short, "as if in a telegram. But you, you looked at them, you opened them up, you told them as if you could see all the details, a movie unfolding. That's the reason I called you a genius in 'virtuous reality,' when you told of [such self-sacrifice and virtue], the longing you implanted in our heart, that we could become like your heroes, like the poor shleppers, you made us at least temporary citizens in a world of such goodness."

Itzik Aisenstadt, a friend of Shlomo's since the 1950s, remembered in an introduction to his singing a Carlebach rarity a snowy February night when the two of them took a subway, trudging to a small Canarsie shul for an early performance.

Itzik -- it was a conference of first names -- recalled Shlomo singing his nascent classics "Esa Eini" and "Hashmi'eni." And in that Brooklyn shul, in an upstairs apartment, Shlomo sat down and composed a melody.

In those days before tape recorders, Itzik and Shlomo took a subway in the middle of the night to the recording engineer at Vanguard Records, for whom Shlomo recorded "Live At The Village Gate" (1963) and "In the Palace of The King" (1965). There Shlomo hooked up a tape recorder and started singing. Then Itzik began to sing that same lilting, wordless melody as free floating and as lonely as the snowflakes must have been on that long ago night.

Rabbi Nechemia Polen, professor of Jewish thought and director of the Hasidic Text Institute at Hebrew College in Boston, offered a session on Shlomo's philosophy of giving a rebbe's blessing, or bracha, "drawing on the beauty of the past, and giving permission to project that into the future so that you can be even more beautiful, more powerful and more radiant."

"Before any specificity of request or a grant," Polen said, "a bracha means the acknowledgement of the humanity of the other, and that was the essence of Shlomo."

The opposite of a bracha, Polen said, is to walk into a place of Torah and no one is aware of your presence. He recalled that one of his relatives moved to the Upper West Side about 15 years ago knowing no one. He heard about a Torah study on Friday night in a particular home. He goes to the apartment, and they look at him with puzzlement. They tell him it was by invitation only.

"You can imagine how he felt," Polen said. "They didn't curse him, but they did. So he goes walking on West End Avenue. It's a Friday night, but now he doesn't feel Shabbosdik. And who is coming his way but Shlomo."

Shlomo, said Polen, went "Ssssss," as if the moment was sizzling, "saying, 'Holy brother! How are you?'"

Shlomo acted like he'd been waiting for this man all his life.

"My relative, who was really feeling down, had met Shlomo only once, years before, and said, 'Shlomo, would you cut out that 'holy brother' shtick? You don't even know who I am,'" Polen said. "And Shlomo says, completely without anger, 'What do you mean? I just met your sister Laurie in Boston two weeks ago.'

"That was Shlomo," said Polen. "He might have had a difficult time remembering when he had to be somewhere, but he never seemed to forget a single person he had sung, danced or davened with."

But Shlomo's legacy has been posthumously tainted with accusations by several women -- none of whom were congregants -- of unwanted groping and sexual overtures.

Dr. Michelle Friedman, who teaches pastoral counseling at the rabbinical seminary Yeshiva Chovevei Torah and with Naomi Mark, a psychotherapist in the Orthodox community, led a workshop at the conference on rabbinical boundaries, said: "Where there is smoke there may not be fire, but there's an issue. Shlomo was known to be very charismatic and seductive. To the degree that these stories come up, I have to respect that something happened to somebody. It's sad. But I think it's great that this next generation of Carlebach people included this issue in the conference."

Mark said in the workshop that it wasn't fair to view the allegations of events in the 1960s with the moral perspective of 2004.

Zalman advised the participants, "I beg of you, in the name of [Shlomo] .. that you should keep your heart open" and be as inviting and as generous as Shlomo was.

He reminded the conference participants, "You are the ones who make it possible for Reb Shlomo that [he] should shine all over the world."

June 17, 2006 10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jewish Weeks promotion of Naomi Mark is here too:

June 17, 2006 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. I think it's vitally important for us to be aware that so much of the truth never makes it to the Jewish Week.

June 19, 2006 3:52 PM  

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