Rabbi Marc Gafni and Sexual Improprieties
May 15, 2006 14:54
(Originally posted on 5.15.06)
On Tuesday, May 9th, 2006, three women from Bayit Chadash, a spiritual community in Israel headed by Rabbi Marc Gafni, filed complaints of sexual misconduct against Gafni with the police. Upon reviewing relevant testimony, the steering committee of Bayit Chadash decided to remove Marc Gafni from the Bayit Chadash staff. (See below for the formal announcement.)
Subsequently, rumors have been rife. After long conversations with many of the concerned parties, I have come to the following conclusions. At this time, these are my personal opinions, and are open to immediate revision in light of any further evidence. Marc Gafni is a close friend of mine, but in circumstances like this, friendship decidedly takes a backseat to ethics and justice. In my opinion, the viewpoint that takes the most number of perspectives into account is the more likely to be the better moral judgment, with the Basic Moral Intuition the ultimate guide.
These are my conclusions at this time:
1. There is substantial truth to some of these allegations.
2. This has caused something of a feeding frenzy for the mean green meme, which is understandable but I believe inexcusable. Frankly, some of these have reached pathetic portions.
3. Nonetheless, there is some truth to these allegations because of grave wrongdoing on Marc's part, and I believe this wrongdoing is due not just to bad judgment on Marc's part, but to a pathology or dysfunction affecting Marc.
4. Marc, in a letter to Bayit Chadash, agreed that some of his actions indeed stemmed from a pathology or, as he termed it, a "sickness."
5. I do not believe that somebody with an acknowledged emotional illness or sexual pathology is competent to be a public spiritual teacher. Therefore, at this time, Marc will not be involved in public teaching or presentations of any sort at Integral Institute.
6. With Marc's agreement, I have asked Frances Vaughan to begin a consultation with Marc focused specifically on his dysfunction.
7. I have other suggestions for therapeutic work that I believe would be helpful to Marc, and I believe he is sincere in pursuing them. He will be stopping in Boulder/Denver periodically to consult with me and with Rabbi Zalman as to these directions.
[Correction: Since having written this, I have spoken with Rabbi Zalman. Zalman has decided that it is best neither to meet nor speak with Mordechai until further notice.]
8. I realize that some people doubt Marc's sincerity. This is understandable. My strong recommendation has therefore been to create a board of advisors to oversee Marc's therapeutic work. This board would biannually review Marc's progress, and make specific recommendations at each juncture. This board would have to be composed of individuals completely acceptable to both sides (i.e., to Bayit Chadash and to Marc Gafni).
9. I have stated my conclusion, after reviewing the evidence and as many perspectives as I can, that there is truth to some of these allegations and that this is due in part to Marc's illness, and that as long as this dysfunction is not addressed, I do not believe that Marc should be teaching. But I want to point out that emotional illness can be treated and in many cases cured. Marc may or may not be sincere, and his therapy may or may not be effective-but that is exactly the purpose of the therapeutic board: namely, to make that decision, and not to let either of the partial sides do so. I do not know if this solution will work, but to date it is the only rational, compassionate, and fair one that I have heard, and therefore the only one which serves justice.
10. Whatever is decided on that issue, my understanding is that there is no objection to Marc pursuing his writing. We all recognize the brilliance of his contributions in this area. If we are accepting a "levels and lines" argument, then allowing Marc to pursue this line seems reasonable to me, and is something I would certainly recommend.
This is an extraordinary difficult period for all parties concerned. Bayit Chadash has been hurt. Integral Institute has been hurt. Mordechai has been hurt by his own actions. And most of all, the parties directly involved have been hurt.
But I beg all of you-all of us-not to inflame the situation further by demanding more pain, more suffering, more agony. Inflicting more pain on Marc will not take away the pain that all of us are already suffering. Let us not have an eye for an eye, but justice and mercy in equal proportions. Please don't let hatred into your soul, I beg you; that serves nobody, least of all those who offer hatred a home.
My heart goes out to the women involved-I am so deeply, deeply sad at the pain and turmoil they have suffered; and my heart goes out to the men and women who have been affected by these tragic events. My heart goes out as well to Mordechai, a dear friend whose very bright light has cast a very sharp shadow, and in a way that has inadvertently caused such harm. I do believe, however, that emotional illness can be cured; I believe that reasonable restitution can be made; I believe that forgiveness and compassion are stronger than any evil in this world; and I know that the outreach of our own tender mercies and loving kindness will ultimately carry the day.
Sending all of you much Love, Light, and Life,
Appendix: Stay tuned to this blog, and I will attempt to keep you up to date on these issues as best I can. Here is the formal announcement sent out by Bayit Chadash:
We must share with you that on Tuesday, May 9, 2006, three women from our community filed complaints of sexual misconduct against Mordechai Gafni with the police. We were aware of this situation because on Monday, May 8, 2006, we had previously read the depositions that these women had declared to an attorney. We also personally heard the testimonies of these women, as well as that of another woman from an institution where Rabbi Gafni previously worked. We shared our findings and recommendations with Shantam Zohar, a Bayit Chadash teacher and leader; and with Or Zohar, a Bayit Chadash teacher and our CEO.
Our colleagues agreed with us that in the present situation, we should recommend to the Bayit Chadash steering committee that Mordechai Gafni's tenure in Bayit Chadash be ended immediately, or alternatively, we would collectively resign. After the members of the steering committee read some of the depositions, they decided to remove Mordechai Gafni from the Bayit Chadash staff. The decision of the steering committee was further reinforced in light of the complaints filed with the police.
Were this was a matter solely related to Mordechai Gafni's private life, it would be of some concern to us and to the community. The problem is greatly exaggerated by the fact that this involves women from our community, staff members and students. It is our position that there is no place for relations like this between a rabbi and his students or between an employer and his employees, whether consensual or not. It would seem that this is also the opinion of Mordechai, since he swore all the women involved to eternal and absolute silence.
Some women, however, decided to speak. We have no doubt that they speak truth, and willingly risk our personal credibility and integrity in support of their testimony.
As to the criminal aspect of his actions, that is up to the police and the courts to decide. Beyond that, judgment is in the hands of the Judge of all the world.
The sense of disappointment is very great, for us personally as well. Mordechai always treated us with friendship and respect. 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. Certainly there is much to learn from such a difficult and painful experience.
May we all see, fear and tremble, may healing to our shared soul come swiftly, and may this healing encompass all involved and all who are witness, in this and all worlds.