Monday, July 07, 2008

Abusive Gurus -The Return of Marc Gafni [Updated]

Kind of like a bad dream.

Readers new to this issue might want to go back and review the initial situation before reading Gafni's recent defense (here and here -- follow the links). It's worth noting that after talking with Gafni at the time, Ken Wilber felt he was guilty of the accusations (also worth noting is that Wilber's response from that time is now gone, so there are only his quotes on other blogs).

Please also keep in mind that Gafni subsequently fled the country and changed his name before resurfacing in Utah.

Posted at Jewschool (hat tip to Avi at Tikkunger)

Sex Abuser Mordechai Gafni is Back

Remember Mordechai/Marc Gafni? He was the guy who fled Israel two years ago to avoid charges of sexual misconduct and possibly rape after he was–once again–found to be using his charismatic rebbe-hood to exploit his female students and followers. It’s a pattern that had been going on for some time, with some of his past victims decidedly underage at the time of the abuse. (He was famously quoted in the NY Jewish Week as saying, in response to one woman’s claims that he had “repeatedly and forcibly sexually assaulted” her that “she was 14 going on 35…”) (The NY Post has some graphic accounts of abuse by some of his victims; Reb Zalman revoked his smicha; Gafni, when the story broke, wrote a letter to Aleph pleading mea culpa and referring to himself as sick–just as he was sneaking to the States and disappearing.) 

Well, he’s back, like a bad penny–this time in Salt Lake City. Failed Messiah reports that he’s now in bed with a new age magazine called Catalyst, which has come to his defense. Evidently he’s been writing for them for a while under a pseudonym, and now Catalyst is coming out in support of Gafni, painting him as the victim of “sexual McCarthyism”; Gafni, for his part, is now denying his guilt with a bunch of New Age pablum: 
“Sexuality creates wounds…but if we learn to live wide open even as we are hurt by love, the divine wakes up its own true nature…I believed that what we were doing was sharing love, and that therefore there was nothing ethically, and certainly not legally, wrong. I still believe that.” 
According to the Catalyst article, he’s started to teach and has a couple of book contracts going (and, according to other sources, may be operating under the name “Marc Israel.”) He’s clearly positioning himself for another rise to guru-hood, and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t continue his pattern of exploitation and abuse. He must be stopped. 
ETA: It looks like Gafni himself (or one of his supporters) wrote his Wikipedia page, and so, needless to say, it’s in need of some correcting–it’s nauseatingly sympathetic, and notably absent of links to news sources explaining the “allegations of impropriety” against him. Anyone want to have a crack at it? 
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