Tuesday, January 12, 2016

An Open Letter In Support of the Petition to Stop Marc Gafni (Maggidic Journey Havurah)


Another group has created a formal letter distancing themselves from (in this case their former teacher) Marc Gafni. Maggidic Journey Havurah, a community of former students of Gafni (2003-2005) have released the following letter.

Before the letter, here is Russ Cashin's preface:
I have realized all along that this endeavor was not for Marc Gafni as I don’t think he’ll hear it. 
In our Open Letter, we are adding our voices to the many others out there who have experienced Gafni’s abuse and who want those in positions of leadership to refuse to provide him with support and a platform to continue to harm others. 
Our group’s experience as his former students for two years gives us a unique shared perspective, especially as a cohesive group who have remained in contact for 12 years. During this time, we (not all of us) have attended conferences and retreats together, and sought assistance to help many of us move through the healing processes of grief, disappointment and shame that Gafni left upon us. 
It is time now for us to speak up and share our unique perspective as a group of actual students of Gafni’s and to reveal the damage he does to his students.  We want to reach those who are now choosing to give Gafni a platform to teach anyone (not just young girls) and warn them of the harm they are doing by providing this dangerous man with a stable of new victims, both male and female.
Among the charges are the usual wherever Gafni turns up: inappropriate sexual relationships with other women while he was still married, abuses, lies, plagiarism, and failed promises.

An Open Letter In Support of the Petition to Stop Marc Gafni

January 10, 2016

We the undersigned, while not representing the whole, are members of the Maggidic Journey Havurah, a community of former students of Marc Gafni (we knew him then as Mordechai Gafni). From 2003-2005, we came together for a two year educational program at Elat Chayyim with Mr. Gafni which was supposed to lead us to a certification as a Maggid, or Holy Teacher.

For many reasons, some of which are mentioned below, as a group we disassociated from Marc Gafni in the spring of 2006.

We herein state that we are in support of the petition called Stop Marc Gafni from Abusing Again that Rabbi David Ingber posted at change.org on December 30, 2015. We also support the statements by Gafni’s third ex-wife in her blog titled A voice for Gafni’s victims, from one who was there at timesofisrael.com that was posted on January 1, 2016.

Like many of Marc Gafni’s students, at first we were enamored by his charisma and his ability to brilliantly convey Jewish Wisdom. A few of us even financially assisted or served in capacities that supported Bayit Chadash, the community Gafni co-founded in Israel and from which he eventually fled in 2006. 

Little did we know that by the time our two year program ended we too would find ourselves deeply and adversely impacted by Gafni’s web of lies, deception and abuse. 

Some of us know the women Gafni has harmed, including his third ex-wife. We now know that even as he taught us, unbeknownst to us, he was having inappropriate sexual relationships with other women while he was still married. 

We were there and now stand as witnesses to his abuses, lies, plagiarism, and failed promises. Some of us felt and feel an incredible sense of betrayal by Gafni. 

By the end of our two years together, Gafni had subjected members of our group to financial extortion, visits to our homes leaving huge phone bills, sexual indiscretions, false promises and outright lies, fiscal irresponsibility, manipulation of facts to support grandiose claims, theft of intellectual property, plagiarism, misuse of power, attempting to recruit us to discredit his detractors and using sacred text as an interpersonal weapon. 

In the early stages of our program, Gafni urged us not to speak about him with anyone inside or outside our group, stating that such discussions would be disloyal and inappropriate, as well as spiritually harmful both to us and to him. 

Our community has remained in loving connection for 12 years since our encounter with Marc Gafni. We have supported each other through our healing processes of grief, disappointment and shame that Gafni left in his wake. We have spent innumerable hours meeting with other spiritual and community leaders to better understand and cope with the psycho-spiritual damage left by our relationship with this man whom we trusted. 

Many of us have remained silent until now out of fear of his retribution and retaliation, as has been his practice toward those who try to reveal him for who and what he truly is. Others have hoped he just would go away. 

We acknowledge that while Gafni's teachings may be a brilliant synthesis of his and others' ideas, the open heart vulnerability that he elicits while taking advantage of that intellectual and emotional intimacy makes him a potential danger to his students. 

We now categorically and publicly disavow Gafni as a Spiritual Leader, a mentor, and certainly as a teacher of any kind. We call upon all those both in the Jewish world and those outside of it who support, promote or offer Gafni a platform to find new victims to immediately retract their support and remove him from any position of authority or influence. 

We encourage Gafni to fully acknowledge his responsibility in the long trail of abuse and the emotional carnage he has left behind. We prompt him to seek immediate professional help and to engage in the long, deep and intense inner work necessary for Teshuva. 

We stand as a unified voice and in integrity – it must stop now! 

Signed in Solidarity,

Russ Cashin, Spiritual Leader
Maggid Charna Rosenholtz, Aleph Rabbinic Student
Dr. Gilah Rosner
Rabbi Shoshana Leis
Shir Yaakov Feit
Michael Schaefer
Ken Rosenstein, Senior Student, ALEPH Rabbinic Program
Rabbi Elhanan Sunny Schnitzer
Patti Williams Niehoff
Maggid Alan Goldberg
Jeanlu Ryersbach
Charlie Roemer, Maggid
Camille Davidson
Abby Rosen, Ph.D.
Maggid Ellen Triebwasser, ALEPH Rabbinic Student
Maury Hoberman
Steve Herman