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Rabbi Mordecai Gafni's Supporters

Metuka Benjamin (Director of Education, Stephen S. Wise Temple), Rabbi Phyllis Berman (Former Director Elat Chayyim summer program), Rabbi Saul Berman (Director, Edah Zivit) Davidovich (Executive Producer, Israel Channel 2 Television), Rabbi Tirzah Firestone (Congregation Nevei Kodesh), Rabbi Shefa Gold (Director C-Deep, composer and teacher), Rabbi Arthur Green (Dean, Hebrew College Rabbinical School), Rabbi Eli Herscher (Stephen S. Wise Synagogue) Arthur Kurzweil (former Director, Elat Chayyim, Jewish Book Club), Avraham Leader (Leader Minyan, Bayit Chadash) Stephen Marmer, M.D. (Psychiatrist, UCLA Medical School) Jacob Ner-David (Board Chair, Bayit Chadash) Peter Pitzele (Ph.D., Bibliodrama Institute) Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (Rabbinic Chair, Aleph Don Seeman, Ph.D. Emory University) Rabbi Joseph Telushkin (author, Jewish Literacy and Jewish Wisdom) Rabbi David Zaslow (Havurah Shir Hadash) Noam Zion (Hartman Institute), signed the following letter (in early 2005 I presume) and gave it to Gafni and his supporters to distribute as widely as they say fit:

To The Jewish Community worldwide:

In this letter we the undersigned ask the Jewish community worldwide to reaffirm its commitment to the Torah, and to the ethical principles of Judaism. Although the specific focus of our discussion is Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, whom have known collectively for many years, the issues we address are universal and timeless.

A group of several people – none of whom know Rabbi Gafni personally in any real way, and none who has had any contact in the past twenty years – have undertaken a systematic campaign to besmirch his name. Their primary method has been to keep alive and distort two very old and long discredited stories. Their attacks have recently increased in volume and intensity. He has consistently and generously offered to meet with them, but they have refused.

Many people who know Rabbi Gafni well, as all the undersigned do, have individually and collectively examined the accusations about him that this group has been spreading. We have found their rumors and accusations to be either wholly without substance or radically distorted to the point of falsification. We conclude that the false and malicious rumors against Gafni constitute lashon hara – and that the dissemination of such lies is prohibited by the Torah and Jewish ethical principles.

Thus we must address and to make right the wrong that has been attempted in regard to Rabbi Gafni, and affirm our support of him as an important teacher and leader in the Jewish community.

We have worked with Rabbi Gafni in many contexts, ranging from colleague to employer. We have published his works in our collections, co-taught with him, and known him in a host of other close relationships. Over the years, we have also extensively discussed with him the different stages of his life and the decisions he has made in relationships, professional choices and more.

We affirm without reservation that in addition to being a person of enormous gifts, depth, and vision, Rabbi Gafni is also a person of real integrity. He possesses a unique combination of courage and audacity coupled with a genuine humility that comes only from having lived life fully – with all of its complexity, beauty and sometimes pain.

Leaders of his caliber and depth who are committed to ongoing personal development are few and far between. From our dual commitment to him as an individual, as well as to the most profound ethical teachings of the Torah, we urge you as the reader of this letter to reject the false reports about Rabbi Gafni, and to give him your full support, as we all have done and continue to do.

If you have further questions, please feel free to contact any one of us directly.

Rabbi Saul Berman's Defense Of Rabbi Mordecai Gafni

Rabbi Gafni and his supporters widely distributed the following letter from Orthodox Rabbi Saul Berman over the past 18 months:

To Whom It May Concern,

I have had occasion during the spring, summer and fall of 2004 to conduct an extensive personal inquiry in response to accusations which have been made against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni and publicized on the Internet. A more balanced version of these same issues than that on the Internet was raised in an editor’s column by Gary Rosenblatt published in the Jewish Week newspaper, in which Rosenblatt asserted that he was unable to draw either a negative or positive conclusion about these issues, calling his extensive research into the issue an "investigation without a conclusion".

I have invested literally hundreds of hours in talking to parties directly and indirectly related, reading public statements posted on the Internet, and following the unfolding of this issue. I have come to a number of clear and unequivocal conclusions.

First, as I have written in a public letter together with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, we have found the decades-old accusations against Rabbi Gafni to be unconvincing now, as they were dismissed in responsible contemporaneous investigations. We believe that these accusations have been intentionally distorted, kept alive and circulated by a small group of people who have waged a vendetta-like campaign against Rabbi Gafni, creating a false and unfair impression of his character.

Second, the material posted on the Awareness Center website and related Internet blogs is not credible. Both in regard to Rabbi Gafni as well as to other cases posted there, the Awareness Center has grossly distorted facts and blatantly lied. Indeed, working together with a small team I have collected a host of examples of such behavior on the part of the Awareness Center. While the Awareness Center does address an issue critical to the Jewish community, that of sexual harassment and abuse, the center itself has unfortunately become an abuser itself of the first order.

The major other Internet poster of accusations against Rabbi Gafni is a certain Luke Ford. Luke Ford, who poses as a journalist, also runs a pornography site. He is a discredited Internet gossip columnist for the pornography industry, who, by his own written admission, regularly publishes libelous material as truth without even the slightest attempt at verification.

Third, I have urged Rabbi Gafni to continue actively writing and teaching his communities of students around the world. I have done so based on my firm conclusion that he poses absolutely no danger or threat to anyone. Indeed, I firmly believe that the notion suggested by Vicki Polin of the Awareness Center that he poses any danger whatsoever is patently absurd. While in some areas I would take issue with Rabbi Gafni’s thought, particularly in areas where he departs from classical Orthodoxy, the work he is doing is serious and is of great benefit to the Jewish community worldwide.

I urge the readers of this letter to continue to support Rabbi Gafni’s work, including his public teachings, writings, television projects and social activism. We are in need today of hearing the emerging voices of the next generation of Jewish leadership, and Rabbi Gafni’s voice is one of them. I look forward to learning what he has to teach in the decades to come.

Rabbi Saul J. Berman

(Director, Edah)

I have never run a pornographic website. I have run or written for websites that reported on the porn industry and related issues (many of these sites took advertising from pornographers).

Berman's alleged about me: "...by his own written admission, regularly publishes libelous material as truth without even the slightest attempt at verification."

That is not true.

Rabbis Joseph Telushkin and Saul Berman wrote this letter to 10/1/04 edition of The Jewish Week following Gary Rosenblatt's article on rabbi Marc Gafni:

To the Editor,

Words can elevate and words can destroy.

There was a time when the Jewish community too glibly and carelessly disregarded words of accusation of sexual abuse against clergy. That was clearly wrong, and Gary Rosenblatt of The Jewish Week helped to correct that. The pendulum has now swung to the opposite extreme, as evidenced in Rosenblatt’s column (The Re-Invented Rabbi, 9/24/04).

The column reports an allegation concerning a relationship from twenty-five years ago – when Rabbi Mordechai Gafni was 19 and 20 and not yet a rabbi – in a situation where he had no pastoral relationship with the person in question. Rabbi Gafni has a completely different account of what happened which was not clearly related in the article (including the fact that nothing even vaguely resembling sexual relations took place).

Furthermore, we can attest first hand that several years ago Rabbi Gafni made serious attempts to contact this woman in a therapeutically-mediated context—to clarify the huge gulf in their understandings of what happened and, if necessary, to apologize for any way in which she felt hurt. This offer was rejected and the decision was apparently made that the press was a more appropriate vehicle for conversation.

The story also reports unsubstantiated allegations which are twenty-years old. The story critically omits the fact that the professional to whom Rabbi Gafni (then Winiarz) was responsible at the time conducted an investigation, and drew the following conclusions in a formal report which was accepted by his superiors:

“I’ve known Rabbi Winiarz for the past six years, and I believe I speak of his character from a position of knowledge and reliability… In his work as director of Jewish Public School Youth, allegations were made as to his improper conduct with a teenage girl and a young female adult [referred to in the article as Judy and Susan]… For several months, in the spring and summer of 1986, I delved into the accusations and had numerous conversations with a number of people who were associated with Rabbi Winiarz both professionally and personally. I also talked to the accusing parties as well as members of their families, rabbis close to them and agency personnel involved in the work of JPSY. I also, of course, spoke at length to Rabbi Winiarz about these matters. It was my conclusion, based on clear and compelling reasons, that the accusations were not true and were not substantiated. I might add that this was also the view of a clinical psychologist who interviewed Rabbi Winiarz and the teenager after the alleged incident.”

We have collectively looked at this issue again in the last six months, and come to a similar conclusion. Further, Rabbi Gafni has long expressed his desire to meet with any of the parties who feel he has wronged them—even when he has a completely different account of the situation.

We, like Gary Rosenblatt, have struggled with the question of what gravity to assign to persistent rumors. Our conclusion differs from that of Mr. Rosenblatt. We have collectively, over many years, spoken to virtually everyone who would speak to us who was directly involved in order to examine the accusations against Rabbi Gafni. We have found them totally not convincing. Further, there is simply no evidence that Rabbi Gafni’s public role constitutes a risk to Jewish women, or to anyone for that matter.

We pray that this unfair scandalous moment will soon be forgotten and that Rabbi Gafni will be able to free his spiritual energy and formidable intellect in order to help build Jewish consciousness and commitment.

Rabbi Saul J. Berman, Director of Edah
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Jewish Literacy and The Book of Jewish Values
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Congregation Nevei Kodesh, author of With Roots in Heaven and
The Receiving

Curious about the exact number of kids a rabbi like Gafni should be allowed to rape before he loses his position as a Jewish leader, I left messages October 21, 2004, with rabbis Berman and Telushkin on their home phone numbers to talk about their defense of Gafni and their attacks on The Awareness Center. They've yet to return my call.

JWB writes: "The woman sexually assaulted by Gafni/Winiarz when she was 13 attempted to contact Berman many times. He refused to take her calls and has never spoken with her."

Gary Rosenblatt Reports On Gafni In The Jewish Week

He writes in the 5/19/06 issue:

...“We feel we were deceived,” Jacob Ner-David, a co-founder of Bayit Chadash, told The Jewish Week, which first reported on allegations against the rabbi in September 2004.

“He should not be called a rav [rabbi], his was not the behavior of a rav and he should not be in a teaching or counseling position,” said Ner-David, who noted that the incident “is my worst nightmare come to life.” He added that Rabbi Gafni is “a sick man, and has harmed so many.”

...[Gafni] was ordained by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder of Lincoln Square Synagogue here and now chief rabbi of Efrat, in the West Bank. Rabbi Riskin revoked his ordination in 1994 after his former student, in a lengthy interview in Haaretz, called for restoring a balance between the erotic and the spiritual in Judaism.

...This week, Rabbi Berman said he is “deeply regretful” of his prior support for Rabbi Gafni, and worried that his past defense may have prolonged the rabbi’s “predatory behavior against women.”

“I was clearly wrong in stating that Rabbi Gafni’s continued role as a teacher within the Jewish community constitutes no risk to Jewish women,” he wrote in a statement.

Rabbi Berman said he had felt the earlier accusations “were not justifiable foundations for public disgrace and exclusion,” and noted that he will “continue to struggle with the ideal line between presumption of innocence and protection of potential innocent victims.”

He told The Jewish Week the Gafni case underscores the ongoing need for a mechanism to investigate allegations against rabbis “in a way that the community has confidence in, so that when it’s over, it’s over.”

He said that rabbis are “not capable of enough objectivity to handle such matters themselves,” and called for a collaborative effort of rabbis, lay leaders and professionals in the health care field who deal with abuse.

...............

Letter from: Rabbi Saul J. Berman & Rabbi Joseph Telushkin to Rabbi Yosef Blau:

http://www.bayitchadash.org/facts/blau.htm

September 13, 2004

Dear Rabbi Blau,

Since we met some months ago to discuss some issues related to sexual abuse and the role of The Awareness Center, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and I have been maintaining a continuing interest in the activities of The Awareness Center.

My recent letter to Vicki Polin and the members of the Executive Committee of The Awareness Center included a list of suggested policy recommendations which would have made the operation of The Awareness Center website a fair and effective instrument in the battle against sexual abuse in the Jewish community. Unfortunately, Vicki, in the name of the Executive Committee, dismissed all of the suggestions with a single condescending brush stroke.

Permit us to be perfectly blunt. The Awareness Center website as it currently stands is often misleading, its truthfulness cannot be assumed, and, in the name of justice, it has itself become an instrument of vicious abuse. We are moved to make this harsh evaluation in the light of the following points and more:

1. The claim that the site will only report previously published accusations is an outright lie. Vicki has herself sent anonymous slanderous postings to web blogs and then cited them on The Awareness Center site as the basis for serious accusations.

2. The Awareness Center posts and distributes material which is totally false, describing as fact occurrences which simply never took place. The clear intent is the character assassination of those whom Vicki has decided are deserving of public defamation.

4. The site does not remove accusatory material even after full and multiple investigations have concluded that they are false.

5. The Awareness Center has initiated campaigns to destroy the reputation and work prospects of accused persons, even after their names have been formally cleared and/or full resolution between the parties has been achieved.

6. The site will provide no opportunity for response by accused persons, other than an admission of guilt.

7. The attempt to destroy people's reputations long after their death is not the pursuit of justice, it is journalistic pornography.

These and many other serious offenses (of which we have extensive substantiation) have made The Awareness Center an untrustworthy and deplorable repository of falsehoods, innuendoes, and scandal mongering. It is a disgrace to the Jewish community and we will not abide its continued destructive activities.

We fear that your own reputation for probity and for responsible communal response to the vital issue of sexual abuse may be seriously injured by your continued association with The Awareness Center. We urge you, as we will be strongly urging all others connected with it, to disassociate your name from The Awareness Center until such time as responsible policies and honest procedures are implemented for its future operation.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Saul J. Berman
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

............

The exchange of letters between rabbis Saul Berman (SaulBerman at AOL.com) and Joseph Telushkin and The Awareness Center began March 25, 2004.

Rabbi Saul Berman writes Vicki Polin:

Rabbi Bob Carroll shared with me your inquiry about creating a link to your important website from the Edah site. I believe that he responded briefly to your inquiry, but I would like to expand the discussion further in order to see whether our concerns could be sufficiently put to rest to enable us to work together. The Edah website currently gets in excess of 325,000 clicks per month and could serve as a valuable portal for information about the abuse problem in the Jewish community. We would like to be able to provide our community of readers with the opportunity to be more aware of the problem and the resources available to help victims.

The particular concerns that we have are as follows:

1. Process. Do you yourself make the determinations to include individual cases within the listings of accused abusers? Are the members of your Advisory Council consulted in each case and does there have to be a vote or arrival at consensus in order to warrant inclusion?

2. Age of the charge. Do you operate with any equivalent of a statute of limitations? For example, the charges against Rabbi Shlomo Aviner were already 15 years old and you document no prior or subsequent charges against him. What is the purpose then of listing him? It sounds like the purpose is to disgrace him for his alleged behavior rather than to protect the community from future threat.

3. Evidence for the charge. When an allegation includes no substantiation whatsoever, and in consequence, public prosecutors dismiss the charges, why should the allegation be honored by inclusion? Such is the situation, for example of the charges against Rabbi Yonah Metzger. Should not the site at minimum provide the accused with an opportunity to respond to the charges?

4. Halachic criteria. Does the site operate by any Halachic criteria for the permissibility of publicizing unlitigated and unwitnessed accusations? If yes, who is the Halachik decisor on such matters? Certainly the Chofetz Chaim requires not only first hand knowledge to justify reporting truthful but defamatory reports, but it also requires that Tochacha be issued. I assume that means that the accused must be provided with an opportunity to either deny wrongdoing, or to do teshuva. Does the center provide the opportunity, when feasible, for such direct engagement with alleged abusers?

5. Range of wrongs. The Center identifies itself as being the "Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault." If that is the limit of its mandate, and that is already extraordinarily broad, why does the site venture into matters of "cultic" practices which involve no direct allegations of sexual wrongdoing? For example the newspaper articles concerning Rabbi Mordecai Gafni charge him with unspecified "cultic" practices, but make no suggestions of sexual wrongdoing. Is this simply an evasive attempt to "get" Gafni for long circulating, but never publicly confirmed, allegations of impropriety dating from over twenty years ago?

6. Unlistings. What criteria are utilized for removing people from the listing? For example, there was a time when Rabbi Tzvi Flaum was listed on the site. What process was put into motion that eventually resulted in his removal from the list, and what determines when that process is set in motion?

As I indicated at the outset, we truly value the work you are doing and would like to be able to do our part in helping rid the Jewish community of leaders who exploit the vulnerabilities of others in the interest of their own sexual gratification. We feel, however, that our concerns about the above issues of process and substantive criteria must be responded to, in theory and practice, before we can use our website to promote the visibility of the Center. Please get back to me as soon as possible so that we can explore these issues together.

Sincerely, rabbi Saul J. Berman

.............

Vicki Polin responded:

June 16, 2004

Dear Rabbi Berman,

Thank you for taking the time to write regarding the concerns about The Awareness Center. I also want to apologize for taking so long to get back to you. Please understand that we at The Awareness Center receive enormous numbers of emails and phone calls on a daily basis, which causes us to function as a crisis hot-line.

I know you originally wrote your letter to me (Vicki), but the Executive Board of Directors decided to respond together, as an organization.

We have no way of knowing whether our reply will put all of your concerns to rest--only you would know that. However, we hope that you read the information below with an open mind, not only to the rights of the accused, but also to that of the many victims repeatedly silenced in the past.

1. Process. Do you yourself make the determinations to include individual cases within the listings of accused abusers? Are the members of your Advisory Council consulted in each case and does there have to be a vote or arrival at consensus in order to warrant inclusion?

At this time Vicki Polin is the webmaster of our site. The Awareness Center has a few volunteers who post articles and other information to our daily email newsletters. Vicki Polin, as the Executive Director and President of The Awareness Center, is aware of and approves all the cases that are posted. Our policy is to post all cases of alleged and convicted offenders, whose allegations/convictions have been published elsewhere in legal and/or court documentation, police reports, newspapers, etc. We might also allow other information to be posted as long as at least one other Board of Directors member approves.

Our Executive Board of Directors includes:
Vicki Polin - President
Na'ama Yehuda - Vice President
Michael Salamon, Ph.D. - Treasurer
Rabbi Yosef Blau - Secretary

The Awareness Center also has an Advisory Board whose members offer us a wide range of advice on various issues that pertain to sexual victimization/violence/offenders in Jewish communities around the globe. Please be aware that The Awareness Center is purely a volunteer run organization. Our Executive Director, Board of Directors, Advisory Board and other volunteers devote hundreds if not thousands of hours of their personal time, without any compensation. Once The Awareness Center has funding, and we are able to pay our Executive Director and hire other necessary staff there will be, if needed, changes in the way we operate.

2. Age of the charge. Do you operate with any equivalent of a statute of limitations? For example, the charges against Rabbi Shlomo Aviner were already 15 years old and you document no prior or subsequent charges against him. What is the purpose then of listing him? It sounds like the purpose is to disgrace him for his alleged behavior rather than to protect the community from future threat.

The Awareness Center is not a litigation organization. We are a resource/referral organization that operates as a clearinghouse for information already posted elsewhere. Almost all the information on our web page is information that has been published elsewhere. Exceptions being articles written by members of our Board of Directors, Advisory Board, or other individuals whom we respect. Our web page acts as a specialized library on the topic of sexual violence/victimization.

Did you know that in some countries there is no statue of limitation on cases of sexual violence? Once such country is Canada. When someone is sexually violated it is as if someone has murdered his or her soul. This is one of the many reasons why we do not put time restraints on articles.

It has been well documented in the general public and also in Jewish communities that many offenders will victimize in one community and then move on to another. The status quo has been that different communities do not share vital information, with the end result being that children and/or adults continue to be sexually violated. As we know there has been a code of silence, in society at large but very much so in the Jewish Community--not to tell. Because of such codes of silence, offenders who abused 30 or even 40 years ago often continue to offend today.

The Awareness Center gets emails on a daily basis from NEW survivors of offenders listed on the site, often about offenses that happened many years ago, and were kept silent because the victim was certain that he or she were the only ones. If we cap the length of time an offense can be listed, we are in effect claiming that after a time, a survivor is no longer entitiled to recognition. We also in effect silence potential future victims who might otherwise not know that they are not the only ones an offender has harmed, and would therefore be likely to speak up.

The Awareness Center's mission is not to cause humiliation to anyone, not even to abusers--we are niether judge nor jury, nor do we claim to stand in place of higher authorities of justice. We do, however, believe that a victim's right to validation comes BEFORE an offender's right for privacy. It is always painful to come across yet another Jewish person who was offended. It saddens us even more when we find so many offenders who had charges against them dropped or dismissed as incomplete evidence following witness tampering, intimidation, and using the force of authority figures to silence the victims.

At the same time, if you or anyone else wants to provide us with documentations that prove that Rabbi Aviner (or any other of the alleged or convicted offenders on the site) took steps to not only take responsibility for wrongdoings, asked forgiveness of victims, had entered and completed treatment with a psychotherapist who has recognized experience with treating sexual offenders and who is willing to give a written letter that they are no longer posing a risk to others--we would not only be thrilled for the steps to healing taken by members of our community, but will seriously consider taking the case off the site, or moving it to a link for offenders who made "teshuva" (not only between them and G-d but also between Adam-Lechavero) and can be models to others who erred.

3. Evidence for the charge. When an allegation includes no substantiation whatsoever, and in consequence, public prosecutors dismiss the charges, why should the allegation be honored by inclusion? Such is the situation, for example of the charges against Rabbi Yonah Metzger. Should not the site at minimum provide the accused with an opportunity to respond to the charges?

Some of the comments above should address the above concern. To repeat the important points--sadly, there were many cases where the police dropped the investigation or the case was dismissed following witness tampering, threatening, shaming, and other methods of silencing the victims. If you are familiar with some of the more public cases, you must know that unfortunatelly such manipulations in handling of complaints were not rare. Victims and their families were routinely told by rabbinical courts, rabbis of their community, or people close to the accused rabbi, that if they did not drop their charges/stop talking about it and so forth, they will be excommunicated, their children will not find a shiduch, no yeshiva would accept their children, etc... Families of victims had to recant or stop cooperating with the police because otherwise they were accused of "mesira", "lashon-hara", and ruining the name of a rabbi. Many were told flat out that they should keep quiet because the rabbi's reputation was more important than anything that he might have done to them!

Because of the long history of meddling and muddying the water of victims' complaints, The Awareness Center is forced to make difficult decisions. Please note that we do not post personal communications of people who claim that this or that person had harmed them, only information that was already published/written elsewhere, and only from reputable sources/publications.

As for the offender's right to respond--of course that they have the same right to respond as any one else! We would welcome responses from offenders who can open our eyes to formal documentation that we overlooked and which they believe should be on the site. Though we cannot promise to post them, we will give such documentation serious and expedited consideration for posting. Even more--for those offenders want to use The Awareness Center's forum as a place for public apology and regonition of the severity of their actions, via personal emails/mail and/or documents that hold such apologies from a previous time, we would take these under expedited consideration as well.

4. Halachic criteria. Does the site operate by any Halachic criteria for the permissibility of publicizing unlitigated and unwitnessed accusations? If yes, who is the Halachik decisor on such matters? Certainly the Chofetz Chaim requires not only first hand knowledge to justify reporting truthful but defamatory reports, but it also requires that Tochacha be issued. I assume that means that the accused must be provided with an opportunity to either deny wrongdoing, or to do teshuva. Does the center provide the opportunity, when feasible, for such direct engagement with alleged abusers?

Please be advised that Rabbi Yosef Blau is on our Board of Directors and we consult with him almost daily. We also have five other rabbis on our Advisory Board. Please feel free to consult with Rabbi Blau if you have any more Halachic concerns.

Even more so, if you'd look at the list of Rabbis who are supportive of The Awareness Center (Rabbis who Publicly Support the Efforts of The Awareness Center), you'll see many rabbis outside of the immediate circle of The Awareness Center's boards, who are supportive of our mission and our policies. In addition, rabbis in Israel and in the US have made Psakim specifically in cases of sexual abuse. They make it clear that in case of a sex-offender, because of the danger to others in the community (let alone the mountains of studies on sexual offenders which depict repeated offenses in most cases if not stopped) Lashon Hara DOES NOT apply, because the life of the community comes first. In another psak that calls for a Kal-Vachomer (all the more so), a rabbi in Israel ruled that when a parent (or other person in authority) commites a sexual offense, especially if it is against a child or a vulnerable person under their care/teaching, and even more so if it's been a repeated offense, they give up their right as a parent (teacher). So much so that in cases of incest, the child, even if adult, is DISMISSED from Kibud-Av v'Em, and is only bound to sit Shiva, but not to cloth and feed and house and other aspects that are bound by Jewish law.

That said, of course there is place for Teshuva. If a person does Teshuva for sins against another person, a plea for forgiveness from G-d is not sufficient--they must first mend the fences with the person/s they hurt and get forgiveness (or at least make serious attempts at that) bedore they even approach G-d's forgiveness.

We can see an example for the hirarchy of Teshuva in Neviim, when Ishaia scolds Israel for doing wrongs among themselves and yet seeking salvation through coming up to the Temple to sacrifice come holidays: (Ishaia Alef, 11-18)--"Lama Li Rov Zivcheichem...gam ki tarbu tefila eineny shomea, yedechem damim maleu.....Limdu heitev, dirshu mishpat, ashru chamotz, shiftu yatom, rivu almana." It is only through working through the harms done by person to person that we can approach G-d for forgiveness--as a nation, not only as individuals.

It would be interesting to know how the Chofetz Chaim would have ruled regarding the issues of sexual abuse in this day and age--at the time such issues were Taboo, and were not discussed. Nor was it known that sexual offenders are likely to continue to offend. Maybe the Chofetz Chaim would have made an exception in cases where the safety of the rest of the community was at stake.

With respect to Tochecha: this is sadly yet another issue where history has not proven itself. When rabbis were repreimanded in the past for offenses (which were, by the way, immediately and effectively silenced), they often harmed again, in the same community or in other communities that were not told of their danger, all because of fear of Lashon-Hara. The Tocheca didn't help, and more victims got hurt. When we come against sexual offenses, especially those committed against minors--research, statistics, and reality show that reprimand is not an effective tool against recidivism. Informing the public, however, is effective as it often brings into the light additional victims, allows procesuction, and ENFORCES TREATMENT on offenders who would otherwise just continue to offend. For those who find Tochecha to be enough, maybe they could take this opportunity to ask for survivors' forgiveness, seek treatment, and publicly let people know that they are aware and dealing with the danger they pose to others, and are taking steps to stop it. Pushing things under the table in hushed meetings among the rabbis of a rabbinical courts has NOT proven itself effective. Maybe one day, when rabbis will recieve training in sexual abuse prevention, identificaion, and treatment, there will be room to approach offenders within a more private forum. To date, as a community, we do not yet have the tools to do so.

5. Range of wrongs. The Center identifies itself as being the "Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault." If that is the limit of its mandate, and that is already extraordinarily broad, why does the site venture into matters of "cultic" practices which involve no direct allegations of sexual wrongdoing? For example the newspaper articles concerning Rabbi Mordecai Gafni charge him with unspecified "cultic" practices, but make no suggestions of sexual wrongdoing. Is this simply an evasive attempt to "get" Gafni for long circulating, but never publicly confirmed, allegations of impropriety dating from over twenty years ago?

Your concerns abour 'cultic' practices are understood. Maybe the relationship between cultic practices and sexual abuse would be less ambigous to you if you found time to read about the connection between cults and sexual victimization. Unfortunately, cults and cult-like communities often involve abuse of power (including sexual abuse/assault/exploitation) as well as secercy and intimidation via power figures. In almost all cases of cults or cult-like accusations, victims were hushed of devalued in order to maintain the integrity of the group. However, once things became known, there was no longer doubt that allegations were true and in most cases only the tip of the iceberg.

6. Unlistings. What criteria are utilized for removing people from the listing? For example, there was a time when Rabbi Tzvi Flaum was listed on the site. What process was put into motion that eventually resulted in his removal from the list, and what determines when that process is set in motion?

Rabbi Tzvi Flaum is still listed on our site, though in a different location. You can find his case here: Domestic Violence in Jewish Homes.

As mentioned above in several places, there is a process for removal form the list (Policies Addressing Victimization and Offenders), (When Melodies, Torah Scholars, and Abuse Collide).

If an offender publicly apologizes for the offenses, takes responsibiliy for the pain they caused, undergoes therapy with a therapist who is recognized as an expert in the area of sexual offenders and completes the therapy with an official letter from the therapist confirmoing that they are no longer in danger to offend, and is willing to comply with whatever treatment (psycotherapy, medication, combination thereof) needed to make sure they do not offend again, then their request to be removed from the offenders site can be seiously considered.

As I indicated at the outset, we truly value the work you are doing and would like to be able to do our part in helping rid the Jewish community of leaders who exploit the vulnerabilities of others in the interest of their own sexual gratification. We feel, however, that our concerns about the above issues of process and substantive criteria must be responded to, in theory and practice, before we can use our website to promote the visibility of the Center.

We hope that the above information helps clarify our policies and underlying reasoning. It is painful to know that such unspeakable events can happen in our community. However, it is important that we allow voice to those who'd been harmed, and stop the processes of silencing those victims who already spoke up so that they can heal and others not be harmed. By not allowing the reality of sexual victimization to be known as soon as we become aware of it, we in effect become willing participates in scerecy and silent endorsement.

We at The Awareness Center would very much welcome the support of Edah for our work, which is a work of heart, tirelessly done with no monetary compensation as of date, and in spite of countless trials and tribulations. You circulation would increase awareness to atrocities within our community and help us all reach for solutions that will stand the test of time.

We hope that you find a way to bridge the conceptual gaps that sexual victimization forces us all to make--it is against everything Jewish when people of power harm those more vulnerable. It is not an easy or comfortable reality to hold, and we all wish it could just go away. For those who have been victimized, and for those who would if we don't allow victimes to speak up or step forward--we must go on.

Sincerely,

Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC - President
Na'ama Yehuda, MSC, SLP, APP - Vice President
Michael Salamon, PhD - Treasurer
Rabbi Yosef Blau - Secretary Executive Board of Directors - The Awareness Center

Rabbi Saul Berman responded August 26, 2004:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to the inquiries which I had made concerning the functioning and policies of The Awareness Center (TAC).

Unfortunately, I did not find satisfaction of my concerns in your responses. On the contrary, your letter makes me even more concerned than before about Awareness Center practices which are themselves irresponsible, lacking in accountability and therefore, potentially abusive towards innocent persons.

However, I continue to recognize the essential contribution which TAC can make to helping the Jewish community deal with issues of sexual abuse, Therefore, rather than throwing up my hands in despair and disappointment and urging others to disassociate themselves from TAC, I would like to join with you in looking at possible policy changes which could make your work even more effective in enlisting the support of the community.

In my comments I will retain the order and numbering of my original letter, and of your responses, so that we can refer to those as necessary.

1. Process of Listing - On two separate occasions you indicate that TAC will only post information which was already published in other reputable sources. You know that to be not true and, therefore, you add a morally undermining caveat – that you would “allow other information to be posted as long as at least one other Board of Directors member approves.” This slight exception, while tempting given the secrecy which has engulfed such situations, opens the door to witch-hunting and vengeance for personal grievances. It is essential that the fundamental threshold of prior publication in reputable sources be upheld.

Nor should blogs and other such self-publishing vehicles be acceptable as a reputable source. Vicki Polin has on occasion sent her own comments into blogs, over the signature ‘Me,’ and then used them as a basis for reporting accusations within TAC site. This is certainly unconscionable.

1. Age of the charge - I am persuaded by your comments that no Statute of Limitations should apply in regard to prosecutions for criminal sexual assault. Likewise, the report of conviction or of a finding of culpability by an Ethics committee of a Professional association, should remain posted on the website. However, the same cannot possibly be justified in regard to accusations for which, over time, there remains insufficient evidence for any legal action and absence of evidence of a pattern of continuing sexual impropriety. While it is essential to continue to monitor such situations, it is unjust for a barren accusation to be held permanently before the eyes of the community.

I would suggest the following policy: A previously published accusation should be allowed to remain on TAC website for up to one year after the listing. If by that time there have been no additional accusations reported either in publications or directly to TAC, then the article should be removed into a non-public monitoring area. The website should prominently announce that aside from the persons openly listed as accused or convicted abusers, there are other persons who are being monitored, and that people should transmit to TAC any information about sexual abuse since it might help lead to prosecution of repeat abusers. Also, the accused should be informed by TAC that the published material is being removed from the website, but that emergence of any future accusations could cause the material to be restored to public view.

1. Evidence for the Charge - I understand and sympathize with the temptation to ascribe veracity to every charge of sexual assault, particularly when there appears to be exploitation of a vulnerable victim. However, the totalitarian mindset of guilty until proven innocent, is, and must be, rejected by persons with democratic spirit, and certainly by people infused with the spirit of Jewish Law and values.

Reporting published records of accusations is essential to encourage further reports being made. However, once an accusation has been adequately investigated by a public or responsible private body and the charges have been dismissed, it is essential, in the Jewish spirit of justice, for the exculpatory finding to be reported on TAC website for a period of some months, and for the entire record to then be removed from the site.

1. Halachic Criteria - I would certainly agree that the protection of children and vulnerable adults can often require, even by Halachic standards, the posting of published accusations against otherwise upstanding citizens. Where criminal prosecution is possible, many, including myself, argue that there is a Halachic duty to report the assault to the appropriate governmental authority in order to allow criminal prosecution to be pursued. Likewise, where possible, accusations should be reported to employers and Professional Associations for condemnatory action against accused abusers.

Where no criminal prosecution is possible, and no Professional Association has jurisdiction, the primary goals need to shift. Firstly, TAC must provide referrals to gain help and healing of the psychological and spiritual wounds of the victim. Secondly, one accused of a lengthy pattern of abusive relationships should be encouraged to seek Psychiatric and Spiritual counsel. Thirdly, when the accusations suggest that the abusive behavior was sporadic or rare and contextual, then TAC should attempt to bring the accused abuser and his or her victim together for reconciliation, itself a critical element in healing the wounds. Continued public listing of accusations on TAC website, must be used not as a goal in itself, but as a tool to produce the aforementioned results (i.e., as Tochacha.)

Whenever possible, TAC must utilize accepted mediation services and techniques to bring victim and accused together for an attempt at resolution of their conflict (i.e., as Teshuva and Piyus.)

1. Range of Wrongs - I remain opposed to TAC being focused on anything other than direct instances of sexual abuse within the Jewish community. While sexual abuse is connected to some cults, it is also connected to certain social and economic conditions, to varied psychological backgrounds and certainly to the general status of women within the given culture. Such connections could theoretically justify the inclusion of any information concerning human beings within the website. It is an unacceptable diversion of the resources and energies of TAC, its website, its staff, and its supporters, to report on matters outside its direct mandate.

Recent issues of TAC Digest have strayed massively away from the central focus of the organization, including reports on Israeli politics, religious conflict related to the status of women, and much news totally unrelated to the Jewish community. Such news briefings should be discontinued, and the website should immediately have removed from it any published materials related to cultic practices, which have no direct bearing on allegations of sexual abuse.

1. Unlistings - It is essential that TAC not be perceived as a garbage site, a permanent dumping grounds for every allegation of sexual impropriety against Jews and Jewish leaders. It is precisely this perception which has made TAC a favorite subject and link within many anti-Semitic websites. Vicki has had to work valiantly to reduce the prominence of such misuse of TAC within Google citations. The dynamic character of the web-listings would itself encourage the confidence of our community in the integrity of the site.

I have above identified two situations in which a listing should be removed:

a. If after one year of the listing of a published accusation, no further reports of abuse have been identified, then the report will be removed to a monitoring area within TAC, not available for public viewing

b. If an accusation has been adequately investigated by a public or responsible private body and the charges have been dismissed, the exculpatory finding will be reported on TAC website for a period of three months. If no new accusations of abuse are made within that time, the entire record will then be removed from TAC website.

I would add two additional circumstances in which listings should be removed:

c. If, pursuant to the attempts outlined above (par. 4), an actual reconciliation is achieved between the victim and the accused, then the mediated agreement between them should specifically call for the removal of published information from TAC website, and that should immediately be done.

d. Any person concerning whom a published record of accusation of sexual abuse appears on TAC website, must have the right to appeal that decision to a Special Committee of the Board of Directors of TAC. Such an appeal should be able to be done either in person or in writing. Minimally such communication with the accused could produce an opportunity to press the accused to go for help, to do Teshuva, and to attempt reconciliation with the victim. The Committee might offer to include exculpatory materials within the listing. The Committee must remain open to the possibility that they will be persuaded by the appeal that there is in fact no substance to the accusation and that the material should be removed from the website pending further clarification, or permanently.

This closes my narrative response to your letter. The following is an outline of the policies which I believe would deeply strengthen The Awareness Center, and would certainly make it possible for Edah to throw its support behind the project.

Proposed standards of operation of The Awareness Center

1. Process of listing:
a. No listing will be done on the website without prior publication of incriminating information in a reputable source in which an accused is specifically mentioned by name.
b. Blogs, and other self-published materials will not be utilized as a reputable source of prior publication.
c. The executive Director of TAC and its Board members will be expected to refrain from “blogging” based on unpublished information.

2. Age of the Charge:
a. There will be no statute of limitations for the listing of criminal convictions or of findings of impropriety by Professional associations.
b. If, however, after one year of the listing of a published accusation, no further reports of abuse have been identified, then the report will be removed to a monitoring area within TAC, not available for public viewing.
c. Emphasis will be placed within TAC website, and by its supporters, on the encouragement of reporting accusations of abuse concerning persons not publicly identified on the website.
d. The accused will be informed of the removal of the published material, but will be informed that any new accusations could result in the restoration of the material to public view.

3. Evidence for the Charge:
a. Published reports of accusations of sexual abuse will be reported on TAC website despite the absence of corroborating evidence or testimony.
b. If an accusation has been adequately investigated by a public or responsible private body and the charges have been dismissed, the exculpatory finding will be reported on TAC website for a period of three months.
c. If no new accusations of abuse are made within that time, the entire record will then be removed from TAC website.

4. Halachic Criteria
a. TAC will encourage victims to report allegations of sexual abuse to appropriate governmental authorities for criminal prosecution, and to employers and Professional Associations for administrative action.
b. TAC will provide referrals for victims to professional help in achieving healing of their psychological and spiritual wounds.
c. TAC will attempt in advise persons accused of lengthy patterns of sexual abuse, to seek appropriate psychiatric and spiritual help.
d. Whenever possible, TAC will attempt to bring victim and accused together under supervised circumstances for resolution by mediation.

5. Range of Wrongs
a. TAC will remain focused exclusively on the subject of sexual abuse within the Jewish community.
b. TAC Digests will not include materials other than the above.
c. The staff will immediately remove from, and not further include within, TAC website, any published articles which do not deal directly with allegations of sexual abuse within the Jewish community.

6. Unlistings
a. (2.b. above) If after one year of the listing of a published accusation, no further reports of abuse have been identified, then the report will be removed to a monitoring area within TAC, not available for public viewing
b. (3.b.&c. above) If an accusation has been adequately investigated by a public or responsible private body and the charges have been dismissed, the exculpatory finding will be reported on TAC website for a period of three months. If no new accusations of abuse are made within that time, the entire record will then be removed from TAC website.
c. If, pursuant to the attempts outlined above (par. 4. d.), an actual reconciliation is achieved between the victim and the accused, then the mediated agreement between them should specifically call for the removal of published information from TAC website, and that should immediately be done.
d. Every accused person should be entitled to appeal to a Special Committee, either in writing or in person. If the Committee is persuaded that the accusation is unfounded, they shall instruct the removal of materials from the website.

Just to concretize the implications of these standards, a complete review of the listings at the website would have to be undertaken to assure compliance with the standards. Entries concerning the following individuals would have to be immediately eliminated for non-conformity with the standards : Rabbis Shlomo Aviner, Mordechai Gafni, Yonah Metzger and Don Well. I am certain that other cases would also now fall outside the limits of propriety set by these standards. These changes will be perceived as strength, not weakness.

I recognize the truth of your oft asserted declaration that The Awareness Center lacks the financial and human resources to achieve its own ideal vision, and therefore might find it difficult to undertake the intense evaluation required by this proposal. A smaller, tighter operation, more clearly focused on a narrow mission and operating with well defined and defensible policies, would be in a stronger position to appeal for the funds needed to assure its effectiveness. Many would be more willing to help raise the necessary funds.

Conversely, failure to take the immediate steps indicated above, and reluctance to adopt the clear standards outlined above will result in severe defection of supporters and the likelihood of being discredited within the very community you seek to defend. I look forward to your prompt response and to our being able to work together toward your vision – the protection of our community from sexual predation.

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Saul J. Berman

January 4, 2005, rabbi Berman writes again:

Dear members of the Awareness Center board,

The issue of sexual abuse in the Jewish community is an important one that needs to be confronted. However, due to serious concerns amongst growing numbers of members of the Jewish community about the tactics and abuses of the Awareness Center, as well as Vicki Polin's refusal to respond satisfactorily to my previous communications, we feel forced to take action in order to prevent the continued undermining of this important issue.

It is not clear how aware you as board members have been of the abusive, unethical, unhalachic and libelous ways in which Vicki has conducted her efforts in your names, but we assume that it is in everyone's best interest for the Awareness Center to operate at the highest level of integrity so that its actions are respected and trusted in the community. Since that is currently not the case, we hope that you will do everything in your power to immediately make the changes which Vicki Polin herself has been unwilling to do, or to shut down the site. The way the site now operates makes the members of the board subject to serious personal liability.

Please read the attached letter addressed to Rabbi Blau from myself, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Rabbi Shefa Gold, Dr. Stephen Marmer, and Naomi Mark which outlines some of the issues involved. I will be contacting several of you by phone in the next day to discuss this further. Unless certain changes are made soon in the way that Vicki Polin operates, we stand ready to take further action.

Here is the letter referred to above:

Dear Rabbi Blau,

Since we met some months ago to discuss some issues related to sexual abuse and the role of The Awareness Center, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and I have been maintaining a continuing interest in the activities of The Awareness Center. We are very alarmed at the apparent absence of control over the site by the prominent people who attach their names to it.

My letter this past spring to Vicki Polin and the members of the Executive Committee of The Awareness Center included a list of suggested policy guidelines which would have made the operation of The Awareness Center website a fair and effective instrument in the battle against sexual abuse in the Jewish community. Unfortunately, Vicki, in the name of the Executive Committee, dismissed all of the suggestions with a single condescending brush stroke. She noted in that letter, "Please be advised that Rabbi Yosef Blau is on our board of directors and we consult with him almost daily. Please feel free to consult with Rabbi Blau if you have any more halachic concerns." It is clear that you, Rabbi Blau, are Vicki Polin's source of Jewish ethical and halachic credibility.

Upon further investigation a number of highly disturbing matters have come to light which demonstrate that Vicki Polin is unfit to direct an effort like the Awareness Center, a role which demands impeccable integrity, honesty and psychological stability. For example, we have definitive information in the form of transcripts and signed affidavits that Vicki appeared on May 1, 1989 on the Oprah Winfrey show under a pseudonym. She claimed - partly on the show and partly in private conversations - that she had recovered through therapy many horrific memories of ritualistic abuse and that these memories included the following;

1) that she and others were repeatedly sexually abused on open Torah scrolls in a synagogue
2) that she was forced by her parents and other Jewish families to murder babies and eat their flesh
3) that she has had five abortions as a result of repeated incest with her father
4) that her repeated sexual abuse was part of a widespread phenomenon (involving many rabbis and community professionals) of neo-satanic ritual abuse and murder within the Jewish community. According to Vicki, the satanic cult in which her family was involved is directly traceable to the false messiah Jacob Frank.

All sectors of the Jewish community were appropriately outraged by her appearance on the Oprah show, and the claims she made on the show have since been used by anti-Semitic groups as modern evidence of the ancient canard of the Jewish blood libel. In response, Oprah's producers pointed out correctly that it had been made clear on the show that Vicki was mentally disturbed. Vicki herself has shared with friends that she suffers from multiple personality disorder.

Vicki has also presented herself, on the record and in private conversation, as the psychotherapist of particular alleged victims of sexual abuse reported on by The Awareness Center. That Vicki should be in a therapeutic role with these women is unconscionable and any information that comes from her can simply not be considered credible.

The person who has partnered with Vicki in a number of unjustified and distortion-filled character assassinations has been Luke Ford, whom you have cooperated with as well, Rabbi Blau. Luke Ford is a discredited malicious gossip columnist for the pornography industry. He has made clear in his own writings that he does not check information, that he often reports information that is false, and that his definition of truth is that it expresses "the point of view" of the person telling him the information.

We find it shocking that you not only associate with Vicki Polin and Luke Ford, but that you are the major source of professional rabbinic credibility for Vicki Polin and the Awareness Center. Vicki Polin has written clearly that she only publishes materials from "reputable sources." It is difficult to imagine that under any definition Luke Ford's blog and reports would fit into that category.

Most importantly, the Awareness Center as it currently operates is often misleading, dishonest, and, in the name of justice, viciously abusive. We are moved to make this harsh evaluation in the light of the following points:

1. The claim that the website will only report previously published accusations is an outright lie.

1a. Vicki, responding to my (Rabbi Berman) initial communication of concerns, wrote as follows: "Please note that we do not post personal communications of people who claim that this or that person harmed them." (6/16/04 letter from Vicki Polin to Rabbi Berman, representing herself and the executive board of TAC). In fact, the Awareness Center has posted personal testimonies, including those discredited by earlier investigation.

2. Vicki herself or through a close associate sends anonymous slanderous postings to web blogs and then cites them on The Awareness Center site and in mailings as the basis for serious accusations.

3. The Awareness Center posts and distributes material which is totally false, describing as fact occurrences which never took place. The clear intent is the character assassination of those whom Vicki has decided are deserving of public defamation.

4. The site does not remove accusatory material even after full and multiple investigations have concluded that they are false.

5. The Awareness Center regularly initiates active campaigns to destroy the reputation and work prospects of accused persons, without any evidence other than accusation, even when the refutation of the accused party is compelling, and even after their names have been formally cleared and/or full resolution between the parties has been achieved, and even when it is clear the accused person poses no danger.

6. The site will provide no opportunity for response by accused persons, other than an admission of guilt.

7. The attempt to destroy people's reputations long after their death is not the pursuit of justice, it is journalistic pornography.

These and other serious offenses (of which we have extensive substantiation) have made The Awareness Center an untrustworthy and deplorable repository of falsehoods, innuendoes, and scandal mongering. The Awareness Center is in gross violation of all halachic standards that might apply to these situations. It also violates standards of libel, with its board members personally liable for any legal action highly likely to be taken against it.

As a result of the McCarthyite activities of the Awareness Center and its false and unsubstantiated accusations, the real and critical issue of sexual abuse is being truly undermined. All of this leads us to conclude that we have an obligation to protect innocent people from name rape and other terrible violations. The Awareness Center is a disgrace to the Jewish community and we should not abide its continued destructive activities.

We believe that our concerns about the Awareness Center's transgressions will need to be publicized to the general public, and we will take steps to allow that to happen, unless there is an immediate removal of inappropriate material from the Awareness Center site, and serious safeguards and oversight instituted to prevent continued abuses. While the original motivations behind the Awareness Center are indeed important, these same goals can be accomplished-as we outlined in a several-page letter to Vicki Polin-without the Awareness Center devolving into an instrument of abuse in which the ends justify any means.

Two key members of the board/advisory board who, as we do, support the fight against sexual abuse, have already resigned from the board, independently of any effort on our part. We also know that there are those promoted on the website as "Rabbis Who Publicly Support the Awareness Center" who have no idea that their names are being listed. After one of these rabbis, Shefa Gold, was made aware that her name was being inappropriately used, she contacted Vicki strongly insisting that her name be immediately removed. This was months ago and her name is still listed as of this day, in flagrant violation of her request.

It is clear that the Awareness Center website speaks for its board as well as claiming to speak for the Jewish community as a whole without any mandate, oversight or control by those bodies. We fear that your own reputation for probity and your leadership role in the communal response to the vital issue of sexual abuse may be seriously injured by your continued association with The Awareness Center. We urge you to disassociate your name from the Awareness Center and to work toward its closure until such time as responsible policies and honest procedures are implemented for its future operation.

Sincerely, Rabbi Saul J. Berman
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
Rabbi Shefa Gold
Stephen S. Marmer, MD, PhD
Naomi Mark, ACSW

Vicki Polin's 1989 Appearance On Oprah

5/11/05

Yori Yanover sent me this. To the best of my knowledge, this transcript is substantially accurate.

The following is an excerpt of the May 1, 1989 Oprah Show. Vicki Polin confirms that she is "Rachel."

OPRAH: As a child, my next guest was used also in worshipping the devil, participated in human sacrifice rituals and cannibalism. She says her family has been involved in rituals for generations. She is currently in extensive therapy, suffers from multiple personality disorder, meaning she's blocked out many of the terrifying and painful memories of her childhood. Meet "Rachel," who is also in disguise to protect her identity. You come from generations of ritualistic abuse?

"RACHEL", Was Used In Satan Worship Rituals: Yes, my family has an extensive family tree, and they keep track of who's been involved and who hasn't been involved, and it’s gone back to like 1700.

OPRAH: And so you were ritually abused.

"RACHEL": Right. I was born into a family that believes in this.

OPRAH: Does everyone else think it's a nice Jewish family? From the outside, you appear to be a nice Jewish girl?

"RACHEL": Definitely.

OPRAH: And you all are worshipping the devil inside the home?

"RACHEL": Right. There's other Jewish families across the country. It's not just my own family.

OPRAH: Really? And so who knows about it? Lots of people now.

"RACHEL": Well, I talked to a police detective in the Chicago area, and several of my friends know, and I've spoke publicly before, and…

OPRAH: So when you were brought up in this kind of evilness, did you just think it was normal?

"RACHEL': I blocked out a lot of the memories I had because of my multiple personality disorder, but, yes. I mean, it's like if you grow up with something, you think it’s normal. I always thought something…

OPRAH: So what kinds of things? You don't have to give us the gory details, but what kinds of things went on in the family?

"RACHEL": Well, there would be rituals in which babies would be sacrificed, and you would have to, you know…

OPRAH: Whose babies?

"RACHEL": There were people who bred babies in our family. No one would know about it. A lot of people were overweight, so you couldn't tell if they were pregnant or not, or they would supposedly go away for awhile and then come back…

"RACHEL": The other thing I want to point outnot all Jewish people sacrifice babies. I mean, it's not a very typical thing.

OPRAH: I think we kind of know that.

"RACHEL": I just want to point that out.

OPRAH: This is the first time I heard of any Jewish people sacrificing babies, but anyway--so you witnessed the sacrifice.

"RACHEL": Right. When I was very young, I was forced to participate in that-- in which I had to sacrifice an infant.

OPRAH: And the purpose of sacrifice is to what? Is to bring you what? What are you sacrificing for?

"RACHEL": For power...

OPRAH: Power. And so were you ever used? Were you ever used yourself?

"RACHEL": I was molested. I was raped several times.

OPRAH: What's your mother doing in all of this? What's her role in all of this?

"RACHEL": What is-- I'm not exactly- -what her role is-- I haven't, you know, recovered all of my memories, but her family was extremely involved. You know, she brought me to it. Both of my parents brought me to it.

OPRAH: And where is she now?

"RACHEL": She lives in the Chicago metropolitan area. She's on the human relations commission of the town that she lives in, and she's an upstanding citizen. Nobody would suspect her. Nobody would suspect anybody involved in it. There's police officers involved in it. There's, you know, doctors, lawyers, Indiana chiefs involved in it.

OPRAH: Are you kidding?

"RACHEL": I mean, it's not the person, you know, who looks scummy that's involved in it. It's someone who looks normal.…

OPRAH: Were you raised with a sense of right and wrong, “Rachel?”

“RACHEL: Yes. I mean, it’s like we, I had both. I mean, to the outside world, everything we did was proper and right, and then there were the nights that things changed, that things just got turned around. What was wrong was right, and what was right was wrong. That’s what helps to create some of theto develop MPD.

OPRAH: Multiple personality disorder.

“RACHEL”: Right, right.

OPRAH: I know a lot of people are shaking their heads here, and I'm sure that when you go back home, I mean, everyone's going to try to make you look like you're crazy.

"RACHEL": Oh, definitely.

OPRAH: Absolutely.

"RACHEL": They do that all the time.

OPRAH: It's very difficult to believe, so how is it that you come to believe these people, Tina?

Ms. GROSSMAN: Well, I've treated over 40 survivors of ritual abuse. Adult patients with multiple personality disorder, and from many states in this country as well as Canada. What we've seen and heard and gone through in the abreactions which is the remembered experiences of that- we are hearing the identical same things from these adults. Okay. These are not children that are three years old, and you can, as an adult, perhaps rationalize that this is fantasy material. These adults are saying things. They have never met each other before. They are describing identical rituals, just the same as, since I'm Jewish, you could go to New York or California and describe a seder in one state or another and, as a Jew, you would recognize it. This is the belief system in evil and the power that evil gives you, and so it has these certain rituals, so they are very similar with all of the survivors.

OPRAH: See, but I am very surprised because the Jewish faith is the Jewish faith. and worshipping the devil is not a part of the Jewish faith. I mean, Jewish people do not worship the devil.

Ms. GROSSMAN: But before there was Christ and before there was a system of one God, there was Paganism- and it still exists in the world, and in many cultures, you still find the belief that there is strength and power in the actual consumption of human flesh or animals' flesh.

OPRAH: Now in your family. did you all call it worshipping the devil, "Rachel?”

"RACHEL": No.

OPRAH: Or did you…

"RACHEL": I don't know.

OPRAH: It was just evil. these things you did.

"RACHEL": It was-- right.

OPRAH: Right.

"RACHEL": Well, I said it was evil, and they said it was good. There's a book that I had just come across called [Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural by Howard Schwartz, New York, Oxford University Press, 1988] which is a book of Jewish mysticism and supernatural, and there's a lot in that book that relates to what I endured when I was a child.

OPRAH: I want to stop right here, though. because you know how people build prejudices. I want to make it very clear this is one Jewish person, so don't go around now saying to people, you know, "Those Jewish people, they're worshipping--'. This is just one person. Okay.

"RACHEL": Most Jewish people do not do what my family did.

OPRAH: Okay. Thank you very much.

"RACHEL": I mean, I don't know very many other Jewish people who would do what I did.

OPRAH: But you know how people hear one thing, and then go off and they say, "I heard on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' today that…”

5/5/05

Rabbi Yosef Blau Resigns From The Awareness Center (TAC)

I believe, but don't have direct evidence for this, that the Tendlers are behind this new website Blaufacts.com.

I find it hard to believe that rabbis Joseph Telushkin and Saul Berman are behind this new site, even though much of the contents of the new site is similar to a series of attacks those rabbis made against rabbi Blau and TAC via carefully written letters (widely distributed) over the past year. But this site is not the modus operandi of rabbi Telushkin and Berman. One can argue that some of their criticisms about rabbi Blau were wrong, but most everyone who knows them says they are honorable.

Blaufacts.com reproduces this letter from rabbi Telushkin and Berman. Was it done without their permission?

5/6/05

Rabbi Blau, the leading Orthodox figure behind TAC, is no longer listed on TAC. So it appears that he has resigned from TAC.

Rabbi Blau's letter to The Jewish Press, ardent defenders of rabbi Mordecai Tendler.

From the new website Blaufacts.com (it is a professional and painstaking work, free of libel and amply documented):

Why does Yosef Blau degrade by including on his website past and present leaders of our generation, specifically Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt"l, and Rabbi Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg shlita (a former relative of Yosef Blau)?

There's a veiled threat in this to rabbi Blau and some of the people he cares about most. Some background information.

Blaufacts.com reproduces this quote from Rabbi Yaakov Menken December 30, 2004 on the blog Cross-Currents.com:

Right now, there is a web site carrying extremely serious allegations about a member of our community, allegations which, if believed, would result in the immediate termination of that individual’s employment – or great damage to the company that employs him. The “evidence” against this person comes entirely from a blog (and another web page created by the blogger), which also contains a series of allegations against various rabbis and others who are “protecting” this individual. Anyone who knows any of these people knows that the allegations are ludicrous. If the allegations had a hint of truth to them, then (given their nature) the rabbis in question would be first to tell him he must leave his job. The allegations were discredited long ago – but certain people don’t care. They would rather besmirch the innocent based upon “testimony” which changes substantially each time the story is re-told.

Here's a little information on this tzaddik (truly righteous man) in our time, rabbi Yaakov Menken.

Menahem writes on CampusJ:

Whoever posted this petty attack on Rabbi Blau has way too much time on his/her hands, no concept of what constitutes fact-checking and a generally delusional perspective.

Under a link called "Blau Facts," the site contains a disclaimer, " All information displayed on this site will be preceded by a link to the source of the information, so as not to allow any attempt to dispel these clear, undeniable facts." What clear, undeniable facts follow? Quotes from the media that in my mind point far more to Rabbi Blau's maturity and involvment with serious matters (that he must shoulder because no one else in the rabbinic community seems interested) than to refute him in any way.

Steven I. Weiss Weighs In On R. Blau Resignation

I inserted the links into Steven's writing:

Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University is indisputedly the leading Orthodox rabbi seeking to combat rabbinic abuse. There's been a significant effort to trash him that has grown significantly in recent weeks, owing to the fallout of the situation regarding Rabbi Mordechai Tendler.

Steven writes:

1) Why are we only hearing about the site from people who aren't involved in the anti-Blau effort, such as Luke Ford? Usually, you'd hear about such a project from the partisans behind it or supporting it.

Despite Allegations, Gala Honoring Political Donor Will Go On

Forward, 7/23/04

Under his bail agreement, Charles Kushner, the real estate mogul and political fund raiser arrested last week for allegedly hiring a call girl in an effort to blackmail a witness, is not allowed to leave his home state of New Jersey. But he will still be one of the guests of honor at a fund-raising gala next month in Israel for Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

Rabbi Saul Berman, director of the liberal Orthodox group Edah and generally an outspoken leader on business ethics, did not return numerous calls for comment. Kushner's brother-in-law, Murray Laulicht, is the board president. An administrator at Edah declined to comment on Kushner's own connection to the organization.

7/4/06

An Open Letter About Rabbi Saul Berman

Jewish Whistleblower writes in reaction to this:

Dear Rabbi [Avi] Weiss,

I am deeply disappointed and shocked at your decision to offer a position as Director of Rabbinic Enrichment to Rabbi Saul Berman at this time. Further, you refer to him in you public letter as "a person of great brilliance, integrity and sensitivity".

Unfortunately, many of us have found over the past few years that simply is not the case. Rabbi Berman has not only defended and protected now confessed sexual predator and child molester Rabbi Mordecai Gafni but he has continually made false public claims of investigations that he personally conducted and claims that determinations of Rabbi Gafni's innocence had been made (see copy of one of those public letters below). Rabbi Berman continued to make such claims while at the same time refusing to talk to several of the brave survivors of Rabbi Gafni who came forward and attempted to discuss the matter with him. Some investigation.

Rabbi Berman not only publicly defended Gafni, but he has attacked many individuals trying to protect others from being abused by Gafni in a very public campaign aimed at destroying their reputations and names. Ultimately, Rabbi Berman was responsible for the creation of the environment in which Gafni remained unchecked and where he abused further vulnerable victims.

Rabbi Berman throughout his conduct in the Gafni case, has demonstrated a total lack of character and integrity. His refusal to address the totality of his conduct publicly or do anything even resembling teshuvah towards the brave former survivors of Rabbi Gafni or their supporters forces me to question your judgment in hiring Rabbi Berman.

Rabbi Weiss, if Rabbi Berman is entitled to public honor from his colleagues without any accountability or teshuvah for his public conduct over the past years for protecting a sexual predator with public lies, then I believe you and your colleagues have failed to appreciate any of the lessons we had hoped you learned from the Lanner affair and our community's inability to deal with sexual predators will as such continue. I would have expected more from you.

The Mishnah, Avot 4:4, reminds us that sequestering a hillul Hashem will always be unsuccessful: "Whoever desecrates the name of Heaven in private will ultimately be punished in public, whether the desecration was committed unintentionally or intentionally."

June, 2006

Deposition Of Mordecai Gafni's Third Wife

They divorced in August of 2004, before Gary Rosenblatt's article that blew Mordecai's story wide open.

May 9th, 2006 - Email Deposition:

The following is my personal testimony of what it was like to be married to Mordechai for almost 7 years. I share what I have known of Mordechai's drastic and tragic dark side. I focus upon the shadow aspects of our marriage and his personality, for I believe they are crucial to share, given what has unfolded in these past weeks. Please keep in mind that I could also write pages worth of testimony about the light side of Mordechai - from the beauty of his teachings to his ardent dedication to making a contribution in the world and helping others. May his light side and his dark side know full integration.

Also, while you can pass this testimony on to other concerned parties, please do not share my name with the press or in public. I have been advised by lawyers not to let my name to appear in public. Thanks.

* Background: I was 19 years old when I first encountered Mordechai. I was studying in Jerusalem the summer after my freshman year of college. I was an eager baalat-teshuva, newly "turned on" to the beauty of Jewish practice. I devotedly went to his classes at Isralight and other venues. We went on our first date the spring after I graduated college. I was 23 and star-struck. He was 15 years my senior. We got married at the beginning of 1998, less than 8 months after our first date. Several people warned me about Mordechai's past. He adamantly insisted that the bulk of the rumors were lies, exaggerations and the evil workings of other people's jealousies. I believed him.

He told me early on about some of his sexual misdemeanors as well as affairs he had on his 2nd wife. He assured me that he had done teshuva, changed, and that things with me would be different. I was all too ready to believe this as well. Plus I thought that I could help him, fix him; that my love could help him become the great man he had the potential to be. As soon as we started seriously dating, he pulled me into working for him full-time on writing and organizational projects. I was dedicated to his "mission" of Jewish Rennaissance and gave it all of my time and energy. His emotional abuse and manipulations began immediately upon our marriage. I was so dedicated to the mission that I endured it. Also, the nature of the his manipulations was such that I did not feel I could leave. The years that followed were a strange mix of great excitement, activity and purpose, as well as huge despair, confusion and pain. On the outside I seemed to be living a fairy tale of success. Behind closed doors I was living a life of enslavement, debasement, manipulation and verbal abuse. On top of the abuse, Mordechai was having numerous affairs on me; lying to me on a daily basis.

Finally, I found out about one of the affairs. Finally, my eyes were opened and I started to see through the fog of falsehoods. I fled Israel in February of 2004, only to be lured back in June 2004 by Mordechai's promises of change and commitment. But nothing changed. By early August of 2004 I demanded and received a divorce.

Soon thereafter, Mordechai came "under attack" by his enemies in America. In the fall of 2004, articles about his sexual misconduct and questionable reputation came out in America and Israel. He begged me to keep our divorce a secret until all of this bad press died down. I reluctantly agreed - mostly because I believed that the work that was going on at Bayit Chadash was valuable and I did not want to jeopardize it. Mordechai lied to the reporters and all who asked, saying that we were still married. He also lied to the Rabbinic supporters who helped wage a campaign to protect him. Mordechai refused to publicly tell the truth about our divorce until Pesach of 2005 (March/April). I am ashamed to admit that I was manipulated into also remaining silent and covering up to protect him, as I had done myriad times during our marriage.

Now that I see the damage that Mordechai has caused in so many people's lives I deeply regret that I did not speak out earlier about the abuse that I suffered at his hands and the abuse that I knew that he inflicted upon others. I also deeply regret that I did not speak out about the countless lies and manipulations that I witnessed him engage in on a regular basis. I sorely regret that I led people to believe that we had a good marriage when in actuality it was most often a hell. I have been studying, practicing and engaging in psychotherapy these past two years since I left Mordechai. The more I have learned the more clear it is that Mordechai is a dangerous sexual predator and sociopath. He hurt me in deplorable ways and I fear that he will continue to hurt others if he is not stopped. Indeed, I have already heard first-hand harrowing accounts of his abuse and manipulation of women (many of them friends of mine). In many ways, my story is mild in comparison to theirs. Hearing these tragic stories was the central motivator for my sharing my own. I pray that my speaking out now can help to thwart any and all future abuse at his hands.

1. Information about Sexual Abuse/Molestation of a Minor: Before we got married, Mordechai shared with me that he had indeed had a sexual encounter with a minor. Her name was Judy - a teenager who was in his JYPSY youth movement. He explained to me details of their encounter and how he went about covering it up and discrediting her. He told me that she had seduced him. He said that they did not have intercourse, but that they had at least been undressed, sexually physical and that he had ejaculated. After Judy reported this, he lied to everyone involved, saying that she was emotionally unstable, jealous and had made it all up. He even received a document signed by a Rabbi attesting to his innocence. Judy was under-age, a student of his, and were it not for the statute of limitations, he could go to jail over this.

2. Mordechai also told me stories about various teachers and staff people connected withYeshiva University with whom he had struggles. He told me how he blackmailed a teacher (one of his "enemies" at YU) who tried to block him from studying/teaching there after the Judy incident. He had information about this particular man and threatened to share it if the man continued to try to block him. The man stayed quiet.

3. Adultery/Lying: He also told me of several affairs that he had in Boca Raton while married to his second wife. These affairs were with women in his Congregation (the name of one woman was Fern Weisman). At least one of them was a married woman (whose name I don't recall, though I can find it). There was a scandal at the synagogue over rumors about his sexual misconduct. I do not think that his second wife ever found out about these affairs. They eventually left Boca to move to Israel. I believe that the main reason for this was that he needed to flee before people found out the truth (though he never framed it that way to me).

4. Adultery/Lying: One of the reasons (among many) that I divorced Mordechai was because he had an affair while we were studying in Oxford. It was with a woman named Stutti at Wolfson College. He lied to me on a virtually daily basis to cover up this affair. This went on for approximately 10 months (from December 2002-Sept 2003). It was an agonizing time for me even though I did not consciously know what was happening. I finally convinced him to tell me the truth about the affair when we left Oxford and moved back to Israel. I was devastated, and realized that all of my hopes that he was a "changed man" were baseless fantasies.

5. Adultery/Lying: I also was racked with suspicion that he was having another affair - with his "teaching partner", Erica Fox. On countless occasions I begged him to stop teaching with her and to pull back from their "friendship". He refused. Also on countless occasions I point blank asked him if they were having an affair. In response, he consistently told me how crazy, jealous and insecure I was. I have finally found out that they were indeed intimate with each other while we were married, as well as after. (All of this went on between 2002 until our divorce in August of 2004). I also have heard that he had affairs with two other women while we were together - one a young woman in Israel and the other in America. Since that I time I have found out that he has been having numerous sexual relationships with a variety of women - employees, students and funders (many more than have been reported in the press). At least one of these women is married to another man.

6. Debasing/Sexuality: Mordechai was consistently verbally demeaning to me, particularly in our sexual interactions. Additionally, he viewed pornography on a regular basis; paying money to have memberships to certain sites. Eventually his computer and email were so full of pornography that he paid tens of hundreds of dollars to get it cleaned, for fear that someone may see it and that he would lose his job. I understand from formal depositions made with lawyers and the police in Israel that he had much more "extreme" sexual interactions with other women after our divorce; which involved S&M and also played heavily on themes of debasement.

7. Stealing Intellectual Property: Mordechai used other people's stories/teaching (making slight changes) without attributing them properly. (The story in Soulprints about Eitan giving him a soulprint box was, for instance, based upon a story in one of Robert Fulghum's books.) Furthermore, I worked full time on both books "Soul Prints" and "The Mystery of Love". There are entire sections of these books which I myself wrote - with no public recognition given as to the depth and breadth of my contribution. Just a few of the numerous examples of this are the poem/invocation at the beginning of "Soul Prints", as well as the Parable of the Royal Wine in "The Mystery of Love". I insisted that I wanted at least these pieces to be attributed to me. He refused. Seeing I had no real choice, I gave in in the end and allowed the pieces to be used without attribution.

8. Verbal Abuse & Emotional Manipulation: This is one of the main issues for me about the danger that Mordechai poses to others. Emotional abuse and manipulation was a constant throughout our marriage. I have pages and pages of journal entries describing entire scenes and dialogues full of emotional abuse. His yelling explosions, full of demeaning putdowns and blame, were virtually a daily occurrence. I eventually stopped fighting back and would just dissolve in tears after each explosion. He needed to always be right, always in control. If I didn't agree with him on something then he would burst into a rage and tell me how stupid I was. - But more than that, he would tell me how unloving, insensitive and selfish I was. Convincing me that I was the evil, selfish, unloving one was one of his most powerful tools of manipulation. He capitalized on my natural desire to be loving and giving. My goodness was a knife in his hands with which he carved his sick designs into me. I was utterly bewildered by his manipulations; the way he would turn everything around and make me the bad one. These turn arounds rendered me powerless time and again. In fact, I was so distraught by the nature of his putdowns and manipulations that I had regular fantasies of doing violent and suicidal acts against myself. My most recurrent fantasy during his abusive tirades was of slashing my throat. I was not "allowed" to express or feel anger towards him and so I turned all of my anger at him back upon myself. I had never in my life been suicidal before this time and since I left him I have not had suicidal or violent thoughts at all.

9. Verbal Abuse/Manipulation of Others: I witnessed Mordechai being verbally abusive and manipulative with many other people. I saw it happen most with Dafna, his main staff person, but also - tragically - also saw it with his sons. I found his neglectful and insensitive treatment of his sons to be deplorable. Seeing him with his sons was another big factor in my wanting a divorce. The thought of him mistreating any future children that we would have was just terrifying to me.

10. Lies: As I mentioned above, Mordechai lied about our divorce, his past and other essential issues to the numerous Rabbis who supported him when he was being attacked in the press and at various teaching institutions. The Rabbis he lied pointblank to include R'Danny Landes, R'Joseph Telushkin, R'Art Green, R'Eli Herscher and R'Saul Berman, as well as others. He likewise lied to the press and the entire Bayit Chadash community and Board. Of course, Mordechai was lying to me on a daily basis about the affairs he was having.

11. Exaggerations - Beyond the examples above I witnessed Mordechai lying routinely in most every type of setting. Whether it was in a speech, at dinner with friends, teaching, or in talking to donors. He was consistently aggrandizing himself by exaggerating his successes, popularity, power and connections. He would get furious with me when I myself did not join in on telling these inflated stories about him; saying that I was selfish and unloving for not also telling these tales. Time and again he falsely claimed to be a spiritual/holy person. During his writings and teachings he would claim to pray, meditate, exercise, eat healthy, etc. None of which he did in the least. He led entire meditation retreats without ever having meditated himself. In my opinion, all of his frequent claims to spiritual enlightenment were (and are still) dangerously misleading fabrications.

12. Dishonest Financial Dealings: Mordechai also lied to me (and others) about financial matters. For instance, I have recently been informed that he hid approximately $37K in the Bayit Chadash accounts so that it would not be factored in to our divorce settlement. I understand that he is trying to retrieve and further hide that money so that I can not access it. Who knows what other money he had hidden away so that it would not be factored in. He also hid money from his 2nd wife so that he would not have to give it for child support. She took him to Israeli court over his dishonest financial dealings with her (with their divorce settlement as well as with child support). She won the case. He fought hard against this case being leaked to the Israeli press. Additionally, before I met Mordechai he was fired from Milah for inappropriate financial dealings (although I do not know the details). Whatever the case, he clearly has a spotted history around financial matters.

13. Psychological Sickness - I think it is crucial to share that based on all that I have known of Mordechai I see that he clearly has 2 psychological disorders which are evident and expressed in numerous ways. The most obvious is a narcissistic personality disorder. He exhibited the following characteristics which correlate with the DMS-IV diagnosis of narcissism. In the DMS, at least 5 of the following attributes are requires for diagnosis. Mordechai exhibits them all. I could give numerous examples in each category, but will refrain for lack of space and because they are just so very obvious to anyone who knows Mordechai.):

a. has a grandiose sense of self-importance - exaggerates achievements and talents.
b. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power and brilliance.
c. Believes that he is "special" and unique and can only associate with other special or high-status people or institutions.
d. Requires excessive admiration
e. Has a sense of entitlement - expecting especially favorable treatment or compliance with his expectations
f. Is interpersonally exploitative; taking advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
g. Is envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
h. Lacks empathy; is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
i. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

As for the antisocial (or sociopathic) personality disorder. He exhibits the following of the criteria for the DSM (of which 3 are needed for diagnosis):

a. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors (such as his sexual harassment in the workplace and sleeping with students and employees)
b. deceitfulness, repeated lying
c. irritability and aggressiveness (as is known by anyone who has ever worked under Mordechai, or crossed his path politically)
d. reckless disregard for safety of self or others (such as endangering himself by juggling numerous affairs at once, given his history)
e. lack of remorse; indicated by rationalizing having hurt, or mistreated others

Unfortunately, with Axis II Personality Disorders the chances for change via treatment are extremely slim; as opposed to Axis I disorders which are considered more treatable. Mental Retardation, for example, is also on Axis II, because no amount of therapy will be able to fully 'treat' retardation. The same is understood for Personality Disorders - they are not entirely treatable. Thus, in my opinion, the belief that Mordechai will one day be able to return to being a teacher/leader of any sort is a dangerous one. I personally (and professionally) do not think that he should be "allowed" to return to any such roles at any point in the future. A tragic loss, perhaps, but in the end we as a culture and as a people need to reassess the traits that we value and pull forth from our leaders. May this whole fiasco pave the way for new standards of humility, sincerity and a genuine care for others.

Carol McMullen writes this public letter 11/3/06 to Vicki Polin:

I am writing as a follow-up to our recent discussion about my experience with Rabbi Marc Gafni at the Elat Chayyim retreat center during an August week-long session in 2003. I hand-wrote a strongly worded warning about him in the retreat evaluation, asking for some response. This was handed in during the closing session. I heard nothing more until I read the recent letter about his situation sent out by Arthur Waskow on his Shalom Center mail-out.

I immediately emailed (twice) Rabbi [Arthur] Waskow asking to discuss my 2003 experience. When there was no response, I emailed Elat Chayyim as well. I have not kept that reply but an individual in their administration spoke to me by phone apologizing for either “losing” or otherwise not responding to my 2003 warning and assuring me that the their Board was doing “everything possible” to insure nothing similar would happen in the future. I asked for a specific response from the Board to me after she presented my email statement, but I have heard nothing back, and decided to just drop it until your invitation to share my experience. There has seemed to be a need to sweep this uncomfortable situation under the carpet.

Gafni’s daily session on Tears in the Torah was one of my shiurim. We were told that he did not tolerate lateness, so to arrive early. His young assistant, Erica Fox, proceeded to start the group in singing, quiet niggunim to begin, and raising the volume and energy to a high level as Gafni made his dramatic entrance – about 5 minutes late himself – to be sure the audience was all there and pumped up? This felt very controlling and contrived to me. Each day he strode in from the back, his long hair wet from what seemed to be his just completed shower, waving his arms and joining in to lead the singing and chants at a feverous pitch. His presentations were similarly dramatic, with much sexualized shaking of the wet locks out of his eyes and making direct eye contact and grinning at his mesmerized admirers. He seemed to direct this sexualized energy especially toward various females who hung on his every word. There was a “cult-like” atmosphere to the whole performance. None of the other shiurim felt like this.

I was shocked and disturbed and told my mishpacha group of my concern. I was promptly shot down as someone who didn’t understand the charisma of this rebbe and that I should dare to speak lashon hara against such a saint. I was horrified and went the 2nd day to a different group. After much carrying-on by others in the mishpacha group about Gafni’s brilliance that day, I decided the 3rd day to swallow hard, go back, and try to focus on the content. So I took notes the last 3 days and actually did find his points to be well researched, very relevant and at times, actually quite moving.

Occasionally, I glanced at Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman at the back to see if they looked uncomfortable with the highly sexualized presentation, but they appeared impassive or slightly amused.

By the 4th day, one very needy young woman in the mishpacha group was gushing on about Gafni having taken a special interest in her, giving her extra private teaching time and that she was going to continue corresponding with him after the retreat. I spoke out again to her and my group of my serious reservations, to the same dismissive reaction.

Erev Shabbat was the last straw. After services, I was in a contemplative mood and decided to go for a walk down the road in the dark to a wooded area, far away from the lodge. I had no flashlight but felt very safe at this secluded retreat center. Who did I stumble upon but the rebbe himself with a lovely young woman, definitely not his wife, Cary. He stepped back from her quickly and said a brusque “Shabbat Shalom” as I hurried by. My adrenalin was racing and I struggling with ruining Shabbat with an angry disclosure to Phyllis Berman, but as a first time participant, decided to wait until the closing evaluation time.

In retrospect, I should have had the courage to speak to Waskow and Berman directly and demand direct action, but I opted instead for my hand written statement that was apparently “lost” or otherwise ignored.

I have agreed to share my story now in the hopes that others who were inappropriately approached by Gafni or who witnessed or tried to warn of his actions may decide to come forward and help to get this situation properly resolved. Not only do any victims need clear Jewish community acknowledgement and assistance, but also leaders who employed Gafni need to take responsibility for not supervising him and for not responding to the warnings they did receive. I believe Gafni needs to face the consequences of his actions and also to receive treatment.

In 2006, Mordecai Gafni flamed out. TheAwarenessCenter.org provides these details.