Marc Gafni Defends Return to Spotlight as Backlash Gathers Steam

Marc Gafni, a once-promising Jewish leader dogged by allegations of sexual improprieties stretching back years, has returned to the public eye as a leader of a California think tank.
But his stunning re-emergence, trumpeted in a recent New York Times article, has elicited a new wave of condemnations from Jewish leaders.

Rabbi David Ingber, an influential Renewal rabbi in New York who once studied with Gafni but has long since severed ties, says anyone who knows Gafni has a responsibility to warn others about him.
“We are calling for other organizations to pull their support for him,” said Ingber. “We did not do enough before to warn people about this person. I feel responsible. I am implicated.”
Ingber organized a petition of denouncement, which carries the names of around 100 other Jewish leaders, including rabbis Donniel Hartman, Avi Weiss, Sharon Kleinbaum, Ebn Leader and Joseph Telushkin. The petition specifically names Whole Foods, whose co-founder and CEO, John Mackey, is on the board of Gafni’s think tank. Posted on December 30, it now has more than 2,500 signatories.
Aleph, an umbrella organization for the Jewish Renewal movement, where Gafni was once a popular figure, also issued a statement. “The latest attempted re-emergence of Marc Gafni as self-described spiritual leader galvanizes all who care about genuine spirituality to stand up for high ethical standards,” the group wrote. “Marc Gafni is not a rabbi or spiritual leader recognized by Aleph.”
Gafni, 55, told the Forward that he no longer sees himself as part of the organized Jewish community and was seemingly unconcerned with the pushback from religious leaders.
“I am not associated with the [Jewish] community in any official or unofficial way,” Gafni said, speaking over the phone in California. “I don’t publically identify or practice as a rabbi,” but “I draw on the rabbinic lineage every day, it’s what inspires me.”
And Gafni said his latest foray, the latest in his decades-long career, should not be seen as a threat to anyone.
“I’ve left the spiritual teaching world and am functioning as the president of an activist think tank, which is writing a new set of books which are committed to evolving the source code of culture.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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