Matthew trashing every “spiritual” teacher in some way in order to discredit and rightfully so…
Steve Ornstein

Hi Steve

Thank you for your comment- I honestly, really appreciate people’s comments and any dialogue that gets started around what I write. I want to address some of the issues you raised.

You characterized my piece as “trashing every spiritual teacher in some way in order to discredit”. I’m not entirely sure what you mean here- I was critiquing one particular teacher, who has been accused multiple times of injurious sexual misconduct and abuse of power. My intention is not at all to discredit all teachers, something I think I make clear in the piece.

You mentioned Norman Fischer- as it so happens I have sat with him several times as well, and have immense respect and affection for him as a person and as a teacher. You seemed to be suggesting that since he does not speak ill of any teachers, I should not either. He is acting as a spiritual teacher of Zen Buddhism and Jewish spirituality, however, and I am acting as a journalist. Also, I would suggest you ask him about whether people should be publically warned about Gafni and see what he says.

Lastly and most importantly you characterized what I said as “lashon hora” based on “rumours, not direct accusations”. I want to address the latter first: Gafni has indeed been directly accused by several people, some of who I know personally. Your not realizing this makes me think you did not read the article carefully, or did not follow any of the links to articles with more information?

The accusations, which include statutory rape, abuse of the teacher-student power deferential, adultery, and deception, and include accusations by several ex-students, his ex-wife, and the woman who he seduced when she was underage decades ago, are easily found online. They show a clear pattern of sexual misconduct which his female students should be warned about. They are, to my mind, relevant to whether Gafni can be trusted as a spiritual teacher, and especially one who claims to teach sacred sexuality. This brings us to the second point.

Lashon Hora, for those who don’t know, is a Jewish term referring to the “evil tongue”, i.e. gossip or slander. It is forbidden under Jewish law. It is important to recognize, however, that gossip (saying negative but true things about someone) is allowed to avert clear and immediate danger to someone. The purpose of writing about Gafni is to warn people. It is also worth noting that Jewish law exempts someone from the charge of lashon hora when the information is already in the public sphere, which all of the info about Gafni is.

In closing I want to point out that I am far from alone in warning people about Gafni. He has had two Rabbinic ordinations revoked, been officially denounced by Aleph, the governing council of the Jewish Renewal Movement, and has had a petition against him signed by thousands of Jewish leaders and teachers as well as, I believe, 200 Rabbis. There are links to all of this information in the article I posted.