On the Origins of the False Complaints of 2006

marc gafni, gafni, marcgafni, dr marc gafni, marc gafni smear, marc gafni scandal, marc gafni petitionThis interview of Dr. Marc Gafni by Arthur Kurzweil is a fantastic summary of the false complaints in 2006 and how that played into the smear campaign 2016. Arthur Kurzweil is a well-known American author, educator, editor, writer, publisher, and illusionist, whose own personal quest eventually led him to explore his spiritual identity, which resulted in his seminal book on Jewish genealogical research, the classic best seller From Generation to Generation.

Transcript:

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 1

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I was trying to remember how long we know each other. It’s at least 20 years. I think the first time we met was in Accord, New York at Elat Chayyim.

Marc Gafni:

That’s right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I had been teaching there for a number of years and suddenly there was talk that there was a new guy coming around. And you were the new guy and you made a huge positive impression on everybody with all your classes that built and built and built. I remember I’m an early riser and at Elat Chayyim I was always up before the whole place was up; 5:30 in the morning and I’m outside and I’m doing some studying. Then you come around and you beat me, because I came down and you were there at 5:00 o’clock in the morning. No other teachers there gave me the impression that they were really serious about their learning. But then I remembered that we went to a Yankee game together with our sons.

Marc Gafni:

We did. That was a long, boring game, but it was good to be with the sons.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

It was good to be with the sons and it was good to be at a Yankee game at night.

Marc Gafni:

It was good.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

It’s fun to be in the stadium at night.

Marc Gafni:

I forgot that Yankee game. That’s right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

And the Yankees lost that night.

Marc Gafni:

They did.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Then fast forward and one afternoon I’m on the Upper West Side in Manhattan and I don’t remember what I was doing but…

Marc Gafni:

Wow! That’s right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

You and I coincidentally, if there is such a thing, bumped into each other. We couldn’t talk. You were rushing. You were hailing a cab to get to the airport.

Marc Gafni:

Right. I actually remember where we were. I’m remembering that moment. It was the day I flew back to Israel to that terrible night and you were actually the last person I saw. There’s a bookstore, right, West End Judaica?

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Yeah, West Side Judaica.

Marc Gafni:

I was coming out of the bookstore, seeing what’s new, what new books are around. I was coming out. I was going across the street and hailing a cab…

Arthur Kurzweil:     

That’s right.

Marc Gafni:

Going to the airport. That’s exactly right. You were the last person I saw before going back to Israel, May 10th, 2006.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

May 10th, 2006. Okay, so we met a bunch of years before that, a decade before that.

Marc Gafni:

Something like that.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

So what happened on that day when you got on that flight and went back to Israel? Give it to me firsthand so I don’t hear it from somebody else, I hear it from your experience.

Marc Gafni:

It’s actually never been heard from anyone else. What a place to start from. I was finishing a teaching tour here in the States. I had just been at—and these are names I haven’t said in years—I had just been at David Zaslow’s synagogue wherever he was, somewhere in Oregon, and at a number of other synagogues and study centers, the 92nd Street Y. We had just finished this beautiful, beautiful three weeks. It was just a beautiful time of just richness and relationship and integrity and talking and teaching.

I was going back to Israel, just back to where I lived, my home. I said goodbye to you, got on the plane. I remember actually before I got on the plane—this was going to become relevant later—I was sitting in the lounge flipping through my computer and I noticed something was funny with my emails and there were emails missing. I kind of registered. I forgot about it, got on the plane and studied all the way back and was excited, just so excited to land and to see everyone.

And I landed into—I don’t even have words for it, Arthur—I landed into a nightmare. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about it actually ever in any public forum anyplace. I wrote about it. I never published it. But basically I get off the plane. Basically when I got on the plane my world existed. When I got off the plane it didn’t. On the way I spoke to two people that I was close to. One of them was Donna Zerner who was at that moment my best friend, meaning warm, close, spoke about how much integrity we had together and wrote me a couple of emails that day in that nature. By 15 hours later this person wasn’t my friend anymore and was already in a place to wage a 10-year campaign. Just to get what happened, to this day one of my most traumatic experiences is getting on a plane. It’s very hard for me to get on a plane where there’s a five-hour flight, because just my body doesn’t know what’s going to be true on the other end of the plane.

So I get off the plane. I call my assistant’s phone, Efrat [?], and then someone answers the phone. I didn’t call from my phone, I called from someone else’s phone, because my phone was out, so I borrowed someone’s phone in the aisle. I remember getting up and saying, “Hey, can I use your phone?” I call. Efrat answers, but it’s not Efrat, it’s not her, it’s someone else, and they just scream and they say, “We’re going to finish you. You’re finished. Meet us at the lawyer’s office tonight at midnight. You’re finished,” screaming at the top of their lungs.

So I thought I got the wrong number. It’s like, oh, sorry, wrong number, let me try this again. It was kind of semi-ironic. Whoops, wrong number, let’s try this again. I call and I get the same screaming. My heart, that phrase, your heart goes into your stomach, it’s true. My heart just… And I just realized something’s terribly wrong. I had no idea what. I just couldn’t… Lawyer’s office? There’s nothing I had done that was wrong, like I wasn’t tax evading, there was nothing inappropriate in my life that deserved hiding that would warrant going to a lawyer’s office, which meant that something was wrong in some fundamental way.

I get off the plane. I remember the walk from the plane till baggage claim, not knowing. It was like an interminable walk forever. My heart, I just knew something was wrong. So out of baggage claim I call another good friend, Dalit. And Dalit is crying and she says, “There’s some meeting and I can’t tell me. They told me you were dangerous.” “Who told you?” “Your assistant said you were dangerous and that you’ve slept with hundreds of women.” I said, “What?” I don’t know which one’s crazier. So I just said, “Something’s crazy here.” And then she got off the phone crying. Dalit’s a fantastic person and actually wound up—I think you know—with her two kids coming and was in America with me for two or three years, just on integrity. She was fantastic. But at this moment she was just completely…

I make another phone call to a close friend in the States and she says, “They called me while you were in the air. Women have filed police complaints against you of some nature.” I said to her, the person I called, I said, “You know everyone I’ve gone out with.” There’s actually nothing this person didn’t know. There’s no relationship she didn’t know. “There’s nothing. It doesn’t make any sense.” She said, “I know. I don’t know what’s going on.”

So I’m at the airport for three hours making phone calls, realizing that something horrific is happening. I called a close friend of mine in the United States who is a well-known Jewish educator and very deeply connected to Israeli politics. She called someone in Israel. The first thing I was told, because the idea of complaints of sexual harassment had been already heard on the phone, was that complaints of sexual harassment in Israel are a felony. So the first thing that’s going is, like, harassment, felony, none of this has anything to do with me. So I’m at the airport. I wasn’t crying. I was in shock. I just walked into an insanity.

So I met Suzy Rogovin who was a board member of our organization then and has remained a good friend, walked through it with me, and is now a board member of the think tank, the Center for Integral Wisdom. So Suzy was actually at the airport. She was a board member who was there then and really had the integrity to actually look at what happened and stayed with us through all the years. Suzy was there and Suzy said, “Stay in Israel. Whatever is going on, fight it.” Another board member said, “Get out of Israel, because just protect yourself, whatever is going on.” I didn’t know what to do.

So I go to the Dan Hotel. I check in. I call this person, Donna. Donna, who was my good friend, who had written me the most warm emails that day, written me about our friendship, our depth, all of that, is gone and she’s just screaming at me. She says, “My name is on your bank accounts. I could be sued. I could lose my money. You’re going to talk about our relationship.” I said, “Donna, what are we talking about here? It’s okay. Whatever…” And she was gone, and, by the way, has never come back and has become the most rabid, obsessed pursuer for the last decade. This was 12 hours later.

So I then go to this lawyer’s office and I get there and the staff member of our organization, Bayit Chadash, is there. I was running in Israel an organization. We didn’t have a kind of community. There wasn’t a church or a synagogue in that sense. It was an organization that did teaching. It was kind of an avant-garde organization that did teaching, and I was functioning in you might say a kind of spiritual professor role if you will. We were back then, as today, anti-guru, because there have been all these, you know, Gafni, guru… It’s teaching.

I got to the lawyer’s office. So my partner, Avraham, is there. He’s not looking at me. He’s looking the floor. I say something to him. The lawyer tells him, “Don’t talk to him.” This is a person who had been my best friend in many, many ways. Another staff person is there, is also looking at the ground. And the lawyer says, “There have been complaints filed at the Israeli police of sexual harassment, and the only way you can save the organization is to resign. That’s what you need to do. Here are the documents.” I had no idea what to do. Again, to be clear, I’ve never sexually harassed anyone in my life.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

In other words, the document that you signed in the lawyer’s office was to resign from Bayit Chadash.

Marc Gafni:

I think so. I honestly didn’t read it. I don’t quite know how to describe it. I was barely breathing.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Do you think it gave the impression to anybody in the room or anybody who knew about it that this was an admission of guilt?

Marc Gafni:

Oh, no, I told them, I said clearly, “Avraham, there’s no truth here.” And there was no question asked. To be clear, if I’m running a school or I’m running an organization or I’m running anything and someone comes to you… At that moment in my life I had barely heard the term ‘sexual harassment’. I didn’t know about it. Since then I have obviously investigated, read about it, etc, and written. But if someone comes to you and says, “Wow, there’s a sexual harassment issue…” And whenever sexual harassment happens in an organization it’s usually a group of people. If it’s the president of an organization it’s usually not one. There’s usually some group of people. So you do a very simple thing. You freeze the frame and you look into it.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

You find out.

Marc Gafni:

You create an inquiry. You talk to this side. You talk to that side. You check information. You create a process. Then you draw a conclusion. One of the things people don’t realize is it’s never happened. No one ever spoke to me. No one ever asked and no one ever checked the enormous amount of information that was there that was objective documentary to show that it wasn’t true. None of that was in my mind that night. It was a fait accompli.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

So in a sense you’re saying that they gave the impression that they had something on you but they weren’t telling you what it was?

Marc Gafni:

They were gone. In other words, I knew that there was nothing to have on me, so I knew that clearly someone must have said something that wasn’t true, but they were obviously assuming that whatever they had heard was true. But what was strange about it is they weren’t asking a question.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

They had already made up their minds. They had heard whatever they heard.

Marc Gafni:

They had heard whatever they heard.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

And they wanted you out.

Marc Gafni:

In other words, there was no process, no question, no investigation, no checking facts, none of it. Nothing at all happened in a period of about 12 minutes. So I signed the paper, because my mind was blank and the only thing I could think of is—this was going through my head—it’s my responsibility to save the organization. That’s the only sentence I could hear. I’ve got to save the organization. It’s doing so much good for so many people, so I’ll save the organization.

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 2

Arthur Kurzweil:     

You said a moment ago before that, sexual harassment, whatever that was defined, that is a felony in Israel. Is it possible that you had a relationship with a student and that student/teacher is an issue there?

Marc Gafni:

No. Number one, the whole notion of student/teacher—in other words, let me say three things. First, what’s called amorous relationships between a professor and a graduate student, for example, at that time certainly there was no law against it in Israel, number one. Number two, we’re talking about powerful adult women. I wasn’t a Zen master.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

My favorite professor in college married his student. They had children. They had grandchildren. I have been in touch all of my life with them. It was a legitimate relationship.

Marc Gafni:

Right. That topic’s a big topic by itself, but just to say in a Zen context where you have a teacher who demands obedience, it seems pretty clear to me that there’s no possibility for sexuality, because the relationship is an obedience relationship. If there’s a professor/graduate student relationship in which both are powerful adults, in which power is distributed between them in a way in which—if you read David Mamet’s play on this, Oleanna, if she makes a complaint he loses his life—so in terms of power distribution it’s clearly changed. So my position—and I’ve written public articles about it—is that with a professor and powerful graduate student, of course sexuality is a possibility, like it always is between powerful adults. But that in Israel, to answer your question, there was no law against that in Israel at all.

And the people in question actually weren’t students, the two people who were the key people. What I was told then—let me just go back—was that complaints had been filed of sexual harassment. I leave the lawyer’s office. I call a close friend in America again who calls apparently someone connected to the Israeli police. I get this thing reaffirmed that sexual harassment in Israel is a felony and you go to jail for several years. To be clear—and I apologize for being just stark about it—but going to jail in Israel on a sexual offence means a good chance of being raped in jail, etc, etc, or worse. So it’s an extremely serious thing to do.

And it was going to be years till 2014 that I knew that the police never registered any complaints, that it just wasn’t true, that they said there were complaints registered with the police but they lied about that. I knew that the claim of the complaints, which I was to find out approximately what they were a couple of weeks later from the newspaper, the claims were completely not true and were completely falsified, but I’ll get to that. Let me just put that aside. Let me just go to what happened that night.

So I don’t know what to do, Arthur. So I went down to the Tel Aviv beach and I just cried. How could this be happening? I just don’t have words. So I had to make a decision. Do I stay in Israel? And the advice that I got was, “Do you have evidence?” And at that point I realized, oh, I had looked at my computer at Kennedy and I realized some emails were missing. From the boxes, I had boxes of just different people that I had relationships with, I would just put our emails in a box just so I could find them easily, and that’s where I just glanced just casually and they were missing, and I realized, oh my god…

Arthur Kurzweil:     

So your computer was hacked and things were…?

Marc Gafni:

It wasn’t hacked. I had actually given my computer to a person on my staff who turned out to be one of the two people who were allegedly complainants. I had given her the computer two weeks before or three weeks before, asked her to clean the computer, to take off old emails which were unneeded, of course not to do anything in my private boxes. And I realized, wow, it kind of came together, and we had had a very, very deep conflict in which she quit, I fired her. It was a very, very powerful conflict for about six months. This was now May 11th. She stopped working on May 1st and she had had the computer. And I realized, oh my god, this was actually planned. The emails are missing from my computer. I had left my computer at Kennedy Airport, so I didn’t have it with me, so I couldn’t even go look and see how many were erased.

So I called someone who has a relationship with the Israeli police and they basically said to me, and this was confirmed by a couple of people, because all through the night, if you can imagine—what was that show on American TV, 24?—like 7:15, 7:20, just every five minutes of the night something was happening, and basically what I learned in the course of the night was that the Israeli police, bless them, are known to be corrupt in these kind of things. It would become a public case, Gafni, Israeli TV star, because I was doing the national television show, so it would become a cause célèbre. My computer, I was told, would easily, quote-unquote, get lost. The Israeli police would say, oh, I’d give them my computer to try and reconstruct it and it could get lost.

And I was told in no uncertain terms that what you have to do is get back to America and reconstruct your computer, because that’s the only thing. Now, I didn’t know how much was missing in it, how much wasn’t. So I actually said to the different people I talked to, I said, “I won’t leave the country if it’s illegal. There’s no way I’m going to do that.” So I didn’t know then the police had never registered a complaint, so when I went to leave the country there was obviously no problem, but, again, I thought there was a complaint and therefore they would have put a stop order on me leaving the country. And I said, well, if that’s true then I’ll stay here.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

So I’m interested in the chronology and I’d like you to continue, but I can’t help but break in for a moment. So you mean to say that 10 years later you found out that the complaint that ran your life really was not on record with the police?

Marc Gafni:

Didn’t exist. There was no Israeli police complaint. That was all a myth. I missed my son’s wedding. I missed being in Israel for my sons’ army services. In other words, had I not thought that there were police complaints I would have dealt with the entire thing completely differently, which is clearly why they said that there were police complaints, because it was a scare tactic. It was brutally cruel. I spent, just to understand, the next year and a half pretty much all of my savings at the time, where I had saved my whole life for my children, hiring the best legal staff—first I had to reconstruct my computer, private investigators—in other words, to do all the work necessary to defend against what I thought was a legal claim.

In 2014 a group of people contacted me in Israel and said, “You’ve got come back and teach.” People would contact me to do that every X amount of time. I always would say no. But this group of people actually went and hired a top Israeli lawyer in Haifa, which is where the complaints were supposed to have been registered, and she worked very closely with the police. She looked at all the records and she said, “There were never any complaints filed against you anyplace, anywhere, ever.” She did it authoritatively and wrote a formal legal document to that extent. When they called me to tell me that, literally, Arthur, I almost fainted. Besides the complaints being not true, when I got back to America it took me several months to actually find the right people and months till we recovered the computer. We were able to recover instant messages, emails, an enormous amount of material. The complaints, as stated by the two women that night, were categorically not true.

And a couple of people but one in particular who was at the meeting actually did a legal affidavit about what was said, and then one of the key people, Mia Cohen, did an interview with an Israeli paper where she stated what her claims were. The other person made her claim at the meeting and it was reported by different people. One was false promises to marry in order to gain sexual relations. That was Mia’s complaint. The second person, who was on my staff, made a complaint of sexual harassment. Both of them were so categorically not true—the exact opposite.

I knew that there was an enormous record on my computer. Mia and I went out, just to be clear, for six weeks. There are hundreds of emails between us from when she was in America, how we got together in the relationship, how we discussed it, her writing me saying, “Thank you for your integrity, for honoring my sacred autonomy,” and a beautiful email exchange till literally a couple of weeks before the false complaints. So it’s not one or two emails. It’s a long, extensively documented email record which says the exact opposite of what Mia claimed. So it’s not, oh, there was some confusion, there was misunderstanding. It was a deliberate set of lies. But it took me quite a while to recover this information.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

So what was going on in Bayit Chadash that nobody defended you, that there was nobody at that lawyer’s meeting who would say, “Stop for a moment. He built this organization. These are just a couple of people’s complaints.”

Marc Gafni:

It’s a great question.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

What was going on there?

Marc Gafni:

No, it’s a great question.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Part of the reason I’m asking the question is because the way the press reported it here in the United States was that, oh, he’s guilty, he resigned from Bayit Chadash, they threw him out, and there’s nothing more to discuss.

Marc Gafni:

Right, so, four or five things. I understand the question. It’s a great question. So, one, the person that I trusted most was my partner, Avraham. I had built the organization. I had in some sense empowered him. So he made a statement in public that, A, there were police complaints—he wrote it in a letter—two, that the complaints were true. He wrote a public statement that he had read, quote-unquote, the depositions and the complaints were true.

Two years later in an email exchange he said to me, “I never read the depositions”—the exact opposite of what he wrote publicly—“and when I said the complaints were true I just meant that everyone admits that there were relationships, that they were consensual. I didn’t mean anything about the police complaints.” So I said to him, “Avraham, that’s the exact opposite of what you wrote in public.” And I have the emails. He said, “I’m done with this,” and he wouldn’t re-engage it.

I love Avraham till today. I spoke to a very close friend of Avraham’s after we had recovered all of the emails and we had created a document with all the information. One of Avraham’s best friends met me in America, a well-known rabbi in Israel, read over the whole thing. He said, “It’s clear as day that this was all wrong. You’re completely innocent. I’m sure I’ll bring this to Avraham and he’ll correct it.” And I was sure of that also. I was a thousand percent sure it was just a matter of time. And Avraham refused to look at it. Now, one of the two complainants had told me in an instant message that she had a relationship with Avraham. I have no idea whether that was true or not. Not my issue. And that wasn’t my issue between me and Avraham. And, to this day, bless Avraham.

So let me go back to your question. And I’m a little bit speechless here, because I’ve never talked about this in public and it’s all so shocking. So, just four or five things in response to your question, Arthur. One, in the American press and the Israeli press everyone assumed there was an investigation. Avraham said there was an investigation. There wasn’t. An investigation means you talk to both sides, you check information, you cross-check motives. That never happened. So that’s one.

Two is about four or five days in, before I had hired a lawyer, one close person to me, a woman who was on our board and who was close to me, together with a thinker who was a close friend of mine, spoke to me. This is about four or five days. I haven’t slept for four or five days at this point. I’m beyond in shock, just trying to understand how to breathe, literally how to breathe. I couldn’t figure out how to take the next breath. So they say to me, particularly this friend who is a scholar, he said to me, “Marc, you don’t have the emails.” I explained that there were emails. He said, “Drive into the skid. Just drive into the skid. What you have to do is you’ve got to stop the lynch mob. Just fall on your sword. Have time to recover the computer. And then in six months we’ll set this right.” There was literally a lynch mob energy.

Parentheses, Arthur, at this time I knew nothing about this dynamic. Since that time, actually that summer, the summer of 2006, I must have read 50 books on sexual harassment, the dynamics and what’s called sexual hysteria and the kind of lynch mob energy that descends and how everyone runs for cover and everyone gets scared, but I didn’t understand it then. I didn’t understand why isn’t anyone talking to me, why isn’t anyone checking information, why is everyone assuming that this is true?

And I’ll get back to a bunch of the reasons that lay behind it, but at that moment they said to me, “What you’ve got to do is just write a letter, take it all on yourself. Just say it’s my issue, my responsibility, I’m captain of the ship. Just stop the lynch mod.” So they actually drafted a letter. I said to them, “I can’t sign this letter. We all know it’s categorically not true. I can’t do it.” Then she, my close friend, she said, “If you don’t have your computer and then you get extradited to Israel, you’ll wind up going to jail and getting raped and your kids will see that you went to jail and it’ll be your word against theirs. So you’ve just got to stop…”

Of course, little did I know then that no one extradites people for sexual harassment. Just my vision was I looked up the law on the computer. Yes, there is extradition. Yes, sexual harassment is a felony. And it didn’t even occur to me to call a lawyer. It didn’t even occur to me, like, call a lawyer against my friends? So I signed the letter, which may have been the worst thing I ever did or may have been right, I don’t know, but I knew that literally I felt that my physical being, that wouldn’t be alive. It might have been shock or it might have been true. I’m not even sure till today.

So I signed the letter and then everything stopped, because that’s what the people who had worked… David Ingber kept calling my close friend—that’s the first indication I had that he was one of the major catalysts directly or indirectly of the false complaints—saying, “We’ve got to make sure Gafni never teaches again. We’ve got to make sure Gafni never teaches again. He’s got to sign to never teach again.” And I knew that David had been acting against me for a year. I’ll get back to that. But the whole thing was so shocking, so I signed the letter. I was sick to my stomach when I signed it, but I said, okay, let me physically survive and then figure out the next step.

And the very next day I hired a lawyer and we started the process of recovering the computer, etc. and I basically went silent for two years. In that period of silence I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah in that time. That’s when we recovered the entire computer and found all the emails and all the instant messages. And my lawyer said to me after we recovered the entire thing, he actually said, “I’ve actually never had a case where someone is so obviously innocent, where there’s not one email, there’s a thousand to demonstrate it.” But the crazy thing, Arthur, is because I signed the letter everyone assumed it was true. So I basically stopped the conversation and then I tried to create conversations with people to let them know why I had done it.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Was this the letter that was also published The Jewish Week?

Marc Gafni:

Yes.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

So one of the results of that letter, it seems to me, is that the story continued with you being accused of confessing.

Marc Gafni:

Right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Confessed so-and-so.

Marc Gafni:

There’s a bunch of different stages to that, but, basically, yeah. In other words, I fell on my sword and I said, you know, my sickness, I take responsibility on myself. That was essentially after five days of not sleeping the advice was: Just save your physical life. Do that by stopping the music. And then recover the material and then disprove it. But then what I did is there were two groups of basically Jewish leaders then. There were some who got it immediately. They just got it. They were discerning and wise and said, “Oh, he must have signed that because he was under enormous pressure.” And they contacted me and said, “What’s really going on?” And I actually let them know. You were one of those people. But there was a group of people who actually fully understood, oh, he signed that because there’s something going on here that makes no sense.

When I finally recovered the material I then wrote to and tried to contact a couple of dozen people who were involved, including a key newspaper editor, to actually explain to him what had happened, to show him the information. Refused to meet. And basically no one—no one, without exception—was willing to meet. No one was willing to review the evidence. Because what had happened in that intervening two years of me being silent was that David Ingber and his posse had really just intensified this demonization.

In other words, I had gone silent. Everyone essentially ran for cover in different ways. The assumption was I would never reappear, which, had I not been able to recover my computer, Arthur, I wouldn’t have. But once I was able to recover the computer and work with the best team of lawyers, private investigators, we put together a file, a dossier which was so clear and so compelling. Then someone at the Integral Institute, Ken Wilber’s organization, who was a leading scholar there, Dr. Clint Fuhs, did his own investigation based on the emails and read everything, read all the documentation and wrote a formal report in 2008 saying this just wasn’t true.

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 3

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Do you think that there was any sincerity on the part of the two women who were accusing you of sexual harassment, any sincerity on their part that they felt that they were wronged, that they were sexually harassed? Was it two women who were sitting around one day and realizing the same guy dated both of them at the same time and they were annoyed and wanted to get back…?

Marc Gafni:

It was neither. No, I understand the question. I appreciate it. It was neither. First off, I hadn’t dated either of them. Let me go back one step. Let me just take an example. One of the women, Mia Cohen, there is no question in my mind—I would stake my life on it—Mia knows she lied. There’s no way, not one iota, that she could have thought that what she said was true unless she is utterly, completely deluded. You read the email record…

Again, one of the ways they tried, the people, in 2008 and on, I put up my website and I actually offered an apology for whatever my part was in the contribution system that allowed for the false complaints to happen, and I said I had recovered all the emails and that it just wasn’t true, so the attack that started happening on the Internet was, oh, even an abused wife sends an occasional nice email to her husband. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about an occasional nice email. We’re talking about someone I went out with for six weeks, an extensive, detailed, thick record of communication. So there’s no way that Mia could have thought that it was true, one. Two, Mia and I were both going out with other people at the same time and we had shared that with each other in the emails. So there’s no sense of, like, I’m going to marry Mia. It was the exact opposite.

What had happened is they had hired what you might call, well, I don’t want to give it a name, but it’s sometimes called a victim feminist lawyer. It was a lawyer who was disreputable in Israel—they apparently later fired her from what I understand—who actually told them what to say. So she told Mia, “Say he made promises to marry,” apparently, because that is in Israel a felony. So they were clearly guided. Those are the reports that came back to me. I know that this particular lawyer was hired. She was quoted in the press extensively and people close to the story told me that she actually guided them in terms of what they said.

Two is the other person on my staff, who hasn’t put her name out in the public so I won’t, I’m going to respect that, but she and I were in a major clash. We loved each other very much and at some point it went bad. I have my experience of it. She has hers. We were in a major clash. She wrote me then and communicated to other people who forwarded it to me that the things that were said in the press weren’t true. The emails are clear as day. And she was herself very active sexually, if I can just be frank. She ran her own little erotica site. She made money, she shared with me, doing phone calls. We had a kind of playful relationship. She would make me little erotic slideshows. In other words, she was extremely active sexually, extremely engaged.

And the way she portrayed herself that evening was this kind of virginal white vision. The precise opposite was true. She was extremely, extremely involved in various forms of sexuality extremely actively. And bless her. I don’t mean that with any kind of critique. In other words, there’s an extensive documentation of the nature of our erotic play in which she was a primary initiator, which is beautiful. Bless feminine empowerment. Again, I have no critique, but the recasting of it as sexual harassment is utter nonsense. And there was a deep clash between us.

Now let’s go back to the thing that you said earlier. We’re not talking about a scene of dating several people who don’t know about each other. That’s not what happened. What happened was we’re an organization, we’re doing some teaching, we’re going to festivals in Israel. Everything is informal. I’m working 18 hours a day. And there were a number of people over a couple of years that I had occasional relationships with, meaning we would sleep together. It was sweet. It was lovely. It was a bohemian kind of scene. It was sweet and lovely. There was never any sense of anything inappropriate happening. It never even occurred to me.

And I naturally just by my nature held my relationships privately, which was a mistake. It was clearly a mistake. In other words, if I would do it again I would hold all my relationships publicly in that sense and it would just be part of the fabric of the organization, which I didn’t do then simply because this wasn’t a position I was holding. Over the last 10 years I have evolved deeply into some profound positions, I think, around sexuality, but I had written about them already then in a book called Mystery of Love, but this wasn’t a kind of principle, Tantric experiment. That was to come a few years later. This was just lovely sexuality and love between us in this informal scene.

So I take full responsibility for not sharing with Efrat that a year ago Yael [?] and I hung out. But there was no dating going on. It wasn’t a dating thing. It was much more casual, sweet, kind of fluid. A very well-known spiritual teacher talked to me about six months ago and he said, “Yeah, I understand that.” He would always go out with people after events. Never, I never, not once in my life did I ever have a casual relationship with someone who came to a class of mine, ever. I went to festival after festival, which were bohemian Israeli festivals. Not a lot of dress happening there. Not once did I have any form of sexual contact with anyone at a festival, right after a festival, never. That whole notion, this notion of hundreds of women, kind of wild, promiscuous, it’s an interesting vision—it wasn’t my life.

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 4

Arthur Kurzweil:     

So was there a ringleader there?

Marc Gafni:

What catalyzed it behind the scenes—and lots of information came to the fore about this—I didn’t realize it then, but David Ingber was very close friends with Mia Cohen. Mia Cohen, as I was told, was the person who initiated the process. David and Mia were very close. This is where really David steps into the story and Chaya, my former wife Chaya Lester, but David was the primary person. So I really have got to step into the David world, because he was a primary actor in this story.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

And he continues to be.

Marc Gafni:

And he continues to be a primary actor in the story.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

It wasn’t that long ago on the news he was picketing in front of Whole Foods about you…

Marc Gafni:

Right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

All these years later. I want to understand something a little bit more clearly. You mentioned before that was it Avraham that read the deposition? What was that deposition?

Marc Gafni:

No, that’s great.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Was there a police…?

Marc Gafni:

No.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

What was he referring to? What are you referring to?

Marc Gafni:

They called, I guess, the statements that the two people wrote, they called them depositions. I guess they were trying to give it a sense of police, but it’s just the name that they gave it. My former wife Chaya, who we’ll talk about later, wrote what she called her deposition against me.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Yes.

Marc Gafni:

It’s a name that they gave it, one.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Yes.

Marc Gafni:

And, two, it was part of this kind of elaborate… Let me say it this way, Arthur. The whole way it was organized inflicted maximal cruelty, maximal pain and—and I think this is what was the intention, based on all of the information that came to me later—maximal confusion. I was utterly confused. I was utterly shocked and confused. Had Avraham come to me and said, “Hey, a couple of people came to me and said you were involved with them. What’s going on? Tell me. Share it with me,” etc, we could have sat and had a conversation about it. We could have both checked information, checked facts, etc.

But you have to understand the culture that we were in. So I wasn’t rabbi of a synagogue involved with congregants. That’s not what was happening here at all. So, for example, Avraham, my partner, at our events, our weekend events, he would bring a woman there. He would never tell me that he did. He always brought her into his room. I always knew. He never told me. And it was okay. It wasn’t interesting to me. He was at that point in a relationship with someone. Clearly this was some sort of however he defined it—I don’t know whether it was polyamorous, with permission, without permission—but it wasn’t my issue. In other words, our ethic was much more of a bohemian, kind of festival scene, late sixties. That’s what the energy was. There was within the broader circle a lot of sexuality happening. So it wasn’t a conventional American scene at all. You’ve got to get that in order to understand the flavor of it.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I think also the use of the word ‘deposition’ is so misleading. When I read Chaya’s statement, that it’s called a deposition, my first thought is, oh, this is filed in some court somewhere.

Marc Gafni:

Right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

And it also implies to me that there was some process.

Marc Gafni:

Right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

And it seems to be there was no process. For example, the accused, you, were not given any opportunity to make your statement or deposition. So it is misleading.

Marc Gafni:

The whole thing is, I mean, Chaya’s deposition—we’ll talk about Chaya—Chaya called me several months before the false complaints happened and asked if I would return to classical Orthodoxy and remarry her. And she said to me, “You loom too large for me, and as long as you’re still alive and on the scene I can’t marry anyone else.” She said to me she was going out with a gentleman named Hillel, who I understand she later married, and would I come back and remarry her? I said no for whatever the set of reasons were, but Chaya herself was in between worlds. Chaya had called me several months earlier, telling me she wanted to seduce her professor, Rick Tarnas, at CIIS. And Chaya was very involved in her own sexual journey and in finding her way. Let me just bracket that because that’s not our conversation now and we can come back to it. So the use of the term ‘deposition’, for example by Chaya, is just a deliberate confusion, misleading, like that.

But just to get the sexuality story, I had just written, Arthur, Mystery of Love, which was about the relationship between the erotic and the holy and the erotic and the sexual. That was deep in my feeling, thought, mind process. I wrote 1,000 pages for it. We published 300. Avraham Leader and I actually wrote 50 pages of footnotes for it, a process that he led. And I was deep into trying to understand what a new vision of sexuality might be. And that process has taken me on a long journey in the last 10 years, and actually with Kristina Kincaid a new book is coming out called A Return to Eros, which is about a couple of hundred thousand word book, a kind of magnum opus on just what we’ve learned in the last 10 years.

But at that time I had a colleague who had really put a kind of open polyamorous sexuality at the center of his organization. I actually disagreed with him. Men and women would do ritual immersion together, etc. He said to me, “Marc, of the 12 people involved with me, I’m sexually involved with nine of them.” And I said, “Great, but I don’t want to put that at the center of my organization.” I actually understood the sexuality experiment, but, first off, I hadn’t resolved it internally. I still had different voices in my head. And I said, “Let me try and figure this out privately, but this is not part of my organization.” It wasn’t part of my teaching. I was trying just to understand how it all worked.

So for me that year and a half between let’s say 2004 and 2006, when there was just some very sweet, loving sexuality, was beautiful. The one person I actually felt I owed a significant apology to was the woman I was actually going out with the last several months. We had specifically said that our relationship was non-exclusive, but I hadn’t shared with her exactly who I had gone out with. And I would do that all differently now. I was in an 18–19 hour day work mode, so occasionally I would go late at night, at 1:00 in the morning when I finished I would stop by Yael, I’d sleep over for six hours and go back to work the next day. It was more like that.

Going backwards I would do it much more deliberately and much more consciously. I wrote a public apology for the kind of sloppiness of it. It was unintentional. But I am a thousand percent sure, I would stake my life on it, that had David Ingber and Chaya and the people who organized directly or indirectly and catalyzed directly or indirectly the false complaints, had that not happened, which then traumatized the entire system and then retroactively everything was reread negatively, I would bet my life on that I’d be friends with 99 percent of the people. We’d be good friends today. It would have taken its natural course and found its way.

But when you basically step into a normal system and then you traumatize it by claiming there are false police complaints in a period of several days and then the person is threatened with jail, even though there are no false police complaints but that’s what everyone thinks, then you basically create massive trauma. They brought down the entire organization, all the good that was happening, and I went silent. So the system got completely traumatized during my silence. And, by the way, parentheses, Arthur, one of the great canards is where there’s smoke there’s fire. It’s actually not quite true. Sometimes where there’s smoke there’s fire. Sometimes when there’s smoke there’s a smoke bomb. At other times when there’s smoke there’s an ember that malice fans into a fire.

One of the things that creates this group of people, this collusion of people whose stories begin to line up—and I have studied this intently over the last 10 years and I have documented at least 20 different dynamics—is when there’s an attack on someone in the system and they have to go silent. Whether it’s a legal attack, a judicial attack, a public attack, they’ve got to go silent, and in their silence the most extreme negative voices dominate. Then everyone goes back and rereads their story in light of those negative voices.

Then the person who would actually set that straight—in this case it was me—was silent, couldn’t talk. And I couldn’t talk because there had been a false claim of police complaints, and so I had to actually just defend my life and make sure I didn’t go to prison for something that I didn’t do, which would have been devastating for my family and everything. That’s why they did the deposition move. It’s why all the claims were made. Had those claims not been made we could have handled it in a completely, completely different way.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

If I had the opportunity to speak to either or both of these women and they would be honest with me, I would be their closest confidante, and I said, “How did he harass you sexually?” what do you think they would say?

Marc Gafni:

I can’t speak for anyone. There has been such an intense demonization. I have received—and I have a full record—emails from one of these people that was so intensely demonizing, it was so shocking, that you read it and you don’t even know what to do with it. There’s no connection, literally no connection to reality. I’m not going to talk about that person at all, because, again, they have not talked publicly about me. I’m going to respect that.

Mia, who did give a public interview, I’d be happy to sit with Mia today, face to face. Let’s both take lie detector tests. I took a full polygraph test. And polygraphs are dismissed often, but actually they are dependent on who gives them. I took a polygraph test on every issue connected to this entire story with the person who was the Head of Polygraph Research for the Department of Defense, question after question after question. I’d be happy to go face to face with Mia. Let’s check the evidence and have Mia just say, “Wow, I’m sorry, I made a mistake, I was wrong.” Now, again, Mia was very, very close friends with David Ingber and that began that story.

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 5

Marc Gafni:

Arthur, with your permission, just to say one more word about sexuality, someone I was talking to about this recently in the Jewish community—and I have had virtually no contact with the Jewish community and my context has evolved and changed so radically over the years that I almost forget the original context. People ask me, “Are you still Jewishly involved?” I’m completely Jewishly involved in the sense that I put on tefillin in the morning, I’m madly committed to the lineage and to Torah, but that’s a different conversation.

So this person said to me, “The kind of sexuality you’re describing is just not familiar to me in the classical context of the community.” And one of the things I’ve tried to work with over the years is what’s our sexual narrative? Because there is so much sexuality that happens, as it were, under the table. There is so much going on that’s not reported, rabbis who have come to me, well-known rabbis, with their own sexual stories, one after the other after the other after the other. There’s an entire hidden sexual story that’s taking place throughout the community that no one’s owning, that no one’s talking about, and there’s an enormous amount more happening than should be, according to the classical standards of the community.

But it’s happening not just in the Jewish community, it’s happening all over. Just look at our last election—Donald Trump’s sexuality, Bill Clinton’s sexuality, website after website about Hillary Clinton’s sexuality, Huma Abedin’s sexuality. In other words, at the center of our last election actually the underlying sets of issues are all about sexuality, meaning something’s wrong with the story. Something’s wrong with our sexual narrative.

And I think the core of it is we don’t have a sexual narrative. We have sex positive which doesn’t actually capture our experience of sexuality. There’s a whole sex positive school. Freud is at the center of it. We’ve got sex negative which exists in the great religions, but that doesn’t really work for us anymore. We have Kinsey’s sex neutral, that it’s just like anything else. Well, that’s not true. Then we have sex sacred because sex creates babies, but actually most people’s sexuality in most of the world, certainly the Western world, is not about having babies. So we actually don’t have a sexual narrative.

So what I’ve tried deeply in study, prayer and practice is to articulate a new sexual narrative and a new sexual narrative in which actually we realize that sexuality is an expression of the very evolutionary Eros that drives all of reality, and actually reality is allurement, reality is driving towards more and more contact. Now, that contact obviously in the human realm needs to be appropriate with appropriate boundaries and appropriate ethics, and I stand one billion percent against every form of sexual harassment, etc, and I’m neither a sexual abuser, nor have I ever sexually harassed anyone, etc, god forbid, quite the opposite. That’s been a major stand of my entire life.

And, given that, given that of course we need to embrace all the great advances we’ve made in appropriate standards around sexuality, but we need a deeper sexual story. In other words, we need sexual ethics, for sure, but we need a sexual ethos. We need a story that actually allows us to move beyond shame. The hidden shame around sexuality actually defines people’s lives. The hidden sexual stories that are untold define people’s lives.

In the last five years I’ve spent an enormous amount of energy, time, effort and really all of my love and passion and concentration trying to really understand this and to develop a new sexual narrative that actually emerges deeply from within the Hebrew mystical tradition. In the essence we really realize God is Eros. Reality is Eros.  From electromagnetic attraction, the allurement between particles, to celestial attraction, actually attraction and allurement—sex, in other words—drives all of reality way before sex exists. It’s at the very moment of the Big Bang three quarks come together. Without attraction there’s no reality. Attraction, or what my teacher, Mordechai Leiner calls teshuqa (desire), drives all of reality.

Once I get that then I get that sexual arousal within me is actually an expression of the evolutionary Eros itself. God is Eros, all the way up and all the way down. Now, I could actually embrace that sexual narrative as an Orthodox monogamous Hasid or as a Haight-Ashbury hippie. It’s got nothing to do with how you practice it. It’s got to do with re-visioning the very ethic of sexuality itself. One of the things I’ve tried to work with in my body, mystically, emotionally, psychologically, is to actually heal sexual shame. Sexual shame is so profound.

I remember—last sentence on it—watching the second debate in the election where Trump has been accused of god knows what. And then he brings in four women who have accused Bill Clinton of rape and other things and they’re sitting in the front row. And I just said to myself, wow, this is what we’re giving our kids. This is the message about sexuality. Sexuality is fundamentally shameful. And the disaster from the Trojan War which is all about Helen and Paris having a relationship which causes, mythically, the death of millions of men, but sexuality and the complexity around sexuality and the shame around it is central.

And maybe just last sentence. In the last five years in teaching contexts I have asked people to say what are the five defining events or moments in your life that defined your whole life? So everyone says a teacher or my religion. Everyone gives their five answers. So I basically look at them and I say, “You guys are all lying. It’s not true. You’ve missed a couple which is your sexual story. Your first kiss—did you feel you were attractive or not?” The whole room changes and everyone actually finds within their own sexual autobiography essential stories that changed the entire trajectory of their lives. And all that is disowned. All of that is hidden. All of that is under the table.

So in Israel I was beginning to think about this and just the sweetness of sexual exchange in relationship was for me delightful. And I didn’t do a good job of it in the sense that, wow, it all should have been clear, it all should have been at the center of the community, not that there was a community in that sense, there was an organization. So it was early on. And I regret, you know, I wrote a public apology for not handling it well. But between that and sexual harassment, between that and any laws violated, between that and everything that was reported, none of that ever happened.

So I would just say in a word what is my actual belief on this, and it’s not one that, of course, I expect you to share, but it’s where I stand on it. My stand in the world is that classical monogamy is the best thing for most people most of the time. It’s the thing that works for most people most of the time. You can deepen intimacy through it. You can’t escape the challenges. You’ve got to work. And it’s beautiful. But here’s the other truth. Lots of classical monogamy is not working for lots and lots of people, some would argue the majority of people. So the myth of the happy marriage actually covers up abuse, covers up all sorts of sexual acting out, coloring out of the lines. All of that is ignored. All of that we pretend like it doesn’t happen or we let it cause enormous destruction.

So I’m basically saying that we need to actually reclaim, A, a new sexual narrative, a new vocabulary around sexuality, a new vision of sacred sexuality. I have done work in sexuality with people, not something a classical rabbi does, but I felt, wow, if we can’t stand with each other in sexuality, where can we stand? What I have seen of the hypocrisy and the shame, the profound shame—and shame is the root of all evil, because basically we have got a sexual ethic that’s honored only in its breach by the majority of human beings.

So if you have a sexual ethic which is honored only in its breach by the majority of human beings, you have a planet drenched in shame, and shame is the root of violence, it’s the root of abuse. So anyone who stands against abuse and anyone who stands against violence, anyone who actually stands for love has to stand for the articulation of a new not just sexual ethics which is a given, but sexual ethos. And that’s my complete stand in the world. That’s just important to understand the context of it.

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 6

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Just a point of information, did you say a moment ago that if a man in Israel promises to marry a woman and part of the deal is so let’s have sexual relations now, that if he decides not to marry her that that’s sexual harassment?

Marc Gafni:

Not quite. I have sadly become expert in Israeli sexual harassment law, but the law is false promise to marry in order to gain sexual relations is sexual harassment. And, by the way, I agree with that law. In other words, there is not one bone in my body that would ever falsely promise anyone anything in order to gain sexual relations. It’s a little hurtful to think that that would be necessary in the world with hopefully natural attraction, but that is the law in Israel. It’s, by the way, the most extreme law.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I can’t imagine how it could work.

Marc Gafni:

It’s a complex law.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

People change their minds.

Marc Gafni:

Right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

The man could say, “Well, I meant it when I said it.” It seems to me if every man in New York City, which is where we are right now, who ever promised marriage and didn’t go through with it, the jails would be filled with people.

Marc Gafni:

That is true, Arthur. I’m careful in answering it simply because, A…

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I’m not suggesting that you did it, but such an accusation, I just need to grasp it a little better. It’s ludicrous.

Marc Gafni:

No, I get it. So, as I say, in my ethic—and I think in your ethic—to make a false promise in order to gain sexual relations is actually a complete violation of feminine integrity. And Israel enacted the most extreme sexual harassment law in the world which is extremely difficult to evaluate, which is in general a problem with sexual harassment law. In other words, sexual harassment law began as a desire to protect the feminine, and it’s a beautiful evolution. Close friends of mine who are leading spiritual teachers who are in their seventies talk about being regularly sexually harassed as part of the environment before Catharine MacKinnon came.

And thank God we enacted sexual harassment law which we need to protect the dignity of both men and women. But what’s happened is here’s what’s happened. It should be about harassment. What’s happened is instead of being about harassment there’s actually a hidden covert anti-sexual kind of theme there. So, for example, you can read a Cosmopolitan article about how to erotically engage your boss. I was reading one of the articles. You’re with him in the elevator. Take a little lint off of his collar. So there’s an entire kind of literature about how to create amorous relations at work. People don’t have social communal contexts to meet. Where else should they meet? Of course there’s going to be sexuality at work. And then at the same time you have the recourse of claiming, oh, that was sexual harassment, retroactively.

So what you’re pointing to is actually a weakness in the entire structure of sexual harassment law which needs better standards and it needs women also claiming their power, instead of claiming a victim role. So on the one hand it was a great advance, sexual harassment law was a great evolutionary advance, and there’s a great, great weakness in the structure which is exploited. And just like, Arthur, most men didn’t abuse women—men are good people, men are awesome—but some men did, some men did sexually harass, most women don’t abuse the sexual harassment laws but some do. Whenever there’s power there’s potential for corruption. So just like there are complaints of sexual harassment, there’s also an entire phenomenon, an entire literature of false complaints of sexual harassment, because it’s a very easy power move to make.

And then politically it’s well documented that people in a political power struggle with someone else will try and take them down through instigating—which is what David Ingber was involved directly or indirectly in doing—through instigating claims of sexual harassment. That’s actually become almost a playbook in corporate and religious politics.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Earlier we talked about where we met and we met at Elat Chayyim years ago. I want to put my two cents in for a moment about this whole story by saying that I think it’s important to recognize the thread of jealousy that I can talk about. You can’t talk about it, because it’s about you, but I saw it firsthand and I can’t help but think that it’s either an element or a huge element in this story. Here you are, a newcomer coming to Elat Chayyim and within minutes you were the most popular teacher there, not only once and not only twice and not only one year, but year after year, class after class.

You then went to the twice a year gathering of Jewish Renewal communities, the Kallah. And I was there and the same thing happened. In fact, not only did the same thing happen where you had a huge crowd and the other classes didn’t, but I remember the other teachers being pretty annoyed at that, that here was a system where the classes are available, go to what you want, and word was getting out that there’s this teacher who you need to taste his teachings. So I can connect the dots, but I also totally believe that part of this has to do with turf and jealousy and power, that has nothing to do with sexuality and nothing to do with accusations or false accusations. It has to do with an ugly kind of jealousy. And I suppose to a certain extent you could speak to that.

Marc Gafni:

Thank you, Arthur. You are tragically right. Let me speak, with your permission, just in a broad sense and less about me, but you used the term ‘ugly jealousy’ and I think it’s an important distinction. We’re not talking about a casual jealousy. We’re talking about what Milan Kundera likes to call malice. He writes: “Malice can never admit of itself so it must always plead other motives.”

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Because jealousy and envy can be a motivation for one to do more on themselves.

Marc Gafni:

Right, exactly. And there’s an enormous distinction between ordinary jealousy and the experience of malice where Iago in Shakespeare, he’s got to take Othello out. Or if you remember the movie Amadeus, which is one rendition of malice, Salieri has to destroy Mozart and he does it by saying that Mozart is involved with 14-year-old girls who he’s tutoring, because that’s always how you do it. It’s always how it happens. So he spreads sexual rumors about Mozart, because when Salieri plays his music, as lovely as it is, it’s not Mozart, and Mozart is doing Mozart.

This is the most painful thing to talk about, Arthur. Since I am 20 I have received from fellow teachers both lots of love and relationship and always from a small group a desire to annihilate me. I remember speaking to Joseph Berke who is the leading authority in the world on malice. He’s written all the articles on it. He was one of the people I went to, to do an evaluation after the false complaints in 2006 when I was getting attacked on the web and being psychologized on the web. Zalman actually, Zalman Schachter said, “Go to Joseph Berke to do an evaluation.”

And I did and he gave me a beautiful evaluation and said I should go back and teach immediately, and his evaluation is posted on our website. He gave me literature on malice. He wrote a book called The Tyranny of Malice and one of the desires of malice is you want to annihilate the other person. And you really can’t understand really David Ingber, for example, his relationship with me without really a desire to annihilate.

And I have read the literature now extensively. Salieri wants to annihilate Mozart. It’s not casual. So it’s not ordinary jealousy. It’s when a person feels like, you know, Luria writes that if two people are from the same soul root and you feel that that person is breathing your air, they’re doing what you want to do. I had told David Ingber, for example, I wanted to really work with Elat Chayyim and perhaps become the rabbi there. He made a number of moves and blocked that, and we’ll talk about that later. I had wanted to start a synagogue in Manhattan. I was occupying David’s space, and he went into a very, very deep place of malice. And we can go back to the beginning of the story and how it started, but it’s very difficult to know what to do in response to malice. It’s devastatingly painful when you experience it directed against you. And it can never admit of itself, so it must always plead other motives.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I also want to just fill out the picture a little bit. I think it’s important. At the same time that at Elat Chayyim and at the Kallah, the [indistinct 1:12:33] and other places where I have been in your classes and I have seen you teach, and you were aware of the fact that the students were coming in your direction, one has to be in a class of yours to know that I don’t think I was ever in a class of yours where you didn’t honor other teachers, some of whom were sitting there, even publicizing other teachers, where some of the teachers who were teaching in the afternoon would come to your class in the morning. And you, more than anybody, would point these teachers out, would rah, rah, rah. You would advocate for these teachers. It wasn’t as though you’re coming out of nowhere and are taking over the joint.

Marc Gafni:

God forbid.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

That is not what happened at all. You are a great teacher. I believe that. I’ve experienced it. I celebrate it. But you are not somebody who was trying to take over, who was seeing that there was a trend in your direction and you wanted to get higher at the expense of other people. There are two ways to get higher. One is to go higher and one is to push other people down. You never pushed anybody down. On the contrary—I witnessed it—you always did the opposite, and not in some kind of show business way, sincerely over and over and over again. I just feel people need to understand that and picture that as part of this scene.

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 7

Arthur Kurzweil:     

So what happened? What happened as a result of your appearance at Elat Chayyim and the [indistinct 1:14:26] and you being a rising star in the Jewish community? What malice was gathering and preparing to attack?

Marc Gafni:

Thank you, Arthur. I had been teaching at Elat Chayyim for a couple of years and I’d want to just bring them funds and students and just to support the place. It was a beautiful, holy experiment. One weekend David Ingber came for the first time to Elat Chayyim. He was in the class. He was enthusiastic and excited and he said to me afterwards, “Wow, I’ve been watching you for a number of years and have been afraid to come, but now I finally came and this is going to change my life.” It was very beautiful.

Then he asked to speak to me at the end of what they called their closing circle if you remember. I said, “Sure.” So we spoke at the end of closing circle. He started just really with beautiful enthusiasm for the weekend and then almost in midsentence it turned dark and he started attacking me. I said, “David…” And he said, “You’re like my father.” I can remember it like today. He said, “You’re like my father.” And literally for about 40 minutes he vociferously, virulently attacked me. I was stunned by it. I was, like, where is this coming from? And I was naïve about it. So I said, “David, I don’t know what to tell you, but I love you. Let’s work. Let’s play.”

And I actually took David under my wing, and my belief was then that love could transform everything. So I worked with David and gave David my heart and time and liked him and saw his potential. He was able to, much more than the average student at Elat Chayyim, had a familiarity because of his Orthodox background with texts, so we were able to have a conversation, and I was delighted by that. The darkness kind of receded. Occasionally it would flare, but basically it wasn’t there.

Then at some point he left his Orthodox seminary where he was going for ordination, and he had a point in time where he was confused and broken. He was one of the young people coming to Elat Chayyim. And I thought he just needed something which could actually just change his life trajectory. He was studying for ordination with me and I said, “David, even before you complete all the requirements, let me ordain you now. We’ll do an ordination. You’ll become Rabbi Ingber. That will actually allow you to step into that.” And we did. I don’t remember if you were there or not. We did an ordination ceremony at 12:00 o’clock at the end of the weekend. There were about 25 people there. I remember my conversation, what I said, what David said. It was very beautiful. And there we were.

Shortly afterwards David shifted and the malevolence started coming back and the darkness started coming back. This is about mid-2005. For about four or five months so much happened that it was shocking. Every place I would go someone would tell me that David was somehow maligning me and saying the worst things about me. None of this had ever taken place between us. It was like that old father anger from our first meeting and I had no idea where it was coming from.

I called Zalman. And Zalman and I always had a lot of affection for each other. We had a complex relationship. I had shared with David some of the complexity. And Zalman is angry at me, saying, “David said you said this and this about me.” I said, “Zalman, really?” And then one after the other after the other after the other, until David did a couple of things that were such egregious ethical violations that I called him. I was walking in Boston. I remember where I was. It was May 2005. And I said, “David, we’re done. I’ve never cut off from anyone who was a student in this way in my life. You’re working behind the scenes to destroy me. What are you doing?”

And what actually had happened was we had had a meeting. There was a gentleman—it escapes me, his name—who was working at Elat Chayyim. And I said to David, “Let’s stop,” because there were four of five months of him working behind the scenes to undermine me. I said, “David, let’s just stop this. Let’s meet with this gentleman and let’s both tell him that we’re going to work together, and let’s come together and put our hands together.” And David said to me on the phone, “Absolutely, I promise. This is what I’m going to do. I totally get it.”

I get a call a couple of hours later from this person who said to me, “David just came in and said terrible things about you.” So I just talked to David two hours before and he told me he was going to do X, and he literally went and did the exact opposite. That’s when I called David. I said, “David, we’re done. I’m not rescinding your ordination. Go.” At that point, by becoming Rabbi Ingber, that had allowed him to then become the rabbi at Elat Chayyim and it really had changed his entire life trajectory, and blessings on it. Blessings on it. Till today, blessings on it. But the ethical violations were so egregious and the darkness was so shocking, I couldn’t get through it. And I was angry at him. I raised my voice. He raised his voice. I said, “David, we’re done.” That’s in May 2005.

We spoke a couple more times. He came to the Kallah, the summer program that summer dripping with malice and conversation wasn’t possible. And basically that summer is when Mia and I—the summer of 2005—started talking about possibly getting together in Israel. David was furious about that. And, again, I wasn’t thinking in a political way, wow, you shouldn’t hang out with someone who’s close friends with David, because… It never entered my mind.

Mia comes to Israel and David continues to act against me behind the scenes everywhere. I actually just came across, Arthur, on the web an intern at Elat Chayyim who is apparently close friends with David today who writes that David was upset. The intern writes in an article on a website called Medium.com—just put in my name and David Ingber’s and it will come up—and he says, “David wasn’t just upset, he was sick.” Then he writes, “No, he was in a state of severe distress…” He was literally describing pathological states, because I was coming to Elat Chayyim to teach. And that culminated in mid-2005, early 2006, in David becoming a catalyst directly or indirectly behind the scenes for Mia initiating the false complaints.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

How did you remind him of his father or what was his problem with you at the end of that week?

Marc Gafni:

Honestly, Arthur, I sat with David in Boulder. I said, “David, you’ve got these claims about shadow. Let’s have a conversation. Give me any feedback you want to give me.” And we sat for several hours and I literally—and, Arthur, I’m not a complete idiot—I couldn’t penetrate it. I couldn’t get into it. It was so dark and it was so primal that I couldn’t find my way through it. And the image of Iago and Othello hadn’t occurred to me. Then a very well-known spiritual authority in America said to me after I had actually introduced David to him, I remember his words, he said, “He has unyielding aggression towards you. Be careful.” And I said to this figure, “David gets angry, but I love David. What would I be careful for?” There was nothing in me that ever dreamed…

And then—I’ll just give you one more point—there was a person that I was working with who I was also involved with who quit suddenly. So I called this person. I said, “Wow, did you just talk to David?” because they had just been at a Jewish Renewal event. And they said, “No, no, no, I just saw David and we just said hi.” Then someone else from that same event called and said that they had seen this person with David talking for five hours in a corner.

So this was happening all over the scene and it was shocking to me, but never in a million years did I believe that that would result in an attempt to socially murder me. Honestly, Arthur, it didn’t occur to me. The truth is I didn’t understand malice, so without that factor that then David joined with other people, particularly with Chaya, my former wife, and they kind of came together. And David and Chaya knew the topography of my world and who was against me and who was for me, and that’s how the false complaints happened.

Now, I maybe could add one thing. Part of my own spiritual practice is to do some degree of therapy. It’s just a good idea. So I work with someone for the last six or seven years. And I asked him—and he’s extremely well known in the Bay Area; he’s kind of the therapist of therapists and a brilliant man—and I just said, “Show me what I don’t see. I’ll tell you what’s going on in my life and just show me did I miss this, did I miss that?” And you need to work with someone who can actually be a block to you, you can’t move around.

He said to me two things that have been very powerful to me and I just want to share with you if I can. One is he said, “Marc, you’ve got to stop being surprised by malice. You’re always surprised. Stop being a Puer,” which is the Jungian term for kind of the boyish, dazzling masculine. He said, “Start being a warrior.” And in some sense I’m very activist, Arthur. I work day and night. I work with people all over the place. I create. I’m not aggressive in the sense of moving against someone. It’s one of the reasons why I signed that letter 10 years ago and didn’t stay and fight. The notion of moving against someone is anathema to me. Now, I have had to change and I have made a decision now to no longer be silent and to take whatever action is necessary, but it’s taken me 10 years. So that’s one.

And the second thing he said to me is—which is really important here—he said, “Marc, you can only think about this in terms of memes.” So there’s an anti-Semitic meme, there’s a racial negative meme. So he said, “You can create a negative meme about a person.” And there was already a negative Gafni meme in place which we can perhaps talk about in the next section. So what this therapist doctor pointed out to me is that David basically plugged into that meme. It’s almost like he received the meme and then worked it and then went the next step with the false complaints. The second you become a meme and not a person, you become a label and not a person and the conversation is over.

And I remember—last sentence—talking to a very, very well-known Jewish teacher and he said to me, “I want to talk to you, Marc, and let’s be friends, but let’s talk Hasidism, but let’s not talk about what happened.” And I said, “How can we not talk about what happened? It was a complete injustice.” And he said to me, “Mordechai, we’re post-Holocaust Jews. We don’t believe in justice anymore.” And I love this person. I said, “What do you mean we don’t believe in justice? It’s everything that we believe in.”

In other words, it’s what we represented to the world. All of Judaism isn’t about meditation. It’s not about even what our sexual ethic is, although that’s a dimension and an important dimension of it, but Judaism at its core is about justice. Eros isn’t about sexuality. That’s what all my writing is about. Eros is about the integrity of the small claims court. Mordechai Leiner, the Ishbitzer Rebbe, he writes beautifully. He says the entire what he would call the teshuqa, the Eros of the goddess, isn’t about some sexual image. It’s about the Eros of the integrity of justice, Eros meaning full presence, being on the inside of the inside, participating in the irreducible dignity and gorgeousness of every human being.

And what happened here was a massive injustice in the sense of no investigation, no checking before it happened, refusal of anyone to check information after it happened. Justice completely disappears. And now everyone’s afraid to touch it, and they’re afraid to touch it because politically they’re afraid. They’re afraid because of their own sexual story that’s untold. They’re afraid because of issues of power. And then justice disappears and then there’s a kind of collapse of the core integrity of who we are. This is who we are. We’re not Buddhism with [indistinct 1:28:04]. We’re about justice. That’s what prophets are about. So, like that.

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 8

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Yeah. I was shocked. I have been shocked over the years by hearing from a person or another person from time to time who they know the truth about you, but they never met you, they never met any of the other people who were involved, but they’re convinced. It’s frightening, that mob mentality. I also wanted to add another element to the background of it and wondering how you will react to it. Being in the Jewish Renewal world all these years, one of the things I was painfully aware of is that we all knew that sooner or later Rebbe Zalman was going to graduate from this world in the same way that everybody before us has. Now, Rebbe Zalman was almost if not a generation older than us, so it was coming more and more quickly.

I’m aware of the fact, firsthand aware of the fact, that there was buzz for years as to who was going to take over Zalman’s place as the head of the Jewish Renewal movement, as the mentor, as the rabbi. I was predicting at one point that when Rebbe Zalman were to die there would be like a feeding frenzy, because I knew the people who were vying for this and hoping for this. I also knew firsthand the people who were not only vying for it but also were sure of who shouldn’t get it. And this was all talk before Zalman was ill, before anything. They were already trying to figure this out.

A couple of years ago Rebbe Zalman passed on and I wonder whether or not my perceptions and that little background that I’m offering is a piece of this story in any way. In some ways it’s a leading question, because I kind of feel about Zalman, not playing dumb here, but I think it’s worth exploring because I saw it so tangibly in action for years and years. Remember there was a chair, actually quite a beautiful chair.

Marc Gafni:

It was a beautiful chair. I remember that chair.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Yeah. And it was at Elat Chayyim. And whenever Rebbe Zalman came they would bring out the chair and he would sit in this chair. It was very nice. One day word gets out that you are using the chair, and people went crazy over it. It was like so childish. It was such nonsense. You’re using Rebbe Zalman’s chair and nobody can use it? What does that all say? Do you remember that?

Marc Gafni:

I remember.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

To me it seemed like nonsense. I could sit on that. Anybody could sit on the chair. Ask Rebbe Zalman, he’d be the first one pull up that chair and give it to you.

Marc Gafni:

Right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

But there was a bunch of people who were afraid of that chair and who was going to sit in it and if it’s not going to be me I don’t want it to be anybody else.

Marc Gafni:

Right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I’m not making this up. You and I both heard this.

Marc Gafni:

Yeah.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

It was what went on.

Marc Gafni:

It’s a correct intuition, I think. It’s more than intuition. There was an enormous amount happening around it. Zalman and I had had not one conversation around Jewish Renewal and where it needed to go. We had had deep conversations around sexuality and he was very much aligned, we were aligned with each other on the need for this new sexual ethic. Zalman had actually way past the sixties, actually into his own mid-sixties, lived very much of a Woodstock sexual ethic, to major in understatement. And he was trying to work it out in his own life and what it meant. In his mid to later sixties he told me, as he hit 70, that’s when his sexual ethic shifted. I’m not in any way agreeing or disagreeing, because I don’t know any of the details, only what I’ve heard from people, which none of it have I validated, and what I’ve heard from him, but we both agreed that there was a great need for a new sexual ethic and a need for Jewish Renewal to go in a particular direction which was critical for it.

I was deeply involved then and I started ordaining students. And that was a big deal. There was an enormous anger around that. And I felt that it was necessary. David Ingber was the first person that I ordained. David then went to Zalman and said that I was speaking negatively about him, which was not the case—I had shared with David complexity about my relationship with Zalman—and that became an issue between Zalman and I. Zalman wanted me to continue ordaining in the end. In the end he blessed it. We sat at Ken Wilber’s Integral Spiritual Experience where I was asked to represent Judaism and we had a very, very poignant, deep exchange about what the future might look like, which was powerful and beautiful.

I had no interest in taking over Zalman’s role. That conversation was around a lot. Many people came to me with that conversation. It wasn’t my place. I was living in Israel. Israel was the place I wanted to act from. I wanted to be able to ordain students and to empower people. But the feeding frenzy around who would succeed Rebbe Zalman was a palpable part of this. Thank god there were lots of great people coming to study and the numbers were large, and because we were ordaining and because there was a financial structure and because there was writing—I was doing a lot of writing—this conversation was very much in the space and had a palpable and direct effect on a desire of the Renewal movement for me just not to be there.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I think it’s important for people to understand who were not intimately aware of the goings on in the Jewish Renewal movement, I think it’s important for people to understand that the Jewish Renewal movement has its own ordination procedure, so anybody else who sets one up—and you are not the only one who was doing this, you and I know other people who were also doing it—it was like a monopoly. “Oh, no, no, we’re doing this. We don’t want any…” It seemed to also be a power…

Marc Gafni:

It was a financial monopoly, number one.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Oh, financial, for sure, yeah.

Marc Gafni:

It was a financial monopoly. But, besides that, I was very, very good friends with many teachers in the Jewish Renewal movement who I supported in every way I could, sending them students and helping with funding. I loved a lot of the teachers. It was devastating to me that, with two exceptions, immediately afterwards only two people called me—and you were one of them—and then later some of the other people called me, really getting what had happened but afraid to speak out.

Aleph—which is I believe the name; I’ve had nothing to do with this world for such a long time—was the name of the organization. Aleph never spoke to me, never called me, never investigated, never asked my perspective, yet there were definitely people in Aleph who knew that I had signed that letter because I needed to actually just save my life at the moment. And there was no conversation and there was deep knowledge that something had happened. In the last round of this smear campaign in 2016 in which David Ingber again played a major role, as he has for the last 10 years, Aleph issued a statement: “We’re not going to have anything to do with Marc Gafni.” And it was one of the funnier moments in the whole thing. I haven’t spoken to anybody from Aleph for a decade, but we’re going to distance from Marc. Well, thanks. It was tragic.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

And another case also of never speaking to you…

Marc Gafni:

No.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Never exploring all these accusations.

Marc Gafni:

No, no conversation, no investigation. And, of course, Aleph would have fallen apart under the weight of scrutiny of its own teachers and how they have engaged the world. But blessings to Aleph. Blessings to Aleph. I would have been happy… Again, I want to take responsibility here. I wasn’t a member of Aleph. I was never a member of Aleph. I was never a member of—what’s the name of the rabbinical organization?

Arthur Kurzweil:     

OHALAH.

Marc Gafni:

So I was never a member. And one of the weaknesses here—and I get that—is I was always a maverick, so when this happened, structurally I wasn’t part of any organization. So there was no organization to turn to. Let’s say you’re a psychologist and you’re attacked, so in psychology if a therapist actually does what I didn’t do, but they actually, let’s say, sexually harass a patient, which, again, is what I didn’t do, so there’s a process. They’re called up. They’re suspended for a year. They go through a process and three years later if it’s an appropriate process or two years later they’re psychologizing again.

In this case the complaints weren’t true, but what David Ingber worked very hard to do explicitly was to make sure there’ll be no road back. That’s how you know that it was malice. See, if the issue would have actually been sexual harassment, which, again, wasn’t true, you can heal that. When there’s a genuine wound a scar forms. But when there’s no wound, where the wound is trumped up but actually what’s underneath it is malice, so you can never form a scar, you can never heal. And that’s been the motif.

So because there was no structural organization to actually take care of this, to engage it, to create a forum, and because honestly, Arthur, I don’t come from a wealthy family, I don’t come from a family with any connections, I don’t come from a family that’s part of the fabric of the community in any real way, so I very much my whole life have been—what’s Gladwell’s phrase?—an outlier. So I didn’t have a set of relationships or a set of financial relationships or a set of social relationships or my uncle, my friend, my cousin. I was an outlier. And I was an impudent outlier who loved everyone and wanted to support everyone, but I didn’t protect myself, because it didn’t occur to me that I had to.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I wanted to share a story with you that I also don’t want to make like I’m acting, because I did tell you this story once before, but I feel like it’s time to tell it again. It was the last time I saw Rebbe Zalman.

Marc Gafni:

No, you did tell me.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Rebbe Zalman was at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. And, in fact, he died a couple of weeks after that. He got very sick at Isabella Freedman, went to the hospital. The hospital ambulance jet flew him back to Colorado and that’s where he died. But he was there and he was in a wheelchair and he was on oxygen. And he knew and made it clear that he knew that his time was coming.

When I got there the first day somebody came over to me and said to me that Rebbe Zalman had seen me from a distance and he’d like to talk to me. I knew that he was very busy and lots of people were around him and I’ve known him for decades and I’ve had plenty of time with him and love him, but I didn’t feel compelled to get first in line because somebody came over to me and said, “Rebbe Zalman wants to talk to you.” But the second day somebody else came over to me, because Zalman and I still hadn’t connected, and said again, “Rebbe Zalman would like to talk to you.”

I was teaching that week also, so I had my students and I had family there and so forth, but I still hadn’t gone over to him when later on in that day, right at the end of lunch, somebody came over to me and said Rebbe Zalman is on his porch in the room that he and his wife are occupying and he’s waiting for me. So, okay, yeah, I went right over there. And there was Rebbe Zalman and there was his wife and there was also another person who was on the staff of Isabella Freedman. And I came and sat down. I then found out what Rebbe Zalman wanted. Rebbe Zalman wanted to know if I had any questions for him. He was actually, I later learned, asking a number of people, “I’m about to leave you. I know we’ve had a relationship. Is there anything you want to ask me?” Making himself available to give advice or direction or whatever.

So there I’m sitting there with Rebbe Zalman with his wife and another person and I said to him, “Yeah, there is a question I want to ask you. When you’re a friend of somebody’s and they’re accused of doing something, whether it’s right or whether it’s wrong, whether it’s accurate or whether it’s not, Rebbe Zalman, as a friend should I abandon my friend?” The fact is that I said, “Let’s not talk about it theoretically.” I wanted to tell him what I had in mind and I said, “Why did you and so many people abandon our friend, Mordechai Gafni? I don’t abandon friends, no matter what. It’s my friend.”

Well, Rebbe Zalman began to respond to me, but his wife wouldn’t let him talk. She literally—and, again, I mention that there was somebody else there, because I was so happy at the end of the conversation that I had somebody else to say, “Did that really happen?” Because then Rebbe Zalman again tried to answer me and said, “You know, Mordechai is an extraordinary teacher and a brilliant mind…” And again his wife cut him off in the middle and said, “Don’t talk about that. I don’t want to hear,” shutting him up.

It was sad, because he seemed like he was henpecked there. It seemed like, wait a second, this is Rebbe Zalman. I know you’re his wife, but I’m asking him a question. I want to hear his answer. Why are you getting in between us? And she was red in the face and she just would not let Rebbe Zalman put words to his feelings of respect and affection and high regard towards you. So I never got my question answered, although I can’t deny that I think I began to get a bigger question answered obviously, which is that it’s not simple, that there are undercurrents of profound unethical behavior and unfairness that are throughout the community, and I was appalled by it. So I feel I needed to share that with you.

Marc Gafni:

No, thank you.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

It hurt.

Marc Gafni:

No, thank you, Arthur. Zalman wrote me. I said to him, “Let me bring you the information.” And he said, “I’m too old.” He understood. He said, “I’m too old.” Then he wrote me and said, “If you meet with Donna and one other person, make peace, and I’ll meet you.” But, of course, Donna was completely unable, for all of her reasons. We’ve just put up a website called WhoIsMarcGafni.com where I wrote a series of responses to all of these issues and to really put forth there must be 10 articles there. There are scholarly articles which really look at this whole thing. So in that website, WhoIsMarcGafni.com, there is a response to Donna Zerner.

But I actually wrote Donna and I said, “Zalman wants to meet.” This is a year and a half after. “Let’s meet. Let’s create a mediated context. Let’s check. Let’s clarify facts. Let’s forgive each other.” Who are we if we can’t do truth and reconciliation? Paradoxically, Arthur, in the Elat Chayyim world it’s all about Israelis and Palestinians—who from the perspective of Elat Chayyim politics are equal and have both murdered each others’ children—should sit and do truth and reconciliation. So we can’t do it in our own community?

And so Zalman said he wanted to meet, but Donna refused to meet. And then Zalman said to me, “You should go be a teacher.” He wrote this in email. “Go be a teacher like Timothy Leary. Go be a teacher in the general spiritual world. I wish you blessings with it. That’s what should happen. Let your light shine.” He very much gave a very big blessing and encouragement to that. And it was clear that he wanted a way, but he was so blocked by people around him that he couldn’t move.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

That also seems to me to be so ludicrous, because the fact is that you took his advice.

Marc Gafni:

Right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

You went someplace else and it didn’t take long for people who were not stained by this other stuff to listen and to be nourished by a new teacher in their world and it grew and grew and grew outside of the Jewish community. But that still wasn’t enough for those people who were trying to destroy you. You left them behind. You went to a new part of the country, a whole new community. You become a leader for obvious reasons. And they want to destroy that also. There’s something so—malice, I don’t use the word—but, boy, it sounds like something’s going on here that’s not just a couple of circumstances that you look at one way and somebody else looks. It’s years later. You’re going to be punished and destroyed by people for something you did or didn’t? I know you and I have spoken for many years. All these years we were in touch with each other. And I know that you’ve heard me say many times I don’t really want to talk about it, because I don’t care what happened. You’ve heard me say that a million times.

Marc Gafni:

And I always say to you, “Arthur…”

Arthur Kurzweil:     

You always say, “Arthur, what they said happened didn’t happen.” And my feeling to this moment is I don’t care what happened. Whatever happened, does that mean you destroy somebody for the rest of their…? I know, it’s even implying that, well, maybe.

Marc Gafni:

No, it didn’t happen.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Okay, I understand. And I frankly believe you, but that’s not my point.

Marc Gafni:

I understand.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

My point is how long do these people spend their lives focusing on you? You have nothing to do with them.

Marc Gafni:

Right, yeah.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

It’s also very painful to imagine, to witness.

Marc Gafni:

Yeah, Arthur, what you describe is really what happened. So in 2008 I put up a website saying the complaints weren’t true, the content of the complaints weren’t true. I apologized for any mistakes that I made in this process—I posted a public apology—that contributed in any way to creating these conditions. I’m not going to attack anyone, but we have recovered all the email and all the entire record. We’ve put together with the best law firm and private investigators, we’ve gathered information in a lot of ways from a lot of places. And I’m going to walk away and just create new things.

And, again, back to my therapist who’s with us in this interview, I’m forced at this point in life, for reasons I’m about to get to, to actually engage this directly and as fearlessly as I can and straight in. So I’m completely changing my approach to this. But at that time in 2008 I was still so traumatized by it and so devastated by it and loved all the people who were involved, whatever they had done to me, including David Ingber. So I said I’m going to walk away and just create new… Zalman and I had this exchange about going and being Timothy Leary as it were in his words. That was his frame of reference. I don’t have a drug history.

I started creating new contexts and got back together with certain key people in the broader philosophy/Integral world. This gentleman, Dr. Clint Fuhs, had written this 60-page report which had actually shown clearly—and he and that group were the only people who actually investigated—investigated in the sense that he and his employer and people related had collectively talked to virtually all the parties. Everyone actually had been talked to collectively. And they had also spoken through the email record and the instant messages and other information that was gathered, so it was very clear that there was no sexual harassment, that all the claims that were made in the public space just weren’t true.

Now, I didn’t go back to Israel because I still thought that police complaints were registered. So, if you understand what not going back to Israel meant, it meant not seeing my kids. I had to fly them in every time. It meant missing Eytan’s wedding. They could have just written me an email and said, “Hey, go on with your life. We’ll just let you know there were never any complaints registered. You can come back and visit your kids.” No one did that. And I had spent at that time pretty much all the funds I had available on the law firms and the whole story.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

By the way, it wasn’t possible for your attorney, let’s say, to have inquired at the police?

Marc Gafni:

It’s a great question, Arthur. Everyone asks me that question. So I’ll just tell you here’s the raw truth. He said to me, “I should call the police.” We assumed the complaint was there. That was a given to us. He said, “We should get the complaint. You should come back and we should blow this out of the water. You’ve got more evidence than any human being has ever had.” Literally that’s what he said to me. And I said, “How much is it going to cost?” We thought to fight a protracted battle, because that’s what it would take in Israel, it would take a couple of years, lawyers, publicists, we’re talking a million dollars. I didn’t have a million dollars at the time. I didn’t have that kind of backing at the time.

To do a public battle over two years, I could not see how that could benefit the state of Israel. It becomes a mudslinging, he said, she said. It was clear we would win, because we were telling the truth and we had all the evidence, but what benefit is that? And my role was to be a beneficial presence on the planet. So I said, “Okay, I’ll give up Israel,” which is my favorite place in the world. I kiss the ground. I’m madly in love with Israel. I am madly in love with everything that Israel represents. And I gave it up because I thought there’s no benefit in having a protracted two-year battle plus a million dollars. So I said I’ll create in America, which is what I did.

I rejoined with key figures in the broader spiritual community and we started creating. And we created some beautiful events. We created events called the Integral Spiritual Experience which were gorgeous and something called iEvolve and just began teaching and writing. I was just wildly privileged in that five years between 2008 and 2011–12 to put out five new books. We published Radical Kabbalah which was the Oxford work which is kind of the core and Your Unique Self and another book on self and another book and just beautiful creativity, beautiful writing. And I began actually just thinking more deeply about core structures of identity and how do we re-fabric American society so there’s a vision of identity, there’s a vision of community?

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 9

Marc Gafni:

But while this was all happening David Ingber, Donna, that gang, Chaya, are active. So in 2008 when I put up the website, Chaya and a group of people, my former wife—who has admitted, and there’s an affidavit to that effect, a real affidavit, to having been an organizer of the false complaints, meaning several months after she asked me to remarry her she went and was a key organizer of the false complaints—wrote a major letter which she called her deposition which is filled with truth after untruth after untruth. But, again, she didn’t challenge me directly with it. She put it in the public space on the Internet.

Chaya and I had done a week of counseling when we finished our marriage with a therapist in Boulder, which was beautiful, where we cried in each other’s arms. We both said that neither of us was victim or villain. We both owned what our mistakes were. Chaya had had a major affair while we were in counseling so she owned that. Chaya had been—I’ll just say it directly—physically violent. Chaya was major physically violent. I don’t have a physically violent bone in my body, so she owned that and apologized for it. I apologized for falling in love with someone else and essentially leaving her and whatever I had to apologize for. We had really a stunning, honest, beautiful, gorgeous week of closure and that was it.

Then Chaya kept in touch with me. She became very sexually libertine for a period of time. I encouraged her against it. And then a rabbi in Berkeley, Rabbi Avram Davis who left Chochmat HaLev, told me that he got the notebooks by accident from the mediator that claimed that a woman had made a complaint of inappropriate sexual behavior against him, which he told me was categorically not true. And he was shocked the woman’s name was Chaya. She is the person behind the scenes who had made that complaint against Avram. And Chaya is calling me saying, “Should I seduce my professor?” I said, “Chaya, you can’t seduce your professor. It’s unethical. You can’t do shit like that.” So Chaya was going through her whole period of time and then came back to me and said, “Let’s us remarry.” And I said, “Chaya’le, that’s not where we are.”

Then we went through a divorce process which was hard. Zalman and I and Chaya had done a divorce, a get, a formal divorce. Chaya and I had made a financial agreement. And then Chaya said to me, “Hey, could we just wait a year to get the actual divorce?” I said, “Sure, not a problem.” Then a year later we go to get the actual divorce and Chaya says, “You owe me another $100,000 for the last year.” I said, “Chaya’le, we just made an agreement a year ago. This is money that I’ve put aside for the kids.” I said, “Zalman…” She said, “Fuck Zalman,” and extorted essentially and said, “If you don’t actually give me this money I am going to attack you publicly on sexuality.” I said, “Chaya’le, that’s crazy. That’s extortion and what you’re going to say is not true.” And she literally told me. It was a direct… And I said, “Wow!” So it was hard. And I forgave that. Fine, it was a hard moment. Her parents, I’m sure, were pressuring her to get money. It was what she needed to do. I understand. From my perspective, all was done, all was forgiven, all was held. Stuff happens. We hurt each other in life, not deliberately.

And she came back to me to get remarried and then she went and became a key organizer in the false complaints. And she’s the one who started the sociopath meme. She read a book by Martha Stout called The Sociopath Next Door. She transposed it onto me. She read a book and then psychologized her husband who had left her for another woman that she was mad at and put the sociopath meme into consciousness. When you do it on the Internet it’s kind of like a Salem witch trial, but today you can’t call someone a witch so you call them a sociopath. You psychologize them.

And Chaya became very active. She wrote this famous letter which I had no way of responding to. I have now actually responded to it. On this Who Is Marc Gafni site there’s a 13,000 word essay which is a letter to my former wife, Chaya Lester, responding detail by detail to every point that she’s raised in great depth and detail. And I did it because she has written five missives against me in the public space over 10 years. This is not my preferred place to have this conversation, but I had no choice but to literally break the silence, so I did.

But back in 2008 she wrote her second missive when I started teaching again, which responds to your question, which was this dripping with malice 15 pages, fact after fact not true, distorted. It was horrific. And that missive written by Chaya and her friends has been circulated in the 2016 smear campaign behind the scenes. So as I start teaching in 2008 you’ve got Ingber calling a major preacher in Los Angeles where I was teaching and calling another. So Ingber was very, very active in calling anyone in the general Human Potential Movement and basically downloading his Gafni demonization meme.

And the question is, Arthur, why do you demonize? If I can just offer this, there’s an easy way to tell whether you’re really dealing with a sexual issue, genuine complaints, genuine hurt, or something else is going on. It’s a couple of really easy litmus tests. One is did you set up a fact-checking mechanism? Two, is there a mechanism if there are new facts that come forward, for them to be looked at? Three, is there a mechanism for healing and transformation, because if there’s not then you know something else is going on. And, four, is there intense demonization in place? And all four of these were tragically not met in the right way. No fact-checking mechanism, no way to check new information, no mechanism for healing or transformation, and intense demonization.

So why do you intensely demonize someone? So the reason Ingber and Chaya and Donna intensely demonize and that whole posse was so no one would talk to me. So, in other words, I basically became a cautionary caricature tale in the Jewish community. I had fallen on my sword and gone silent for two years. By the time I put my website up in a certain sense the meme was in place. In those two years David had spoken to everyone everywhere, intensifying the demonization. In that silence that’s what happens.

Just to give you an example, I have a close friend who ran a treatment centre in Argentina. They were sued. They had to go silent. They’ve dealt with thousands of people over the years. So it’s the law of large numbers, of thousands of people, X percent are going to be upset. Pretty soon you had a Facebook group on the web, victims of this Argentinean institution, because in their silence the people who had perpetrated the false lawsuit had gathered the people and organized the social structure. And everyone, of course, knew each other. That’s how it happens. Then you look at the web and you see, wow, there’s a Facebook group, victims of this Argentinean institution, and there’s 30 people there. It must be true. Where there’s smoke there’s fire.

No, there’s a law of large numbers. If you work with a large amount of people, X percent are going to be upset. If you’re at the leading edge of work, you’re at the cutting edge, more people will be upset. If sexuality is involved even more people will be upset. Four, you have to go silent, then you’re out of the conversation. Five, there are ulterior motives behind the scenes which are political, structural, malice. And all of a sudden you’ve got not where there’s smoke there’s fire, where there’s smoke there’s a smoke bomb.

But what’s happened is they’ve kept the smoke bomb invisible. So what people do is even when they hear and they think it might be wrong, they say where there’s smoke there’s fire. It’s the great canard. Sometimes where there’s smoke there’s fire. Sometimes when there’s smoke there’s a smoke bomb. So David and Chaya and Donna, they put a Google alert essentially, whichever one did, on my name. And every time I would teach someplace it comes up on the web and they would—whoever among them did it—they would send this diatribe of 15 pages of malice.

Now, people who got it, serious teachers and leaders got it and they would call me and say, “We got this crazy thing. It’s so dripping with malice it’s obvious that it’s a projection. We get it.” But lots of people didn’t get it. It created enormous damage. And, of course, what happened in the new teaching circles was somewhat similar—it’s been the structure of my life—to what happened at Elat Chayyim. I was delighted, honored, privileged to be able to share and lots of people came. You enter a system. You rise, unintentionally as it were, to the top of it, just by teaching. So the people in the new systems that were upset or had issues plugged into David Ingber and he basically downloaded his meme into them.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

And nobody who has accused you is willing to have a conversation with you? Nobody who is defending the people who accused you are willing to have a conversation with you, mediated, not mediated? It’s just don’t confuse me with the facts. From Bayit Chadash, they made a decision. They got their so-called testimony, whatever it is. The decision came down. There was no inquiry. There was no allowing you to maybe offer some subtleties that were overlooked…

Marc Gafni:

Subtleties—fact, information.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Or facts. So it brings me to my perception and I’d like to hear you talk about it—I’m sure you’re far more painfully aware of it than I am—of the way in which what you just spoke about got into the newspapers, so that as I’ve been reading articles about you over the years in the Jewish newspapers, in The Jewish Week and The Forward in particular, they seem to buy it, they seem to encourage. They use the same kind of accusatory language. They’re very sloppy about their language. They don’t seem to give you ample opportunity to respond to the most outrageous or even the most simple accusations.

Marc Gafni:

Right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

There’s something going on in the Jewish newspapers that is also quite questionable and it looks ugly to me.

Marc Gafni:

Yeah. No, it’s sadly ugly. Let me go a couple of steps and then I’ll come to the newspapers, maybe three steps then come to the newspapers. So in 2011 there was a second round of attack that Donna Zerner behind the scenes was very, very involved in. Again, the ordinary arc of human relationships, through trauma introduced in the system, somehow got transposed, and all of a sudden you’ve got a story on the web of sexual complaints, but actually it’s not true, just a couple of people I was going out with, both powerful adult women.

I’m not going to go into the whole story. Clint Fuhs and his Integral Institute report talks about it in depth. This time my board of directors looked into it carefully. The chairman of the board met with the people. My board of directors wrote a letter saying, “We completely stand by Marc.” If either of those two people would attack in the public forum, which they haven’t, I will respond at this point fully, legally and in other ways. But what was reported on the web, as one writer said, he said it was so much flame and so little fact.

Basically it was Donna behind the scenes. There was an enormous fear. A person who I had a contract with who canceled the contract and I met and this person screamed at me for 20 minutes, and she was literally repeating Donna’s sentences. I later found out that Donna had actually downloaded her kind of lake of poison into her. So the whole 2011 brouhaha happened essentially on the web. Nothing else happened other than what happened on the web and was radically distorted. We responded to it then, and my board of directors—by the way, filled with 40 men and women who are super-conscious, super-discerning, super-smart. They’re not hoodwinked, all major victim advocates, each one of them, and who spoke directly to all of the people. But then Gary Rosenblatt writes in his paper: New Sexual Complaints. He didn’t call me. He didn’t speak to me. And it just got fed through the old interpretive mechanism. So that’s one. Then, two, in 2015–16 a figure in the Human Potential community who I don’t know got angry because a woman named Barbara Marx Hubbard, who is a senior scholar, started working with us actively, stopped working with him. She has written about this publicly.

Arthur Kurzweil:

Stopped working with whom?

Marc Gafni:

With him, with this figure. His name is Stephen Dinan. Stephen got furious. Stephen then plugged into David Ingber and to Chaya. I know that for a fact. There’s an enormous amount of documentation to this. They downloaded their lake of poison into him. He assumed it was all true and he launched, together with them, a major smear campaign. So out of the blue they enrolled Mark Oppenheimer. I got actually an email from someone who spoke to Stephen Dinan directly, saying he was enrolling a New York Times columnist. There is lots of other information that supports that. And they launched a smear campaign, again, literally out of the blue in 2015, completely un-triggered. I’ve had nothing to do with the Jewish community for 10 years. There must have been dozens of articles.

Now, let’s just get a couple of facts straight here. David Ingber is very closely socially associated with The Forward. They share staff. His synagogue and The Forward share staff. It’s the same social circle in Manhattan. Mark Oppenheimer used to work for The Forward till a couple of years ago. It’s all the same social milieu. They bought into the assumption of the false complaints and they used that to launch a smear campaign.

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 10

Marc Gafni:

But here is where there’s something really important. They did something even more insidious which they started doing back in 2006. They did what cognitive behavioral therapy calls false pattern recognition. They said, well, it’s not about any detail, it’s this pattern, it’s this pattern of abuse. Now, again, anyone who has any sophistication in therapy is looking at these things saying you collapse timelines, you cherry-pick facts, you create a pattern, and then you interpret the pattern, and the pattern is abusive. So there are two things you see. A, you say there’s a pattern by collapsing timelines and cherry-picking facts, but then you interpret the pattern in a particular way, which is that it’s an abusive pattern. Both of those are obviously wrong.

So what they did is they then—and I’ll address why in a second—they went back to stories from when I was 19 and in my early twenties. What David Ingber did is—and in a certain sense cleverly—he knew that there were never any police complaints, he knew that the complaints in Israel were false, so they downplayed those. And all of a sudden in the New York Times story there was no mention of police complaints. Now, do you think for a second, Arthur, if there were police complaints they wouldn’t have mentioned them? And they barely mentioned Israel.

So what they did is David tried to skip over what happened, because one of David’s major motivations for the last decade has been covering up the fact that he was involved directly or indirectly in catalyzing false complaints and causing enormous, enormous trauma and damage. Chaya, by her admission in a long conversation with a friend of mine who wrote it up, said she organized those complaints. So that got skipped over.

Then we went back to issues that were raised in the Jewish press in 2004. We went back to me being 19. So what happened was they took a story. So the story is I met a woman named Sara Kabakov, who has put her name in the public space, when I was 19. We were madly in love with each other. She was a freshman in high school. I was right out of high school. She was 14 when we engaged. We engaged for several months and the full weight of the engagement was teenage necking. I have taken with Dr. Gordon Barland, the Head of Polygraph for the Department of Defense, extensive polygraph on it.

I ended the relationship, not because she was a minor. That never occurred to us…

Again, it was edgy in the sense that I was Orthodox and no contact was allowed before marriage. I was reading Kierkegaard then who had given up Regina for Christ and I said to Sara, “This is against Orthodox law and so we have to end.” And we ended.

She wrote me a letter. I used to call her Little Wobaka. That was just our nickname. We would walk through the Met and spend hours in the Met. I can’t remember how you pronounce his name—Segovia, the guitarist. She loved classical guitar, and I would just listen to her play classical guitar. And she wrote me a letter, a love letter after we had finished, just a few months later. She was going into her sophomore year of high school. And it was the most beautiful letter I ever received. I remember where I was and I cried on my bed for two hours reading it. I tried to call her. She wouldn’t come to the phone. That was my last contact with her.

But this becoming, quote-unquote, a story? I didn’t hear about it again for 20–25 years when she was brought into play by serious political foes of mine and a woman named Vicki Polin who I’ll get to in a couple of seconds. So that old story has been now bandied around as: pedophile. Really? Did someone really just say that? It’s insane. Or the story has been told in ways in which you basically hide the ages. So all over, I mean, The Jewish Forward, one story: confessed molester or accused molester Marc Gafni starts Tantric school.

So you would think that Marc Gafni, four months ago, five months ago, five years ago, 10 years ago, was just accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl or a 13-year-old girl, whatever, when actually we’re talking about Marc meets her when he’s 19, we’re talking about teenage necking, we’re talking about 36 years ago, and Marc has verified in the only way you can today that her experience at the time, she wrote a massive love letter. There wasn’t a word between us that wasn’t mutual or beautiful. And her entire description that was developed with therapists many years later is simply false—simple false, period, end of discussion.

How false memories develop, who encouraged her is a whole conversation. For a period of time her counselor/therapist—and she writes this online—was Vicki Polin. Now, I don’t know Vicki Polin. She appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show apparently and said she was part of a satanic cult and she murdered a baby in the cult. So Vicki Polin became for a period of time—and we’ve taken it all down from the web; Vicki writes about this on the web. There was no possibility of conversation. I heard about this for the first time in 2001 from Gary Rosenblatt and I immediately tried to contact Sara.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Gary is the editor in chief and publisher of The Jewish Week in New York.

Marc Gafni:

Right. I immediately tried to contact Sara through third parties and say, “Let’s talk. Let’s clarify. Let’s resolve. Let’s heal, if there’s a way you were hurt I didn’t know about, apologize.” And Vicki Polin writes about it on the web: how could the abuser want to talk to his victim? So all of a sudden this very, very innocent teenage relationship got transposed into completely different terms and Sara had gotten completely affiliated with the kind of ‘destroy Gafni’ meme. And she was told by people he’s a terrible, horrific human being.

And so what happens is that then fact truth gets trumped by feeling truth. Facts don’t matter anymore. And I’m sure in Sara’s mind, well, I’m taking on abuse. And the facts get all completely blurred. But the story she’s told is categorically not true. I wrote a response to it in The Jewish Forward which was a very short response, part of a longer response that appears on the Who Is Marc Gafni website. But that story got bandied around as Marc Gafni, 50 years old, abusing 14-year-olds, and it was rewritten on my Wikipedia page, etc.

And then the second story that they’ve used is the story in which I actually made a genuine mistake. And, by the way, in retrospect, let me just say about Sara, if I had to give my 19-year-old son advice, we know things now, we’re aware of things we weren’t aware of in the same way 25 years ago. Of course in retrospect I wouldn’t even have any teenage necking contact with anyone who wasn’t 18. That just wasn’t in our zeitgeist then. So, of course I regret that it took place. Of course I’d apologize in a second for any retrojected experience of hurt. However, at the time, as evidenced by Sara’s love letter and by all of our communications, the experience was completely positive for both of us. She actually wrote in her letter to me, she said, “Your life is going to kind of fall apart if you don’t come back to me.” She was writing as a high-schooler and I was right out of high school. How does this get 36 years later bandied about and distorted in a smear campaign?

And I took a polygraph. I took a polygraph because it’s the only thing I could do. On these other issues from many, many years later there is an email record. There was no email back then. So the best I had available to me was to take a polygraph and, because of the challenges to polygraph, to take it with the best person in the country and the better the polygrapher. This is the person who trains the CIA. This is the person who trained Israel Security Services in the use of this device. So, believe me, if I wasn’t telling the truth and no one asked me to take the polygraph test, there was no need to, I did it voluntarily because it was the only way I had to establish some third-person veracity.

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 11

Marc Gafni:

The second old story which they’ve kind of clumped together is a story in which I made a mistake. I was 24. I was running a youth group. There was a 16-year-old woman in the youth group who was precocious and who came onto me very, very strongly. She was highly initiatory, wanted me to sleep with her. I said no, but there were 15 minutes in which we had sexual contact. I told her immediately, “Whoa, I apologize, we’re over bounds here.” We stopped it. I was completely gentle and loving about it. That was the end of the story. That was the entire story. It happened once for 15 minutes. It never happened again. There is no pattern. I’ve talked to umpteen therapists about it. There’s no one who thinks there is any sort of pattern. It was a one-time 15-minute mistake which I regret.

She began immediately telling a story about it: I slept with her. It wasn’t true. She just started telling a very, very embellished story about it, because her adviser had brought her to a rabbi who was well known to be my nemesis. So this rabbi became her adviser. Then her story started getting embellished, embellished. She wrote me a note saying, “You should leave your wife.” She started saying, “Wow, he sent me naked pictures.” I apologize to even talk about it in public, but none of this was true. So there’s this wildly crazy embellished untrue story and there was no one to talk to.

I asked a very close friend of mine who is today a prominent feminist woman in the Jewish community, I said, “Listen, this is what actually happened.” She’s a well-known Jewish educator, a great person. I said, “What should I do?” She was good friends with this rabbi and his wife. She called them and said, “What’s going on here?” She called me back and she said, “Listen, these guys hate you. They view you as a kind of threat. They want to destroy you. The story she’s telling is not true. The only thing you can do is just say no and go on with your life and she goes on with her life.” And that’s what we did.

Now, Arthur, to be clear, I regret that there wasn’t a way for me, I didn’t have a way to actually own those 15 minutes. I tried to talk directly myself to this rabbi. I met him in the halls of the university that we were both involved with then and we had a very short, very sharp exchange. Literally he swung at me. That actually happened in the halls. He was partially right, in other words, meaning he was coming after me. And I said to him, “Why are you coming after me? Let’s sit and talk about this and work out issues in your own marriage and your own sexuality,” at which point he swung at me. That didn’t go over well.

And I apologize to him today for it. It was an arrogant, impudent thing to say from a 24-year-old who was an outlier, who was under attack, and there was no way to actually heal an authentic mistake which wasn’t part of any pattern, not part of any abusive pattern. So this rabbi then from age 24 till age 46, he took up this meme. This rabbi then became the chairman of Vicki Polin’s little organization, not telling anyone that Vicki Polin was completely not credible. Then this person then put Sara and Judy, the two people, in touch with Vicki Polin. Vicki Polin proclaimed herself their adviser/counselor/therapist.

So I sat with Donna Zerner, another person in the organization, when this attack started again in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 and said, “What shall we do?” And we all sat and talked about it very directly and clearly. They were board members. It wasn’t a consensus—everyone was like a thousand percent clear. I said, “Let’s try and talk to Vicki.” Everyone said, “We can’t talk to Vicki.” There was no one to talk to.

So when Gary Rosenblatt asked me about what happened I told him the exact truth about Sara. And then Gary, even about that, he took a quote which was completely not my intention. I was saying, wow, she was 14 and she was so wise and so wonderful and so great. It was the phrase ’14 going on 35’ and he was suggesting there was some form of coercion. Of course I would never force. It was all mutual. So all of a sudden the phrase ‘she was 14 going on 35 and I never forced her’ becomes attributed to me as if I’m saying I slept with this 14-year-old but I never forced her, and she was 14 going on 35 and I was justifying it. God forbid. That phrase is vulgar, base, disgusting. I’ve repudiated it a thousand times. And I called Gary afterwards. I wrote him an email. I said, “Gary, first off, your article looks like”—in 2004 Gary wrote an article about this—“it looks like I slept with her. That’s completely not true.” Gary said to me, “She said you did sleep with her.”

Later that year another paper interviewed her and she said, “He didn’t sleep with me.” Her story changed. The story that she told Luke Ford—blessings to Luke, who was at the time a hardcore pornographer and now he has evolved, so Luke is the person who interviewed her; Luke Ford was very closely associated with Vicki Polin—and the story she told to Luke Ford is very, very different than the story that she told in The Jewish Forward a year ago. And she took out all the bad parts. Now, the bad parts were all not true, but they were the most intensely demonizing parts. Either she took them out because she was being charitable to me—unlikely. She took them out because they weren’t true. So she’s changed her story significantly many times, but no one’s ever looked at that. When I had a communication with the editor of The Jewish Forward, she didn’t even realize that old text existed.

So basically what happens is—let’s just try and put this all together—what’s true and what’s not true? Here’s what’s true. What’s true is I have made sexual mistakes. I’ve had a couple of affairs, for sure. I have been sexually post-conventional in the sense I described in Israel. They were sexual relationships happening in our organization that were sweet and lovely, kind of a.k.a. Woodstock. None of that fits into the classical framework. And because I came up and emerged as an Orthodox rabbi I didn’t know what to do with it. There was nothing abusive about it. It’s kind of like being gay in the fifties. What do you do? You lie about it. So I was trying to work out not just my sexuality but how sexuality works. So I fully own that, fully apologize for it, a thousand percent.

But if we’re going to disqualify people based on that, we can disqualify quite a few seminary heads of Jewish rabbinical seminaries. We can disqualify an enormous amount of Orthodox conservative reformed rabbis, men and women. And let’s all just disqualify ourselves and that’s fine. But what’s happened is, instead, basically David Ingber and his posse put this demonizing meme in place. I fall on my sword. That demonizing meme gets taken as a given. It feeds into these old stories which now become interpreted as a pattern. Then David and that gang try and download that meme into all new contexts where I’m working. And because I’m kind of rising and doing good in a new way, all the natural jealousies emerge, so they plug into the David Ingber meme and we have our story.

Then when Stephen Dinan gets upset with me, who he doesn’t know, because of whatever the issue was between him and one of his major teachers, an 87-year-old woman, he plugs into this old meme, never speaks to me, never checks. We offer to meet. There’s no meeting. There’s never any meeting in any of these things. No facts are ever checked. And he launches a smear campaign. And then The Jewish Forward, I got an email from Mark Oppenheimer in November of 2015 saying he thinks The Forward is doing a story. So The Forward, they were part of the smear campaign way before the New York Times thing happened. Did The Forward call me in November 2015 and say, “Let’s talk to you, let’s get information”? No, The Forward in September 2015 had already called me a sexual predator, meaning their mind was made up. They took this as a given to be true.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

It’s ironic that The Forward in recent months has had an advertising campaign for itself claiming to…

Marc Gafni:

Fact-based journalism.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Be fact-based.

Marc Gafni:

Only facts, no rumors. As a matter of fact, Jane…

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Jane is…?

Marc Gafni:

Jane Eisner is the name of the editor who I don’t know. Jane writes, “We don’t do smear campaigns.” And she accused someone in the Jewish community of doing a smear campaign against the New Israel Fund. The details of the story, I actually have them written up, but basically in this larger context Jane Eisner, defending the New Israel Fund and the left-wing Jewish funding structures, all of which, of course, support The Jewish Forward directly or indirectly, the same funders, Jane says that the attack on the New Israel Fund, for whatever the reason was, was inappropriate, kind of a smear campaign. And she defines a smear campaign, if I recall correctly, as old information that’s already in the public space that’s merely being recycled again that’s been responded to, which is exactly what she did in regard to me. It was a classical smear campaign.

They knew they were doing the story in November. Their reporter never called me, never interviewed me, never checked with me. They just called like a day, two days before, for the technical fact checking. And the reporter, Sam Kestenbaum, I said to him, “There’s a larger story.” He said, “I sense there’s a larger story here, but they’re not interested in that. There’s no time for that. I’m just doing fact checking.” I kind of insisted, so, I’m sorry, I apologize to Sam, but he almost had no choice to hear some of it. So a line here or there got into the article, but basically they never conducted a genuine interview with me, never evinced any curiosity. And then they assumed it was all true, and then they went back to Sara and there was a meeting in December which I know about in which Sara was persuaded to join the smear campaign.

Now, what actually resulted here is actually very interesting and tragic. So, first, the person who was at that meeting was actually Judy, because Judy and Sara have been affiliated with each other for many years. Judy—in this crazy story, in this whole story—over the last year Judy left her partner and actually ran off with her lawyer/advocate. So, blessings to that. All good. I have no judgments. It’s not my story. But a close person to Judy actually wrote our team and said that Judy had confessed to actually lying about the Marc Gafni story—it’s the first time I ever got independent corroboration of that—and that she was angry with him because he wouldn’t leave his wife, etc, and a whole litany of information about Judy who’s claimed that she’s slept with many rabbis, a long, long story which I don’t want to go into and I’m not interested in any way besmirching her, but to say that she’s not credible would be to major in understatement.

The story told wasn’t true. The story should have been healed 30 years ago. In other words, Judy is not 16 today. She’s in her fifties. She has literally, as this source close to her said, she’s basically stalked Marc for 30 years and she’s been encouraged and she’s been associated directly with the people in the smear campaign for the last decade.

Sara joins the smear campaign and Jane Eisner assumes that Sara’s story is true, doesn’t talk to me, doesn’t check with me. Marc Oppenheimer talks to me for maybe one minute about Sara, but in that minute I told him this quote ’14 going on 35’ is nonsense. He used the quote anyways. Polygraphs are left out. The contradictions in her story are left out, because he never interviewed me about it. The Forward certainly never interviewed me about. So The Forward that has close social and political ties with David Ingber, that Mark Oppenheimer worked for, essentially joins the smear campaign, and they are claiming to do fact-based journalism—nothing even vague.

And then, Arthur, just to go a couple of steps, finally, a person who was working with me trying to handle this on the public side of things, Michael Wright, asked The Forward to write my response. So they agree finally to publish my response, but they won’t let me talk about any of the history, contradictions in Sara’s story, [indistinct 2:30:18] with Vicki Polin, etc. All that’s off. I’m only allowed to talk about what she actually said in her piece. But then when they actually publish my piece—it’s kind of shocking—it’s the only piece they’ve written about me where the comments are turned off, no comments. So no one’s allowed to comment.

Then when they publish the piece, before and afterwards, they have, quote-unquote, Jane, the editor, saying why I’m wrong, and then experts, quote-unquote, who have never spoken to me or Sara, saying why I’m wrong. But the truth is that the piece that I wrote was clear. We got an enormous amount of response from it because people got it. For the first time they were able to read my piece and Sara’s and make their own judgment.

So then about a week later they have Sara write another piece, but this time virtually all the comments are negative and saying, “What’s Sara doing here 36 years later?” And people are actually beginning to get it. So they take the comments down. We actually copied and pasted all the comments before they took them down, but they just take the negative comments down. So, in other words, there’s no willingness.

And then, finally, here’s the last piece. A week later they run another op-ed about a young man who says that his former girlfriend sexually abused him because she forced him to have intercourse with her before he was ready. That’s what he writes in the article. And he said he’s inspired to call his wife out for sexually abusing him for that moment, and he was inspired by Sara. So I’m kind of thinking to myself, like, oh my god, so here we have two young powerful Jewish adults. The man is claiming that his girlfriend forced him to have sex before he was ready. He writes an article about her that The Jewish Forward publishes. Now, he doesn’t use her name, but clearly all of their friends know who she is.

Now, has The Jewish Forward checked whether this is true? Have they checked both sides of the story? Is The Jewish Forward now publishing a man who has a claim of sexual abuse against his girlfriend when they were both 25 years old because she forced him to have sex too early? Is that The Jewish Forward’s role? Is this a therapeutic role? And it was inspired by Sara Kabakov. And, of course, last point, initially they write ‘allegedly’, Sara’s ‘alleged’ story, but then ‘alleged’ disappears. Sara’s searing story, who won an award for her story. Sara’s in Albany. Five paragraphs about Sara’s bravery.

Any pretence of journalistic integrity falls to the wayside and really the level of negligence here, it equals the Rolling Stone story, the rape on campus story that they got wrong. Here’s the sad thing. I’m sure Jane Eisner is a great person. I’m sure she is. I’m sure she’s a person of integrity. I’m sure Sam—I think—Norich, the publisher, I’m sure he’s a good person. They’re assuming that the David Ingber meme is true. So at this point for them, feeling truth trumps fact truth. Who cares if we got the details wrong? We’re stopping an abuser.

That’s what happens. There are just two structures I want to offer here. One is sexual McCarthyism. And McCarthyism in the 1950s opposed communism. Communism was the most loathed thing in America, but Joe McCarthy uses that loathing of communism to attack people for all sorts of political base reasons. So sexual McCarthyism, Alan Dershowitz’s term, Alan Dershowitz himself was accused of sex with minors, which apparently wasn’t true, and Alan took on the people. And people said, “How can you attack minors?” They were 15. And Alan said, “Well, actually they’re lying. You don’t get to lie and then hide behind your age.” Sara is not 14 now and I’m not 19. Sara is 50 and I’m 56. You can’t for decades tell a false story, cause enormous trauma, enormous damage, and then say, “Don’t challenge me. You’re victim shaming.” It doesn’t work.

So, basically sexual McCarthyism is the same as McCarthyism. You tie into the correct abhorrence against sexual harassment and sexual abuse, which I share and you share, but then you use it as a political tool. And then the way you do it is you set yourself up. It’s called the victim triangle in psychology. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. You set yourself up in the victim triangle. You realize people that are pretending to be rescuers are really perpetrators. People pretending to be victims are really perpetrators. So it’s a victim triangle. You say, “I’m here to rescue victims.” Is it really true—let’s get real—that David’s really about rescuing victims? He’s got no other cause in the entire world, really? Let’s sit down at the table. Let’s put everything on the table.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

It’s so often the attackers of pornography who end up having a stash of pornography.

Marc Gafni:

Projection.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Projection.

Marc Gafni:

No, right, there’s victim triangle on one hand and projection on the other side. And, Arthur, I’d sit down with anyone, but in a mediated, clear context. Let’s put everything on the table.

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 12

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I’m curious. I’m more than curious. How did the smear campaign start?

Marc Gafni:

That’s a great question, Arthur. It’s almost like the beginning of a joke—I was minding my own business… And essentially I started teaching with a woman named Barbara Marx Hubbard. See, there’s always a woman. In this case she is 87 years old. She’s a great person, probably the grande dame of evolutionary spirituality. Barbara has written about this in public, what I’m about to share with you. She actually has posted a video and a blog about this and she’s told the story extensively. But basically she was working with a gentleman named Stephen Dinan who has done a wonderful job with something called The Shift Network of creating a forum for Human Potential or more New Age courses. I don’t know Stephen. We met once, passed each other in a hall. We never really spoke to each other in any way.

Essentially what happened was Barbara had actually spoken to Stephen about her and I giving a course a few months before, like in the spring of 2015. Barbara told me that Stephen had approved it. Stephen had heard the general rumors, but we had never spoken to each other. And then Barbara calls me one day in the summer of 2015 and says, “Hey, I want to do this event called 2020, some major event.” She gets me and Ervin László, who’s a major evolutionary theorist, on the phone. We talk about it. And Barbara and I write up a description of it. She asks me to post it. I do.

And then she told me afterwards—I found this all out later—Stephen Dinan called her, furious. Because she was working with Stephen and they had run a big event called Birth 2012. And I had no idea that Stephen had anything to do with this 2020 event, because she hadn’t mentioned his name. Again, I find this all out months later. So Stephen calls her, furious for involving me in the 2020 event. Again, I had no knowledge of Stephen’s connection to it.

And then basically Stephen started sending Barbara material from David Ingber. Stephen told Barbara, “Call Chaya and David.” Chaya actually put Barbara in touch with David. And the smear campaign started to be organized. Stephen actually went with another person named Steve Hassan to Barbara’s daughter to say to Barbara’s daughter they were in the Gafni cult—completely bist du meshugganah, crazy—and would she give $10,000 for Hassan to get her out of the cult? We’re talking about utter craziness. And then Steve Dinan apparently says to Suzanne, to Barbara’s daughter, that he’s planning to organize a New York Times takedown story at the center of a campaign to, quote-unquote, stop Marc Gafni in his tracks. And right at the same time we hear from a New York Times columnist. So that’s how it all got started.

Now, the truth is I desperately wanted to meet Stephen. I said, “Stephen, let’s just meet. Let’s talk to each other.” He refused to meet. And I want to just understand Stephen for a second as well. Stephen bought into the demonization and it was persuasive. So he felt he was being a victim advocate. And, of course, mixed up were his issues with Barbara, like they all get mixed up for us in the world, but I’m not here to condemn Stephen. He bought into that demonization meme that got downloaded, apparently got forwarded to him that long Chaya co-written letter from 2008. It was forwarded around by Stephen to many people. Some of them forwarded it to me. Actually the first time I actually read it was about 10 months ago. It compared me to Hitler. There was a line there comparing me to Hitler. It’s that bad. So it’s just like what do you do?

So then it all got off and running, and then basically the smear campaign was orchestrated. It was made to look like there was a New York Times piece that then spontaneously sparked outrage. That’s how The Forward framed it. That wasn’t at all true. The Forward framed it, Gafni has risen, there’s been a New York Times story and it’s sparked outrage. But actually The Forward was working on their story two to three months before, in already November of 2015.

So it was highly orchestrated and then they exploded it onto the web. They did this petition which 3,000 people signed. But, of course, that’s how web activism works. I don’t know those 3,000 people. There was a petition on the web, there’s an urban web story about a petition against hydrogenous monoxide being lethal and 50,000 people, they say, sign it. Of course, hydrogenous monoxide is water and it’s lethal because you can drown in it. So people will sign a petition on the web for anything.

And most of the people that signed I’m sure believed it. That’s what confirmation bias is. You hear a story about a teacher who’s abusive. We’ve heard about abusive teachers. Let’s assume that it’s true. No facts are checked. It’s a form of Internet abuse. In the echo chamber of the web things just get amplified. And actually in Barack Obama’s farewell address a couple of days ago Obama talks about that we’ve abandoned facts as the baseline in society and we can’t do that, and that the Internet and Internet attacks and fake news and the echo chamber of the Internet is actually one of the single greatest dangers to civil society. That’s exactly what we’ve experienced. So this phenomenon of using the Internet to bypass conversation actually was the structure of the smear campaign.

And then I’ll just give one example and that’ll suffice for that, but the wife of Mr. Dinan, Devaa Haley Mitchell—who I’ve never met, we don’t know each other—posts a blog. And in it she cites an article in The Huffington Post which happened two months into the smear campaign which clearly was organized by the smear organizers, someone I’ve never met. Someone on my team called her after the article to give her facts. She hung up the phone. She was recruited. And she says: Marc Gafni is not like the rest of us, he’s a sociopath, etc. And then one of the smear activists went to my Wikipedia page and they said: Marc Gafni was involved with a 14-year-old and a 13-year old. The whole story got wildly conflated. Again, Marc Gafni, 55, involved with a 14-year-old and a 13-year-old.

So then Devaa Haley Mitchell, Mr. Dinan’s wife, writes a blog citing my Wikipedia page and this article in The Huffington Post as evidence of my depravity. And then Steven writes a letter to Barbara Marx Hubbard’s students citing all these teachers in the smear campaign have come out against Gafni, but most of these teachers, 21 out of 25 of them, have written for The Shift Network or work for The Shift Network. He organized it. So he organizes the smear campaign, then cites it as evidence of the truth of the false claims. Again, I’m not faulting Stephen. I’m doing exactly what he would do if he was me. I’m trying to establish the integrity of it. I’m trying to establish the truth of it. Now, do I think Stephen was dead wrong? Of course I do.

But actually any leader can be taken down by a smear campaign. It’s actually a new threat to leadership. Martin Luther King never would have survived the Internet Age, no chance. So that’s the question. Do we take down all our leaders by bypassing conversation, bypassing face to face, bypassing fact checking, and any leader who is slightly edgy, who is actually leading, any entrepreneur? What’s an entrepreneur? It means you’re ahead of, you’re a step beyond. And then add in large numbers, you’re going to have X percent of people angry. They connect to each other through the web. You create a false pattern. You find all the people through the web who know you through different points of your life and all of a sudden you’ve got a false pattern of abuse.

So that’s what the smear campaign did. And it was, Arthur, oh my god, devastating. It was devastating. And we’ve learned a lot from it, and what we’ve tried to do at the Center for Integral Wisdom is to actually take this on as an issue. We’ve actually put up a new website called Evolving Public Culture and another website called Who Is Marc Gafni, but they deal, particularly the first one, with these meta issues of public culture, because how we create a We Space, how we create civil society, how we generate leadership is actually the future of where we’re going. So we actually need to heal this in public culture. So I want to take this on, not as a Marc Gafni issue—as I said, I’m bored by Marc Gafni—but let’s take on the larger issues of how do we do journalism, how do we do the web? And those are critical.

The Marc Gafni Interview with Arthur Kurzweil Part 13

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I know a woman, a friend, a close person to me who has graduated from high school over 50 years ago. So there was a reunion that was being set up, and it was a small class. And she was talking to one of the classmates and talking about who’s coming, who’s not coming. And she said, “How about this guy, is he coming?” “Oh no, he’s not coming. In fact, we spoke to him and if he even hears your name he gets nauseous.” So what is it? It was like in the fourth grade where the two of them sat next to each other and the teacher changed her seat, and he lived the next 50 years, why did the girl in the fourth grade change her seat? My question is why is this guy still running his life based on that? Why hasn’t he taken care of that in some way? It seems like there are so many people in this story, from your ex-wife Chaya—and I wouldn’t want my wife to be involved psychologically with her 10 years ago ex-husband, but that seems to be the case here—and the girl who was 14 who is now… So, talking about patterns, am I making the wrong pattern here?

Marc Gafni:

No, no, no, you’re right, Arthur. What happens is when you create a demonization and you create a sense of victim triangle and you’re hiding something, you’re hiding the perpetration of false complaints, you’re hiding untruths, so then you kind of perpetuate the demonization and you remain obsessed. What David did, he took down essentially his colleague and teacher and basically took the place that we could have easily shared with 10 other people, but he wanted that particular place, he was moved by malice, and it’s tragic. Now, the truth is I’d sit down with David tomorrow, because, as I said, people admit of everything, no one admits of malice. David has his narrative. His narrative is a demonization narrative. How do we get out of that? How do we step down? I’d sit with David tomorrow and what if David and I could model transformation?

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I have a question. What would you like to happen? Now it’s 10 years later, it’s 40 years later, it’s all this stuff happening. What would you like to happen today, tomorrow? How do we get out of this? How do we go on with our lives?

Marc Gafni:

Yeah, that’s great. I appreciate the question. Arthur, what would it be if we could model transformation, we could model what we call teshuvah, what you teach about, return, transformation, in which we all say, wow, there’s a contribution system here, we all contributed to it? How about we all give up being right? How about we all come to the table, not in a Stalinist kangaroo kind of court, but in which everyone says, wow, we had a part in this contribution system? Wow, I got upset about this. I got upset about this. And we all apologize to each other. We all model what transformation could be and we all climb down the tree and we all create a sanctification of God’s name, that actually we can do what we’re asking the Israelis and Palestinians to do. We want the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda to make peace after they’ve massacred, one tribe, 800,000 of the other tribe. We can’t make peace?

And we don’t come together for the point of making the other wrong. We come together to hear each other and to actually create truth and reconciliation, but in a real way in which we all say, wow, we can actually model what transformation means, what goodness means. Literally, Arthur, I’d stake my life on it, the heavens would dance. The heavens would dance. It would be the greatest teaching ever taught—the newspapers, Gafni, myself, people in my world who are beyond shamed by what they see happening in the Jewish community, completely shamed, people in the community.

And I’m not looking for any position in the Jewish community. Do I love Yiddishkeit? I’m madly in love with Yiddishkeit. Someone, a newspaper president in L.A. asked me, “Why are you still Jewish?” I’m still Jewish because that’s my identity. I put on tefillin in the morning because I love Torah and I love God. And it breaks my heart. Teaching Torah is my greatest joy and greatest delight and greatest obligation. I haven’t done it for 10 years. I’ve tried to take everything that I’ve learned and create new structures of thought, a new universe story that can take us forward alive in that kind of broader spiritual meaning context.

So I have created the Center for Integral Wisdom and I’m trying to teach in all the new forms in the best way I can and I’m writing and teaching, but do I wake up every morning… I wake up in the morning, Arthur, and there is a second when I wake up when I forget that it happened. I just forget that it happened and I think I’m about to go give a shiur, I’m about to go to teach Torah someplace. And then I remember that it happened. Then I remember that it’s so layered upon layer, the corruption and the agendas, the investments, the power structure is so deep, and I feel like I’m about so suffocate. There’s no way out. And I often will stay in bed in the morning for a half-hour and just lay there and just practice. I’ll just practice just to get myself beyond the pain.

Just something funny, there’s a practice I call the narcissism practice. Since Chaya has called me a narcissist so many times on the web I’ve developed the narcissism practice. It goes something like this. I say to myself, okay, you wrote a whole book about evil in the world when you were 32, and yet you managed to get out of bed in the morning fine. You knew about the Holocaust. You knew about Rwanda. You managed to get out of bed in the morning fine. So what’s the difference? Oh, it’s happening to you. Oh, that’s a whole different story. Well, then you must be a narcissist. I don’t want to be a narcissist. And I get out of bed.

In other words, wow, the world is filled with suffering. This story is not about Marc Gafni. The world is filled with stories that aren’t resolved, where people have taken positions that they can’t get out of. And how do we deconstruct that? How do we create peace in the world? How do we create transformation? If we can’t model it between us, how can we ever speak from the pulpit or anyplace else about what needs to happen in the world?

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I find it tragic that as a person who has been listening to lectures of yours that are online and recordings, every time I listen I think what a tragedy, what the Jewish community has lost from not having you as a teacher. And I want to say in relation to that that one of the things that I feel that I learned recently from you, which I also see that the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught, is the notion of—and it just rings true for me—outrageous love. You know a project that I’m working on right now is I’m building a playground in the Ukrainian town where my father was born.

Marc Gafni:

Awesome.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

So—how many?—103 people in his family were murdered in that town, 103 people. There are no Jews in that town. It’s 100 percent, I think, Ukrainian, maybe a few Russians also. If I begin to read the history of the Ukrainians and the Jews and the tragedy and the understandings and misunderstandings and you said this and you were this and you were that, my sense is that it’s an endless abyss. It’s an endless abyss.

I went to that town and I saw the children, beautiful, innocent children. They weren’t there, and rather than dump history on them and rather than start some kind of a dialogue with any of the people in this Ukrainian town, it just rang true for me, your phrase, this phrase, outrageous love. I just have to transcend it. We just have to both do the impossible, which is do the outrageous thing. How outrageous is it? Would my grandparents think it was outrageous for me to say I love these people in this town? They would think it was outrageous and horrible. But, no, it’s outrageous love. For me it’s the only way out. And if you’re not willing to participate in that in any way, what can you do?

Over and over, this one doesn’t want to talk to you and this one doesn’t want to… They make no room for it, no room for growth and no room for transformation and—the most beautiful thing—no room for modeling. If Rabbi David Ingber and Rabbi Mordechai Gafni could get together and transform the situation, wow, would that be a teaching, maybe—I hate to say it—a teaching that makes this all worthwhile, such a descent that you can take it so high. But you need willing people to do it, and I think you have been deprived of that profoundly.

Marc Gafni:

Yeah. Thank you, Arthur. I was about to give a teaching on Skype to about 50 people from Holland about five years ago, and it was one of those mornings where just the pain of the whole thing was so overwhelming I could literally barely move. I had just finished writing The Unique Self book and I was exhausted. And I’m sitting there looking at the 50 people and I’m literally silent. They thought it was some profound silence. It was nothing profound. I had nothing to say. I just had this sense: I’m done. There’s nothing else I can teach. And literally these words came down: We live in a world of outrageous pain. The only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love.

And for the next hour I taught about that. I don’t remember anything that I said. A very well-known feminine wisdom teacher was there. It was at her house, so she actually—she never does this, she’s a great teacher in her own right—she took notes on the whole thing. And she gave it to me afterwards and she said, “This just came down, like this is what you have to do now.” And I started teaching this teaching on outrageous love. And then I realized that actually I remembered a passage in the Alter Rebbe, in the Rebbe of Chabad, where he talks about ahavah aza. And only years later, maybe a year ago, I realized, oh, the Rebbe was talking about what I’m calling outrageous love. And I went back and I reread the passages.

By outrageous love what we mean is it’s not ordinary love, which is a strategy of the ego, but the love that moves reality itself, love that’s not mere human sentiment, but the love that drives all of reality. It drives quarks to come together with other quarks and create hadrons, and hadrons come together and they create atoms, and atoms molecules. It’s the evolutionary love, the outrageous love that drives all of reality. When that awakens in us, wow!

And the truth is we’ve killed all the values in the world. We’ve killed all the gods, as it were, but we all believe in love. When the World Trade Center is about to go down and people are calling home—and we have their recorded transcripts—they’re saying, “I love you.” They’re not reading Shema and they’re not doing the Four Buddhist Noble Truths. They’re saying, “I love you.” But love has lost its meaning. It’s ordinary love. Outrageous love—I’m a unique expression of the love-intelligence of reality and as such I’ve got outrageous acts of love to commit that no one can do but me. So I can go to the Ukraine and I can build that playground and no one’s going to build it but me and it’s mine to do. Wow! So there’s something we could do here. We could all be just humble.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

My father used to like to point out that there are people whose attitude is don’t confuse me with the facts.

Marc Gafni:

Right.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Somehow it reminds me of an old Lenny Bruce bit…

Marc Gafni:

Yeah.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Where he said that he could trace heroin addicts back to mother’s milk, because they started breastfeeding and, look, now they’re heroin addicts. But what’s in between? Well, don’t confuse me with the facts. And this has happened to you, that the connecting of the dots that some of the accusers made just leaves out huge things, falsifies huge things and destroys or tries to destroy your career in the meantime. Who gave these people the power to be the police, the judge and the jury and the executioner? Who gave them this right, this permission? This is really my motive for talking to you about this.

Marc Gafni:

No, thank you, Arthur. Honestly, I’ve given up on career a long time ago. I don’t know how to say it exactly. I’m bored by my own suffering. I’m bored by my own suffering. And I’m completely committed. I haven’t stopped studying. I haven’t stopped teaching. I’m blessed to study. I’m blessed to share. I’m blessed to write. The 10 major books about the new universe story are now in process. And I feel like I’ve just started, just sharing the gifts that are mine.

I can’t give Arthur Kurzweil’s gifts. I can’t do genealogy, and I can’t teach Talmud in the gorgeous way you do, and I certainly can’t do a magic show while I’m teaching Talmud, and then genealogy and magic and Talmud together. I can’t do any of that, which is why I would come to your classes and I’d be ecstatic, because it’s not mine to do. And, you know what, David Ingber started Romemu—fabulous! Do it. I can’t do David Ingber. Not mine to do.

But can we be lived as love, not in a way which bypasses? I’m all about the fact checking. I’m all about really establishing integrity. I’d be beyond delighted. So maybe I could end with just two things on my side. And whenever I say two it’s always three my mother said, so I apologize. So, one, no facts have ever been checked. It’s never happened. And at this point I don’t know how to get together a forum that would actually be credible, objective. Two, at this point the facts that need to be checked are not what did Marc do? It’s what about the false complaints, who organized the false complaints, how was the smear campaign organized? Everything would have to be on the table.

But, three, to be clear, I’ve apologized a thousand times. I’ve written everyone I could in this story and said, “Let’s meet. Let’s talk. Let’s apologize.” I would apologize on my knees again to any hurt in the arc of human relationship, of course, of course. How could I not? How could a human being not? But between that and the demonization it’s not okay.

So my commitment is, going forward, I’ve changed one thing which is I’ve broken the silence. I haven’t talked for 10 years. And I know that people involved in the smear campaign are even now speaking to people who have done work with me to say, “Come out against Gafni.” People are being encouraged. So any new attack which has false or distorted information we’re going to respond to, to the full extent possible, within 24 hours in the public space. No more silence, because my silence was a gift. It was let me hold the dignity of silence. I did it for a decade. And each time I try and walk away and say, okay, take the Jewish community, I’ll go do something else, but they keep coming and keep coming to contrive and manufacture and troll for victims.

Am I edgy as a person? Yes, meaning I’m edgy in the sense that I’m not doing the conventional thing. My teaching is on identity, on Unique Self, on community, on entrepreneurship, and on sexuality. And my teaching on sexuality is a teaching which is beyond where the community is, so challenge me on it. Challenge me on it. I’ve done work in sexuality which is beyond where the community is. Challenge me on it. I don’t have a sexual abuser bone in my body. I’ve never sexually harassed anyone in my life. And I’m going to dedicate the rest of my life to evolving love in the world in the best way I can, to evolving our vision of the universe story, to evolving the way we do relationship. We need a new story, desperately, and it’s our story to tell.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

And I would like to say one more thing as well, which is that I would love to challenge a couple of congregational rabbis to invite you to their synagogue, not to talk about the things we’ve been talking about now, but to invite you to teach Torah in their congregations.

Marc Gafni:

Amen, amen. I’m not filled with hope, but I appreciate it.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

I think that they would see who you are and what you teach and how nourishing you are. I challenge anybody who has the courage. I know that talking to you today, I’ll pay for this, too. There’ll be somebody in the world who will say, “You hear about Kurzweil? He’s now in cahoots with…” Yeah, I’m in cahoots with more Torah being taught, with the desperate need that Jews have in this world to learn about Yiddishkeit. I know from personal experience that you helped teach me about it and I want other people to have that opportunity also.

Marc Gafni:

Thank you, Arthur. I’m delighted to be with you. And I’ll just say—we’ve already said we’re saying the last things, but it’s the last of the last thing—which is over the last 10 years we don’t talk often, we don’t talk every week or even every month, but we talk every period of time. And you’ve represented to me just the best of Yiddishkeit, the best of what Judaism is, and my connection to Yiddishkeit has in many ways run through the Torah that’s you, and I’ll always be in your debt for that. Thank you.

Arthur Kurzweil:     

Thank you.