The Marc Gafni Facts
This statement outlines the facts behind the distorted posts made about Marc Gafni online and in other forums.
As often happens in public life in the internet age, a small group of people can conduct a campaign to discredit a public figure by repeating false or distorted statements over and over until they are assumed to be true.
Though it is always difficult to know whether a public figure should respond to or ignore such campaigns, many leading public figures have dealt with these kinds of challenges successfully. Because we believe that it is important to set the record straight, the board of Center for Integral Wisdom decided to create a special section called Response to False Web Claims, which contains a full public record response to these issues.
Marc grew up deep in a fundamentalist Jewish Orthodox family outside of Boston, MA. At age 13 he went to Yeshiva high school in New York City. He quickly became a star pupil, student activist and teacher. Marc came from a poor family with no financial or political power in the Orthodox community. When he was only 18 years old, a rabbinical couple who held prominent positions in Orthodoxy, and who were at the time in a deep political and personal rivalry with Marc’s mentor, began to actively attempt to undermine Marc’s promising career. Marc was the first student ordained by his mentor at the time and much of the malice against his mentor was deflected onto Marc.
At age 24 Marc held a position as a youth leader. He was committed, charismatic and controversial. During this time, a 16-year-old young woman attempted to attract Marc’s romantic attention. At a certain point, they had a one-time, brief physical encounter which did not involve sexual intercourse of any kind. Marc realized that this was wrong immediately and in conversation with her placed a firm boundary to insure that this would not happen again. The young woman shared the incident with her youth advisor, who then relayed it to the rabbinical couple who were seeking to block Marc’s emergence as a teacher. The couple encouraged the exaggeration and distortion of the story via rumor and innuendo. They attempted to discredit Marc and expel him from Orthodox teaching. The couple never contacted Marc to check the facts or otherwise constructively engage the situation. Independent experts’ third party corroboration validates Marc’s account of these events which happened 28 years ago. The couple continued for many years to use a false version of this isolated incident in their continued attempt to undermine Marc personally and professionally.
Marc went on to teach, initiate new communal contexts, engage in creative educational endeavors with profound religious dedication, creativity, and intellectual commitment over the course of decades. During this entire period, the rabbinical couple continued to direct behind the scenes attacks on Marc’s professional career and personal reputation.
A second incident was circulated by this same couple and came to Marc’s attention when he was in his late thirties. The alleged incident referenced a relationship from when Marc was 19 years old. Just after Marc graduated from high school, he had a youthful romance with a girl who was in her first year of high school (14). They dated for several months and their physical relationship was limited to “making out above the waist”. Marc ended the relationship because he felt that it was in violation of the Orthodox code of sexual behavior, which prohibits any premarital physical contact. Marc was heartbroken to end the relationship. She wrote a letter after the relationship ended saying to Marc that he was her great love, attesting to the full depth of the relationship, and asking Marc not to end the relationship. Independent expert third party corroboration has confirmed Marc’s version of these events 33 years ago. This material is available upon request.
Incomplete facts and distorted narrative from this incident were used and posted in many web forums. One glaring inaccuracy is that the posts do not identify that Marc was 19 years old when this incident happened. Instead, this historical incident from Marc’s teenage years has consistently been framed in a way that implies that Marc as a forty year old adult teacher had a relationship with a 14 year old girl. The primary disreputable page that made this claim is no longer on the web; that page was supported directly by the rabbinical couple we’ve spoken of earlier.
These incidents created vulnerability for Marc that were exploited by several disaffected people from Marc’s circle in Israel. A former staff member of Marc’s and a woman he had dated for several weeks came together, and based on public reports online and in the press, apparently made false complaints against Marc. It was only eight years after this incident that Marc learned that the police never even opened a file, apparently concluding that there were no grounds for the complaints. Files on Marc’s computer that had been deleted were recovered. These files contained an extensive record of the relationship between him and each of the two women confirming in the clearest terms that the relationships between Marc and the women had been fully mutual and consensual. Together with a leading law firm in the United States and in Israel, Marc and a team of professionals prepared a complete file, which fully demonstrates the falseness of the claims that appeared in the online forums. Marc made the decision that unless further attacked his team would not release information that would be destructive to the people involved so that everyone could move on constructively with their lives. Marc has since returned to Israel and opened a new teaching center there.
The final chapter in this story was enacted in 2011. Marc’s publisher at the time had just published a book by Mariana Caplan, a leading writer on spiritual controversy. It contained a well-researched thirty-page chapter on Marc, addressing and debunking the false complaints and strongly supporting him as a leader and teacher. One of the key players in the false complaints was upset by the chapter and complained strongly to the head of the publishing house. At the time, Marc was dating an editor at the publishing house, as well as another woman. When the publisher was informed of the relationships, she became upset. Although there were no complaints about Marc, a combination of internal politics and pressure on Marc’s publisher created a temporary flurry of hearsay in the blogsphere. Ken Wilber aptly summarized the situation with the words, “so much flame, so little fact”. Ken Wilber and Marc’s board of directors ultimately issued clear public statements supporting Marc. Ken remains to this day Marc’s active partner in the think tank, The Center for Integral Wisdom. The Center is led by some two dozen highly reputable men and women of unimpeachable integrity, all of whom have zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse.
Marc’s students, as well as his professional community, know Marc to be a person of high personal integrity and a deep commitment to authentic ways of living. The challenges of his journey have made him a particularly insightful teacher and speaker, with a gift for sharing empathic wisdom that is uniquely appropriate for each situation.
A complete essay by former second wave feminist and leading spiritual teacher Sally Kempton, and other supportive material by Integral philosopher Ken Wilber, about Marc Gafni’s character and integrity can be found here.