The latest attempted re-emergence of Marc Gafni as self-described spiritual leader galvanizes all who care about genuine spirituality to stand up for high ethical standards, protect the health and safety of students and congregants, and confirm the accuracy of the public record.
Marc Gafni is not a rabbi or spiritual leader recognized by ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. When Gafni’s ethical breaches were substantiated in 2006, ALEPH promptly condemned his behavior, banned Gafni from teaching or participating in ALEPH and Jewish Renewal contexts, and broadly warned the public about Gafni’s capacity to cause serious harm. At that time, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l revoked his rabbinical ordination of Gafni. At no time did Gafni teach ALEPH ordination students or represent the Jewish Renewal Movement – nor will he.
While all heart-centered spiritual traditions hopefully hold open an authentic path that Judaism calls teshuvah (repair, rehabilitation and return), ALEPH has no credible basis to find that Gafni has traveled that strenuous path of inner reflection and outward repair. Merely using spiritual language, however high-profile or alluring, does not evidence wisdom much less rehabilitation. Absent genuine repair, such behavior can evidence “spiritual bypass,” what Reb Zalman called “whipped cream on garbage” – a spiritual veneer that obscures rather than represents the truth.
ALEPH affirms the highest ethical standards in spiritual service. ALEPH is the only Jewish seminary requiring all ordination students to be in regular professional spiritual direction throughout their studies and after ordination. ALEPH painstakingly screens applicants within the seminary environment before admission, and enforces strict ethical standards in both professional and personal life. ALEPH leadership includes the first woman ever to lead a Jewish seminary (Rabbi Shohama Wiener, Head of Spiritual Direction), and second woman ever to lead a Jewish seminary (Rabbi Marcia Prager, Dean and Head of School), as outward reflections of ALEPH’s core commitment to healing historical power dynamics in Jewish life.
In these ways and many others, ALEPH cultivates a renewed Judaism of profound authenticity, equality, repair and transformation – commitments inconsistent with the sad case of Marc Gafni.
ALEPH continues to urge all institutions and students to exercise utmost caution in selecting spiritual teachers and leaders, and reaffirms the exacting ethical standards that must form the core of authentic spiritual service to Judaism and the world.
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal pioneers a contemporary egalitarian Judaism as profound spiritual practice and social transformer, reaching beyond religious boundaries and institutional structures worldwide. ALEPH brings spiritual vitality and passion to the daily lives of Jews with transformational experiences and practices that heal the planet, cultivate leadership and deepen community. For more information, please visit www.aleph.org.