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May 18, 2006

Rabbi Saul Berman Must Be Removed From Public Jewish Life Immediately

The Forward has a report on the Rabbi Mordechai Gafni rape and abuse story:

… Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who is widely credited as the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement, went on the record in Gafni's defense.

"If you want to find fly specks in the pepper, you can always find them," Schachter-Shalomi told Rosenblatt. "But I've watched him teach. He is learned, exciting and charismatic."

In the weeks after Rosenblatt's column appeared, several Jewish communal leaders vigorously defended Gafni in letters sent to The Jewish Week and attacked the newspaper for running the story. Berman, Telushkin and Firestone wrote a joint letter stating that together they had conducted a thorough investigation and found all the accusations against Gafni "totally unconvincing." This week, in a statement to the Forward, the three rabbis said that they are "deeply regretful of our prior support of Rabbi Gafni."

In a subsequent e-mail to the Forward, they argued that "it is vital to distinguish between past accusations against Rabbi Gafni and the current situation."

[Rabbi Arthur] Green, who in 2004 penned one of the most vociferous letters in defense of Gafni, agreed that the new batch of allegations were different from the ones that plagued the rabbi two years ago.

"The stories were from long ago, and he had rejected and outgrown that side of himself," Green said in an interview with the Forward. "These are now new cases and new investigations."

In a 2004 letter to The Jewish Week defending Gafni, Green said that he had not investigated the allegations and had "no interest in doing so." This week, Green told the Forward that he felt "victimized" by Gafni's lies and actions, while acknowledging that the accusers have suffered more.

Less than a month after the four rabbis wrote their letters to The Jewish Week in October 2004, the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv reported allegations, dating from 1994, that mirror the current accusations against Gafni. According to an Orthodox couple interviewed for the lengthy Ma'ariv profile on the rabbi, he sexually preyed on their 23-year-old daughter while serving as a visiting rabbi in Kfar Saba. He went so far as to tell her that he wanted to leave his wife and marry her.

"We taped him saying to our daughter, 'I love you very much. I dream of the day we will be together,'" the couple told Ma'ariv. "When the story became known, Gafni left Kfar Saba." The couple's daughter told Ma'ariv that she subsequently found out that Gafni was having similar relationships with other young women.

The Bayit Chadash accuser contacted by the Forward said that the five women who recently came forth had all been told by Gafni that he wanted to marry them — and the accuser said that all the women had been dumped shortly after being told he was committing himself to celibacy.

In response to an e-mail from the Forward asking if he ever contacted anyone connected to the Ma'ariv story as part of his investigation, Berman wrote that the "article was no more than a repetition of earlier allegations which had been part of our original inquiry." …

In other words, Rabbi Berman found these allegations to lack credibility, even though it now seems clear that he did not speak to Gafni's victims, and even though the 1994 allegations mirror earlier allegations against Gafni. (As the story notes, they also mirror the new allegations against him.) Now, Rabbi Berman "regrets" his support for Gafni. But he has not issued an apology to Gafni's victims, and seems far more concerned about the damage done to his own reputation that the damage done to the bodies and psyches of Gafni's victims.

Also note the following line; "it is vital to distinguish between past accusations against Rabbi Gafni and the current situation." It is vital for Rabbis Berman, Telushkin and Firestone that this artificial distinction be made. With it, their deplorable conduct can be whitewashed.

Gafni has a 30 year history of abuse, a history these scum in rabbis' garments still seek to deny. If the board of Edah does not remove Rabbi Berman, all of us should remove Edah from our checkbooks.

Again, note the lack of concern these "spiritual leaders" have for Gafni's victims. I don't know who is sicker – Gafni the rapist or Berman the rabbi.

Comments

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You're always going to find people who support the molesters. How do you think they accummulate the power to do what they do with impunity in the first place?

Some simple, but profound lessons to be learned here:
1. charisma does NOT equal spirituality.
2. the rules for interaction between the sexes, what is proper and what is not do prevent mischief: Rashi wrote, "The heart and the eyes are spies for the body, they facilitate sin. The eye spies and the heart craves and then the body sins."

It is unfortunate that some very learned people made mistakes that would not have been made by a first year social work student.

23-year-old daughter? Shameful, yes, but does making advances towards an adult rise to the level of abuse/molestation?

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