In a Sunday podcast (2/16/20; ~20:13) of One Church: Many Paths, One Mountain, Marc Gafni (aka Mordechai Winiarz) announced he was moving in two days from Portland, Oregon to Miami.
The next day (2/17/20) he posted on FaceBook:
Moving days, after 2,5 years of staying in the Movement Center, the journey continues…
massive gratitude and thanking Swami Chetanananda and the many many friends for the wondrous times we shared.So much has been created here in our awesome spaces, together with my beloved partner Kristina Kincaid
For the last two and a half years Marc Gafni has been living with a cult-leading guru, Swami Chetanananda, in the Swami’s ashram in Portland, Oregon. The Swami has been denounced by over a dozen of his former followers as sexually, financially, and emotionally exploitative.
It seems Gafni has fallen on hard times This happened after public protests and and a petition organized by Rabbi David Ingber of the Romemu congregation (NYC) and others in 2016. As always the issue was sexual abuse and exploitation of women (and general manipulativeness of men and women). Those signing on included a number of prominent figures who supported him in the past such as Rabbi Saul J. Berman, Rabbi Ingber, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone and many other prominent rabbis spanning the full spectrum of orthodox to reform and traditional to renewal or neo-chasidic. Esalen Institute, the laid-back Harvard of new-age education and retreats also stopped having him give workshops in 2016. (In fact if you look at the URL of the petition you will notice it was originally aimed at Esalen but repurposed after he withdrew from doing workshops there.)
Gafni also took quite a beating when he appeared on Dr. Phil’s widely viewed TV show and was confronted effectively with allegations of child sexual abuse.
At one point Gafni responded to another allegation of abuse with the line, “she was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.”
Gafni’s career has been a successions of scandals with him forced out of one niche and then reinventing himself, first as no longer being orthodox, then as no longer being an orthodox rabbi (when Rabbi Steven Riskin withdrew his ordination of Gafni), and then moving outside any distinct claim to organized Jewish lines after Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi revoked his ordination. Of course he continues to invoke the Jewish mysticism of kabbalah in some mishmash of many doctrines and obfuscations. Once his serial sexual manipulations of adult women was exposed he claimed to have erred because he didn’t realize he was really polyamorous. (See the wikipedia entry for Marc Gafni- fully documenting all his sleaze is more work than he deserves or I can manage. For coverage up to 2015-2016 read the New York Times and Tablet Magazine). For a more extensive list see here.
I am guessing he is going to Miami because he has found yet another sucker to back him or at least house him. My advice to folks in Miami if you encounter him is to hide your silverware, children, wallets, and trust. Also, be a good citizen and warn your neighbors.
To folks in Portland, I say, “lucky you!” I don’t want to mock Portland. You have already taken your hits in Portlandia. But as an ecologically conscious community, do you feel at least a twinge of guilt over toxic dumping in Miami?
Update 3/5/20–He has now also been sued by Sara Kabakov (who chose to be open about her identity) for sexually assaulting her repeatedly starting when she was 13 and he was 19.
For all Frum Follies posts about Gafni go here.