Marc Gafni

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Marc Gafni
Marc Gafni (right) with Achok Rinpoche in Rome
Born Marc Winiarz
1961 (age 52–53)
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Other names Mordechai Gafni, Mark Gafni, Mordechai Winiarz, Mordechai Winyarz

Marc Gafni (born Marc Winiarz) is an American bestselling author, television host, and spiritual artist.[1][2][3] A former Modern Orthodox rabbi and leader of the Jewish Renewal movement,[1] Gafni now self-identifies as a practitioner of world spirituality based on integral principles.[4]


Gafni, also known as Mordechai Gafni, was born to Holocaust survivors in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.[3] Gafni was educated at Modern-Orthodox yeshivas in the New York area. In the 1980s, while attending Yeshiva University,[3] Gafni worked with Jewish Public School Youth, an organization providing Jewish social clubs in public schools.[5] In 1988, Gafni also worked as a rabbi in Boca Raton, Florida.[1] After making aliyah Gafni served as rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Tzofim.[6] When Gafni moved to Israel he hebraicized his name. "Winiarz," Polish for "vintner," is related to the Hebrew word "gefen" for grape, thus the name "Gafni." Gafni has three children from previous marriages[3] and one child with Mariana Caplan.[7][8]


Gafni majored in philosophy as an undergraduate.[3] He proceeded to earn a doctorate of philosophy from Oxford University in 2008, where he would later teach graduate seminars on mysticism.[3][9] He claims to hold rabbinic certification from the chief rabbinate in Israel,[4] as has held private rabbinic ordination, since relinquished.[1]

Teachings and prominent works[edit]

Gafni’s teachings are often described as integral or world spirituality, incorporating his traditional religious studies to contemporary themes, and are aimed at spirituality for people who do not identify with one specific religion.[3][10] He advocates a new set of teachings around eros, sexuality and relationships in his book Mystery of Love and CD set Erotic and the Holy.[11][12] At the core of his World Spirituality message is what Gafni refers to as the “unique self”--a term which Gafni coined in 2001--[citation needed]the idea that every human being has a unique story which needs to be lived.[13] He expresses this through the theme “wake up, grow up, show up, and lighten up."[14] Gafni describes himself and his students as “dual citizens” of both their native traditional religion and the broader themes of "world spirituality."[3][15]

In 2010, Gafni, together with Ken Wilber founded a Wisdom Council to envision a world spirituality based on Integral Principles.[16] The Wisdom Council is part of the Center for World Spirituality and is a think tank that includes members such as Gafni, Wilber, Anthony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Warren Farrell, David Abram, Lori Galperin, Sally Kempton and other thought leaders.[17] The chair of Center for World Spirituality is Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.[18]

Gafni was a Scholar in Residence at the Integral Institute, and the Director of the Integral Spiritual Experience, but was disassociated from them after the 2011 allegations of his sexual impropriety.[19] In 2010, Gafni and mother of his youngest child, Mariana Caplan,[7] founded the Center For World Spirituality.[20] Gafni also co-founded the Shalom Mountain Wisdom School and the Mystery School at Venwoude International.[21][22] He is the scholar in residence at the Pacific Coast Church.[23]


Gafni is the author of eight books on spirituality and religion, including the 2001 national besteller "Soul Prints,"[2] which was later expanded into a PBS special of the same name.[11][14] Soul Prints included an introduction by Israeli poet Admiel Kosman and was the best book of 2001 in the Jewish Thought category and won the Napra Award for the best Spirituality Book of 2001.[3][24] Marc Gafni's second English language book, The Mystery of Love, was later converted to an audio lecture series called The Erotic and the Holy, published by Sounds True.[9][11] Who is Afraid of Lilith? Rereading the Kabbalah of the Feminine Shadow, a book Gafni cowrote with Ohad Ezrachi, was described by the publisher as offering "the much-needed perspective of the male feminist viewpoint."[25] His book, Radical Kabbalah, published by Integral Publishers in 2012, was a three-volume, 1,000-page work, a part of which was included in his doctoral dissertation for Oxford University.[26] In 2012, he published Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment with a forward written by Ken Wilber.[27] It won the 2012 USA Best Spirituality Book of the Year award from USA Book News.[28]

Television & Speaking[edit]

While in Israel, Gafni hosted "Tahat Gafno," a television program broadcast on Israel's Channel 2.[3][29] Gafni also did a series of weekly television spots with Israel comedian Gil Kopatch on biblical wisdom for every day life.[30] Gafni also appeared in a series of spiritual PSAs on Israeli national television in the wake of a number of terrorism attacks.[31]

In 2008, Gafni hosted a discussion with Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the 14th Dalai Lama, about the perception of love.[2][29][32] This was followed up by a 2010 series between new age guru Deepak Chopra and Gafni entitled "Love and Evolution."[33] In 2013, Gafni and American entrepreneur and author Eben Pagan founded an event called "Actualize: The Source Code of Success."[34]

Gafni is also a participant in the modern men's movement, joining American men's activist Warren Farrell and bestselling author John Gray to create a broadcast named Beyond Venus and Mars.[35]

Gafni has lectured at universities including Oxford University, Harvard University Business School, UCLA, the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, and Yeshiva University.[1][2][3][9]


Gafni has been accused of sexual improprieties in the media and online, dating back to the 1980s.[1][5] In 2006, accusations of a sexual relationships between Gafni and three women who attended the Bayit Chadash spiritual center in Jaffa, which Gafni opened in the late 1990s, were made public.[6] Gafni responded by acknowledging relationships with some of the women.[5] However, Gafni characterized the relationships as consensual, and bolstered his claim by posting polygraph test results on his website.[2][36] Due to the allegations, and Gafni's sudden[10][37] departure from Israel and the school days after they were made public, the spiritual center later closed.[38] Once in the United States, Gafni sent a remorseful letter to his congregation, causing many of his former supporters to express regret.[37][39] Gafni maintains that the letter was not an admission of fault or guilt but an attempt to cool the controversy.[40]

The epilogue of The Guru Question, by Mariana Caplan, who is the mother of Gafni's youngest child, addresses the prevalence of sexual harassment complaints against spiritual teachers, and uses the complaints against Gafni—which she categorizes as "false accusations" driven by a host of ulterior motives—as a case study how such complaints develop.[41]

In 2011, Gafni was the subject of new allegations of sexual misconduct.[19] This caused Integral Life to announce that they were deleting Gafni's contributions from their site.[19] Also, Tami Simon, chief executive officer of Sounds True,canceled her publication of the Gafni's new book, "Your Unique Self," and issued a statement against Gafni.[42] However, the board of directors at Center for World Spirituality issued a statement of "Unequivocal Support" in Gafni's defense,[43] and both Warren Farrell and Joe Perez also wrote separate letters of support.[43][44] Ken Wilber originally separated from Gafni,[45] but eventually reconciled with him and rejoined him at the Center for World Spirituality.[46] The book, "Your Unique Self," was ultimately published by Integral Publishers.[47]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Rosenblatt, Gary (September 24, 2004). "The Re-Invented Rabbi". Between the Lines. Jewish Week. Archived from the original on 2004-09-25. Retrieved January 11, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Bell, Jeff; Greta Belanger deJong (July 2008). "Trial by Internet: An archetypal spiritual drama". Catalyst Magazine (Salt Lake City, Utah: Catalyst Magazine) 27 (7): 20–25. Archived from the original on October 5, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Livneh, Neri (March 4, 2004), "Post-Orthodoxy Journey", Haaretz 
  4. ^ a b "Dr. Marc Gafni’s Biography". Marc Gafni. 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Montefinise, Angela (May 21, 2006). "Fiend Rabbi On Run". The New York Post. p. 25. Archived from the original on 2006-06-14. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  6. ^ a b Raved, Ahiya; Avi Cohen (May 18, 2006). "Rabbi Gafni accused of sexual assault". Ynetnews. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  7. ^ a b "Go Deeper with Dr. Marc Gafni and Dr. Mariana Caplan". Center for World Spirituality. 2013. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Marc Gafni, D.Phil.". Executive Officers. Center for World Spirituality. 2013. Retrieved February 27, 21013. 
  9. ^ a b c Ford, Luke. "Profiles: Mordecai Gafni". Lukeford. 
  10. ^ a b Ganihar, Tomer (June 7, 2011). "Death of the spirit". Haaretz. 
  11. ^ a b c Wall, Alexandra (May 9, 2003). "Let love, sex and holiness make your life full, says rabbi". J Weekly. 
  12. ^ Rosenblum, Jonathan (July 14, 2006). "'Sexualizing' the public square" (convenience link). The Jerusalem Post. p. 10. Archived from the original on 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-11.  See also Gafni, The Erotic And The Holy: Kabbalistic Tantra for Everyday Living
  13. ^ >; Timeline "The Emergence of Unique Self Teaching"
  14. ^ a b "Essential World Spirituality Teaching". Center for World Spirituality. 
  15. ^ "A Passport for Dual Citizenship with Michael Murphy & Marc Gafni". Center for World Spirituality. August 8, 2011. 
  16. ^ Common Ground Magazine
  17. ^ "Wisdom Council". iEvolve. 
  18. ^ "What is a purpose-driven business?: John Mackey and Marc Gafni in Dialogue, Part 2". iEvolve. October 19, 2012. 
  19. ^ a b c Rosenblatt, Gary (September 13, 2011). "New Sexual Complaints Against Marc Gafni". Jewish Week. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  20. ^ "About Us". About. iEvolve. 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  21. ^ Myer, Victoria. "Wisdom School Update". Shalom at Home. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Events and Classes". Pacific Coast Church. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Who is Marc Gafni?". Integral Institute. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ Gafni, Marc. "Six Stages of Marc Gafni, An Intellectual Biography". Marc Gafni. 
  27. ^ Book Table of Contents
  28. ^ USA Best Book of the Year Spirituality: General/Winner: Your Unique Self
  29. ^ a b Haggai, Judih (June 4, 2005). "judih's observations from kibbutz: Why I am not a Buddhist - meeting between 3 Israelis and H.H. the Dalai Lama". New Civ. 
  30. ^ "Gil Kopatch - Marc Gafni Biblical Wisdom VI". YouTube. 
  31. ^ "These four videos (in Hebrew with English subtitles) are part of a series of seven spots made for Israel’s leading television station in the middle of a wave of terrorist bombings." Retrieved March 2013
  32. ^ "Marc Gafni In Dialogue With The Dalai Lama III". Marc Gafni. August 13, 2008. 
  33. ^ Gafni, Marc (May 13, 2010). "Join Deepak Chopra and Dr. Marc Gafni on the Future of Love". Marc Gafni. 
  34. ^ "Actualize: The Source Code of Success". iEvolve. 
  35. ^ Farrell, Warren. "Trialogue with Warren Farrell, John Gray, Marc Gafni". Warren Farrell. 
  36. ^ "Regarding Mark Gafni". Catalyst Magazine. August 8, 2008. 
  37. ^ a b Singer-Heruti, Roni (May 19, 2006). "New-age Rabbi Mordechi Gafni accused of sex crimes". Haaretz. Retrieved March 20, 2013. 
  38. ^ Ner-David, Jacob (December 2006). "Genug: Time for a Change". Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility (Boston: Jewish Family & Life!). Archived from the original on October 8, 2008. Retrieved January 13, 2008. 
  39. ^ Siegal, Jennifer (May 19, 2006). "Rabbi Fired Over Sex Claims, Defenders Offer Mea Culpa". The Forward. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  40. ^ Gafni, Marc (May 27, 2008). "Why I Signed the Letter". Retrieved March 11, 2013. 
  41. ^ Caplan, Mariana. The Guru Question. Sounds True, Inc. 
  42. ^ Rosenblatt, Gary (September 14, 2011). "Marc Gafni, Again". Jewish Week. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  43. ^ a b "A CWS Board Statement of Unequivocal Support for Dr. Marc Gafni". 
  44. ^ My conclusions on the Marc Gafni blogosphere complexities in the Integral community by Joe Perez
  45. ^ Wilber, Ken (October 17, 2011). "Ken Wilber's Response to the Marc Gafni Debacle". Ken Wilber. 
  46. ^ Wilber, Ken (December 27, 2011). "Ken Wilber Statement on Marc Gafni and the Center for World Spirituality". Ken Wilber. 
  47. ^ "Your Unique Self". Integral Publishers. 

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