Marc Gafni

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Marc Gafni
MarcGafni (cropped).jpg
Gafni in Rome
Marc Winiarz

1960 (age 60–61)
Other namesMordechai Gafni, Mark Gafni, Mordechai Winiarz, Mordechai Winyarz
EducationQueens College, Oxford University

Marc Gafni (born Marc Winiarz; 1960) is an American author and rabbi who became a New Age spiritual teacher.[1] One of his rabbinical ordinations was voluntarily returned and another revoked for sexual misconduct.[2][3][4][5] Accused of sexual assault by multiple women, Gafni acknowledged a nine-month "relationship" with a 14-year-old girl when he was 19;[1][6][7] he denies the "relationship" was abusive, describing it as consensual.[8][9][10] The alleged victim states that she was 13. In 2019, Gafni was named in a sexual abuse lawsuit against Yeshiva University.[11][12]


Gafni was born in 1960[6] to Holocaust survivors in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.[3] Gafni was educated at Modern-Orthodox yeshivas in the New York City area. In the 1980s, while attending Yeshiva University,[3] Gafni worked with Jewish Public School Youth (JPSY), an organization providing Jewish social clubs in public schools.[13] 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.[14] When Gafni moved to Israel, he hebraicized his name. "Winiarz", Polish for "vintner", is related to the Hebrew word gefen (גפן‎), which means "grape"—thus the name "Gafni." Gafni has three children from previous marriages[3] and one child with Mariana Caplan.[15][16]


Gafni majored in philosophy as an undergraduate at Queens College, and earned his doctorate in philosophy in Oriental Studies from Wolfson College, a constituent college of the University of Oxford.[17] His doctoral thesis was entitled, "The theology of acosmic humanism : Mordechai Lainer of Izbica." He returned one rabbinical ordination (semikhah) to "spare his former teacher" (Rabbi Shlomo Riskin ) "any further embarrassment".[1] His other rabbinical ordination by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi was revoked.[18][19]


Gafni's teachings are described as integral or world spirituality, incorporating traditional religious studies with contemporary themes, and are aimed at spirituality for people who do not identify with one specific religion.[3][20] Gafni describes himself and his students as "dual citizens" of both their native traditional religion and the broader themes of "world spirituality".[3][21] 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.[22][23] At the core of his message is what Gafni refers to as the unique self.[24] Gafni believes that "the sexual is the ultimate Spiritual Master" and has written "I was convinced from an early age that religion had lost what I believed must have been its original erotic vitality... I knew that the sexual, if liberated and ethically expressed, must somehow hold the mystery of return to the much larger-than-sexual Eros."[4]

In 2010, Gafni, Mariana Caplan,[15] Sally Kempton, and Lori Galperin founded the Center for World Spirituality.[25] At the Center, Gafni and Ken Wilber founded a Wisdom Council to envision a spirituality based on Integral Principles.[26] The Wisdom Council includes members such as Gafni, Wilber, Tony Robbins, Warren Farrell, Lori Galperin, Sally Kempton.[27] The co-chair of Center for World Spirituality was Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.[28]

Gafni was a Scholar in Residence at the Integral Institute and the Director of the Integral Spiritual Experience but was asked to leave after the 2011 allegations of his sexual misconduct.[29]


Gafni is the author of eight books on spirituality and religion, including the 2001 Soul Prints.[2] 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. He also co-authored Who is Afraid of Lilith? Rereading the Kabbalah of the Feminine Shadow with Ohad Ezrachi.[30] He wrote Radical Kabbalah, a two-volume work published by Integral Publishers in 2012.[31] In 2012, he published Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment with a foreword written by Wilber.[32] It won a 2012 USA Best Book Awards in Spirituality: General category.[33]


While in Israel, Gafni hosted Tahat Gafno (Hebrew: תחת גפנו‎, lit.'under his vine'), a television program broadcast on Israel's Channel 2.[3] Gafni also did a series of weekly television spots with Israeli comedian Gil Kopatch on biblical wisdom for every day life.[34]

Sexual assault allegations[edit]

Gafni has been accused of sexual assault multiple times dating back to the 1980s.[1][6][13][29]

In early January 2016, Judy Mitzner alleged that she was one of two teenage girls whom Gafni molested in New York City in 1986.[35] She reiterated those claims on an appearance on the Dr. Phil show of January 19, 2018, in which Gafni also appeared.[36] Mitzner was 16 and Gafni was 24 and he was her Jewish Youth Leader at the time.[37]

In January 2016, an unnamed woman wrote that she was married to Gafni from 1999 to 2004 in an opinion piece in The Times of Israel. The article was in response to a New York Times article about Gafni the preceding week.[6] She catalogued what she described as her story of abuse and wrote that she had gone public to "Protect some girl. Protect some woman. Some student. Some unsuspecting soul."[38]

Within two weeks of the publication of the piece in The Times of Israel, Sara Kabakov revealed in The Forward that she was the other formerly unnamed teenage girl who had been abused by Gafni in the early 1980s, beginning when she was thirteen years old.[39] Gafni commented, "she was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her."[7] In a subsequent article, The Forward published Gafni's response together with the analysis of sexual abuse experts.[8] Gafni included polygraph results to support his claim that his relationship with Kabakov was consensual.[40][41] Afterwards, Kabakov responded to Gafni's comments and reiterated her claim that the relationship was not consensual.[42] In February 2017, the National Coalition for Men published an article by Gafni in which he defended himself, calling the allegations "a long-standing smear campaign".[43] This accusation was also addressed on the Dr. Phil episode of January 19, 2018.[36]

In 2006, after he moved to Israel, Gafni was accused by five women who attended the Bayit Hadash (Hebrew: בית חדש‎, lit.'new home') spiritual center in Jaffa, which Gafni opened in the late 1990s.[44] Gafni acknowledged relationships with some of the women.[13] However, he characterized the relationships as consensual and supported his claim by posting polygraph results on his website.[45] Because of the allegations, and because Gafni fled the country to avoid prosecution,[14][20] he was dismissed from Bayit Hadash,[46] which closed within days.[47] Back in the United States, Gafni sent a remorseful letter to his congregation saying he regretted his actions and... "Clearly all of this and more indicates that in these regards I am sick. I need to acknowledge that sickness and to get help for it."[48][46][49] Gafni later claimed the letter was not an admission of guilt but an attempt to cool the controversy.[50]

Gafni was the subject of new allegations of sexual misconduct in 2011.[29] As a result, Integral Life, one of Gafni's promoters, deleted his contributions from its website and announced that it was distancing itself from him.[29] Tami Simon, CEO of Sounds True, canceled her planned publication of Gafni's book, Your Unique Self, and issued a statement denouncing him.[51] The board of directors of the Center for World Spirituality, an organization co-founded by Gafni and of which he is CEO, issued a statement of "unequivocal support" for Gafni.[52] Wilber first separated from Gafni,[53] but the two eventually reconciled and Wilber rejoined Gafni at the Center for World Spirituality.[54] Your Unique Self was ultimately published by Integral Publishers.[55]

As a result of these allegations, a number of new-age spiritual leaders, who had previously worked with and endorsed Gafni, have publicly withdrawn their support and written a public statement disavowing themselves from him, including Deepak Chopra, Joan Borysenko, Andrew Harvey, author Jean Houston, and Stephen Dinan.[56] Additionally, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, revoked his rabbinical ordination of Gafni, stating, "It goes without saying that I withdraw my support of the Smikhah he obtained from me by deceiving me concerning his past unethical behavior. It is null and void."[57][58]


  • 1999 A Certain Spirit {Vadai}: Re-Defining Certainty
  • 1999 Uncertainty {Safek}: Reclaiming the Spirituality of Uncertainty
  • 2002 Soul Prints: Your Path to Fulfillment ISBN 978-0743417006
  • 2002 Seelenmuster ISBN 978-3442216062
  • 2003 The Mystery of Love ISBN 978-0743442206
  • 2005 Who is Afraid of Lilith? Rereading the Kabbalah of the Feminine Shadow
  • 2006 The Erotic and the Holy ISBN 978-1591792895
  • 2012 Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment ISBN 978-1467522779
  • 2012 Radical Kabbalah ISBN 978-1467522748
  • 2014 Loving Your Way to Enlightenment ISBN 978-1502305145
  • 2014 Tears: Reclaiming Ritual, Integral Religion, and Rosh Hashanah ISBN 978-0989682749
  • 2014 Self in Integral Evolutionary Mysticism ISBN 978-0989682787
  • 2014 Your Unique Self: An Integral Path to Success 3.0 ISBN 978-0990441939


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  34. ^ Kopatch, Gil (June 2, 2005). "Why Am I Not a Buddhist?". Haaretz. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
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  41. ^ Barland, Gordon H. (December 14, 2007). "Report of Polygraph Examination: Marc Gafni" (PDF). Retrieved December 28, 2016. ... this was a poor issue for the polygraph. The polygraph is believed to be most accurate when a person denies committing a specific physical act.,, It would be more appropriate to examine Sarah as to whether she had written a letter, than him as to whether he had read it. More importantly, testing on the contents of a letter received nearly 30 years ago is inappropriate because memory is easily modified over time – often significantly – based on additional knowledge and experience... We agreed that if he wished to be tested on this issue, I would have to include a caveat to the effect that because of the complexity of the issue, one could not have as much confidence in the results...Conclusion It is my professional opinion that Mr. Gafni answered the relevant questions truthfully. Because of the nearly three decades that have elapsed since Ms. Kabakow's letter would have been received, confidence in this conclusion is necessarily somewhat less than would otherwise be the case.
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