This item is a repost of a material first posted on Jewish Survivors back in June 27, 2006. It can be found at the following link:
(Third Wife) Gafni Email Deposition
May 9th , 2006
The following is my personal testimony of what it was like to be married to Mordechai for almost 7 years. I share what I have known of Mordechai’s drastic and tragic dark side. I focus upon the shadow aspects of our marriage and his personality, for I believe they are crucial to share, given what has unfolded in these past weeks. Please keep in mind that I could also write pages worth of testimony about the light side of Mordechai – from the beauty of his teachings to his ardent dedication to making a contribution in the world and helping others. May his light side and his dark side know full integration.
Also, while you can pass this testimony on to other concerned parties, please do not share it with the press. I do not want my name to appear in the press. Thanks.
Background: I was 19 years old when I first encountered Mordechai I was studying in Jerusalem the summer after my freshman year of college. I was an eager baalat-teshuva, newly “turned on” to the beauty of Jewish practice. I devotedly went to his classes at Isralight and other venues. We went on our first date the spring after I graduated college. I was 23 and star-struck.
He was 15 years my senior. We got married at the beginning of 1998, less than 8 months after our first date. Several people warned me about Mordechai’s past. He adamantly insisted that the bulk of the rumors were lies, exaggerations and the evil workings of other people’s jealousies. I believed him.
He actually told me early on about some of his sexual misdemeanors as well as affairs he had on his 2nd wife. He assured me that he had done teshuva, changed, and that things with me would be different. I was all too ready to believe this as well Plus I thought that I could help him, fix him; that my love could help him become the great man he had the potential to be. As soon as we started seriously dating, he pulled me into working for him full-time on writing and organizational projects. I was dedicated to his “mission” of Jewish Rennaissance and gave it all of my time and energy.
His emotional abuse and manipulations began immediately upon our marriage. But I was so dedicated to the mission that I withstood it. The years that followed were a strange mix of great excitement, activity and purpose, as well as huge despair, confusion and pain. On the outside I seemed to be living a fairy tale of success and contribution. Behind closed doors I was living a life of enslavement, debasement, manipulation and verbal abuse. On top of the abuse, Mordechai was having more than one affair on me; 1ying to me on a daily basis.
Finally, I started to see through the fog of falsehoods. Fled Israel in February of 2004, only to be lured back in June, 2004 by Mordechai’s promises of change and commitment. But nothing changed. By early August of 2004 I finally demanded and received a divorce.
Soon thereafter, Mordechai came “under attack” by his enemies in America. In the fall of 2004, articles about his sexual misconduct and questionable reputation came out in America and Israel. He begged me to keep our divorce a secret until all of this bad press died down. I reluctantly agreed – mostly because I believed that the work that was going on at Bayit Chadash was valuable and I did not want to jeopardize it. Mordechai lied to the reporters and all who asked, saying that we were still married. He even lied to the Rabbinic supporters who helped wage a campaign to protect him. Mordechai refused to publicly tell the truth about our divorce until Pesach of 2005 (March/April). I am ashamed to admit that I was manipulated in to also remaining silent and covering up to protect him, as I had done myriad times during our marriage.
Now that I see the damage that Mordechai has caused in so many people’s lives I deeply regret that I did not speak out earlier about the abuse that I suffered at his hands. I also deeply regret that I did not speak out about the countless lies and manipulations that I witnessed him engage in on a regular basis. I sorely regret that I led people to believe that we had a good marriage when in actuality it was most often a hell. I have been studying, practicing and engaging in psychotherapy these past two years since I left Mordechai. The more I have learned – and now that I have beard the stories of what has happened with other women – it is now utterly clear to me that Mordechai is a dangerous sexual predator and sociopath. He hurt me in deplorable ways and I fear that he will continue to hurt others if he is not stopped. I pray that my speaking out now can help to thwart any and all future abuse at his hands.
1. Information about Sexual Abuse Molestation of a Minor:
Before we got married, Mordechai shared with me that he had indeed had a sexual encounter with a minor. Her name was (Name Withheld) – a teenager who was in his JYPSY youth movement He explained to me details of their encounter and how he went about covering it up and discrediting her. He told me that she had seduced him. He said that they did not have intercourse, but that they had at least been undressed, sexually physical and that he had ejaculated. After (Name withheld) reported this, he lied to everyone involved, saying that she was emotionally unstable, jealous and had made it all up. He even received a document signed by a Rabbi attesting to his innocence. (Name withheld) was under-age, a student of his, and were it not for the statute of limitations, he could go to jail over this.
2. Mordechai also told me stories about various teachers and staff people connected with Yeshiva University with whom he had struggles. He told me how he blackmailed a teacher (one of his “enemies” at YU) who tried to block him from studying teaching there after the (Name withheld) incident He had information about this particular man and threatened to share it if the man continued to try to block him. The man stayed quiet
3. Adultery Lying:
He also told me of several affairs that he had in Boca Raton while married to his second wife. These affairs were with women in his Congregation (the name of one woman was XXX XXX). At least one of them was a married woman (whose name I don’t recall, though I can find it). There was a scandal at the synagogue over rumors about his sexual misconduct I do not think that his second wife ever found out about these affairs. They eventually left Boca to move to Israel I believe that the main reason for this was that he needed to flee before people found out the truth (though he never framed it that way).
4. Adultery Lying:
One of the reasons (among many) that I divorced Mordechai was because he had an affair while we were studying in Oxford. It was with a woman named XXXXXX at Wolfson College. He lied to me on a virtually daily basis to cover up this affair. This went on for approximately 10 months (from December 2002 – Sept 2003). It was an agonizing time for me even though I did not consciously know what was happening. I finally convinced him to tell me the truth about the affair when we left Oxford and moved back to Israel. I was devastated, and realized that all of my hopes that he was a “changed man” were baseless fantasies.
5. Adultery Lying:
I also was racked with suspicion that he was having another affair – with his “teaching partner”, [Erica Ariel Fox]. On countless occasions I begged him to stop teaching with her and to pull back from their “friendship”. He refused. Also on countless occasions I point blank asked him if they were having an affair. In response, he consistently told me how crazy, jealous and insecure I was. I have finally found out that they were indeed intimate with each other while we were married, as well as after. (All of this went on between 2002 until our divorce in August of 2004). I also have heard that he had affairs with two other women while we were together – one a young woman in Israel and the other in America.
6. Debasing Sexuality:
Mordechai was consistently verbally demeaning to me, particularly when we were having sex. While we were being intimate, he would demand that I repeat, “I am a whore.” I reluctantly went along with this at first. Eventually I refused to say it. Over the last two years that we were together I would go to bed absolutely dreading the possibility of having sex with him. Additionally, he viewed pornography on a regular basis; including paying money to have memberships to certain sites. Eventually his computer and email were so full of pornography that he paid tens of hundreds of dollars to get it cleaned, for fear that someone may see it and that he would lose his job. I understand from formal depositions made with lawyers and the police in Israel that he had much more “extreme” sexual interactions with other women after our divorce; which involved a lot of S&M and also played heavily on themes of debasement.
7. Stealing Intellectual Property:
Mordechai used other people’s stories/teaching (making slight changes) without attributing them properly. (The story in Soulprints about Eitan giving him a soulprint box was, for instance, based upon a story in one of Robert Fulghum’s books.) Furthermore, I worked full time on both books “Soul Prints” and “The Mystery of Love”. There are entire sections of these books which I myself wrote – with no public recognition given as to the depth and breadth of my contribution. Just a few of the numerous examples of this are the poem/invocation at the beginning of “Soul Prints”, as well as the Parable of the Royal Wine in ”The Mystery of Love”. I insisted that I wanted at least these pieces to be attributed to me. He refused Seeing I had no real choice, I gave in in the end and allowed the pieces to be used without attribution.
8. Verbal Abuse & Emotional Manipulation:
This was a constant throughout our marriage. I have pages and pages of journal entries describing entire scenes and dialogues full of emotional abuse. His yelling explosions, full of demeaning putdowns and blame, were virtually a daily occurrence. I eventually stopped fighting back and would just dissolve in tears after each explosion. He needed to always be right, always in control. If I didn’t agree with him on something then he would burst into a rage and tell me how stupid I was. But more than that, he would tell me how unloving, insensitive and selfish I was. Convincing me that I was the evil, selfish, unloving one was one of his most powerful tools of manipulation. He capitalized on my natural desire to be loving and giving. My goodness was a knife in his hands with which he daily carved his sick designs into me. I was utterly bewildered by his manipulations; the way he would turn everything around and make me the bad one. These turn arounds rendered me powerless time and again. In fact, I was so distraught by the nature of his putdowns and manipulations that I had regular fantasies of doing violent and suicidal acts against myself. My most recurrent fantasy during his abusive tirades was of slashing my throat. I was not “allowed” to express or feel anger towards him and so I turned all of my anger at him back upon myself. I had never in my life been suicidal before this time and since I left him I have not had suicidal or violent thoughts at all.
9. Verbal Abuse Manipulation of Others:
I witnessed Mordechai being verbally abusive and manipulative with many other people. I saw it happen most with Dafna, his main staff person, but also – tragically – also saw it with his Sons, most particularly (NAME REMOVED). I found his neglectful and insensitive treatment of his sons to be deplorable. I could go in to greater detail about this but will refrain out of respect for bow hard all of this must be for them. Seeing him with his sons was another big factor in my wanting a divorce. The thought of him mistreating any future children that we would have was just terrifying to me.
As I mentioned above, Mordechai lied about our divorce and other essential issues to the numerous Rabbis who supported him when he was being attacked in the press and at various teaching institutions. The Rabbis he lied pointblank to include R’Danny Landes, R’Joseph Telushkin, R’Art Green, R’Eli Herscher and R’Saul Bennan, as well as others. He likewise lied to the press and the entire Bayit Chadash community and Board. (He was so efficient and convincing a liar that I view all of his supporters – from the Rabbis to the Ner-David family to the Jewish Renewal Movement at large – as victims of his pathology. I strongly believe that they should not be held responsible for ‘covering up’ his misdeeds. I believe they all did the work to find out the truth, but the truth was too elusive.)
11. Exaggerations :
Beyond the examples above I witnessed Mordechai lying routinely in most every type of setting. Whether it was in a speech, at dinner with friends, teaching. or in talking to donors. He was consistently aggrandizing himself by exaggerating his successes, popularity, power and connections. He would get furious with me when I myself did not join in on telling these inflated stories about him; saying that I was selfish and unloving for not also telling these tales. Time and again he falsely claimed to be a spiritual holy person. During his writings and teachings he would claim to pray, meditate, exercise, eat healthy, etc. None of which he did in the least. He led entire meditation retreats without ever having meditated himself. In my opinion, all of his frequent claims to spiritual enlightenment were (and are still) dangerously misleading fabrications.
12. Psychological Sickness :
I think it is crucial to share that based on all that I have known of Mordechai I see that he clearly has two psychological disorders which are evident and expressed in numerous ways. The most obvious is a narcissistic personality disorder. He exhibited the following characteristics which correlate with the DMS-IV diagnosis of narcissism. In the DMS, at least 5 of the following attributes are requires for diagnosis. Mordechai exhibits them all. I could give numerous examples in each category, but will refrain for lack of space and because they are just so very obvious to anyone who knows Mordechai.):
a. has a grandiose sense of self-importance – exaggerates achievements and talents.
b. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power and brilliance.
c. Believes that he is “special” and unique and can only associate with other special or high-status people or institutions.
d. Requires excessive admiration
e. Has a sense of entitlement – expecting especially favorable treatment or compliance with his expectations
f. Is interpersonally exploitative; taking advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
g. Is envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
h. Lacks empathy; is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
i. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
As for the antisocial (or sociopathic) personality disorder. He exhibits the following of the criteria for the DSM (of which 3 are needed for diagnosis):
a. failure to confirm to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors (such as his sexual harassment in the workplace and sleeping with students and employees)
b. deceitfulness, repeated lying
c. irritability and aggressiveness (as is known by anyone who has ever worked under Mordechai, or crossed his path politically)
d. reckless disregard for safety of self or others (such as endangering himself by juggling numerous affairs at once, given his history)
e. lack of remorse; indicated by rationalizing having hurt, or mistreated others
Unfortunately, with Axis II Personality Disorders the chances for change via treatment are extremely slim; as opposed to Axis I disorders which are considered more treatable. Mental Retardation, for example, is also on Axis II, because no amount of therapy will be able to fully ‘treat’ retardation. The same is understood for Personality Disorders – they are not entirely treatable. Thus, in my opinion, the belief that Mordechai will one day be able to return to being a teacher leader of any sort is a dangerous one. I personally (and professionally) do not think that he should be “allowed” to return to any such roles at any point in the future. A tragic loss, perhaps, but in the end we as a culture and as a people need to reassess the traits that we value and pull forth from our leaders. May this whole fiasco pave the way for new standards of humility, sincerity and a genuine care for others.