And The Awareness Center blog has disclosed that one of these suspected Jewish sex predators has taken up residence in Salt Lake City. The individual has been identified as Marc Gafni, and the Awareness Center's documentation of his case can be found HERE. Here is a YouTube video providing a brief snapshot of this individual:
Further investigation revealed that one local media outlet was aware of this issue. I had forgotten that the Salt Lake City Weekly covered this in July 2008 in this post on their Salt Blog (I actually posted a comment to it, but forgot to follow up on this blog):
Anyone read the July Catalyst's "Trial by Internet"/Marc Gafni piece? It's about a New Agey defrocked rabbi with a long history of sexual peccadilloes ("unconventional" and "bohemian" is how he prefers to describe his personal life). Two years ago, he "retreated" to Utah and lately managed to enlist editor/publisher Greta deJong, blogger Jeff Bell and even former SLC Mayor Rocky Anderson to rise to his defense and explain how how he isn't a sexual predator.
He claims that Internet bloggers of questionable character have placed him in their cross hairs and ruined his life.
Sexual improprieties have dogged Gafni since he was 19, when he allegedly became involved with a 13 year old. The Catalyst article characterizes the relationship as no more than "petting," and "mutually engaged." However, in a 2004 Jewish Week article by editor Gary Rosenblatt, Gafni explained his involvement by essentially blaming the girl: "I was a stupid kid and we were in love. She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her".
Thirteen? Fourteen? That type of behavior earns you a spot on Utah's sex offender registry.
In fairness to Gafni, he does issue a lengthy rebuttal on his website, in which he promotes something called "Evolutionary Spirituality". However, he starts out by attacking the credibility of Dr. Vicki Polin, claiming that she was involved in some "Satanic" cult in her past. But Dr. Polin packs some rather imposing credentials; here's a brief description of her background:
Vicki Polin is the founder and executive director of The Awareness Center. Vicki is a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in the state of Illinois and is a Board Certified Art Therapist. She has an undergraduate degree in Women's Studies from Roosevelt University, and a Masters Degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Vicki also attended Neve Yerushalayim School of General Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, Israel and The Etz Chaim Center For Jewish Learning, Baltimore, MD.
Vicki has been working in the trauma field (specializing in sexual violence) for just under twenty-five years. Her experience includes working with individuals, families and groups who have experienced emotional, physical, and sexual abuse/assault, domestic violence, survivors of violent crimes, survivors of political torture, holocaust survivors/children of holocaust survivors, chemical dependency and other addictions, and bereavement issues. She has worked with both adults and children using a broad approach, which includes verbal, art, play, and other creative therapies.
The fact that Gafni starts out his rebuttal by attacking someone with such impressive credentials seriously hinders his credibility. Others in the Jewish community, including Jewschool.com, have also spoken out against Gafni.
But Judaism itself may provide an explanation for the equivocal attitude so many rabbis take regarding sex with underage persons. This does NOT come from the Torah, which, as actual scripture, is the respectable face of Judaism. Instead, it originates in the Talmud, which represents the darker, less-understood face of Judaism. You can view the index to the full Talmud HERE and subsequently read its contents.
One website highlights questionable passages in the Talmud which give the appearance of official sanction of sex with underage persons. Consider the following verse:
"GEMARA. … R. Joseph said: Come and hear! A maiden aged three years and a day may be acquired in marriage by coition, and if her deceased husband's brother cohabits with her, she becomes his". — Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 55b, Soncino 1961 Edition, page 376. This statement also appears in Tractate Sanhedrin 69a, Soncino 1961 Edition, page 469. Here is a 10-minute YouTube video in which Michael Hoffman addresses numerous concerns about the Talmud:
However, a Jewish source claims that the cited verses should not be interpreted as official Jewish sanction of pedophilia, claiming that the rabbis who argue different questions in the Talmud are engaging in ex post facto "what if" discussions.
Nevertheless, one can see how the Talmud, with its complexity, could be easily misinterpreted to give sanction to various practices without necessarily intending to do so. The Jewish religious intelligentsia would be more productively engaged to clarify the status of the Talmud and to provide a better explanation of its contradictions rather than dog the LDS Church about vicarious baptism or haul down nativity scenes.