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A voice for Gafni’s victims, from one who was there

Laying bare her painful 2-decade chronicle: 'We have all failed.... We were blinded by the lime-lit glitz of his wit'
"Dear God, May the lessons be learned. May the victims know healing. May the nightmares end." (Shutterstock)
"Dear God, May the lessons be learned. May the victims know healing. May the nightmares end." (Shutterstock)

There are scores of us. Most of us silent. Most of us not wanting our names uttered aloud, thrown around like dice or like darts. Not wanting to reawaken this sleeping giant of a trauma. We have moved on, after all. And what good would it do anyway?

But what if it could? Do good, that is.

Protect some girl.

Protect some woman. Some student. Some unsuspecting soul.

What if writing my story of abuse could save someone else from having to write theirs?

Tonight is New Years Eve, the night we got married nearly two decades ago.

Sharing this chronicle is my anti-anniversary present – to myself. To use, hopefully for the good, something that was so bad.

I share it with a prayer for all the other victims. The silent ones, the screaming ones.

Praying for my abusive ex

May 1996: (Age 21) Please God, there is this man, a Rabbi, no less. He is quite simply the most dynamic drop-dead kosher sexy rock-star Rabbi I have ever met. He just quoted Nietzsche, Jerry Garcia and Rebbe Nachman in one class. AND he’s single. Okay, he’s been married….Twice. With 3 kids. And he’s 15 years older than me…But….he’s perfect. He’s brilliant. And I like him. I mean, I really like him. God, please, let him like me.

September 1998: Thank you thank you thank you God. It happened. He likes me. In fact, he loves me. He asked me to marry him! And after only 4 months of dating. He says once we’re married then finally he will be accepted in the Orthodox world again. Once we are married his enemies will stop hounding him. Once we are married I can help him become the great man he is destined to be.

December 1998: Please God give me guidance. Just heard from a concerned friend that he slept with one of his old girlfriends while I was out of town. And others have come up to me warning me about him. Saying the most awful things. The.most.awful.things. He insists they are mere spiteful rumors. He’s done teshuva. For me. I can help him be a better man. Please God give me guidance. The wedding is in 3 weeks…

July 1999: Please God give me strength. I am working so hard, but I need to work harder. My holy husband and I are sculpting this glorious vision — of Jewish Renaissance, of reconnecting people to Israel, to their souls. I am swamped with research, book-writing, hosting, cooking, cleaning, flyers, gigs. Giving everything I’ve got to move this mission forward. He says I have a rosh-katan — a small head. I need to see the big picture and work harder. Help me to help him…

June 2001: Dear God, life is thrilling. He has a television show. His book is a best seller. I poured my soul into writing it with him and look what an impact it has had. But the more things grow, the more the work grows. The more his temper grows. He berates me daily. Whenever I neglect to tell people about his accomplishments he accuses me of being unsupportive & selfish. I forget an email and he explodes into a rage. Yelling relentlessly, shoving things. He pulled out a chair from under me. He rants until I crawl up into a small ball on the bed and weep. Please God help me learn how to handle his rages. Help me to be a better wife. Please…

January 2002: Dear God, I’m confused. He has this “teaching partner”. He spends all of his time with her. I don’t like the energy between them. I have pleaded with him to stop working with her. He refuses. Claims I am being jealous, needy. I asked if they are having an affair. He went off into a loud round of denial. Says I am insecure, delusional. Please God, help me stop being so jealous, so sad, so needy.

Oxford, May 2003: Please God, help me. I am sick….often. I am having these migraine headaches. My skull is exploding. I can’t breathe. My chest is sealed shut. I am a shell. When I go outside people come up to me rambling about how my husband is sleeping with this woman who comes to his classes. He promises me it’s all lies. All I know is that I am hurting, God. Physically, emotionally, mentally. I am not well. Please God let these headaches end.

March 2004: Please God, give me guidance. He admitted to the Oxford affair. Finally. Promises me it was just this one, it will never happen again. Promises me it will be different now. We have Bayit Chadash – this beautiful spiritual center by the ocean. We have built this precious community of students. I have invested all of myself into nurturing this mission. It would all fall to pieces if I left. Please God give me clarity.

October 2004: Please God, just keep him away from me. I made the cut. Left Israel. Left the Center. Left him. Got a quiet get of divorce. He’s begging me to keep it a secret. There’s another damning article coming out against him. He insists that if I share that we are divorced, then all that we worked so hard to build will be destroyed. Fine, this one last thing. Just please let him stop barraging me with those long pleading emails. Keep him away from me.

October 2005: Please God, keep this going. This feels good, this being on my own. I am loving California. It’s like a therapeutic post-divorce Xanadu. I am breathing again. I am me. My eyes have been opened to the madness of these past seven years. I am no longer keeping his secrets. No longer doubting my own senses. I see my own wounds, my shadow, my poor choices. Dear God, at least let me help other women lest they end up like I did.

May 2006: Thank you God, the truth is finally out. And big. A group of women from Bayit Chadash finally got together. They have gone to the police. Finally speaking out loud and clear about how this charlatan is a predator. A manipulator. A sociopath. A danger. Finally I am getting confirmation of the many, unbelievably many affairs he had while married to me. From the “teaching partner” to the millionaire funder to this student and that student and another. He has fled the country…ousted from the Jewish world. Finally and entirely. Thank you God, he won’t be able to hurt any more women. Never again.

Jan. 2007: Please God help me to prioritize the right things in a partner this time. I don’t want an external “success story” that dissolves into dismal failure. I don’t want fame. I want an honest man, with integrity, with depth. A man who can communicate, who can empathize. A man to raise children with. I think I found him. Please God help me to value the gold, not the glitter.

May 2009: Thank you God for this good man, this mensch I have married. He is grounded. He is a loving father. Our house is stable and THIS is sacred. We talk about our feelings. We work through our challenges. We learn together. We work together. He lets me be myself. I let me be myself. Please God just stop the nightmares. The ones where my ex is back in my bed. With his hands on my neck. Why does he continue to assault me in my dreams?

October 2011: Dear God, a new crop of victims have emerged…again. Same stories, new cities. Abusing power, abusing women. Now in the New Age world. God help them. Please protect those easily-beguiled souls. Like me. The ones “consensually” seduced by his badgering brilliance. Protect the ones who only want to see the light, who deny the darkness until they are its easiest prey. Help them do their due diligence. Let their leaders see through the “brilliance” to the rot beneath.

Dec 25, 2015: Dear God, I have just read this New York Times article. About him and his latest lunge to power. The sick tale retold, again, decades later. How can it be that there is zero condemnation in this spineless article? Just quotes of excuse from high-power supporters. Just the last word given to the abuser. Just another free pass to the genius caught with his pants down. I am furious for the bruised dozens of victims. Furious for my nightmares that still won’t end. Please God protect us from the smiling sociopaths whose hands drip with candy.

Dec 31, 2015: Age 41 – Please God, help MG undo himself. Let his inner demon loosen his grip. Let it end already. For the sake of his victims, past and future, for the sake of his own broken inner-innocence.

For the sake of that sprite of a child I saw glimpses of way back when, in old family photos. The one with a broken home. The one who inherited the Holocaust in his bones. Before all the mania, the masochism, before the sex addiction set in. Please God help that shivering boy escape all this.

And help the rest of us – his victims, his critics, and even his hoodwinked supporters. We have all failed. We failed by praising his genius while ignoring his demons. We failed by giving him free passes instead of limited access. We were blinded by the lime-lit glitz of his wit, his intelligence. We failed by upholding societal standards of “success” that are simply cancerous. We failed by honoring the powerful while silencing the victims.

It is exactly twenty years since I uttered my first prayer for this man. We were married on New Year’s Eve, the very day I share this.
May the circle be full and finished now.

Putting this two-decade chronicle into print is a risk for me.
Everyone who cares about me is begging me to just “Keep quiet”.
And yet I can’t. So, in honor of them, I leave out my name.
But in honor of the victims I share my story.

Yes, there is a risk to writing this “aloud.” But there is also a risk to staying silent, staying safe. Twenty years and untold numbers of victims later, I have learned that staying safe can also be risky business.

One last prayer

So this final prayer, I type aloud. And may it be all the better heard, heeded and answered because it has been shared:

Dear God, may this man’s access end. May his abuses be made impossible because of the diligent campaigns of protest being launched right now. May the lessons be learned. May the victims know healing. May the nightmares end.

(Please join me in working to make this prayer real by signing this petition.)

The writer was married to Marc Gafni from 1999 to 2004.
Author photo via Shutterstock.

About the Author
The writer was married to Marc Gafni from 1999 to 2004.