I'm writing to bring attention and sound a serious warning about what are, in my opinion, deceptions taking place around the movie RiseUp, which has been enrolling many trusted leaders and has begun a major fundraising campaign at Generosity.
I strongly urge you to educate yourself and others and consider boycotting this movie due to the participation of Marc Gafni, who appears to be using credible authors, speakers, musicians, and business leaders to establish a socially-acceptable front.
Gafni has been the subject of more than 35 recent articles in the press that describe a very troubling history, some of which are included below.
In January, more than 100 of the most respected rabbis and cultural leaders in the Jewish world came together in a Change.org petition to give a very strong warning of the danger Gafni poses. They said, "Marc Gafni has left a trail of pain, suffering, and trauma amongst the people and congregations who were unfortunate to have trusted him." As further support to their statement, more than 3400 other signatories from all periods of Gafni's life signed as well, many with extensive comments.
I strongly recommend reading the petition, as well as 75 of the comments on the petition that share many terrible first-hand accounts. It's also valuable to watch the video testimony of Gafni's third wife, and Rabbi Ingber.
These accounts state that, in the Jewish world, Gafni went through many congregations and changed his name several times, trailed by allegations of sexual abuse, plagiarism, lying, financial misdoings and more.
In more recent circles, the allegations of misdoings have continued, leading many to break with him completely (Terry Patten's article is a great example).
In January, I joined with 33 other respected authors and leaders including Deepak Chopra, Jean Houston, Andrew Harvey, John Robbins, and Joan Borysenko to publicly pledge not to have anything to do with Gafni or promote anything he is a part of, based on our direct or indirect knowledge of the harm he has caused others.
It's important for speakers in the movie or those promoting it to know that, perhaps unbeknownst to them, by participating in this film they may be directly giving more power, influence, and money to this man and his close collaborators.
In my opinion, it is deceptive that Gafni's presence has been removed from the movie's fundraising sites, even though it has been co-envisioned, written, and co-produced by Gafni, according to his own website at the Center for Integral Wisdom (see screenshot here if removed at the original link, where you'll need to scroll way down). The text reads:
Rise Up Movie from the Success 3.0 Summit With Michael Bernard Beckwith, Marc Gafni, Barbara Marx Hubbard and special Guests John Mackey, Tony Robbins, and Hillary Swank, and interviews with speakers and guests of the summit. Directed by Michael-Shaun Conaway, co-envisioned and written by Marc Gafni, co-produced by Kate Maloney, Alex Melnyk and Marc Gafni
It appears that the RiseUp production team is now minimizing or hiding Gafni's role during the fundraising and enrollment process for leaders.
However, RiseUp has long been listed as a project of Gafni's Center for Integral Wisdom, of which he is clearly the primary founder and leader (see New York Times article). They also announced via email on April 6, 2016 that Success 3.0, the in-person Summit in which Gafni played the leading speaking role, was rebranding into RiseUp.
Plus, there is an upcoming event announced on the Center's website in which Gafni's bio includes the following line: "Marc is also the initiating visionary and co-director of the Success 3.0 Summit and RiseUP."
In addition, there are Facebook pictures posted on March 15, 2015, by Gafni's close ally and Board member Chahat Corten (original post, reprinted here) that discuss filming the movie and that show Gafni clearly in a director's role as well as being filmed himself. There is also an old trailer of RiseUp in which Gafni is featured (see minute 1:34) and a place where he mentions his work on the movie in a voice recording leaked to the Forward (see minute 7:50 here).
In addition to the publicly available facts, there was also a leak of information from the most recent Center for Integral Wisdom Board meeting. I was informed through an ally that they explicitly discussed that the strategy for the movie and Summit would be for Gafni to call the shots from behind the scenes, then appear as a "surprise guest" at the Summit that will follow the movie (if not be in the movie himself).
The reason all of the above is important is that Gafni has been called a "New Age Cosby" in the Huffington Post. Several women have come forward publicly with detailed stories alleging sexual abuse when they were minors (Sara Kabakov and Judy Mitsner). He's been accused by the former mayor of Salt Lake City of plagiarism. Major recent articles about him have addressed other serious allegations in the New York Times, New York Daily News, Alternet, Forward, Tablet, Jewish Week, and many more.
One noteworthy piece was called "In Recorded Conversation, Gafni Considers Strategy Against His Critics" and consisted of an accidental leak of a recording to the Forward in which Gafni, his lawyer, and his PR person discussed which news organization to sue to send a warning to others.
I have personally spoken at length with 9 victims from Gafni's past and I'm aware of more than a dozen others by name, most of whom are scared to share publicly, some because of threats. Hearing their reports of trauma has been truly awful to witness.
These survivors have told me that Gafni is masterful at deceptive seduction and then exerting varying degrees of mental control over people, which includes getting people to lie for him. One survivor quoted him as saying, "I don't bring anyone into my system that I can't control." These survivors report that when he first meets someone he can be quite charming, intelligent, and winning but soon finds a weak spot or a blind spot with which he can manipulate them over time. This behavior is typical of sociopaths, a diagnosis that has been commonly applied to him.
In addition to the above, there are other things I believe are deceptions as well.
Arianna Huffington was initially used as one of the top headliners in the movie and for their February 2017 Summit, which was initially advertised on the fundraising page (since taken down). It turns out Arianna had not given authorization to use her name and "had no idea that they were using her name as a participant for their February 2017 Summit" according to her press team. Her office issued the following statement to Mark Oppenheimer, the author of the New York Times and Tablet articles, who tweeted it out: "Arianna does not...have an affiliation w/ Marc Gafni or with this movie. She was not aware that her name was being used to help raise money for this."
RiseUp subsequently removed Arianna from the campaign but RiseUp had nonetheless already raised over $250K while using her name without her knowledge or consent. Arianna is still listed in the online Forbes profile on the film, so she was clearly being used as a major headliner.
Additionally, the movie is raising money as a non-profit "cause" on Generosity, a site created by Indiegogo specifically for humanitarian projects and thus one in which the usual Indiegogo fees are waived. There has been, to date, nothing on the fundraising page about what organization is the actual recipient of the funds. The lack of disclosure around what is clearly an engine for generating a lot of money with little discernible philanthropic purpose is troubling to me.
When fundraising began, it was interesting to note their $250K "goal" was reached on the first day with fewer than 100 contributors. In fact, the very first contributor was for $100K (anonymous), the third was from Alex Morton for $30K (since marked private), and the fifth was for $75K (from anonymous). Based on the number of people getting different prize levels, it appears that the second, fourth, and sixth contributions (all marked private), likely included at least one contribution above $50K and another above $20K. In other words, it appears to me that approximately $275K came on the first day from five individual contributors, in all likelihood from the first six contributions based on the number of other private contributions.
That was, in my view, intended to give the illusion of a big "success" in online fundraising by having their major funders put in $275K right away and artificially reach their initial $250K "goal" even though there were under 100 contributors overall.
The people whose good names and reputations are being used as the public face of the RiseUp movie need to know the above.
In my opinion, RiseUp does not warrant your support on any level and will be damaging to be involved with in any way, giving Marc Gafni a major financial and promotional platform for his next moves.
I strongly encourage you to boycott this film and to do what you can to educate your friends and allies as well.
I realize that I will likely attract attacks from Gafni and his allies (probably even those I have been friends with) by writing this article but I feel strongly about people fully educating themselves about Marc Gafni before deciding to support this film.