UPDATE (April 7, 4:30 p.m.): We have added a response from the Center for Integral Wisdom denying Mackey’s resignation. We have also noted that Gafni no longer admits to having a “sickness” and has disavowed a 2006 letter he signed, saying it was written under pressure.
(JTA) — Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey reportedly has resigned from disgraced rabbi Marc Gafni’s New Age think tank.
According to a Forward report Wednesday, Mackey has stepped down from the Center for Integral Wisdom, whose founder faces multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, including from a woman who says he repeatedly sexually abused her when she was 13.
In an email to JTA, a spokesman for the Center for Integral Wisdom denied that Mackey had resigned, saying he merely completed his term as board chair.
In December, nearly 3,500 people signed an online petition calling on Mackey, who served as chairman of the executive board of the think tank, and other prominent board members to cut their ties to the controversial rabbi.
Mackey has not issued any statement explaining his decision to step down.
For a time seen as a charismatic teacher of Torah, Gafni was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi, but eventually stopped identifying as Orthodox. Many former rabbinic colleagues disowned him after his alleged sexual misconduct became public.
After initial allegations surfaced that he had been involved with a 13-year-old as a young rabbinical student, Gafni, then known as Mordechai Winiarz, left for Israel. He later returned to the United States, re-emerging in Utah as a practitioner of a kabbalah-inspired philosophy called evolutionary spirituality. More recently, Gafni moved to California and founded the Center for Integral Wisdom.
Gafni signed a letter in 2006 in which he acknowledged improper behavior, attributing it to a “sickness” that he vowed to treat. However, more recently he has stepped back from the letter, saying he wrote it under pressure. He has denied accusations that he committed criminal offenses.