Accountability and transparency within our institutions and leadership.
posted by jewishwhistleblower @ 1:55 AM
TV storm over Madonna Kabbalah "sect" Birmingham PostJanuary 14, 2005A TV documentary about a branch of Kabbalah, the mystical form of Judaism that counts Madonna among its devotees, last night showed a member suggesting that Jews died in the Holocaust because they had rejected the sect. The BBC programme also featured members of the London Kabbalah Centre trying to sell an undercover reporter bottles of "healing" water they said could help cure cancer. John Sweeney, who made the film with the help of three undercover "moles", said it threw an unflattering light on the Kabbalah Centre in London, part of an international network led by Philip Berg, based in Los Angeles. "It's a devastating indictment," he said. "The perceived view is that the Kabbalah Centre is a Hollywood craze, fluffy, a bit silly. But we found a score or more ex-members all of whom said it was a dangerous cult." The programme showed an unidentified member of the Kabbalah Centre in London on hidden camera suggesting that Jews who died in the Holocaust were at least partly to blame because they rejected the Zohar, the Kabbalah "bible". "The story is that Jews from Morocco came to Jews from Eastern Europe and offered them the Zohar and they said "no, we're not interested". They were too religious. "A few years after the Holocaust came. You know, we say there is no coincidence. So look what happened to the Jews in those places -Morocco, Iraq. Nobody touched them." The centre declined to comment, but said in a statement: "For millennia, Kabbalah has been misrepresented by some members of the community trying to discourage others from studying its wisdom." It said the centre welcomed people of all creeds to join, and invited them to find out more at an open house next week. But the leaks from the Kabbalah Centre, which has attracted some of the biggest names in showbusiness, have angered Jewish leaders, who argue that the organisation is distorting the movement's teaching.
This Madonna is not so much credible as credulous: The Kabbalah Centre, focus of faith for rich celebrities, may not have the staying power of a great world religion but it made for an entertaining programme. By ROBERT SHRIMSLEY Financial TimesJanuary 14, 2005It must presumably be the case that all religions started out as cults: one bloke who says he's got the number of God's private cellphone, a handful of dedicated followers widely scorned by everyone else, a bit of money and somewhere to preach. Over time, though, the successful ones secure enough followers and credibility to move up a league from cult to accepted faith and so on until one day - hey presto - they are one of the great religions of the world. (Incident-ally, how does a faith get to be a "great religion"? More good works? Play-offs in the lower divisions? Does Buddhism have a real promotion hope this year?) On that basis, and in the spirit of love and tolerance that has long been my hallmark, one should approach all cults with an open mind. There are, however, certain rules of thumb. Chief of these is that any group whose leader has homes in more than one continent and that relies for its credibility on the enthusiastic support of a US celebrity is probably not among the most scripturally rigorous outfits. In fairness, the last religion to place a Madonna at the centre of its appeal went on to do jolly well. But one senses that the Kabbalah Centre may not have quite the same staying power. Having worked from the starting point that anything to do with Madonna was likely to be on the funny side of the street, I had never given the Kabbalah Centre much thought. If rich idiots wanted to pour away their money on some New Age nonsense, that was, after all, their business. It was, it seemed, just another outfit specialising in diseases of the rich; you know, boredom, self-absorption and so on. Alas, the truth is rather more pernicious, as a BBC2 expose last night pretty thoroughly demonstrated. The Centre was the first target of a new series by the journalist John Sweeney, cunningly entitled Sweeney Investigates. (Sweeney - geddit?) Sweeney is a rather engaging and winning reporter, even if he does at times seem a little in love with himself, and it was hard not to be seduced by his witty demolition job. He began by separating the Centre from its supposed roots in Jewish mysticism, with learned rabbis explaining how far removed the teachings of its founder Philip Berg, a former insurance salesman, were from anything that rabbinical scholars might recognise as orthodoxy. The Bergs founded the movement in Israel, where they were in effect door-to-door salesmen peddling their own holy book. They now have centres across the world and are - who'd have thought it - fabulously wealthy. From there, and via a series of infiltrators secreted inside the organisation, Sweeney moved swiftly through the Centre's increasingly questionable activities. First there was the Kabbalah water, which goes at more than Pounds 4 a bottle. A cancer sufferer was prescribed three bottles a day. The water, it turns out, comes from a bog-standard bottling plant near Lake Ontario, in Grafton, Canada, where it is sold, unlabelled, to lots of other outfits as well. Then there are the Zohars - the key script of Kabbalah - sold in the original Aramaic at a few hundreds of pounds a go. It doesn't matter if you can't read it. Enlightenment comes just from scanning your fingers over the words. Or the famous red strings ostentatiously sported by devotees to ward off evil. These sell for Pounds 18 each and are supposedly taken from Rachel's tomb on the West Bank. But when Sweeney visited the tomb itself, traditional orthodox Jews were giving them out for free. Of course, a fool and his money are soon parted, but this is just the tip of the Centre's curious practices. Like many cults, it gets youthful enthusiasts, houses them in tiny dormitories and squeezes them for every penny they have. They are pulled away from their families and friends and turned into little more than drones for the cause. They are fed such delightful views as that the Holocaust occurred because Jews turned away from the Kabbalah, and that a child killed in a car crash brought it upon himself. The climax of the programme came when Sweeney and his crew infiltrated a get-together in Tel Aviv, for which followers had paid Pounds 900 on the promise of seeing the blessed Berg. Berg didn't bother to show up, though Madonna arrived (she wasn't giving interviews). At this event disciples lost themselves in frenzies of belief, chanting "Cheeeernobyl" to cure Russia of radiation poisoning. Incidentally, the Centre has been raising money for victims of the tsunami. Its website carries pictures from hospitals of kids with red strings. The money was used to send the survivors Zohars, which I'm sure came in very handy. The Centre barely bothered to defend itself, offering only a pretty lame statement in its defence. One can only hope this excellent investigation shows all over the world - and in all of Madonna's homes. An altogether different lost faith can be seen in the public attitude to politicians and it was supposedly to address this that ITV commissioned Vote for Me -a potentially smart idea in which the Pop Idol format was transplanted on to the search for a new MP. The winner would stand somewhere at the next election as an independent. Professional MPs were initially rather worried that all the publicity gleaned by the winner might unseat them. They need not have worried, for ITV has so little faith in its own programme that it has run at 11pm each night and will be finished by the weekend. So there will be no momentum and little audience, and by the time anyone realises it was on, it will all be over.
Wacky birthday, Guy by Emily Smith, TV Editor The SunJanuary 14, 2005Cult gives film boss the bumps FILM director Guy Ritchie is given birthday bumps - by worshippers from his wacky Kabbalah sect. Guy, watched by wife Madonna, was hurled in the air by cult chiefs in amazing scenes at a secret mass. The weird sight in Tel Aviv was captured for an undercover TV report on the movement shown on BBC2 last night. Journalist John Sweeney said: "Our mole watched stunned." Madonna, 46, and Guy, 36, right, attend a Kabbalah Centre in London. The BBC programme exposed questionable claims by the sect.
REVEALED: THE TRUTH ABOUT MADONNA CULT BY JOHN SWEENEY AND ALEXA BARACAIAThe Evening StandardJanuary 13, 2005NEW details about life inside the sect favoured by Madonna and Guy Ritchie are revealed today. An undercover investigation into the controversial Kabbalah Centre movement found a series of questionable claims by its leaders. A documentary, to be screened on BBC2 tonight, found: l 'Healing' spring water sold to followers for nearly £4 a bottle comes from a Canadian bottling plant. l One cancer sufferer was told Kabbalah water would help to cure his disease and was advised to buy a batch worth £550. l Cash raised by donors for the Asian tsunami victims is being spent on distributing Kabbalah Centre products in the devastated region. l A leading figure at the centre believes Jews killed in the Holocaust brought their downfall on themselves. l The Kabbalah Centre claims to be a not-for-profit organisation but its leaders are said to live millionaire lifestyles. There have been claims of a visit to a gambling venue and expensive plastic surgery. Three people from BBC2's Sweeney Investigates infiltrated the Kabbalah Centre, which has 40 sites around the world. The programme team interviewed senior figures in the Jewish community who denounced the Centre as a 'nefarious bunch of charlatans'. The centre promotes a mixture of ancient Jewish mysticism and pseudo-science and is led by former New York rabbi and insurance salesman Philip Berg. Pictures seen here for the first time show film director Guy Ritchie at a recent Kabbalah New Year event - known as Rosh Hashanah. Ritchie and his wife Madonna are the most high-profile followers of the Kabbalah Centre. Other celebrity followers include Demi Moore, Roseanne Barr and Melinda Messenger. Ritchie is pictured at the five-day event in Tel Aviv being given the 'birthday bumps' by dozens of fellow Kabbalists, all identically clothed in white. While the majority are seen wearing the traditional Jewish 'kippot' - or skullcap - Ritchie is pictured instead in a white cloth cap. The 2,600 followers present at the celebration also took part in a bizarre ceremony during which they chanted the name 'Chernobyl' repeatedly at a TV image of a giant rotating atom in a bid to 'reduce radioactivity' at the site of the Soviet nuclear disaster. Ritchie and Madonna both regularly attend London's Kabbalah Centre at Stratford Place, near Bond Street. There, one senior figure said Madonna had joined because 'she wants to understand how she works with her kids better. She wants to understand how to control her mood better, how to be more happy. How to be more tolerant with her husband and to maintain the relationship'. But the £3.65 million centre is under investigation by Westminster council after the BBC documentary found evidence of devotees sleeping in windowless 'cells' in a basement. The documentary also reveals the centre is launching a million-dollar appeal for victims of the Asia tsunami. But it is spending the money on its own products - such as 'healing' water at up to £2.80 a litre, and copies of the sect's own 'holy text', the Zohar, costing £289 for a 23-volume set. Pictures on the Kabbalah Centre website show 'grateful' victims of the south-east Asian floods holding copies of the books in hospital. The alleged 'healing' water is also found by the documentary to be bottled at a Canadian plant that has in the past been rapped for failing to carry out proper health and safety tests. The Kabbalah Centre insists that its water is sourced from springs and treated by an exclusive Kabbalistic process, using blessings and meditations. However, the water actually comes from Ontario bottling plant CJC Bottling. In 2002 the authorities issued an order against CJC because it had not tested its water properly. Despite this, Kabbalah leaders make lofty claims about the powers of the water - including that it is a useful aid in the treatment of cancer. Essex businessman Tony Donnelly, who has been treated by London's Royal Marsden Hospital for cancer, was sent undercover to the Kabbalah Centre in London. He was prescribed three bottles of water per day and offered a total Kabbalah water package worth £550, for which he paid in cash. One member of the centre said there were no miracle cures. But asked whether the water would help his cancer, a Kabbalah Centre worker said: 'It's a very good possibility. We have one girl here, who works here, her mother used to have cancer and she doesn't have it any more. The water is very, very good because it affects the cells, it cleanses the cells.' Rabbi Barry Marcus, of London's Central Synagogue, said: 'This is absolutely disgusting and yet another cheap shot by a sect hell-bent on making money. We in the Jewish community dissociate ourselves from this appeal in the strongest possible way.' The rabbi called on famous devotees to reconsider their attachment to the sect. 'These celebrities appear to be oblivious to the true nature of the Kabbalah Centre,' he said. 'There are many organisations that people can send their money to to help the victims of the tsunami but not the Kabbalah Centre. The celebrities must reconsider their involvement with this nefarious bunch of charlatans.' Many ex-members of the Kabbalah Centre now claim the organisation is little more than a brainwashing 'cult'. Debbie Chaski-Leventhal, who spent 13 years at the heart of the Kabbalah Centre movement, said: 'It's a cult, absolutely it's a cult, especially for the few hundred people who are very close to the Bergs. Most of these people will do almost absolutely anything he will tell them to do, and if he will tell them tomorrow to all commit suicide together they will.' Other claims include the assertion by a senior figure in the London Kabbalah Centre, Eliyahu Yardeni, that the Holocaust was the fault of the six million Jewish victims. 'The Light was blocked. They didn't use Kabbalah,' he claimed. Red string bracelets that mark out Kabbalists - and have been seen on the wrists of celebrities including David Beckham - cost £18.50 from the Kabbalah Centre. However, they can be obtained free when followers visit Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem. A red-string gift package has reportedly been seen bearing the sticker 'Made in China'. Meanwhile, despite assertions that the Kabbalah Centre is a not-for-profit organisation, former associates of Berg claim that he and his family live in luxury. One ex-Kabbalist said Berg and his second wife, Karen, had taken a Cadillac to visit a casino in Atlantic City, and that Mrs Berg had undergone a facelift. A statement issued by the Kabbalah Centre to the BBC said: 'For millennia, Kabbalah has been misrepresented by some members of the community trying to discourage others from studying its wisdom. The Kabbalah Centre welcomes people of all spiritual, religious and national backgrounds. 'As a registered charity, the centre has to fund-raise to cover its administrative costs and outreach work, the effects of which are felt across the world on a daily basis, not least in Asia currently.' l Sweeney Investigates: The Kabbalah Centre is on BBC2 tonight at 9.50. Faith's leader is an ex-insurance agent THE leader of the Kabbalah Centre is a mesmeric 77-year-old former insurance salesman called Philip Berg, write John Sweeney and Alexa Baracaia. He was born Feivel Gruberger in Brooklyn, New York, but later anglicised his name. Berg was ordained as a rabbi at the Torah Va Daath school before working as an insurance agent for 17 years, until 1970. He married Rivka Brandwein and had seven children. In the early Sixties, Berg travelled to Israel and met Rivka's uncle, Rabbi Yehuda Brandwein, then Dean of the Research Centre of Kabbalah. In 1969, Rabbi Brandwein died and according to Berg, handed over the leadership of Kabbalah study to him. But Rabbi Brandwein's son, Rabbi Avraham Brandwein, says Berg was never offered the leadership. In the Seventies, Berg claims, he lectured at the 'City University of Tel Aviv'. But, according to the Tel Aviv University press office, there is no such institution. About this time Berg left his first wife for the woman who became his second wife, Karen. In 1971 the couple went to Israel and set up a small Kabbalah Centre in Tel Aviv with a tiny number of supporters. Their lucrative marketing operation followed and the movement now boasts 40 centres around the world, worth millions of pounds. With Berg elderly and frail, the Centre is now being run by Karen and their two sons Michael and Yehuda.
From the BBC:A senior figure in the controversial Kabbalah Centre - the sect championed by stars including Madonna and Demi Moore - seems likely to spark a storm of protest by saying Jews killed in the Holocaust brought their downfall upon themselves.Eliyahu Yardeni, of the London Kabbalah Centre, made the astonishing claim to an undercover reporter investigating high-pressure sales techniques employed by the group, which promotes its own brand of beliefs, part ancient Jewish mysticism and part pseudo-science.The probe also revealed how Kabbalah Centre representatives claimed bottles of "healing" spring water sold by the group could help cure cancer - and how they sold a batch to a sufferer for hundreds of pounds.Talking about the wartime massacre of the Jews, Mr Yardeni said: "Just to tell you another thing about the six million Jews that were killed in the Holocaust: the question was that the Light was blocked. They didn't use Kabbalah."The claim provoked outrage from Kabbalah scholar Rabbi Imannual Schocket, from Ontario, Canada. He said: "To me this is one of the most obscene statements anybody could possibly make."Genuine scholars of Kabbalah, which is a respected branch of ancient Jewish mysticism, reject the Kabbalah Centre as an opportunist offshoot of the faith with charismatic leaders who try to attract the rich and the vulnerable with the promise of health, wealth and happiness.The Holocaust claim comes in a secretly-filmed BBC documentary. One undercover reporter, who has suffered from cancer, went to the London Kabbalah Centre - a £3.7million building off Oxford Street -seeking help, and was offered a package of remedies for the disease for £860.The cost included nearly £400 for 10 cases of Kabbalah water, £150 for "extra-strength" water and £289 for Zohar books - the Kabbalah "bible".The Zohar is also said to have special powers which followers can benefit from by running a finger over the text as if reading Braille.A second investigator, who worked undercover as a Kabbalah Centre volunteer for four months, was told how the Kabbalah water worked, with a devotee explaining: "We start with the purest artesian water and then we do the various meditations, injecting energy into it."The Kabbalah Centre website explained that a process called Quantum Resonance Technology "restructures the intermolecular binding of spring water".The investigation discovered the water actually comes from CJC Bottling, a bottling plant in Ontario, Canada, which was the subject of a public health investigation in 2002 into how its water was tested.CJC was ordered to improve manufacturing techniques, though there was no suggestion that they ever sold polluted water.The film also investigates the background of the sect's founder, "Dr" Philip Berg, who is known to followers as the Rav. He enjoys a millionaire's lifestyle in Los Angeles.The source of Mr Berg's "doctorate" is not clear, but it is known that he was born Feivel Gruberger in New York, trained as a rabbi and worked as an insurance agent before deserting his first wife and seven children for second wife, Karen.The couple then set up their first Kabbalah Centre in Tel Aviv. The lucrative marketing operation for the water, Zohar books, face-creams, candles, videos, and red string bracelets worn by followers came later.The organisation claims to have Kabbalah Centres in 40 cities worldwide and to be a non-profit-making organisation.The centre was asked about its views, including those on the Holocaust, and in a statement said: "The Kabbalah Centre has not seen the BBC programme and is unable to comment accurately on its content."Regarding fundraising, the statement went on: "As a registered charity, the centre has to fund raise to cover administrative costs and outreach work, the effects of which are felt across the world on a daily basis."The centre has launched a US$1m campaign asking followers to donate money so it can send its own brand of Zohar books and water to the victims of the Asian tsunami.In Israel, the authorities have refused to give the charity a certificate of proper management for three years runningbecause of accounting inadequacies, and in Britain the Charity Commissioners have criticised the centre's accounts for "significant shortcomings in transparency".
Post a Comment
View my complete profile