The Kabbalah Centre International is a non-profit organization for spiritual connection, guidance, and education headquartered in Los Angeles, California, that provides courses on the Zohar and Kabbalistic teachings online as well as through its regional and city-based centres and study groups worldwide. The modern-day, universal presentation of Kabbalah was developed by its leader, Philip Berg (a traditionally trained orthodox rabbi who had left the religious clergy, went into the insurance business, and then focused his life on learning and sharing Kabbalah with the world) along with his wife, Karen Berg. The Kabbalah Centre International has a multi-ethnic, international staff of teachers that offers training and guidance to its worldwide student community. Philip Berg died on September 16, 2013. His wife and two sons Yehuda and Michael have worked together to continue Philip Berg's efforts to bring Kabbalah to the world through the Kabbalah Centre since his stroke in 2004.
Traditional Judaism had long held that mysteries of Kabbalah are so complex and so easily misunderstood that students (mostly males) were discouraged from beginning to approach them without a strong background in Jewish law and only after age 40, the age of wisdom according to the Mishnah. Therefore, some traditionalists had seen the Kabbalah Centre as a perversion of Judaism's ancient and secretive mystic tradition.
The Kabbalah Centre was founded in the United States in 1965 as The National Research Institute of Kabbalah by Philip Berg (born Feivel Gruberger) and Rav Yehuda Tzvi Brandwein. Brandwein in turn was the dean of Yeshivah Kol Yehuda in Israel (a precursor of the US Kabbalah Centres) which was founded in 1922. After Brandwein's death, and after several years in Israel, Philip Berg and his wife Karen Berg, re-established the U.S. Kabbalah Centre in New York.
The current headquarters of the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles was opened in 1984. Karen and their sons Yehuda and Michael act as directors and spiritual leaders of the organization. The organization is a registered non-profit with over fifty branches worldwide, including major ones in Los Angeles, New York City, London and Toronto.
The Kabbalah Centre's approach to teaching is to start students with practical methods that do not make previous knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish texts a prerequisite for understanding.
Relation to religion
According to its views, all widely held spiritual or religious belief systems are merely specific branches of a universal wisdom. The effect of this is a resemblance of religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism, as well as new-age teachings, to Kabbalah. In accordance with this belief, the Kabbalah Centre does not present itself as an alternative to any religion in particular, but rather, as a supplement to it.
Some biblical passages, such as the Passage of the Red Sea, are spoken of as actual historical events. The Bible passages and stories are understood to be codes to life and unseen universal laws which the Zohar and writings of the Kabbalists throughout history unravel. Yehuda Berg has produced a series of the Books of the Bible with Kabbalistic commentaries to each of the Weekly portion of the Torah.
One should primarily be concerned with their relationship with the essence of God, rather than God himself, as he is beyond comprehension. The essence of God is referred to in its teachings as Light.
Kabbalah Centre teaches the Kabbalistic concept of Klippot. The idea is that everyone has a direct and clear connection to the upper metaphysical-spiritual world of the Light (Ein Sof, unbounded God), but that this channel is blocked by Klippot, restricting the spiritual energy from entering the physical body. It is through meditation and practice of Kabbalah teachings and Jewish law (which the Kabbalah Centre says is early Rabbinistic construction to aid in practicing Kabbalah without revealing its secrets) that one removes Klippot, and it is by violence and negative behaviour that one adds Klippot.
The Kabbalah Centre has a strong belief in astrology and asserts that astrology has been part of Judaism since its inception. The Centre claims astrology was lost in Jewish tradition as part of the suppression of Kabbalah by rabbis nearly 2000 years ago (evidence of this includes ancient synagogues with zodiac rings). This claim is historically inaccurate, as astrology was studied by Jewish scholars throughout the Middle Ages, though it was opposed by more philosophically inclined thinkers such as Maimonides.
There is a strong belief in the Kabbalah tradition that cosmic forces affect everything, and knowing how to understand them can prove to be valuable to the aspiring Kabbalist. Philip Berg, the founder of the Kabbalah Centre, was an astrologer and has written numerous books on astrology during his career.
It is not recommended that men masturbate, as the sperm are abandoned souls that become demons. When a woman's insides come into contact with a man's sperm, they are coming into contact with the essence of their energy and are affected by this for several years. The man should not orgasm before the woman, as it injects selfishness into the act of love making. A couple should not engage in sex with the woman positioned above the man, as she is then drawing energies into herself from below, instead of above. The most Light is derived from sex that occurs early Saturday morning.
Madonna studies regularly with a personal Kabbalah Centre rabbi, no longer gives concerts on Friday night (which is the onset of Shabbat), wears the red string around her left wrist for protection and to ward off the "Evil Eye" (Ayin Hara), has introduced Jewish ritual objects such as tefillin ("phylacteries") into her videos and tithes regularly to the Kabbalah Centre. In July, 2006 the media reported an unfounded rumour that Madonna was leaving the Kabbalah Centre and one media columnist speculated that one reason was alleged financial irregularities of donations to the centre. Despite the uncorroborated allegations of financial irregularities, the rumour turned out to be false, and Madonna continues to attend Kabbalah Centre events. In fact, Madonna has collaborated with the Kabbalah Centre on a new project called Raising Malawi, which will provide relief aid to the African nation of Malawi. When Madonna tried to partner Raising Malawi with UNICEF, UNICEF demurred due to this project's close association with the Kabbalah Centre.
Lindsay Lohan has also had some involvement with the organization, and has been seen wearing the associated red string on her wrist. Other celebrities that have been associated with the Centre include Britney Spears, Roseanne Barr, Sandra Bernhard, Anthony Kiedis, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Lucy Liu, Alex Rodriguez, Rosie O'Donnell, Naomi Campbell, Donna Karan, Elizabeth Taylor, Mischa Barton, Paris Hilton, Ariana Grande Nicole Richie, James Van Der Beek, Kyle Richards, and Heather McComb.
According to media sources, Britney Spears and Jerry Hall stopped studying with the Kabbalah Centre in 2006 and 2005. Jerry Hall, ex-wife of Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, decided not to participate in the Kabbalah Centre after she was asked to tithe ten percent of her revenues. Paris Hilton has preferred to refocus on her Roman Catholic faith.
Controversy and criticism
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Beginning 2011 the Kabbalah Centre was put under investigation by the IRS and FBI for financial malfeasance, especially following the abandonment of the Raising Malawi school project with millions of donors' dollars unaccounted for. Such investigations commonly take up to three years. In 2012 it emerged that the Kabbalah Centre had accepted a $600,000 donation from an 87-year-old woman with dementia whose financial advisor is married to a center official. In November 2013 two lawsuits were filed by former donors alleging that their gifts (amounting to more than $1 million for a new building in San Diego and for a children's charity) were misused.
Other media criticisms have alleged that The Kabbalah Centre is an "opportunistic offshoot of the faith, with charismatic leaders who try to attract the rich and the vulnerable with the promise of health, wealth, and happiness." Some Jewish organizations distinguish it as non-Jewish and consider its patronage by Jews problematic. The Centre's self-help teachings and its sale of Kabbalah-themed merchandise has been criticized as a perversion of Judaism's ancient and secretive mystic tradition.
There was media controversy in 2005 related to a recorded comment by a Kabbalah Centre leader regarding the Holocaust. According to a BBC news article, Eliyahu Yardeni, a senior figure in the London Kabbalah Centre has been quoted as saying, "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."
A probe by an undercover journalist working for the BBC revealed that the Kabbalah Centre had made claims that spring water sold by the group had among its effects a curative effect on cancer. Reportedly, 10 cases of Kabbalah water were sold to cancer sufferers for £400.
In 2004 Madonna's tour management gave a number of free tickets to the Kabbalah Centre for her upcoming Re-Invention show in Los Angeles for their members. Some members caused some stir when it became clear that they sold their free tickets to fans online for the highest bidder who were desperate to get tickets for the concert.
In Israel, authorities have refused to give the organization a certificate of proper management for three years running (as of 2005) because of accounting inadequacies. 
- Boca Raton, FL, US
- Bogotá, Colombia
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Caracas, Venezuela
- Dallas, TX, US
- Los Angeles, CA, US
- Manhattan, NY, US
- Medellín, Colombia
- Mexico City, Mexico
- Miami, FL, US
- Panama City, Panama
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- San Diego, CA, US
- Santiago, Chile
- São Paulo, Brazil
- Toronto, Canada
Asia and the Middle East
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- "Madonna due to join Israel trip". BBC News. 2004-09-09. Retrieved 2006-10-31.
- Official website
- Kabbalah Centre Israel
- Kabbalah Centre London
- Yehuda Berg's Blog
- Michael Berg's Blog
- In Search of the Skeptical, Hopeful, Mystical Jew That Could Be Me