Though I have mixed feelings about the Kabbalah Centre, I do feel that the mainstream Jewish community and press has, perhaps, been too hard on the place, too judgmental, maybe.
So I was pleased to see that the Tiferet Institute had invited the Centre’s Michael Berg to its recent conference on Kabbalah for the Masses. Similarly, the Jewish Week has just published a letter to the editor from a man who credits the Centre for leading him back to Judaism:
I am a student at the Kabbalah Centre for over 13 years and I would like to point out the most important story that’s not being told about the Centre, the one where thousands of Jews who totally abandoned their faith end up coming back to it.
Before I found the Centre, I was engaged to a wonderful blonde gentile and went out for Chinese food on Yom Kippur. Even though I had attended Jewish day school, I found that Jewish culture just did not provide me with the spiritual fulfillment I was looking for, so I looked for it elsewhere through karate, other spiritual disciplines, and so forth. Countless lost Jews have come back to the fold because of the work of Rabbi Berg and Karen Berg, and I owe them my life. I am now married to a wonderful Jewish woman and I am raising my family Jewish. I keep the Sabbath, eat kosher, put on tefillin, etc., but more importantly, take an active role in community service. That is the work of the Centre. Not all Jews who come back to Judaism through the Centre end up observant, but most do take away a sense of appreciation for the deeper aspects of our faith and the idea that we are all responsible for making the world a better place. Sure, there are things to criticize about the Centre, but I don’t know of another Jewish organization that has done so much to reconnect Jews with Judaism.
The other story is that the Centre uses its wealth to teach spiritual principles, like self-reliance, personal responsibility, sharing and community service to millions around the world, regardless of their religion.
Again, I have no specific fondness for the Centre, and I’m certainly open to the possibility that it exhibits cult-like behaviors, but I think little is accomplished by merely tuning it out completely.
Pronounced: kah-bah-LAH, sometimes kuh-BAHL-uh, Origin: Hebrew, Jewish mysticism.