Monday, April 18, 2011

Kabbalah Centre's Berg Sent Packing from Newsweek's List of Top Rabbis

**UPDATE** - Somehow I missed the fact that Yehuda Berg is actually still on the list this year. He comes in at #37 (down from #14 last year). The Newsweek/Daily Beast gallery of the 50 Most Influential Rabbis shows Berg in a photo with Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. Amazing. Just amazing. (Hat tip to Rabbi Aaron Spiegel, CEO of Synagogue 3000, for pointing out my oversight)

When I read Newsweek magazine's expose of the Kabbalah Centre and its questionable foundation for a children's school in Malawi founded with millions of dollars from Madonna, the first thing I thought about was the annual Newsweek list of the top fifty American rabbis (technically: the most "influential" rabbis).

Rabbi Yehuda Berg, the son of the controversial founder of the Kabbalah Centre, has been listed among the top five in Newsweek's annual list each year. And each year, after the Newsweek list is published, there are those who argue that Berg isn't even actually an ordained rabbi and doesn't belong on the list. Some claim that he's running a cult that is Judaism's version of Scientology. And then there are those who believe that Berg isn't a religious figure at all, but rather a businessman running a corporation that sells everything from red strings and holy water to books and astrology sets.

I immediately found it curious that the same publication that would expose such criminal income tax schemes, questionable fundraising practices and laughable merchandise sales would put the mastermind behind it all high on its list of the top rabbis in the country.

Well, sure enough the new list of the fifty most influential rabbis was published yesterday and guess who's not on the list. Anywhere. Somehow the face of the Kabbalah Centre has disappeared from the list after being in the top five in prior years. I suppose it would have raised eyebrows even more had Yehuda Berg remained on the list only a couple week's after the "Madonna's Kabbalah Disaster in Malawi" article appeared. However, it would have been helpful had Newsweek/Daily Beast issued a statement as to why Berg was not included in this year's list. It could be argued that he's still very influential, but perhaps Newsweek is no longer regarding him as a rabbi.

I'm hesitant to criticize anyone else's religious beliefs, however, I don't think that what the Kabbalah Centre is producing is actually a religion at all. In fact, it's not even fully based on the teachings of Jewish mysticism. From the Newsweek article, it looks like the Kabbalah Centre is made up of businessmen who have figured out ways to swindle people out of money, including celebrities like Madonna, corporations like Gucci, regular people buying $72 candles, and the U.S. government. The Kabbalah Centre has become classified as a Church by the IRS and they run everything (cars, houses, vacation homes, etc.) through the corporation. Add to that the scam they seemed to have produced with the foundation for the Malawi school, and I'm sure there will be a full-scale investigation soon that will end the Kabbalah Centre as we know it and return Kabbalah to its esoteric roots in the hands of the Jewish scholars of mysticism.

The good news about this year's Newsweek/Daily Beast list of the top rabbis, in addition to them removing Yehuda Berg, is that it includes some wonderful colleagues of mine. Even though fellow social media consultant Esther Kustanowitz refers to the list as "My Rabbi's Better Than Your Rabbi," it actually does include some of the most influential rabbis in the American Jewish community. I was excited to see my classmate Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum of the start-up minyan Kavana Seattle make the list this year. Additionally, it was great to see the inclusion of Rabbis David Wolpe, Rick Jacobs, Irwin Kula, Jill Jacobs, Ethan Tucker, Elie Kaunfer, Shai Held, Naomi Levy, Burt Visotzky, Avi Weiss and Steve Greenberg.


Billy Phillips said...

Welcome to a select club Rabbi. Read my article where i spill the beans on the underlying root to this controversy, including your comments.

Billy Phillips said...

Dear Rabbi, I hope you will apologize and not become part of the select few rabbis and scholars of history who heap scorn and slander upon the Kabbalists in each generation. Please take a moment to read my blog response to see the pain and suffering that the great Kabbalists like Rabbi Isaac Luria and Moses Cordervero say takes place when rabbis speak ill will of the Kabbalists. Your apology and contrition will bring tremendous Light to the world and to your family. Unity is the sole purpose of Torah and finding whats good in others is how we get to the end of pain and suffering.

Wishing you miracles and blessings.

Billy Phillips

Felipe Oliveira said...

Dear Rabbi,
please it is with great affection and respect that I ask that you apologize for your post about Yehuda Berg.
All the best

Creative Mind said...

Dear Rabbi,
I feel quite sorry for you and I hope that you apologize for the slander you were trying to add on to a wonderful and very unique person like Yehuda Berg.
You should apologize so that your soul can be cleansed and not for any other reason.
I pray for you.
Oded Yosef Kassirer
Los Angeles, CA

erin said...

please apologize and i will pray that any blessings for me will be given to you it seems very needed here and now be needed love and light erin gray

Felipe Oliveira said...

There are almost seven years I live the teachings of Kabbalah. And today I can see that I improved my life. Actually looking at my life before these teachings I have no idea how it was possible to wake up every morning and thank God for another day of life.
But today there is no single day that I do not thank God for the gift of life. And I owe this and more the wisdom of Kabbalah has come to me through Yehuda Berg, Michael Berg, Rav Berg and Karen Berg mainly.

Leah Olstein said...

One of my favorite quotes from Rabbi Yehuda Berg is "When a Jew learns to Love another Jew we will see Mashiach"...hopefully I quoted him correctly...if I am wrong please correct me, but HOPEFULLY you get the point!

Maryann said...

Hello Rabbi Miller, I am hopeful that the Light that is in everyone of us shines through this blog and touches everyone's heart that reads your comments/blog. I have learned many things from Yeduda Berg, mainly.... love your neighbor, as you love yourself. I recently came across a quote from Jimmy Hendrix, "When the power of LOVE overcomes the LOVE of power, the world will know PEACE" Rabbi Miller you have the power to make peace in the world by your thoughts and words. I hope you choose peace and love.
Best to you. A student from the Kabbalah Center

Anonymous said...

While you dear Rabbi do your work through a Jewish perspective, Yehuda Berg tries to do his work through a human perspective. I don't need to agree with everything what goes in Kabbalah Center and I am not even interested in every disputable corner, I did receive a lot of benefits from the center and found Yehuda to be a wonderful man. I haven't heard about you Rabbi before and it is a sad way to learn about someone: reading insulting words about the person apparently not even personally know by you.
Thank you,
Inga Bergman

Christopher said...

Dear Rabbi, "Did you ever say something you deeply regretted - and found yourself paying for it dearly many years later? Words can wound others, but they can also imbue us with blessings and transform our very reality. For instance, Kabblah says slanderous gossip actually increases airborne diseases in our world. Defaming a person's character absolutely inflicts spiritual and physical harm against the intended victim and upon the person voicing the words." THE 72 NAMES OF GOD - This is your moment dear rabbi, to apologize to Yehuda Berg and to all your readers. May the force be with you, Veronica

l.lowell said...

Dear Rabbi Miller,

As a student of Kabbalah for 11 years and having followed Yehuda Berg's teachings, I must ask why it is so important for someone in your role and responsibility to want to create separation instead of unity. Its 2011. Take a look around the world today--its filled with chaos and hate. My wish for you and your family and friends is that you will open your hearts to see a new perspective in what Yehuda and the Centre is trying to accomplish for all of mankind. Perhaps if you sat down with him, you would understand. From this day forward, we must only promote love and respect for all things that come from the Creator.

I wish for you an open heart.


TC Cummings, The Mind of a SEAL Success Trainings said...

Dear Rabbi, it’s good to see ownership of one’s err. A concern for you is the impetus for highlighting what you perceived as someone’s demise. From this readers view, you either celebrated what you saw as the “sent packing” of a dedicated spiritual teacher or you sought to elevate your self by standing on the fallen body. I believe neither is constructive for global unity. Good news is you were mistaken (this time) as was brought to your attention by a trusted friend (R. Spiegel.) Step up now and get the full benefit by apologizing for your err so that you can be an important global teacher for us all some day.

Kol tuv,
TC Cummings

Guillermo said...

Dear Rabbi Miller ; after reading your article, I pray that you use your time for spreading love and teach Torah, instead of slandering the Center or Yehuda Berg.
I have been a student of Kabbalah at the Miami Centre for several years and have been witness to nothing but great things and genuine care for other human beings.
Have you ever been to a Kabbalah Centre?
I hope you find it in your heart to use that same energy you used for your negative comments, but turn it into positivity and apologize.
All the best,

Paul said...

Dear Rabbi Jason. I am blessed and honored to have known Yehuda Berg personally for 3 years. His teachings, and those of the Kabbalah Center have helped me experience real miracles in my life and the lives of my family. Something which religion was never able to do. For that reason alone, I deeply regret your comments and ask you to publish an apology. I could care less about Rabbi Berg's ranking within Newsweek's List of Top Rabbis, or any other Rabbi's ranking. I challenge you to ask yourself this question: Do you believe that obsessing about Newsweek's rankings or your negative comments about a fellow Rabbi, will bring more Light into the world...or more Darkness?

Anonymous said...

Dear Rabbi,
You were wrong. Billy Phillips is also wrong. Read his blog and how he speaks about people who have opinions different than his on the Kabbalah Centre. Lashon Hara is often true, yet that doesn't make it right. 2 wrongs never make a right. My opinion is that you should apologize, but I completely respect you if your opinion is different. I also think Billy Phillips should apologize, but again I respect his preferences and right to make up his own mind without the use of coercive persuasion. And for the record, whatever did actually happen with Raising Malawi, the fact is that (although many positive things may be happening there) the proposed school was not built. I completely understand it if there were accounting mistakes and mismanagement - but I've yet to hear an apology from either Madonna or Michael Berg - the former leaders of Raising Malawi. Even if the mistakes came from subordinate employees, a good leader takes responsibility for his subordinate's mistakes. The Kabbalah Centre speaks so much about taking responsibilty, and I am sad to see this behavior which is so opposite to what is being taught.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The Ego is a dangerous thing. The Ego is the cause of war, murder, back stabbing, hatred, pain, and suffering. Your essence is only Ego. Your bashing of Yehuda Berg is Only Ego. A person who gives in to his ego and there for Speak evil tongue (Lashon Harah), causes great chaos in this world. I do not wish any pain to you or your loved ones. In fact i wish you unending Mercy if you choose not to give up your ego- (a lesson Yehuda Berg taught me.)

One day you will be on your hand and knees thanking Yehuda Berg for teaching you the lesson- that someones most negative behaviors can become there biggest blessings if they choose to transform them. You can actually help remove the Pain and suffering in this world if you Give up your ego and admit your faults.

I pray that you wont have to go through the pain and suffering destined to you for the comments you said, but rather you have an awakening and realize the negativity you have created in this world, and choose to give up your ego, apologize and help make this world a better place. The choice is yours.

Billy Phillips said...

dear anonymous,
i merely quoted the Kabbalists of history. Period. So according to your opinion they are wrong and Rabbi Isaac Luria should apologize or his beloved student Chaim Vital. Or Moses Chaim Luzzatto should apologize.

The Kabbalists say those who oppose the Zohar and Kabbalah and slander Kabbalists are the true "destroyers of the world". I know its a harsh and hard truth that freaks out your ego. But come on, don't blame the messenger. Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac De Lattes said this about the opponents of the Zohar back in 1558. I offered the hand of friendship and still do, to every detractor and suggest we look for ways to come together. Same offer is extended to you. Lets learn together instead of argue. i will speak the truth no matter how hard it hurts because we owe it to those not privy to this wisdom to hear the truth so they can protect themselves from the chaos that permates this world. Its only going to get worse. the zohar can prevent that provided we lose our egos. I'll surrender my ugly ego if you surrender yours and we shake hands wish each other miracles and blessings. unconditionally. Email me if you want to accept my offer. Or post your contact info on my blog and i will contact you.

Annie Burns said...

Dear Rabbi Miller

I hope you and your lovely family have had a wonderful and blessed Pesach! This year, it was my first experience and I am grateful for the love and care my teachers and friends have given me in guiding me on my spiritual journey. I have a burning desire to "go home" and I didnt know what it was. It became really prominent after my father died in 2008, and that burning desire lead me to find the Kabbalah Center and the Rav Berg and his family.

I would like to invite you to personally meet with Yehuda Berg, to experience the love and desire he has for bringing peace, unity and love to the world through Kabbalah. You see, when I read what you wrote, I understand you don't know because you haven't understood what the purpose and mission of the Kabbalah Center is. My friend Billy Phillips, also is very keen for you to meet him and experience what we know and love about the truth of Kabbalah.

As a man who seeks the truth and the light, I know that in your writings you are thinking you have the truth to publish. However, there is always more to know and to learn. As a scholar, I know you have a desire to know feel and understand what is truth. So rather than coming from your place of ignorance, wouldn't it be prudent to have the correct information and to understand the man before embarrasing yourself?

May I humbly as you to also consider retracting your statement about Yehuda - not for him - but for me. As it hurts me and others to see an 'untruth' published.

Thank you for reading my post and please consider my invitation to meet with Yehuda Berg. He is an amazing man and I do think, as we move forwards, that UNITY and LOVE from us all is what is needed.

Much love to you and your family,

Please keep the consciousness of unity with love to bring Peace on Earth. As a Rabbi, I know deep in your heart, this is what you want, isn't it?

Annie B

PS I am happy to be a vehicle to occassion the meeting. I am only a humble student from Australia studying less than a year. But if God is willing, it will happen :)

Sarah said...

dono about you but what I learned from one of my dearest of friends ever - Rabbi Yehuda Berg - is that being a "rabbi" means looking to set example of sharing unconditional love to every human being on earth.

so sorry you and like you have time in your hands to do .... the opposite.

not sure you and like you have learned that from the same torah Yehuda Berg and others like us that love cherish and learn from him are studying.

the torah we study is all and only about love. love for others. unconditional love for others.

"ואידך זיל גמור"

"and the rest go and study for yourself" - said Hillel Hazaken when asked to teach the torah while standing on one leg. Love the fellow man as you love yourself - and the rest in commentary.

real sad that ppl wear a crown that is supposed to represent the beautiful pure torah are too busy looking for others' faults.

yet. our pure torah does believe in teshuvah - (changing one's ways) therefore mr. jason - when you're done looking to put down those whom you may just not really know enough about - and want to find a place of true love. true friendship. tru torah - we are 100% open to accept and support you in practicing and promoting love in the world.

knowing Rabbi Yehuda Berg closely for the past 20 years in a raw - I'm not sure you really know what and who you are talking about.

If we had more Yehuda Bergs in the world - from my personal perspective - WOW. the world could look so much better - like it already is starting to - thx to... Rav Berg, Karen Berg, Yehuda Berg, Michael berg and their students.

But, after all - not everyone is open to the practice of unconditional love to all God's creation...

One day all will.

Much love and blessings to you.

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

Here is the original article about the IRS investigation and pending lawsuit against the Kabbalah Centre and all the members of the Berg family involved. It is from Showbiz411.

This $20 million lawsuit against the Kabbalah Centre is separate from the investigation looking into improprieties concerning the Malawi school.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, Billy Phillips your programed cult retoric, surely on behalf of the Bergs...... on every blog, site and article that disclosed and finally "as you and everyone at the centre" knows is staged to try and use your programed students which of most have been abused, lied too and threatened if they were to ever speak of the inhumane ways they have been extorted out of there last dollar, personal examples that i personally have , having been a member and chevre for several years until divine intervention helped me see that I had arrived to the centre an extremely weak person and the control. abuse and lastly being witness to ALL iner procedures, protocols, teacher reports,and corruption...need I say more is outright unlawfull, has no place in a place that says to promote human dignity, unconditional love, and millions of other ridiculous claims when in fact the teachers (lead teachers ,at that)you know damn well the books will never match up in any center and no matter your spin ,,,,you will need to ecept the truth that Karen,MUKI, Yehuda and Michal will be indited , do serve time and owe millions of dollars while sitting in there orange jumpsuits for several years. You are truly doing a disservice to all who read your ridiculous claims and the centre as you know ..will be closed within two years and by propagating this bullshit it;s clear you are all taking a last run to extort as much money from the brainwashed students as possible before your 'buisness' or centre ...whichever you choose to call it is finally taken down and it's been a long time coming . the people who were swindled by yourself, under the Bergs orders should start thinking about backing out of the position of protecting them as when the shit hits the fan they will certainly throw you away and under the bus if it were in there best interest...seen it so many times at the centre. Thinking your any different then the ones before you are illogical thoughts and stupidity at it's finest, really. The Rav certainly could never had imagined that after he became ill, his family,,top teachers and others would allow greed, ego and money to run his lifes work into the ground... But they did. And , as you know ! Cheating any system doesnt fly and without proper action behind your words they are considered flawed and are not recieved in the upper worlds.. Good luck, as you all will need it if you continue to decieve more and more people before your eventual dimise, so why don't you all quit while your ahead and maybe there jailtime will not be as harsh as it certainly is going to be at this point. All the best with this ,,oh and by the way, your ponzi involvement (as you may not know, or maybe you do??!!!! Reached many others whom are now in jail in south florida and also are speaking to the feds about there involvement with you there as well so ...good luck with that too!!!! (as surely you were asked to do so by the Bergs)

Billy Phillips said...

Dear Anonymous,
you are gutless and shameless for not leaving your name and for engaging in the art of slander. But thank you for the compliment and putting me in the rarified company of those are slandered for sharing Kabbalah. You just made my day more difficult because now my ego has been inflated after you have included me with the giants of Kabbalah of history. But again, you are gutless for not leaving your name whereas i put my name out in the open. You have just categorized yourself as the one who spews lies and slander against the people who share wisdom of Kabbalah. Did you know the Torah and Kabbalists place you lower than a murderer? I know your ego will not let you accept that, but who cares. That's where you are. Lowest on the ladder of darkness and weakness. But as they say in Kabbalah, Don't believe me. Test it. Let's see how this unfolds. Also you are filled with self hatred and envy since any darkness you see in others is direct a reflection of what is inside of you. I suggest you take a Kabbalah 101 class. Also, lets debate this in public. tell me who you are. i will debate anything about the Centre, myself, Kabbalah and you do the same. Let's really go for the truth.

Billy Phillips said...

Here is a story about Kabbalist Rav Berg and the Mafia if you want to know truth.

Anonymous said...

We cannot expect perfection from humans. They are the channel of divine wisdom that is all.(Why we expect heroes or messengers to be perfect) The Kabbalah Center has been a life changing experience (I have spent years studying other religions I don't believe in the separatism that hierarchies and institutions bring. To believe that other humans don't possess the intellectual depth or intelligence is more of the same. That the human mind gets hang up on technicalities and rituals. We are all One we are all equal in the eyes of God and the proof is that life is finite in this material realm things are cyclical. I rest my case. The answer is Love, Tolerance and Compassion for everyone look at the positive things the Kabbalah Center is doing.

Nick Danger said...

Anonymous said...
"The Ego is a dangerous thing. The Ego is the cause of war, murder, back stabbing, hatred, pain, and suffering. Your bashing of Yehuda Berg is Only Ego. You can actually help remove the Pain and suffering in this world if you give up your ego and admit your faults. Apologize and help make this world a better place."


When Yehuda Berg was asked his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his response was, "It's a political issue and not a spiritual one, so I shouldn't comment."

Really Mr. Berg? Are we to believe you've never supported or opposed any political decisions, domestic or foreign? You don't seem to mind airing your religious beliefs, so why not your political ones?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justified Israeli settlement on Palestinian land by stating that "Jerusalem" and its alternative Hebrew name "Zion" appear 850 times in the Old Testament. Hello? This sounds like quite the sermon to me.

Berg's real concern is that his comments might be deemed critical of Israel, which in turn could get him in hot water with the Zionist lobby. He knows damn well this is a religious war and his silence speaks volumes about where his allegiance lies.

If Berg and his Kabbalists are truly concerned about the world being a better place, they should be preaching their dogma to Netanyahu and his ilk. Talk about a gigantic ego run amuck!

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

Who says Yehuda Berg doesn't comment on politics. Here's an op-ed from him in the Huffington Post on politics in the Middle East from this past March:

Ricardo A Campbell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sylvia bouvier szczepanik said...

Rabbi Shame on you... What am I going to find when I look into your dirty laundry. It is very ironic how the negativity is coming only from Jewish community (leaders). Will you send my grandmother to hell for marrying no Jew? and not raising her 3 daughters in Jewish religion? That's what makes this wold, a world of darkness, and sadness "RELIGION" in blinds all that's beautiful and good in the world.. follows some book and it's rules... but do you really know the truth.. if You are right, and all the other RELIGIONS are right than we have a problem, and why is it that only RELIGIOUS people or leaders are filled with negativity, hatred, war, gossip, if you Rabbi are a son of God, why do you speak evil tongue about another? Are you speaking in God's name?

Anonymous said...

Yehuda Berg was very interested in my penis.