LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre is being sued for over $1 million by former followers.
In two lawsuits filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Nov. 27, claimants allege that the center pressured them “to give money until it hurts,” in order to receive “the light” from its leaders.
Carolyn Cohen, a San Diego real estate broker, said that she and one of her companies lost some $810,000 to the center, which she claimed “engages in a pattern and practice of raising funds … for the purpose of enriching itself.”
San Diego business owners Randi and Charles Wax, the other plaintiffs, alleged losses of $326,000.
In both cases, the plaintiffs said they were told that the donations were earmarked for a new Kabbalah Centre building in San Diego and for a children’s charity. But they said the new center was never built and the charity abruptly ceased operation.
The late Rabbi Phillip Berg founded the Kabbalah Centre in Jerusalem. The first American operation was begun in New York in 1965. Since 1984, the center’s worldwide operations, with 50 branches, have been headquartered in Los Angeles.
Berg’s wife Karen, now the center’s spiritual director, and her two sons, Michael and Yehuda, did not responded to requests for comments, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In recent years, the center has been both the target and the originator of numerous lawsuits in the United States and Britain. In 2010, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service launched a tax evasion investigation, the outcome of which is still pending.
Traditional rabbinical authorities repeatedly have denounced the center’s teachings and methods as a perversion of Kabbalah’s profound mysticism. However, the Berg family has received worldwide publicity by attracting such Hollywood followers as Madonna, Britney Spears, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.