Troubled WeWork founder used Kabbalah Centre contacts to fund business


(JTA) — The recently departed CEO of the co-working company WeWork was a big fan of Jewish mysticism — and it may have influenced his business decisions.

A story published Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal describes the close ties between Adam Neumann and the Kabbalah Centre, a Los Angeles-based organization best known for teaching a version of Jewish mysticism to Hollywood celebrities.

According to the paper, Neumann would bring teachers from the Kabbalah Centre to company offices and retreats to teach executives. Neumann also reportedly drew inspiration from what he learned from the group when formulating his company values.

Neumann has said the company’s purpose is “to elevate the world’s consciousness,” an idea apparently drawn from the writings of Yehuda Berg, a former director of the center who left after being accused of sexual misconduct with a student.

At one point, Neumann even wanted to hold the company’s initial public offering on Sept. 18: The number 18 is considered symbolic in Jewish tradition because it is the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for “life.”

The Journal story also details the extent to which contacts made through the center helped provide early funding for WeWork. At least two students at the center were early funders of the company, the newspaper reported.

The story also resurfaced a comment Neumann made in a 2013 story in The Real Deal about how the ideas he learned at the Kabbalah Centre helped inspire the company’s creation.

“I noticed that in the Kabbalah community, people were really helping each other,” Neumann said. “I wanted to translate that into business.”

A spokesperson for Neumann denied that Kabbalah had influenced WeWork’s philosophy and mission, nor had it influenced business decisions.

The revelations come at a tough moment for WeWork. The company had been growing at breakneck speed — in January it was valued at $47 billion — and plans were well underway for an IPO. But those plans were shelved as questions mounted about the company’s profitability and Neumann’s leadership. The Israeli-born Neumann was forced to step down as CEO of the company he founded last month.

The Guardian reported this week that the company is set to lay off 2,000 workers — or about 15 percent of its work force.

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