London Jewish Cultural centre bans Kabbalah event

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2009

The London Jewish Cultural Centre has cancelled a booking by the controversial Kabbalah Centre for an event due to have taken place there next month.

Fliers advertised a session on “love and relationships” taught by Eitan Yardeni, spiritual mentor of the centre’s most famous supporter Madonna, and his wife Sarah.

But on Wednesday, LJCC chief executive Trudy Gold said: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, the space is no longer available and the hirer has been notified.”

Rabbi Barry Marcus, a long-term opponent of the centre who spoke to the LJCC earlier in the day, said: “I am happy the event is not going to happen. They are not part of the community, they operate outside the community and that’s where they should stay.”

The centre’s London branch lies close to his own Central Synagogue.

Last summer the branch announced it would be running “topical seminars” outside its West End headquarters to make it easier for people who wanted an introduction to Kabbalah.

According to the centre’s website, while the “4,000-year-old Kabbalah was preserved through Judaism some 3,500 years ago… its spiritual roots are for the benefit of all peoples” and it was “never meant for a specific sect”.

But critics complain the centre’s self-help version of Kabbalah is a travesty of the Jewish mystical tradition. It also has come under fire for its sale of artefacts such as “Kabbalah Water”, said to have healing powers, red-string bracelets, and copies of the Zohar (the esoteric commentary on the Torah) which retails for hundreds of pounds.

On its online store, current merchandise includes “a gift-box of 72 cards with simple but profound nuggets of wisdom, printed in different shades of lipstick.”

Rabbi Marcus said: “To suggest that you can understand Kabbalah without understanding a word of Hebrew is as preposterous as offering a course on quantum physics to someone who doesn’t have a basic understanding of mathematics.”

No one from the London Kabbalah Centre was available for comment.

Last updated: 4:26pm, May 21 2009