Limmud’s decision to cancel sessions by a Kabbalah Centre leader followed pressure from colleagues in Los Angeles and fears that Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis might pull out of the conference, it is understood.
Organisers of Limmud, which gets under way in Warwick today, cancelled two scheduled talks by Marcus Weston, a trustee of the London branch of the Kabbalah Centre, after coming under pressure last week.
The JC understands LA-based Limmudniks voiced serious concerns with their British counterparts over Mr Weston’s planned involvement. The LA branch of the conference has repeatedly warned against the influence of the Kabbalah Centre, which is based in the Californian city and is strongly supported there.
Discussions had also taken place between representatives of Chief Rabbi Mirvis and Limmud. A spokesman for Rabbi Mirvis said his office did not get involved in Limmud programming.
After rabbis voiced concern in last week’s JC about Mr Weston’s involvement, Limmud executive director Shelley Marsh said: “As a result of the deep discomfort that Marcus Weston’s sessions have created, Limmud is withdrawing them from the programme.”
Rabbi Barry Marcus, a longstanding critic of the Kabbalah Centre, said Limmud had “done the correct thing and I applaud them for that. They have behaved responsibly in not giving the Kabbalah Centre a platform, otherwise they would have had to consider giving a platform to other cults.”
Mr Weston said he “fully respected the decision”, but added: “With Limmud providing such a healthy educational environment, we do feel that it would have brought great value to the event if participants were given the choice to learn and debate with us.”
But one London-born former United Synagogue rabbi, Levi Brackman, now based in Denver, Colorado, said Limmud had “caved in” to pressure and been “unfaithful to its own mission”.
Rabbi Brackman said he had previously been subjected to “intense criticism and disparagement” for defending the Kabbalah Centre and suggesting it “might not be all evil”.
Writing on his blog, Rabbi Brackman said it was “ironic” that Limmud, “itself castigated and excluded by the Orthodox for years”, would now itself exclude a Jewish group.