Kabbalah and the Politics of Inauthenticity: The Controversies over the Kabbalah Center

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This article examines the controversies and polemics against the Kabbalah Center, and probes the cultural significance of the denunciations of the kc as “inauthentic.” The study shows that the accusation of inauthenticity is directed both at the kc’s modern features, which are perceived as incompatible with “authentic” Kabbalah, as well as against the kabbalistic practices and doctrines of the kc which are perceived as incompatible with “authentic” modern Western values. It argues that the hostility to the kc is stimulated to a large degree by the postmodern features of the kc and its transgression of the fundamental cultural boundaries of modern Western culture. Furthermore, it shows that the indictment of inauthenticity is used to amplify the cultural power of competing Kabbalists and academic scholars of Kabbalah, who present themselves as experts on “authentic” Kabbalah.

Kabbalah and the Politics of Inauthenticity: The Controversies over the Kabbalah Center

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This statement was published in Garson 1992:15. See Altglas 2011. Later in 1997–1998 the Chief Rabbi (Joseph Sitruk) denounced the kc in public lectures held in the La Victoire synagogue in Paris and in an interview he gave to the vsd Journal; see Altglas 2011. See also Charles Mopsik’s response to Sitruk’s interview in Mopsik 2004.


The decree was published in Garson 1997:3. See also Hillel 1997:258.


Hillel 1997:258–267; Meir 2007:187 244–245. Hillel’s decree was published as a response to a question regarding the dispersion of kabbalistic books by the kc in France. Decrees calling for the disposal of the publications of the kc (especially its Zohar editions) and to deposit them in religious storage were reissued in the same year by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Chief Rabbinate of Israel 1998) the Jerusalem Ashkenazi Rabbinical Court (Beth Din Zedek 2007) and Raphael Israel the Rabbi of Sarcelles an important Jewish community in the suburbs of Paris (Fajnkuchen 1997:2; Altglas 2011). The decrees calling for the storage of the Zohar volumes published by the kc also reached the u.s. Yet Rabbi Zvulun Lieberman the president of the rabbinic council of Flatbush objected to this and wrote in a letter dated 28 May 1998 that “[p]rinted copies of this book are to be treated with respect and honor. Anyone violating the sanctity of these volumes is committing a great error and it is a disgrace Chilul haShem in the eyes of the total Jewish Community.” The letter was published on the kc’s website; see Meir 2007:188.


See also Boteach 2004a2004c.


See Laitman 2008a 2008b2009.


In 2008Nadler published a derogatory and sneering critique of the kc in the New York Post. See Nadler 2008.


In 2006Tirosh-Samuelson criticized the kc in a lecture held at a conference in San Diego. See Brett 2006.


See also Einstein 2008:147–172.


See for instance Lappin 2004.


See also the opening story in Csillag 1993.


As cited in Hillel 1997:258.


See also Myers 2011a:205.

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