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.
Beit-HallahmiBenjaminSobelZviBeit-HallahmiBenjamin“Judaism and the New Religions in Israel: 1970–1990.”Tradition Innovation Conflict: Jewishness and Judaism in Contemporary Israel1991AlbanyState University of New York Press203223
ChiorazziAnthony“Kosher Kabbalah: Battling for the Heart of Jewish Mysticism, Hollywood and the Hasidim Offer Different Paths.”Busted Halo2007accessed 10 June 2009url: http://www.bustedhalo.com/features/kosher-kabbalah
EllinAbbySacksAdam J.“The String That Binds: The Kabbalah Centre wants your heart — and your money.”The Village Voice2004August3accessed 10 June 2009url: http://www.villagevoice.com/2004–08–03/news/the-string-that-binds/full/
EshmanRobert“Center of Controversy.”The Jewish Journal1997February14accessed 10 June 2009url: http://www.jewishjournal.com/los_angeles/article/las_kabbalah_learning_centereems_to_attract_manyearching_jews_but_cri
HussBoazKreiselHoward“ ‘Admiration and Disgust’: The Ambivalent Re-Canonization of the Zohar in the Modern Period.”Study and Knowledge in Jewish Thought2006aBeer ShevaBen-Gurion University of the Negev Press203237
HussBoazHammerOlavvon StuckradKocku“ ‘Authorized Guardians’: The Polemics of Academic Scholars of Jewish Mysticism against Kabbalah Practitioners.”Political Encounters: Esoteric Discourse and its Others2007aLeiden and BostonBrill81103
LaitmanMichael“Authentic Kabbala or Authentic Business.”Kabbalah and the Meaning of Life — Michael Laitman’s Personal Blog2008aaccessed 10 June 2009url: http://www.laitman.com/2008/07/authentic-kabbalah-or-authentic-business
LaitmanMichael“Why did I Write about Rav Berg and the Kabbalah Center on this Blog”Kabbalah and the Meaning of Life — Michael Laitman’s Personal Blog2008baccessed 10 June 2009url: http://www.laitman.com/2008/08/why-did-i-write-about-rav-berg-and-the-kabbalah-centre-on-this-blog
MerkinDaphne“In Search of the Skeptical, Hopeful, Mystical Jew that Could Be Me”The New York Times2008April13accessed 10 June 2009url: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/magazine/13kabbalah-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
MyersJodyGreenspahnFrederick E.“Kabbalah at the Turn of the 21st Century: The North American Setting”Jewish Mysticism: New Insights and Scholarship2011aNew York and LondonNew York University Press175190
SpoonerBrianAppaduraiArjun“Weavers and Dealers: Authenticity and Oriental Carpets”The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective1992Cambridge and New YorkCambridge University Press195233
This statement was published in Garson1992:15. 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 Garson1997:3. See also Hillel 1997:258.
Hillel1997:258–267; 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 Boteach2004a2004c.
See Laitman 2008a2008b2009.
In2008Nadler published a derogatory and sneering critique of the kc in the New York Post. See Nadler 2008.
In2006Tirosh-Samuelson criticized the kc in a lecture held at a conference in San Diego. See Brett 2006.