One of the latest trends in Hollywood isn’t Gucci handbags or Prada pumps – it’s Kabbalah.
Kabbalah has reached nearly 3 million people worldwide including the likes of Madonna, Britney Spears, Jeri Hall, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.
The Jewish tradition is fast growing and controversial; this mystical offshoot of Judaism has caused uproar throughout the Jewish community.
Jews Week reported that Rabbi Philip Berg, director of the Kabbalah Centre, left his wife and eight children to marry a woman 13 years his junior.
Berg left his family despite what the Kabbalah Centre says in one of its major beliefs: “A world wholly free of chaos, destruction, and death,” according to its Web site, www.kabbalah.com.
The Jewish sect is worried that Kabbalah being viewed as a trend will hurt the credibility of their religion, Jews Week said.
“I don’t think Kabbalah brings down Judaism,” said nursing senior Amy McDuffi, “because every time I have ever heard about Kabbalah it is connected to Judaism.”
But Jews Week also points out that the Kabbalah Centre may be profiteering rather than being focused on spreading the word of Kabbalah and Judaism.
“I think that it is a tragedy that some people in Kabbalah may have used the rise in its popularity to gain profit,” said Wesley Rogers, an education senior. “I think it takes away from the religion’s purpose.”
McDuffi, who is Jewish, said she disagrees with Jews Week and Rogers.
“It (Kabbalah) doesn’t bother me, because it is just a trend,” McDuffi said. “It’s just something the stars are going to do. And I’m not the type of person who takes offense to anything.”
McDuffi also said that Kabbalah intrigues her because of its connection to her religion.
One of the major trends that have emerged from Kabbalah is the red bracelet that followers wear.
“The red string protects (its wearers) from the influence of the Evil Eye,” according to the Kabbalah Centre Web site. “The Evil Eye is a very powerful negative force. It refers to the unfriendly stare and unkind glances we sometimes get from people around us.”
The red “bendel,” or bracelet, which sells on the Kabbalah Centre’s Web site for $26, is one of the organization’s major moneymakers. The site also offers books, tapes, videos, and Kabbalah courses.
So the question arises: Is this faith or a business?
The non-profit Kabbalah Centre last reported close to $6 million in revenues for the 2000 fiscal year on guidestar.org, and this was before Kabbalah was a trend in Hollywood.
But in the 2003 fiscal year the Kabbalah Centre reportedly made close to $26 million, according to British journalist Rick Ross, of the Institute for Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements.
Another concern is that celebrity members of the Kabbalah may not truly believe in the teachings – “a system of thought which was originally included in the Jewish theosophy, philosophy, science, magic and mysticism,” according to the Mystic Web site, www.themystica.com.
The faith ultimately “seeks a union with God while maintaining social, family, and communal life within the framework of Judaism.”
“It is hard to say if the celebrities and people are just following a trend,” said Kyle Smith, a plant and soil senior. “Because we can’t see what’s in their minds, we only get to see glimpses of them onscreen.”
Smith said while he can’t decide whether Kabbalah is a trend or a true belief for the high-profile members, he believes that they may be searching for more substance in their lives, so they shouldn’t be faulted for trying to find meaning in their lives.
On the other hand, some, such as Rogers, are skeptical of some of the followers of the “chic” faith.
“It seems to be one big show,” Rogers said.
“However, I do feel some truly do follow the teachings,” he said. “But some people – such as Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan – are just following the trend to fit in.”