In Brookline, upscale shops, thriving businesses, and specialty restaurants line the main streets. But about a block behind bustling Beacon Street, on the quieter Green Street and tucked inside a plain brick building, is the Kabbalah Centre.
The center as been operating for about a year, although its official open house was last month. Kabbalah is a complex, ancient system of spiritual teaching and action. It has become more visible in recent years partly by attracting celebrities such as Madonna, Demi Moore, and Ashton Kutcher.
“Kabbalah is not a religion,” said Elisheva Kelman, who traveled from Los Angeles to Brookline to give lectures at the center’s opening. “It’s more like a way of life. You yourself can decide how much you want to make it a part of your life. It’s all open to interpretation.
“We wanted to launch ourselves and let Massachusetts know that we are here and we welcome all,” she said.
“The center provides a sense of community for Kabbalah followers. We offer courses online, but the bonds created at the center are invaluable.”
Classes at the center range in subject and according to the experience level of the participant. The introduction to Kabbalah lecture is free. Other courses, such as “The Power of Kabbalah,” cost $270 for 10 weeks.
Kelman said she was first introduced to Kabbalah 15 years ago, by her parents.
“It’s kind of an embarrassing story; I was a teenager who wasn’t very receptive to the idea. After a while, things changed.” Kelman says that now, the teachings of Kabbalah affect her everyday life.
The fundamentals of Kabbalah are simple: It rests heavily on the idea of personal responsibility. Shalom Sharabi, a teacher at the Brookline center, says Kabbalah “is about changing our own reality, not blaming others for what is happening to you.” Sharabi told the audience at an opening event that he turned to Kabbalah when things weren’t going well in his life.
“If you think your life is perfect and there’s nothing you want to change, then don’t study Kabbalah. It’s not about being relaxed; it’s much deeper,” said Sharabi.
Topics of consideration at the center focus on subjects ranging from talking about relationships, to studying astrology. There is also a support group.
The main text for Kabbalah is the Zohar, written some 2,000 years ago. Modern texts that explore Kabbalah include “God Wears Lipstick” and “Wheels of a Soul.” The building Brookline’s Kabbalah Centre now occupies was once a dance studio. Part of the center’s opening festivities included showcasing the extensive renovations that took place over the summer.
The open house attracted people of all ages, and their experiences with Kabbalah varied. Some were first-timers, others longtime followers. Still others commuted from Natick and Worcester weekly to attend classes and lectures at the center.
There are many Kabbalah centers around the United States, but the Brookline site is the only one in New England, according to officials at the center. The purpose of the center is to form a sense of community and guidance that wouldn’t be as viable online, though classes and a support group are offered.
Kelman added, “We’re glad to open the center to the public. We want to open more across the county, but for now we wanted to launch this center in Boston.
“We’re not Starbucks yet, but we want our presence to be felt.”