Madonna & Kabbalah Centre Focus of Stinging Newsweek Investigation
Many articles over the years have highlighted funny business at the Kabbalah Centre. When we moved to LA just under two years ago, it turns out that we moved in on the same street as the family that runs the Centre – but on the LA part of the street.
The Kabbalah Centre is huge here – with a large building, schools, programs, and many devotees. Many of them live in and around the Centre and can be spotted with their all-white Shabbat outfits.
While some say the Centre has brought them great spiritual insights, other say it has left them stranded and in debt. The recent article in Newsweek offers an unflattering view of what is going on. It seems that funds Madonna raised to help orphans in Malawi — and build a huge girls school — went instead to support the Kabbalah Centre in America. Undoubtedly, the supporters will say that the writer got things wrong – but the facts of the article are difficult to disprove. Only a fraction of the money raised for the project ever went to Malawi.
Despite the fundraising success of Raising Malawi, which collected a reported $18 million in donations and spent $3.8 million on the planned academy, the girls’ school has been abandoned and the Raising Malawi foundation has imploded.
In addition to uncovering the unsettling view of things inside Raising Malawi, the article also reveals some more info on the secretive world of the founders of the Centre. It appears that the Berg’s entire lifestyle is underwritten by the Centre. BTW, while the Berg’s live in nice homes, they are not gigantic by Beverly Hills standards.
Back to Malawi.
The more important fact seems to be that only $850,000 of the $3.8 million spent on the academy was paid out in Malawi. The lion’s share, almost $3 million, was spent by the Kabbalah Centre’s office in L.A. under the watch of the center’s Michael Berg.
With a grand-jury investigation of the Centre in NY, and California lawsuits in the courts, undoubtedly more info will be forthcoming.
All this points to a great deal of questions, and not so many good answers.
Illustration by Guekit: Nina Berman / Sipa (Philip Berg); Mike Hutchings / Reuters-Landov (Madonna); East News-Polaris (Karen Berg); Amos Gumulira / AFP-Getty Images (Michael Berg); Michelly Rall / Getty Images (sign)From left: Philip Berg, Madonna, Karen Berg, and Michael Berg.
One year ago, Madonna squatted in the rust-colored dirt of a sprawling empty lot outside Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. With curious villagers and invited photographers crowding around, she laid the ceremonial first brick for a planned $15 million girls’ academy, a noble mission in a nation where only 27 percent of girls attend secondary school. In a blog post on the website of her Raising Malawi foundation, she wrote that the brick, inscribed with the words “Dare to Dream,” was “not just the bedrock to a school—it is a foundation for our shared future.”