Madonna’s Malawi scheme collapses

ALLEGED dodgy dealings within an a mystical outfit described by some as “Jewish Scientology” may have led to the collapse of Madonna’s $15-million girls’ school in Malawi.

Newsweek reports that the pop superstar has abandoned the project despite helping raise $18-million, and that the collapse of the Raising Malawi scheme was largely due to the involvement of the organisation that was partnering the venture: the Kabbalah Centre International, which is now a focus of federal investigators.

The center is a Jewish mystical organisation that follows a set of esoteric teachings called Kabbalah, which adherents believe explains the relationship between humans and their creator and our true purpose in the universe. Madonna has said that she turned to Kabbalah in 1996 when she was pregnant, exhausted from Evita, and looking for an anchor. Since then she has reportedly donated at least $18 million of her personal fortune to the Kabbalah Centre.

Newsweek reported that the Kabbalah Centre’s impressive growth – it has expanded to 77 centers and study groups around the world – has been paralleled by the volume of its detractors, some of whom have labeled it “Jewish Scientology”.

Disaffected followers have accused its founder Philip “The Rav” Berg and his family of treating congregants like personal servants, housing them four to a bedroom, paying them a $35-a-month stipend, and advising them to apply for food stamps. 'Miracle' water on sale at the Kabbalah Center in Los Angeles

Amusingly, one prominent critic, Rabbi Immanuel Schochet, said:

They are distorting Kabbalah … taking some of our sacred books and reducing it to mumbo-jumbo, all kinds of hocus-pocus.

In 2005 the center was hit with a torrent of bad press about marketing such items as Kabbalah miracle water and a $35 set of Kabbalah shot glasses. Soon afterward, Michael Berg and Madonna co-founded Raising Malawi.

The Center is said to have a $10 million inventory of Berg-blessed items, including $72 candles, $63 astrology sets, and $12.99 Divine Sex CDs. For $24.95 you can also buy the Rav’s book Immortality, which explores:

The origins of death and the spiritual tools necessary for its final disappearance from the world.

Commenting on the fact that “some famous Scientologists” showed up at a Raising Malawi fundraising bash in New York in 2008, cult watcher Nick Ross said:

While it seems that these two “new religions” have little in common doctrinally – one supposedly believes in Jewish mysticism while the other has made intergalactic space travel an article of faith – they do seem to share at least two things in common: recruiting celebrities and what appears to be an insatiable desire for cash.

Hat Tip: Name Withheld

22 responses to “Madonna’s Malawi scheme collapses”

  1. featheredfrog says:

    Two groups using the same business model. What’s surprising?

  2. Har Davids says:

    This is a great read: according to Rabbi Immanuel Schochet Kabbalah is being distorted, and reducing sacred books to mumbo-jumbo. Sounds like recycling bull-shit to me.

  3. tony e says:

    Sounds like there has been a bit of ‘hanky panky’ going on here. She must have thought it would bring a ‘ray of light’ to the area. Still, I’m sure Newsweek will continue to probe ‘deeper and deeper’ until they find out who has been ‘causing a commotion.’

    She should keep a low profile for now, even take a ‘holiday.’


  4. elainek123 says:

    Again a lot of gullible people being taken in.
    Just watched documentary ‘Marjoe’ on dvd regarding evangelist prodigy at the age of four- Marjoe- who goes under cover for this documentary to show what really goes on behind the scenes.. One clip showing them behind the scenes counting their money. It will go on for ever me thinks, as the rich get rich and the poor get poorer. I am afraid I am at the point where I do not really care as if these people can be conned so easily into believing that their god and Jesus gives a dam, then they deserve to be conned. Sorry but thats how I feel at this moment..

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is a really great article. In a sane world, it would be the death knell for the Kabbalah Center.

    If only celebrities could bring themselves to have a conscience about what they publicize.

    Gwyneth Paltrow – Paltrow Discovers Great Great Great Grandfather Was Kabbalah Master

  6. Anonymous says:

    What a mess.

    It’s been one year since Madonna’s former personal manager, Caresse Henry, shot herself to death in an Irvine, Calif., apartment — allegedly still devastated over being discarded by the superstar in 2004, after spending 13 years as one of her closest confidantes.

    Now, as allegations of suspicious activities swirl around Madonna’s charities and questions are raised about her ties to the New Age Kabbalah movement, Henry’s sister, Yvette Dobbie, is speaking publicly for the first time. And she is charging that Madonna and her connection to Kabbalah are to blame for Henry’s death

  7. Har Davids says:

    Elainek123, don’t apologize for your feelings. I’ve reached the point I can’t even be bothered anymore if the gullible are killed by their delusions. And this has nothing to do with arrogance, it’s just that these forms of stupidity keep on repeating and we’re supposed to be the smartes monkey of the lot. Of course, if you’re into religion you don’t want to be compared to the rest of the animals on Earth.

    It’s a form of natural selection, really.

  8. Daz says:


    I suspect we all feel the same. It’s the kids that would have had a chance at some education I feel sorry for. Though, given where the funding was to have come from, they might not be that much worse off…


    Dear, oh dear. I know you feel the need to ‘express yourself’, but we’re supposed to stick to the topic of ‘human nature’ and religion on this site, not name-check songs that have been in ‘vogue’, just because the singer’s in a news item. Please stop this right now, and get yourself back ‘into the groove’!

    ‘Also sorry’

  9. Anonymous says:

    The kids are definitely better off. It was meant to be a Kabbalah school.

    Our programs are run and staffed primarily by student volunteers of The Kabbalah Centre. Volunteering is one of the most powerful ways to take the wisdom and tools of Kabbalah and put them into action: to share with others, and in doing so manifest miracles in your own life.

    The Kabbalah Centre Charitable Foundation is built on the efforts and Light brought by its volunteers. Each individual comes with his or her own magic.

  10. Daz says:

    The Kabbalah Centre Charitable Foundation is built on the efforts and Light brought by its volunteers. Each individual comes with his or her own magic.

    Pass the bucket, please…

  11. Broga says:

    Looking at this, and after watching the raving loonies of the Westboro Baptist Church, I think once the brain is thoroughly diseased by the infection of superstition the religious suckers are, with few exceptions, done for. All common sense, never mind reason, smothered to an extent that there is little chance of return to sanity.

  12. tony e says:


    Cheers, I’d never heard of Marjoe. Just watched it on youtube.

    Clearly shows the professional evangelical’s to be as full of crap and money obsessed as I’d always suspected.

  13. NeoWolfe says:

    The threadhead quoted Nick Ross as saying:

    “While it seems that these two “new religions” have little in common doctrinally – one supposedly believes in Jewish mysticism while the other has made intergalactic space travel an article of faith”

    Incomplete, if not inaccurate. While there may be a new revival of kabbalah, in a more modern format, kabbalah originated as early as the eleventh century.

    That makes it much older than mormonism, lutheranism, or protestantism in general. Certainly much older than the illuminati. And way beyond comparison with scientology. I thought I’d point that out.

    Several contributers have commented on Elaine’s post. I understand and often feel the same way. When I see or hear of Fred Phelps and his congregation of nematodes, or Terry Jones and his flock of amoebas, I can see the same kind of blind devotion that led to the Jim Jones massacre in Guyana, Jonestown and the People’s Temple. All these fakers have to do is say they had a vision of the rapture, and to show their faith, everyone must shed their earthly body. Rerun of a terrifying movie. Easy to say, “you fucking moron, you got what you deserved”.

    As always, there is a flip side to every coin. And in order to see the big picture, you must understand brainwash.

    Firstly, it’s not just modern evangelists who employed this, it’s written right into christianity. 1Cor 15:33 “Bad associations spoil useful habits”, and 2Cor 6:14: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” This and other passages enforce a situation where everything in your life is under the control of the church, which will rip it away from you for disobedience. That’s an improvement, a few hundred years ago they’d have you tortured to death.

    But, to break the slavery, you have to be ready to lose your parents, lose your siblings, lose your spouse, lose your children, and lose every friend you have in the world. Worst, lose your crutch(god) and your self identity. It’s a tough row to hoe. In fact, you may have to cotterize you emotions just to survive. Not everyone has the brass without some strong support. So, as ridiculous as these people seem, many, if not most, are living a destiny that was thrust upon them. I think a little sympathy is called for.


  14. Robster says:

    Religion really is the last refuge of the Scoundrel. Sad though that Madonna, wanting to do more than praying, put her money into it and actually tried to achieve something. Again, another example of how religion poisons everything.

  15. NeoWolfe says:

    Anonymous quoted:

    “It’s been one year since Madonna’s former personal manager, Caresse Henry, shot herself to death in an Irvine, Calif., apartment — allegedly still devastated over being discarded by the superstar in 2004, after spending 13 years as one of her closest confidantes.”

    Sounds like a lover giving up after a failed relationship. And it sounds like her sister wants revenge. It also smacks a lot of tabloid crap. Is that what do here now?


  16. barriejohn says:

    Did everyone in the UK watch this?

  17. tony e says:


    Cheers mate, I watched it on iplayer.

  18. Anonymous says:

    It’s magic!

    Madonna’s Kabbalah Charity Admits to Cayman Island Accounts

  19. carver says:

    The cult recruiting methodology differs little from cult to cult nor does the integration of the individual to the group differ. Targeting individuals for recruitment involves looking for the highly impressionable person (estimates are that around 30% of the population fit this category), finding those in highly vulnerable states (recent divorces, estranged from family or other support groups, etc.), “religion addicts” – those that jump from one religion to another as often as they change their clothing styles and the willful, hopelessly ignorant that can’t tell horse crap from chocolate cake.
    Integration into the cult involves a highly supportive, empathetic “infolding” by the group – smothered with attention – they are your new BFF. Those that succumb and feel a strong bond with the group also have a strong need for the groups approval. At that point the “goals and ideology” of the cult and the “mystery and infallibility” of the cult leader is introduced with carefully programmed steps through the trusted new “family”.

    On the bright side Scientology’s membership has dropped to half of what it was in 2000.
    Madonna, John Travolta, Tom Cruse and Kristy Allie demonstrate that celebrity status does not preclude stupidity.

  20. NeoWolfe says:

    For what it’s worth, Madonna, sex godess? I saw her pictorial in Penthouse magazine, Sept ’85. Her tits are grotesque. 🙁 I guess with the right publicist, anyone can be a sex symbol.


  21. Anonymous says:

    Something’s wrong with Roger Friedman’s site, which hosts the Cayman Islands story I linked above. I recommend not clicking on the link.

  22. Paul G says:

    Spilling The Beans – the REAL truth about what goes on in Kabbalah. This will make your hair stand on end!