Did Madonna Play a Large Role in the Rise of Kabbalah?
Pop icon Madonna has transformed herself, her music and her image countless times, but she's also transformed her religion -- and not everyone agrees it's for the better.
The Kabbalah Centre grew from a $20 million enterprise in 1999 to a $260 million 10 years later.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the religion, popularized by orthodox rabbi Philip Berg and his wife, Karen, began nearly 40 years ago. The couple has recently come under suspicion that member donations are being used to fund their lavish lifestyle -- including private jets, weekends in Las Vegas and even spa trips. The Internal Revenue Service is currently investigating the Kabbalah Centre for fraud following their tax exemption in 1999.
"Everything changed once Madonna began to study," Kabbalist Roseanne Barr told the Los Angeles Times. "Madonna had great intentions, and has done a lot of good things in the world, but her fame was so immense that there was no way that God or kabbalah or the rav [Philip Berg] or Karen Berg or heaven and Earth could remain the same in the face of it."
Heavy stuff! To Madonna's credit, she went all out in her Kabbalah studies, enrolling her daughter Lourdes in their Sunday school, taking one-on-one courses and even choosing a Hebrew name. (Remember when we all had to call her Esther?) Madonna's not the only marquee name in the mystic world, either. Fellow followers have included Gwyneth Paltrow, Britney Spears, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, comedian Sandra Bernhard, Paris Hilton and the late Elizabeth Taylor.
Madonna has an enormous influence on pop culture, so it's not surprising that she could sway others to her religion as well. However, pinning any unethical activity by the founders on Madge isn't fair. She may be called the Material Girl, but based on her actions, her heart (and money) are in the right place.