madonna malawi 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As the Madonna-run charity Raising Malawi collapses, the Kabbalah Centre is coming under fire for lavish expenses, according to a Newsweek article published this week.
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Raising Malawi, which was meant to found a girls' school in one of Africa's poorest countries from which Madonna adopted two children, imploded last week, despite reportedly raising $18 million and spending $3.8 million on the planned school. Kabbalah Centre International, the pop star's partner in the foundation, is now being investigated by the FBI.
According to the report, only $850,000 of the money $3.8 million was actually spent in Malawi, while the rest was spent in Los Angeles, at the Kabbalah Centre's offices.Newsweek
reported widespread corruption in the organization, saying that the Centre's founders, Phillip and Karen Berg and sons Michael and Yehuda, live in Beverly Hills mansions owned by the organization. The Kabbalah Centre also reportedly pays for the Bergs' "food, furniture, clothing, gas, nannies, tutors, gardeners housekeepers, personal assistants, and more exotic indulgences such as luxury cars, first-class flights and spas."
In response to the charges, Kabbalah Centre's lawyer Shane Hamilton told Newsweek
that the Bergs' luxurious lifestyle is "a parsonage" that is part of their salary. The organization said that the Bergs "have taken a vow of poverty."
"Disaffected followers have accused 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," the article explains. Hamilton explained that that "chevre,"
Kabbalah center members, "take a vow of service and are supplied with
basic necessities in exchange for 12-hour days of labor," much like
Scientology's Sea Org. In fact, Newsweek
says that the Kabbalah Centre's detractors call the organization "Jewish Scientology."
Some Kabbalah Centre-related lawsuits include an allegation that it
benefited from a Ponzi scheme that ended in the conviction of Mark
Goldman, of Goldan, LLC, who frequented the Manhattan branch. There have
also been civil suits "alleging that the Kabbalah Centre had exploited
the trust of wealthy followers in order to pillage their bank accounts,"