Sep 1, 1994

The Cabal of the Kabbalah Centre Exposed: New Relations

Aynat Fishbein
The Israeli Magazine "Tel Aviv"
September 1994 

An investigation report which appeared in "Tel Aviv" two weeks ago, exposed the activity of Shraga Berg, how thousands of Israelis were entrapped by his charisma and adopted the doctrine of Kabbalah which he pretends to disseminate. As a result of that publicity, many people who served Berg, and awaked from him and left him, turned to the editors [of "Tel Aviv"]. Parents whose children - cut off and chained - are still there, also made contact [with the editors]. Their testimonies shed new and frightening light on the extent of the exploitation and degradation of the naïve believers.

The Man and his work

Memo on Shraga Berg, who calls himself a Kabbalist and a Doctor.

Rabbi Kabbalist Doctor Shraga Philip Berg, as he signs his books, 65 years old, went to Israel from New York, first 1962. His name then was Feivel Gruberger and his profession - insurance agent. He married the niece of the Kabbalist Rabbi Brandwein and distributed his books in the USA.

Berg claims that he was ordained in the USA early in the 50's, and received an additional ordination in Israel from Rabbi Brandwein. This was not confirmed by anyone, neither by Berg's former wife who he divorced nor by Rabbi Brandwein's close associates - who deny any connection to him except for that unfortunate marriage. In the early 70's, Berg immigrated to Israel for 2 years, returned to the USA, left his wife and 8 children to marry Karen - a completely secular woman. From that marriage issued 2 sons, Yehudah and Michael - the heirs.

It is difficult to trace the source of the doctorate he uses. It is known that one can easily obtain such a title in the USA for $10. "Leave it alone," said Berg, "it is a degree from a Christian university. I no longer use it."

Berg is not liked today in Israel by any group, religious or secular. His claim that he continues in the path of the Kabbalistic Rabbi's Ashlag and Brandwein, and that they are the founders of his center, arouses the wrath of the authentic heirs of these two rabbis. "There isn't a shred of truth in his claim," says Rabbi Ashlag's grandson with anger.

"They are degrading the Zohar. The distance between my grandfather and Berg is as the distance between east and west."

"He is far removed from Rabbi Brandwein," says also Baruch Horenchik, the late Rabbi [Brandwein's] right-hand man. "He is a zero. The Rabbi [Brandwein] never acknowledged him."

Among the other facts in which Berg does not bother to interest his followers, is the fact that contrary to law, ever since 1986, no one is reporting to the Income Tax Department for Non-Profit Organizations the millions that pass through the Center, with excuses such as "we didn't know that we needed [to report]."


"On the eve of Rosh Hashanah I telephoned my daughter in New York to wish her a good year," relates Y's mother, whose daughter is a single woman living in the New York branch of the Kabbalah Center. "She was not there, and as I did not speak to her for a few months, I asked the girl who answered the phone that she should contact me when she returns. The girl said that she should return in an hour. I waited an hour, two hours, the whole night, by the phone, I am still waiting."

The mother is choking from tears. She is an elderly woman, sad. "When she does contact us," says Y's brother, "I hear the kind of noise as if someone is listening in on the line. She probably also knows that she is being listened to, thus censors herself."

Ziva, who left the center after 15 years, smiles to herself. "This is not just kind of listening in," she says to [the brother]. "Rabbi Berg sits in a room with a whole slew of open telephones and listens to all conversations. This is how he 'discovers spiritually' each and every one's problems. There is though one thing you should know; your sister would not have censored herself. She doesn't even know that she is being listened to. She is simply completely brainwashed."

Two weeks ago an article was published here [in this publication] on the World Centre for Kabbalah of Rabbi Shraga Philip Berg who works on Bugrashov [street] and on the attached commune at 28 Mendele Street. By means of almost ingenious public relations, the center succeeds in attracting to its classes thousands of people a year and provides them with comfortable answers for their basic life-questions. These people invest there a lot of money. Some of them return to Judaism through the center and join the staff - the "crew of plowers."

They lived in crowded quarters, run-down apartments. Most hours of the day they work by going from house to house selling the books of the Zohar in exchange for a meager survival income. At night they arrive run-down, tired, for Zohar-reading classes, and they are very happy when the teacher tells them that they don't need to understand anything, just to connect to the Light. That [earlier] article reported [their claim] that the Light leads them and you do not argue with the Light. But is seems that it is possible.

Following that [first] article, many people turned to me - some of them refugees from the "crew" of the center, the rest, parents of the "crew." None of the parents are willing to be identified for fear that their already tenuous connection with their children will be cut off immediately at the "Rav" [Rabbi's] orders. Among the Kabbalah Center's refugees some are still afraid, almost a mystical fear of the Rav. Others, who went through a very difficult process of disassociation, are willing to do anything that other people should not fall into the net. "You wrote that perhaps it is not so bad to be used if the one being used wants this," says Vivi Marko who left after 8 years. "Believe me, the suffering one undergoes there, even if it takes years to understand and awaken from it, has a lot of evil in it."

The story belongs to tens of people represented by ten refugees. Some of them started their way with Rabbi Berg and his wife Karen immediately after he opened the institute in Israel in the early 70's. They all left a job, gave up on their livelihood and went to live the life of the Center.

The young ones left also their homes and families. These people, by their own admission, are the ones responsible for the personality cult that exists around the "royal couple." They are also the ones who with their own hands helped build the great fortune of the rabbi, which totals, according to his wife's admission to members of the Center, more than 20 million dollars. Most of the money was collected in the last 10 years.

The Personality Cult

Three whole families met with me. There is a connection between the fact that despite their experience they are the ones who did not separate and divorce and eventually left. Under other circumstances, for example, Vivi and her husband might have separated. She began and eventually changed her name to Naomi, and [her husband] followed with an obvious lack of enthusiasm and worked at the center for a salary. Their sons were divided in two. One went to every event, the other didn't want any connection. When Vivi understood that she needed to escape, her husband was with her.

Ziva and Nissim are from the old-timers of the center. Debby, their daughter, a student today, was raised in it and joined the "crew" the day after her matriculation. Another daughter who did not join was shunned by the rabbi and was ostracized from the family circle. The three of them left without collaborating with each other and at the same time.

Yossi and Etty Jersey from Bat Yam were in the center for a relatively short time when it was Yossi who was pushing and Etty who was trying to understand why this is happening to her. She was very happy when he understood by himself.

Even in the classes it is easy to identify the personality cult around the Bergs. Maybe not in the introductory course, but shortly thereafter. In each prayer they mumble his name. Before each meditation exercise "we area one with the Rav [Rabbi] and Karen," "the Rav says" is the opening of every second sentence of the teachers at the center, and lately a new invention was introduced: at festive meals, two empty huge chairs are added to the table, symbolizing the presence of the Rav and Karen there.

In the last few years the couple started speaking of themselves in the third person (i.e., "Is it impossible that the Rav made a mistake," as Berg indicated to Ziva, "when he didn't tell you to divorce Nissim?") Perhaps it is not surprising that they hold hundreds of people who, all like Vivi, will do anything for them: "If the Rav would have told me to jump off the roof of Kol-Bo Shalom, I would have done it and with great pleasure." When they recall the story of Uzzi Meshulam, none of them has any doubt that their Rav would have easily got them all to go to the streets with guns, and one word from him would have been sufficient to shoot at helicopters.

"The Rav decides everything connected to the lives of the crew," explains Vivi, "who marries who, who separates, who leaves the country and goes to another branch, and when he is to be transferred even from there. He is asked whether it is permissible to become pregnant, and Karen is asked how to have sexual relations. He decides if a sick child can take antibiotics. One woman had problems in giving birth and needed a Cesarean section. Her husband said that only the Rav can decide if she is allowed to have it, and went to contact him."

"The method is total severance from the past and from any base whatsoever," says Y's brother. "My sister wanders the whole time between New York and Toronto. She doesn't have one base, she doesn't have enough time to build relationships. She is always in a state of exhaustion. The separation from family, the changing of names, all this is part of the system. They bring a person to physical and emotional disintegration. This is a mystical cult in every way, with a guru and brainwashing."

Vivi: "The methodology is divide and rule, even with families. Karen decides everything. If, for example, she sees that there is too great a love between a couple, and this threatens her, she knows how to separate, and she always wins. One day, when I was in New York, she returned to us in a light-headed mood from a European center and told all the girls that the husband of someone wants to divorce her because she gained weight and no longer attracts him. All of us, like good little kids, sat and laughed. Later someone told this to that woman and she was broken. Yet Karen tells is that we are not allowed to gossip!"

Ziva: "Berg always says, 'The Rav must know everything.' Everyone squeals, for this helps the Rav to know how to act with people. It is impossible to trust anyone over there - neither husband, nor parents, nor children. I myself squealed on a very good friend of mine. I don't know if today she is angry with me or thanks me, but that was the reason she left the center."

Everyone there knows the story of one of the prominent boys in the center who was in love with one of the girls and she with him. The Rebetzen [Karen] decided that there will not be a marriage. She married the girl off to another boy and sent the unhappy couple to the center in the USA. The broken boy was sent immediately after them, to work with them. The 3 couples who come to the meeting [with the author of this article] also experienced separations for months at Karen's dictates. Yossi Jersey was sent to start a branch in Mexico and pregnant Etty remained alone in Israel.

Squealing behind the back

"The squealers seem to you happy?" Debby laughs. "Life over there is nightly crying on the pillows, squealing behind the back and no one to talk to. Two days after my matriculation, I moved to the girls' apartment near Bugrashav Street. Plowing is an impossible job, and I do not believe anyone telling me that he loves it. You wake up in the morning, try to postpone exiting with another cup of tea until you can't anymore. You take the bag [of books to be sold], and there are girls that the bag weighs four times as much as they, and we start running. There were days that they used to tell us - 'Run, fast, this is a holy time period.' At the end of the day we return completely finished - and then we start learning. After five months I was told that I am going to France to plow. I was ecstatic. The moment they send you abroad there is a potential to get to New York and be with the Rav."

Ziva: "I was also happy of the merit that my daughter is traveling to plow over there."

Debby: "I arrived. They gave me a huge bag and told me to look for mezuzot on the doors. So you climb on foot buildings of seven floors and there are no mezuzot. I had to inquire with the doorman if there are Jews in the building who are hiding in their mezuzot. Woe, how many times they shooed me away. One girl they even locked inside a building. After two weeks like that, my back was broken. I was unable to move. They sent me and three other girls to an orthopedic doctor. I was finished and told the manager of my branch that I wished that I was sick because I needed rest. This was immediately transferred to the Big Lady, Karen, and she ordered to have me returned to Israel. I begged for another chance. They gave me a week and then I really got sick. They sent me alone to Israel with high fever of 40 degrees Celsius. Only when I sat on my suitcase at the airport did I understand that when I did not bring them money, I was useless.

"The whole time I waited for the Rav and Karen to see who is my true mate and I should be happy. We lived 14 people in a 2 ½ bedroom tiny apartment: 3 girls and 2 families. The wife crying, the husband screaming. I understood that there is not much romance in here."

There are a few themes that keep repeating themselves in the stories about life at the center, especially in the New York branch. Degradation's, and a distinction between what is good for the crew and what is good for Shraga and Karen. "You are always incorrect there," says Yossi Jersey, "in true Judaism, to which I arrived later, they tell you to ascend one step at a time, and only when you are 100% certain, you go to the next one. But they, in order to hold you degraded, they always compare you to Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai the Ari [Rabbi Isaac Luria].

"Each incorrect action you do is 'Woe and woe, the Ari wouldn't have done this.' You are always in a status of worthlessness. You don't sleep right; you are zero spiritually, you don't have a moment to think about what they tell you. Then you transfer to the stage of parroting: you take all the sentences they tell you and tell them to yourself."

Vivi: "I felt it was a great mitzvah [meritorious act] for me clean Karen's washrooms. I used to clean her slippers with a toothbrush. Karen never works. Everyone works for her."

How do they live in New York? Ziva: "Many young families sit around them. The Rav's house is a palace in a beautiful and rich neighborhood in Queens. Around him there are a few small houses in which the rest of the people live."

Nissim: "I worked for them in renovations. Once they bought a run-down house. I fixed it and a short time afterwards it was sold for a great profit. In that period they bought many houses."

Vivi: "The personality cult begins in the smallest of things. When everyone goes to wash their hands after a meal, the royal couple does not move. We bring them water to the table. An hour beforehand we were fighting who would bring them the dish. Once Karen gave me a job: to bring her ice which she used to chew all the time. I would be standing and she would signal me to bring her more. Today, with hindsight, I think that I cannot be degraded any more in this world."

Vivi's son, the soldier, bursts out: "This was the function of the children. We used to hide the dish from each other. We had signals. When a certain song would be finished, it would be the time to run and bring out the dish. We used to plan how to sit closest to the dish, in readiness. At the end we simply created a rote. We used to run with a small chair for the Rav's feet, to slide it under them the moment he would lift his legs. In general, the children had especially rough degradation's. They cast us aside to eat on the side so that we would not disturb the Rav's energy."

Debby: "When we lived in new York, my brother and I were 12 and 9 years old. They left us alone in the house, shivering from fear, because the Rav didn't want that we should come to him, to a house full of energy."

Ziva: "In the Gulf War, Karen invited us to come to New York, at our expense, of course, but only without the children."

Vivi: "One of the teachers at the center had 3 children. For years they used to move them from place to place. 3 years ago, the Rav and Karen decided that one of the girls, 8 months old, needed a correction because she was a Leo. They left her alone on the 3rd floor of one of the buildings in Queens, and the mother they left on the first floor. The girl screamed and cried without food or anything, and no one approached her by edict of the Rav."

What do they Live Off, How do they Eat?

Yossi: "When I lived there, and worked the whole day, at the end of the day, I would look for a pizza that would be 50 cents cheaper so as to return sated. Then I would come and see a van being unloaded with food worth hundreds of dollars for Karen's 3 dogs."

Ziva: "I cooked there 3 months. Both of them eat the best and most expensive things ever. They live like kings. They throw their clothes on the floor because they have someone to pick up after them, clean and launder for them. Karen wears the most expensive sun-glasses, the most expensive wigs. The other women walk around with donated rags on their heads."

Vivi: "She had plastic surgery, a face-lift and a whole set of teeth installed. Yet someone had a tooth pulled for $120 and was screamed at for wasting the center's money. You have to understand how we lived. A girl gets $36 at the beginning of the week, and a boy gets $50 a week. From this you need to eat and manage. True, you don't starve to death, you buy wholesale, but the Rav and Karen have a separate fridge upon which it is written not to take anything from it. Yet we stand and cook for them the whole day fresh and tasty food. The plowers do not buy clothes; they receive donations, and Karen walks around with hands full of diamonds.

"Even from the money we get, we are not allowed to buy everything, for that is a waste. One woman bought her daughter something from that money, threw the wrapping away and shoved it into her bag, and told Karen that it was a gift. She begged me not to tell them. Another one, tired of having her hair cut by the hairdresser who cut all our hair, used money sent to her by her mother to have her hair cut at another hairdresser. What a commotion there was! For 'money is energy; thus why not donate it to the center?"

"When my brother returned from New York, he was as skinny as a skeleton," remembers the sister of B, a crew-member who spoke to his parents perhaps 4 times in the last 6 years. "He came home, took money from his parents, who had also subsidized his flight to Israel, and disappeared. We hardly saw him in the two weeks he was there."

"now I understand why Y does not write or contact me," says the mother, "she doesn't have time."

Vivi smiles sadly: "To write home means to steal time from sleeping or showering. You simply fall apart from exhaustion. Even on Shabbat - you work until 5 minutes before the beginning of Shabbat, prepare a meal, run to take a shower, and don't even manage that at times. There were times that suddenly after we finished, Madame Karen looks at the sky, sees that it is a nice day, and informs that everything is to be moved upstairs to the veranda. We drag and they look."

Degradation as Tikun (correction)

Shraga and Karen are not the only ones enjoying the cheapest and most dedicated room-service in the world. The wealthy donors enjoy it also. Not those who withdraw their $3000 savings-plans, or take their compensation-funds after leaving their jobs, to transfer it all automatically to the center, but whose who fill Berg's pocket with enormously large sums of money for the privilege to sit by his side during prayer or on a holiday.

"They told us that they criticize is and degrade us for our benefit, that this is a Tikun (correction)," says Vivi, "which on millionaires does not work. They never get up to wash the dishes, nobody screams at them; they only get smiles. Sometimes they come with us to Israel, and then we iron and launder for them, feed them and take care of them. Some people broke simply from this hypocrisy. Not me. I continued until other things broke me."

No doubt that the non-reporting to the Income Tax in Israel is one of the smallest transgressions of the center. Each of the people sitting in that room knew to tell me of other things that they themselves did happily, and their sole motive was to bring more money to the Bergs. There are, for example, methods to save on the very expensive medical insurance in the USA. "Karen recommended us to use that method," Ziva says, "and we, because we did not have money and the center did not subsidize any insurance for us, used it. You go to a hospital, give a false name and address, receive medical attention and leave. The bill is sent to that address. All of us did it, many, many times."

No less fabulous ideas get formulated by Berg whenever he collects contributions. For example, how to sell a Torah given to him as a donation. "For a long time there were 4 Torahs at the Rabbinate in Israel, from a synagogue that had closed," relates Ziva. "There is there a rabbi who likes my husband very much, and he took out 2 Torahs and donated them to the center. A short time thereafter somebody came who wanted to donate $36,000 to purchase another Torah for the center. A big celebration for bringing in a Torah was held in his honor, and suddenly we note that it was the Torah my husband had brought, except that they had made a new covering for it. When my husband later on told this to the Rav, the latter went berserk. He threw me out of their house in Nir Tzvi, screamed at me and my husband 'liar,' and there was great embarrassment."

"I don't want to mention all the words he used," says quietly Vivi's husband who tried to calm everyone. "I knew I had to make peace or it would end in the divorce of Ziva and Nissim. I begged a whole day until the Rav graciously agreed to forgive Nissim."

"And all this is taking place near the Torah that I brought," laughs Nissim. Everyone laughs; they experienced this. This is bitter laughter. Y's brother rose. He said: "You can laugh already. We still have a long time to wait."

Another way of making money is by selling mezuzot. Whoever bought lately a mezuzah from Benjamin Ricardo, a scribe of Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzot and a senior member of the center, should not rely on it to protect his house. "The mezuzot of Ricardo they send only abroad," says Ziva. "Only a few select individuals, with the Rav's special permission, can purchase them here. After Ricardo prepares them, they go to the airport. They grab there a religious Jew and give him a package to take abroad. Over there, contact is made with him and the package is taken away. That is how they save on shipping-costs, and other such silly things.

"One day we received a package in return, full of old broken mezuzot. Yehudah [Berg], the heir-apparent, explained that these are old mezuzot taken down from houses where Ricardo's mezuzot were placed. 'Sell them in Israel,' he said to me. That is: we should take the old papers and put them into new containers. I cried. How could I sell an old, torn mezuzot to a person who believes that this is what protects his house? They didn't even check if all the letters are good. This is one of the things that made me break."

Fraud, Gambling, Hitting

Even if one were to say that all is just being clever, the forging of a signature cannot be dismissed as simple cleverness. When Ziva and Nissim arrived in the USA, they had purchased for Nissim - who worked there for a long period of time - a life insurance, being helped through the Rav's professional experience as a former insurance agent. They gave the money to Karen and she transferred it to the insurance company. In 1993, after they left the center, they approached the insurance company with their request that the funds accumulated be sent to them. After many letters and telephone calls, when the company's agents did not understand who they are and what they want, they were sent a photocopy of a letter from 1989 indicating that the insurance money was transferred to the name of the center, Nissim's signature appears on that letter, very badly forged. One of the witnesses signed there was none other but Philip Gruberger, better known as Shraga Berg.

"In the end they returned the money," Ziva relates, "after my brother threatened them with a lawsuit. They never admitted the forgery. In a letter Karen sent me, she writes that Shalom, my brother better be careful before throwing stones. I prefer not to understand what she meant."

There is also fundraising in the streets, with special receipt-books, for the center's Yeshivot in Israel - in Jerusalem and Sefad. There's no one who didn't make others donate. Needless to say that no such Yeshovit exist. The center does not have a single Yeshivah in Israel.

Violence, especially towards the orthodox Jews, is just part of the daily routine. "We once came to the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai [near] Sefad," says Debby. "The orthodox asked that we separate, like everyone else, to the men and women's sections. In a provocative act we entered together. This ended up in punching. We hit them, and received hits also. We thought it to be proper. I remember how I screamed to my friend in the midst of this - 'They are kelipot (evil shells), we are hitting kelipot!'"

Berg was not willing to respond to this article. "I don't care what people who left have to say," says Benjamin Ricardo, his spokesman for this article. "There are always people for whom this is not suitable, and they leave. I am in the center for 15 years. I went through everything over there. I - and no one else - know everything that happens there. You don't understand the topic, and that is why I am not going to talk. Forget it."

All those who left, mentioned [above], and others who refused to be identified, compare their departure from the center to a rehabilitation from drugs. What brought them there was not stupidity. They call it emotional disability which found a response with the help of Berg's charisma. The departure, most of the time through painful dismissal when they no longer find favor with Karen and sometimes after a late awakening, was such a painful experience that it brought some to thoughts of suicide.

"When a person discovers to have been cheated, it is the greatest trauma," says Yossi. "For him it is the end of Spirituality in the world, and in my eyes this is one of their most severe sins. When a person leaves, he no longer believes in his own ability to earn a livelihood, to have a home and family. Myself, after a few months in the center, I left broken, with an immense lack of confidence. The road back is almost impossible."

"When I look back and realize who I made a god, I know that we are not all perfect," says Vivi; "after all, no one forced me. I take full responsibility and blame myself first - not only for what I did to myself and my family, but also for what I did to others when I collaborated and when I remained silent at the site of abuse. I left there knowing that I was mistaken in all that I thought about myself. Suddenly, I saw that I was garbage. Then started the terrible battle within myself. It is impossible to describe how difficult it is. It is worse than death. It is worse than drugs. You are condemned to live in a crazy state all the time. My luck was that I had an anchor, my husband and my children. The young ones do not have no where to go, no shoulder to cry on. I don't know how they will leave from there, if ever."

"And believe me," says Vivi, a moment before we departed, when it was clear that most of the things were not said, that it was impossible to tell all, "I was ready to do a lot to hit myself over the head and return to what I had over there in the USA. Here [in Israel], it is so difficult. Over there it was so good and simple."

All the incidents mentioned here are only a partial list, brought up almost as an aside. This, as well as the fact that each Zohar, sold for IS845 ($340 in the USA, F2400 in France) hardly costs the center a penny, because from the moment of printing it is already subsidized by those who sponsor letters or chapters. Also, the fact that the Rav and Karen more than once took limousines, at the expense of the center, to gamble for their pleasure in Atlantic City. They even told of their experiences when they returned.

In the center they claim that in Israel they pay income tax. It is difficult to know if this is correct. But there is no doubt that the State of New York would find it quite worthwhile to check exactly what is happening in that neighborhood of Queens. Even if they do pay income-tax, one question remains: as long as no one reports to the Department of Income Tax Non-Profit Organizations Division (in Israel), how is it possible to know what money goes to the center and what does not, for example, to the pockets of Berg and Karen? They claim that all the moneys go to the center. What remains is to wonder about their high lifestyle.

Dancing Around A Bucket of Water

The ceremonies at the center, revealed only to the closest among them, remind one of what a neighbor of the Rav in Queens, Archie Bunker, used to call "mumbo jumbo."

On Passover, they dance around a bucket of water seven times, and they do a splitting of the Red Sea on it, with the Rav standing there and reading appropriate texts. On Sukot, on the day of Hoshana Rabba, there is the most mystical of all ceremonies - the checking of the shadow. "Hundreds of people stand in the full moon light," Debby describes, "a white bed sheet spread on the ground, and the Rav standing next to it. Each one in turn stands between the Rav and the bed sheet with legs and fingers widespread, and by the light of the moon, the Rav sees your soul inside the shadow and finds if it has an illness or shortcoming. To each one he gives advice along the lines of 'work on yourself.'"

"This is what he knows to tell everyone," says Vivi. "One day the Rav fell on the steps in the synagogue and everyone was given hell. 'Why isn't there unity; there are no energies, people are not strong enough!' When the Rav's Cadillac was broken into, we were all blamed for lack of unity and love. And when something would happen to one of us - 'ask yourself why, repent, you are not good enough yet.' He never asks [this of] himself. It is always we who are to blame."

[End of article. Additional insert on p.35]

We are all evil shells

A teacher who left talks about Berg's spiritual dogma

"I don't want to speak about what is happening there today." Says a former teacher of the Kabbalah Centre, as a physical fear, not a mystical one, causes him to remain anonymous. "I left before my soul was overcome with disgust as I saw the fraudulence in the material itself and I was looking for the real thing. It is preferable that people searching for spirituality turn in a Jewish direction, rather than the various Hare Krishna cults, but there [to the Centre] they should not go. They did horrendous things. Young men are being prevented from getting married so that they would remain their slaves, and this is only the beginning."

QUESTION: "Does Berg believe in himself?"

RESPONSE: "I was under the impression that he believes very much in what he does; even when he invents things a week late, he believes in them."

QUESTION: "How do people get sucked into something like that?"

RESPONSE: "They have a warm system, full of safety valves and defenses. This system awakens very grave doubts within a person the moment he begins to think about what he is being told. This is a Cult's methodology. The Rav dismisses everything around him so that he becomes the sole authority, in order to prevent people from thinking. He infuses his people with a completely empty pride that they are busy and working with issues which affect the world and all others, especially religious others, and the others are worthless."

QUESTION: "But how does this begin?"

RESPONSE: "People over there feel things very strongly, and it is impossible to argue with that. They live a normal existence, normal feelings, and fell other things, good things. It is not from logic; it is from emotions. People in need of love receive there things they never felt before. Berg believes in his own powers; he thinks that he is a spiritual superman, and people become very dependent upon things that he is supposedly responsible for. In order to do this, one needs to have charisma and some basic knowledge in how to manipulate people. It is difficult to explain this, but by certain actions it is possible to cause a person to feel these things. This is not true spiritually. Even I can get this out of anybody."

QUESTION: "And did you do that?"

RESPONSE: "Even after I began to have doubts, I would stand in a class and be amazed how people believe in me to so much an extreme, and seriously. Even once I did not believe at all in what I was doing, I was successful in causing other people to feel that I am truthful and transfer them this power. It is possible, and they use it in a negative way."

QUESTION: "Isn't this true Kabbalah?"

RESPONSE: "This is a very far cry from true Kabbalah. Kabbalah works on the balancing and unifying of logic and emotion. Over there, they do not use logic. They throw around a few axioms and everything works on that basis. One of the things that caused be to run away was that they do not use any text books. What they teach is the complete opposite to Rabbi Ashlag's Sulam translation. Berg's book are completely without roots in reality, full of physics of which he has no understanding and in which he enclothes the Kabbalah. If I were to sit with his people, within on minute they would see that they do not understand anything about Kabbalah."

QUESTION: "The religious people are afraid that they transmit the "Secret Knowledge" to the people."

RESPONSE: "All the Kabbalah that we learn at present is the simplest of the simplest levels of Sod (the Mystical Tradition). The Sod is transferred from teacher to disciple and only very few have it. Berg certainly does not. He formulated the simplest of the simplest."

QUESTION: "What are kelipot (evil shells, or husks)?"

RESPONSE: "In true Kabbalah, kelipot are within a person, the elements he battles within himself. This is an internal labor. Berg throws [transfers] these to the outside, and his world is pictured as a place with horrendous evil forces attacking people. Anyone who interferes with him, even other people - especially the religious people - are kelipot. If parents object, one is to be ecstatic - because this is a kelipah (evil shell) which one must fight. This article, for example, is a seriously evil shell, and berg will explain to his students that it only demonstrates that the Centre is on the right path."

Apr 1, 1994

NBC Defames Carp And The Unification Church Of America

by Peter Ross-NYC

In November of 1993, NBC aired several programs which defamed the Unification Church of America and CARP. The following letter was submitted to NBC's lawyer by Peter Ross. attorney, who represents the Unification Church and CARP. In addition to this response the Unification Church has filed an official complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.

On Monday, November 8, 1993, and on Monday, November 15, 1993, NBC aired editions of the Today show which referenced the Unification Church of America ("the Church"). NBC also aired an edition of the Now program, which was essentially a re-run of the first Today show.

To date, your client has failed to consider the concerns of the Church with regard to these several programs. The failure of your client to respond to my request for a meeting to discuss these programs was very disappointing.
Therefore, please be advised that officials of the Unification Church have decided to retain counsel and to file suit in federal court against NBC and the producers of the Today show, together with Peter Heinrich, Cynthia Lilley, Patrick Ryan, Carol Giambalvo, Steve Hassan, and the Cult Awareness Network (CAN).

The cause of action is defamation of the Unification Church. Unification Church officials believe that these programs were maliciously produced in order to undermine the legitimate good standing of the Church as a bonafide religious organization, in order to adversely reflect upon the Church's honesty and integrity, and in order to impair the Church's ability to otherwise legitimately function as a bonafide charitable organization.

It is the opinion of Church officials that the elements necessary to establish a prima facie case have been met in these several shows.
A brief review of the origin and nature of these programs will explain the basis for the Church's decision.

Origin of the Today show:

The producers of the Today show became interested in Cathryn Mazer's brief association with the Unification Church after having been contacted by Cynthia Lilley and Peter Heinrich.

Cathryn had initially met the Unification Church in New York, through its student organization, the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP). Despite her efforts to communicate her decision to associate with CARP, Peter Heinrich, her step-father, and Cynthia Lilley, her mother, sought to persuade Cathryn to end her association with CARP through a variety of tactics, which included among others, first, the threat of force and subsequently the threat of a negative media attack on the Church. It must be noted that Cathryn Mazer never joined CARP or the Unification Church.

Because of a fear and apprehension that she would be abducted and subjected to an involuntary deprogramming, Cathryn Mazer advised Cynthia Lilley, who was visiting New York, that she would file a complaint with the police and seek a court order of protection if Cynthia Lilley's threats continued. On behalf of Cathryn, I advised federal law enforcement agencies in New York of the threats that Cathryn had been subjected to. I have in my possession an affidavit drafted by Cathryn Mazer on September 14, 1993, outlining her concerns in this regard.

Having been so advised by Cathryn, Cynthia Lilley and Peter Heinrich ceased issuing threats of a forcible abduction and returned to California.

The basis for Cathryn's fear of being kidnapped arose from the fact that both Peter Heinrich and Cynthia Lilley stated that they had obtained information and counsel from individuals associated with the Cult Awareness Network("CAN"). In fact, the Today show of November 8, showed two active deprogrammers associated with CAN.

The term deprogramming refers to a process whereby individuals who are members of, or associated with certain religious groups are subjected to various involuntary procedures designed to strip them of their religious beliefs. It is more accurately described as faith-breaking.
The Reverend Dean Kelley, Counselor on Religious Liberty for the National Council of Churches, has stated: "Forcible deprogramming is the most serious stain on religious liberty facing this country in the latter half of the 20th. century."

NBC presented on both the Today show and the Now show, two active deprogrammers retained by Cynthia Lilley advising her how to attempt a deprogramming of Cathryn Mazer. One of these deprogrammers, Carol Giambalvo, had her own daughter involuntarily committed into a mental hospital in order to sever her association with the Hare Krishna religion. The other deprogrammer, Patrick Ryan, is a well know deprogrammer who charges thousands of dollars for his services and has been most active in targeting members of Transcendental Meditation. In addition, the Today show presented an interview with Steve Hassan, a long-time associate of CAN, who had arrived in the NBC studios after having just attended CAN's annual national conference in Minneapolis. All three, have been featured speakers at CAN conferences.

Several facts regarding the nature and identity of CAN are relevant:

  1. CAN is an organization that has been implicated in the illegal kidnapping and forcible abduction of hundreds of individuals throughout the years.
  2. The activities of CAN have been condemned by the majority of respected religious leaders, social scientists, and jurists throughout America (see enclosed).
  3. The former national security director of CAN, Galen Kelly, has been convicted, and is currently serving a seven and one quarter year sentence in federal prison, for the kidnapping of a young woman in Virginia in 1992. Federal prosecutors have at least one additional case pending against Galen Kelly here in New York which also further implicates associates of CAN.
  4. CAN has been engaged in the practice of referring callers to hired kidnappers. Former deprogrammer and CAN member, Mark Blocksom, in an affidavit dated July 18, 1992, stated that he received 100 -200 referrals of deprogramming customers from CAN officers and directors. Cynthia Kisser, the executive director of CAN has admitted to referring inquirers to her office to deprogrammers, like Kelly and Blocksom. In return, the deprogrammers pay money for these referrals.

This information is a matter of public record, and was provided to the Today show and to your office prior to the airing of these programs. However, despite having received such notice, NBC elected to rely solely on sources that have been consistently hostile to, and prejudicial towards, the Unification Church.

The nature of the Today show:The threat of kidnapping and abduction of Cathryn Mazer abated upon Cynthia Lilley's return to California. However, almost immediately, she and Peter Heinrich began to present the threat of a negative media attack on the Unification Church. This was communicated to Cathryn Mazer and also directly to representatives of the Church. 

Various elected officials, who were apprised of this prospect by Cynthia Lilley and Peter Heinrich, contacted the Church and cautioned Church officials of this imminent attack on the Church. In addition, I personally received a telephone call from an attorney in Washington, D.C., David Bardin, who made it clear to me that NBC was producing a report on the Unification Church that would be unfavorable in its treatment of the Church. Mr. Bardin serves as pro bono legal counsel for CAN in Washington, D.C.. In his phone conversation with me Mr. Bardin stated that "if Cathryn was in California there would be no story."

It thus became apparent that Peter Heinrich and Cynthia Lilley adopted this alternative measure to coerce Cathryn to terminate her association with the Unification Church and to extort from Church officials a decision to preclude Cathryn Mazer from associating with the Church. Rather than abducting Cathryn and forcing a deprogramming upon her as first intended, they sought instead to coerce Cathryn to expose herself to the same prospect by an alternative means. In order for them to do so, however, they needed the cooperation of a sympathetic and willing agent, which they found in Ms. Susan Friedman, the Today show producer and ultimately from NBC itself.

The purpose of the Today show was apparently two-fold: first, to intimidate the Church with the specter of unfavorable reportage to coerce Cathryn to return to California thereby exposing her to an abusive deprogramming, and secondly, to expose the Church to ridicule and hostility by airing a report which would present the Church in a defamatory manner. Both of these objectives were pursued through a conspiracy between Peter Heinrich, Cynthia Lilley, Steve Hassan, Carol Giambalvo, Patrick Ryan, CAN, Susan Friedman and NBC.

True to its design, the Today show of November 8, 1993, presented the Unification Church of America in a defamatory manner. The show maliciously reported that the Unification Church had intentionally restrained Cathryn Mazer against her will and that the Church had prevented her family from having access to her. This was entirely false. On the contrary, the intention of the Unification Church was at all times to insure Cathryn's personal safety and to support her in the exercise of her fundamental constitutional rights. In this regard, I will be pleased to submit a transcript of my final conversation with Cathryn before her eventual departure to LaGuardia airport to travel to Detroit to meet her family.

The following facts are evidence of a conspiracy by NBC and the Today show to defame the Unification Church:

  1. Cathryn Mazer had maintained consistent and regular communications with her family, albeit under very difficult circumstances, throughout her brief sojourn with the Unification Church. Yet, the Today show attempted to depict a different and false account.
  2. The Today show portrayed Cathryn as being in hiding or as otherwise evading her family. This was false. Cathryn had attempted to communicate with her family at all times and to apprise them of her activities. However she was apprehensive of the intentions of Peter Heinrich and Cynthia Lilley because of a real fear of being subjected to an abduction and an involuntary deprogramming.
  3. The Today show never presented Cathryn Mazer's side of the story that she feared she would be the victim of an involuntary deprogramming (see enclosed affidavit of Cathryn Mazer).
  4. The Unification Church was described by the Today show as a cult. This is a misrepresentation and mischaracterization of the Church. Neither the original academic meaning of the term "cult" nor the more sensational and pejorative meaning of the term appropriately applies to the Unification Church.
  5. Despite being provided with a letter from the New York City Commission on Human Rights and statements from distinguished media organizations condemning the use of the term "Moonie" as pejorative and offensive, and despite the statement of Dr. James Baughman, President of the Unification Church of America on the November 11 show, NBC persisted in using the term "Moonie" to dehumanize and to disparage members of the Unification Church.
  6. The producers of the Today show gave no opportunity to Church officials to appropriately address the issues raised in these shows.
  7. The producers of the Today program did not inform, nor did they provide any opportunity for Church officials to appropriately respond to the surprise airing of the interview with an apostate member of the Church. At no time was it explained by the Today show that this individual had been the victim of a deprogramming. Nor was it explained how the producers of the Today program had been referred to this individual.
  8. The Today show invited Dr. James Baughman to appear live at the very last moment. His statements were to be the only opportunity for the Unification Church to respond to the attacks made by NBC. However, he was not provided the opportunity to present his response due to the decision by NBC and the producer of the Today show to concurrently present Steve Hassan on the program.  Mr. Hassan is a deprogrammer who has received tens of thousands of dollars to deprogram members of new religious faiths. At a CAN conference in New Jersey in 1989, Mr. Hassan described the Catholic Church as "the biggest cult in America." As a highly paid deprogrammer Hassan has a clear financial stake in perpetuating the myth that members of new religious groups are held under mind control.  During his appearance on the Today show Mr. Hassan refused to allow Dr. Baughman the opportunity to speak. Please be advised that the Unification Church has been reliably informed that NBC paid Steve Hassan's expenses in coming to New York to appear on this show. Furthermore, Mr. Hassan has publicly boasted of his role on the program and has stated that he was told by NBC to persistently interrupt Dr. Baughman in order to prevent Dr. Baughman from speaking. None of the other participants on this program were treated so unfairly or in such a hostile manner by NBC.
  9. The Today show refused to provide any critical analysis of the role played by Carol Giambalvo and Patrick Ryan in relation to the activities of Peter Heinrich and Cynthia Lilley in their efforts to procure a deprogramming of Cathryn Mazer; nor did NBC provide any explanation of their long-time association with CAN. Rather, both of these individuals were ironically presented as benign "family advisors."
  10. The Today show consulted exclusively with individuals who have a long association with CAN. There was no effort made to seek the opinion of impartial authorities or to interview any objective or informed critics of the Church. Nor was any apparent effort made to objectively investigate the practice of deprogramming.
  11. Prior to the airing of the program, Susan Friedman, the producer of the Today show, denied having spoken with anyone from CAN and insisted that she was treating this story in a completely objective manner. However, there is no evidence that she consulted with any sources other than those hostile and prejudicial towards the Unification Church. In fact, when challenged to name a person that she had consulted with that was objective towards the Unification Church she named Anne Olander. Anne Olander is in fact the founder of the Chicago affiliate of CAN.
  12. The November 15, edition of the Today show went so far as to juxtapose the Unification Church with the People's Temple in Jonestown. Such juxtaposition was more than reprehensible under the circumstances.
  13. It is a fact that neither the threat of, nor the actual airing of, a defamation of the Unification Church affected the decisions of Church officials in their concern for the safety of Cathryn Mazer. Nevertheless, Ms. Cynthia Lilley has recently embarked upon a lecture tour and presented a different story. Her presentations in these various forums is a tale of how she used the media to terminate her daughter's association with the Unification Church (see enclosed materials).

While such a presentation impacts upon the professional and ethical standards followed in this regard by NBC and the producers of the Today program, Ms. Lilley has presented evidence of a prior conspiracy to engage in tortious conduct that has proved injurious to my client.

Based upon these facts, and those facts referenced in my prior correspondences with you, the Unification Church of America has determined to pursue a civil suit against the various parties comprising this specious assault. Several other reports aired in the past have caused Church officials to conclude that NBC has contrived a particular policy with regard to reports about the Church. It is apparent that the only way for the Church to insure that NBC alters its current agenda is to file suit.

Nevertheless, please be advised that Church officials are prepared to consider an alternative non litigious resolution to this matter. In so doing, please be advised that nothing in this letter is intended as, nor should be construed as, a waiver of any rights or remedies by the Church, and all such rights and remedies whether at equity or law, are expressly reserved.