Pop star Madonna has been in the news lately for giving up her "Material Girl" image for a spiritual life. However, Jewish leaders and cult experts have warned that her mystical group is a cult.
Madonna's new spirituality is based upon the Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism. She studies with Rabbi Phillip Berg at his Kabbalah Learning Center, with offices in Israel, New York, and London. The Learning Center has other celebrity members such as Liz Taylor and Roseanne. Madonna, Taylor, and Roseanne all wear red strings around their wrists as a sign of their devotion. One might assume their newfound spirituality is nothing but positive, especially in Hollywood.
However, cult expert Rick Ross describes the Kabbalah Learning Center as "a deeply troubling group." According to the New York Post [12/4/97], the cult revolves around leader Berg and his wife Karen, and quotes a former member as saying, "The methodology is divide and rule. If, for example, she [Karen] sees that there is too great a love between a couple, and this threatens her, she knows how to separate the couple, and she always wins.
Madonna, Liz Taylor, and Roseanne are not the only celebrity cult members in Hollywood. Scientology is infamous for its star-studded membership, which includes John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Chic Corea, and others.
What is the connection between celebrities and cults? Certainly celebrities offer cults the credibility they might otherwise lack. And celebrities can offer the substantial donations cults subsist on – sometimes lavishly. For example, Scientology's Celebrity Center in Los Angeles pampers the group's Hollywood members. Some cults have elaborate recruitment strategies to lure well-known people into the fold.
Of course not all Hollywood stars fall for the cult trap. Many see the dangers these groups pose. And many subscribe to bona fide religions.
FACTNet has accumulated a great deal of information on Scientology's celebrities. For details, see the FACTNet web site at Scientology/celebrities.htm.