LA Kab­balah Cen­tre sues for­mer direc­tors

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BYTOMTUGEND LOS AN­GE­LES

THE KAB­BALAH Cen­tre of Los An­ge­les has launched a law­suit against two vet­eran for­mer em­ploy­ees.

In the case, filed in the US District Court, the cen­tre ac­cuses Shaul Youd­ke­vitch and his wife Os­nat of steal­ing its “trade se­crets” and mem­bers by es­tab­lish­ing the spin-off United Kab­balah Com­mu­ni­ties (UKC).

Lawyers for the cen­tre are seek­ing $100,000 (£58,000) from the Youd­ke­vitch cou­ple for un­fair busi­ness prac­tices and trade­mark in­fringe­ment, plus any UKC prof­its.

The cen­tre, which be­gan in Is­rael but es­tab­lished its head­quar­ters in Los An­ge­les in 1971 un­der Philip Berg, now claims satel­lites in 26 cities, in­clud­ing Lon­don, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and 58 study groups through­out the world.

In a widely cir­cu­lated let­ter and in an in­ter­view with the Jewish Jour­nal of Greater Los An­ge­les, the Youd­ke­vitchs have told a rather dif­fer­ent story.

The Is­rael-born cou­ple said they had worked as teach­ers at the Tel Aviv branch of the Kab­balah Cen­tre for 25 years, with Shaul be­com­ing its di­rec­tor, be­fore be­ing in­vited to join the Los An­ge­les head­quar­ters in 2005.

Over time, Mr Youd­ke­vitch said, he and his wife be­came dis­il­lu­sioned with what they saw as the cen­tre’s au­thor­i­tar­ian lead­er­ship, to the point that their dream of uni­ver­sal har­mony and en­light­en­ment through Kab­balah turned into a “ter­ri­ble night­mare”.

De­fence at­tor­ney Aviv Tuch­man termed the law­suit “ground­less,” say­ing that Kab­balah was not trade­marked and that for­ma­tion of UKC was pro­tected un­der the US Con­sti­tu­tion’s free-ex­er­cise-of-re­li­gion pro­vi­sion.

The Kab­balah Cen­tre’s lawyer and its spokesman did not re­spond to the JC’s re­quests for com­ment.

An ini­tial hear­ing for the case has been set for Oc­to­ber 27.

The Kab­balah Cen­tre has been reg­u­larly in the news, thanks to the well-pub­li­cised sup­port by pop stars in­clud­ing Madonna and fel­low Hol­ly­wood celebri­ties such as Demi Moore and Roseanne Barr.

But there have also been ac­cu­sa­tions that the Kab­balah Cen­tre, in­clud­ing the Tel Aviv branch un­der Mr Youd­ke­vitch’s di­rec­tion, used high-pres­sure tac­tics to ob­tain large sums of money from ad­her­ents.

PHTO: GETTY IM­AGES

The Los An­ge­les Kab­balah Cen­tre, of­ten vis­ited by stars like Madonna

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