This article argues for understanding the practices of the Kabbalah
Centre as “combinative American religion,” Catherine Albanese’s theory
of metaphysical American religion, which better reveals its founder’s and
practitioners’ negotiation of the United States in the twentieth century
than the terms mysticism or New Religious Movement (NRM). The use of
mysticism to describe Kabbalah has been debated in the study of Judaism.
Debates over the term mysticism, the “authenticity” of Kabbalah as
mysticism, or even specific examples such as the Kabbalah Centre’s founder
Philip Berg as “authentic” Kabbalah obscure the historical question:
how has the Kabbalah Centre been an example of American religion?
Highlighting the Kabbalah Centre’s combinative tendency shows how
similar the Kabbalah Centre is to other religious practices in the United
States. This article analyzes Philip Berg and the Kabbalah Centre as an
example of how practices typically understood in a trajectory of Jewish
history also have a place in American history, expanding the complexity
of both historiographies.
Redefining Kabbalah: Combinative American Religion at the Kabbalah Centre