Skip to comments.Will Britney Become Jewish? Has She?
Posted on 07/15/2009 2:32:26 PM PDT by nickcarraway
This week ABC News sent Twitter all atwitter with a photo of Britney Spears sporting a Star of David necklace. Has the pop star, asked ABC, converted to Judaism? The comeback queen has had a variety of religious dabblings over the years, including Kabbalah and Hinduism, despite her Baptist roots. But this sighting has fueled Internet rumors that Spears may be engaged to her latest and, perhaps, most wholesome boyfriend, Jason Trawick, who happens to be Jewish.
My answer is: doubtful.
Conversion to Judaism is a long affair: many months, if not years of study, work with a teacher or rabbi, a final appearance before a beit din, or religious court. Its not brain surgerymany people do itbut it is somewhat more involved than appearing in public with a necklace.
The chances that the worlds most famous ( living) media pop sensation could complete the conversion process in total secrecy are slim to none.
But it is true that Spears has dabbled in the kind of Kabbalah taught by the Kabbalah Learning Centre.
As The Jewish Journal reported on September 3, 2005, many celebrities are attracted to the KLC:
Its official. The Kabbalah Centre has usurped the Church of Scientologys status as Hollywoods hottest creed of choice. These days, it seems like every celeb looking to add meaning to his or her glittering but empty life of fame and fortune is joining the red-string-wearing, holy-water-selling, quasi-Jewish group.
Earlier this week, the New York Post reported that Madonnafresh from French kissing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the MTV Music Awardswas seen with Rosie ODonnell and an unnamed Kabbalah Centre crony at The Box Tree, New Yorks most expensive kosher restaurant. This just after the Material Girl and husband Guy Ritchie reportedly donated about $3.5 million to buy a London house for the controversial organization, of which they have been longtime supporters.
This week, the center got something even more importanta figurative Tiger Beat seal of approval when hunky obsession-of-the-moment Ashton Kutcher (My Bosss Daughter, Dude, Wheres My Car?, That 70s Show) went with his much older, recently rejuvenated girlfriend Demi Moore to the Kabbalah Centre on Robertson Boulevard, where they bought a $78 poster of the names of God.
Billy Phillips, a spokesperson for the center, said that the study of Kabbalah has attracted celebrities for centuries, pointing out that 2,000 years ago philosophers Plato and Pythagoras studied kabbalah.
Phillips wouldnt give any details of Kutchers visit to the center (and a call to the centers bookstore had the clerk asking Who is Ashton Kutcher?) but Phillips did say that the most popular course for newcomers like Kutcher is the ten-week Power of Kabbalah Course, which is taught on Wednesday nights.
For the first time in history we are seeing people from all walks of life studying Kabbalah, which is the way that it is meant to be, Phillips said. But it is the celebrities who make the newspapers.
Four years ago, the first sightings of Spears sporting a Kabbalah center red string surfaced.
Shortly afterward, Spears shaved her head and was sighted outside a tattoo parlor, prompting The Jewish Journals annual Purim spoof cover to feature a photo of the shaved, pierced and tattooed Spears along with the headline: Britney Says, Kabbalah Keeps Me Grounded!
There was even a report several months ago that Spears was offered to play a heroine in a Holocaust movie:
According to Haaretz, Spears has been offered the lead in The Yellow Star of Sophia and Eton, which, according to the Israeli newspaper, integrates time travel, concentration camps and a love story. (Have you ever heard a stranger concatenation of plot points?) Spears would play the title role of Sophia LaMont, the female inventor of a time machine that whisks her to a concentration camp where she meets her beshert. Spears has yet to confirm her commitment because the snake-wielding chanteuse is currently touring in her Circus show. Although, Im not sure why anyone would see the movie since its already been spoiled: the star-crossed lovers die at Nazi hands.
Another reason I suspect Spears is not Jewish, at least, not yet? One can attend the Kabbalah Learning Centre for years, for ever, and not convert, or consider oneself Jewish. Madonna, the Centres most famous acolyute, is the best example of that. The Centre, as Prof. Jody Myers told the Journal, sees itself not as a synagogue or branch of Judaism, but as a place for personal spiritual growth:
In a 2004 interview on National Public Radio, Terry Gross asked Madonna if she planned to convert.
Oh please, dont make me sick! Madonna exclaimed. Im never going to be Jewish, and I hate that phrase.
The pop star was reflecting a Centre teaching that what it offers is not Jewish; its not even religion. By not naming a Jewish thought system as Jewish, by abhorring the idea that adherents must convert, Berg repositions Kabbalah as universal wisdom, available to all.
The term Jew is not used in Centre discourse, Myers writes. Jew and gentile are ethnic terms. Kabbalah is for all humanity.
I wrote one of the first investigative articles on the Center back in 1997. Its not on our site but Ill paste it in at the end of this post.
Two years ago, after reading Myers bookthe only fair and academic study doen on the CentreI reexamined the Centre and came to a different and more positive conclusion:
Rabbi Phillip Berg appeared on the bimah. The crowd leapt to its feet and began chanting and dancing. No one sat until he sat. The rabbi had been seriously ill lately, and his presence was a cause for celebration. Men approached him for his blessings. The relationship appeared not so much cultish as, perhaps, Sephardic or Chasidicthe rebbe in the house. Another rabbi gave the sermonas lackluster as any number of sermons that probably were being given across the town that Saturday.
But the energy in the room never flagged. The davening, the praying, was intense, focused and, yes, uplifting. At the end, I realized something uncomfortable: As a Shabbat morning in shul goes, this was good. And it was familiar: the Centre had long ago done what any number of new Jewish communities and old-line synagogues have, over the past 10 years, been learning to do: embrace visitors, use music (in this case, noninstrumental), emphasize personal and world healing, stick to Hebrew liturgy.
Professor Shawn Landres, co-author of a just-released study on these emergent communities, told me the Kabbalah Centrethough it denies it is Jewishwas a predictor of innovative forms of Jewish worship and outreach.
American Judaism is no longer an Ashkenazic conversation with itself, which is what the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Orthodox schism wasit was all an Ashkenazic conversation with itself, Landres said. The Kabbalah Centre proves the total success of Judaism in America, as it has spun off heterodoxies at the fringes.
I cant help but think that part of what rubs establishment Judaism the wrong way is the very popularity of this heterodoxy. Berg, in trying to keep young Jews from cults, was accused by the Jewish establishment as promulgating a cult of his own. But Myers shows that the Centre, while far from flawless, has pioneered a way of reaching Jews and non-Jews.
Her book begs a serious, unanswered question: What if we were to see the Centre not as a threat but as a model?
What if every rabbi and synagogue president and executive director spent a Shabbat morning in the sanctuary on Robertson, experiencing the undeniable warmth of the congregation, its immersion in an experience that, if not normative, is certainly recognizablyforgive me, MadonnaJewish. Perhaps this form of kabbalah is, as Myers calls it, a singular type of Judaism. It is a hybrid religious culture that reflects not just the utter embrace of Judaism in Americathe assimilation by non-Jews of fundamental Jewish beliefsbut also the pluralism and reach that all religious movements are capable of today.
If Spears is serious about her new beau and Judaism is an important part of their life, she will find numerous welcoming pathways to conversion. Judaism appreciates and admires converts but Jews just dont proselytize.
Converting is a journey of learning, reflection and ritual that usually results in a fuller appreciation of Jewish life and wisdom than those of us born into the faith have.
If Spears is up for it, good for her. Hey, she already has the necklace
I love me some crazy chicks!
The don’t have temples and kosher food in Kentwood, La.
Reminds me of the character from the remake of The Mummy, just keep trying tokens around the neck until one works......in his case....the language of the slaves.
I know one thing. She’s become passe.
That hillbilly shiksa? Forget it.
It’s a mini Ninja throwing star...
That chick is meshugana!
I’m Kafelling!! (I know it’s not spelled right, guys)
New Age “Kabbalah” chic is not Judaism. Never was, never will be.
uhhhh...when’s the bris?
Classic moment. Shows he’s able to plan ahead.
“Hey bubeleh, watch this!”
A pish un a fortz iz vi a khasene un a klezmer.
Jason's mother responded by asking "whatever happened to that nice young black man you were dating?"
Oy Vey is right! we don’t want here as a Jew. Let here become a Muzzie!
Nice necklace, bb.
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