Kabbalah Centre Rabbi Yehuda Berg Sued on Rape Allegations

The former co-director of Kabbalah Centre International plied a student with Vicodin and alcohol, then inappropriately touched her and tried to have sex with her, an attorney told a jury Tuesday.

Addressing a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing opening statements in trial of Jena Scaccetti’s lawsuit, lawyer Alain Bonavida said Rabbi Yehuda Berg’s intentions were clear.

“She’s alleging in this case he attempted to rape her,” he said.

But Berg’s attorney, John Cline, said his client mistakenly believed Scaccetti wanted to have sex.

“He made an awkward, inappropriate advance and she said no,” Cline said. “He stopped and she sued him 14 months later.”

Berg had been drinking that evening and was intoxicated when the incident occurred, Cline said.

“There is no doubt what Mr. Berg did dishonored his wife, the advance he made was inappropriate,” Cline said.

Cline said Scaccetti and Berg both had kidney stones and that the plaintiff accepted Berg’s offer of a Vicodin pill for her problem, as well as one drink. She agreed to meet with him at the apartment where he was staying that night, Cline said.

Lawyer Jonathan Bach, on behalf of the Kabbalah Centre, said his clients bear no liability for what may have happened between Berg and Scaccetti.

“They are trying to blame us for something we had nothing to do with,” Bach said. “This was not a Kabbalah Centre event.”

Berg is the author of about 30 books, including “The Power of Kabbalah” and “The 72 Names of God.” His father, Rav Berg, and brother, Michael Berg, also taught at the Los Angeles center, where Madonna, Ashton Kutcher and other celebrities have studied.

Bonavida said Scacetti studied at the Kabbalah Centre for about six years and that Berg was helping her convert to Judaism.

“She was told what she should do, when she should do it … to the point where it became her life,” Bonavida said.

The incident with Berg occurred the night of Oct. 25-26, 2012, Bonavida said.

“This is not an easy subject to hear about,” Bonavida said.

Berg, the trial’s first witness, admitted he was addicted to “anything that can make you high or drunk.”

He said he started abusing alcohol and drugs in 2004 after his father, who he considered his mentor and best friend, suffered a stroke.

“When he had his stroke, it devastated my life,” he said.

Berg said he managed to perform his duties and write books despite his addictions.

“I was a very high-functioning stone person,” Berg said. “No one would know I was high but me.”

Berg said he left the Kabbalah Centre in May 2014 because of his addictions.

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    The former co-director of the Kabbalah Center, a spiritual group whose brand of Jewish mysticism has drawn numerous celebrity adherents but also controversy, went on trial on Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by a follower who says he groped her.

    Yehuda Berg, 43, son of the late rabbi who founded the organization, was called as the first witness in the trial, testifying he struggled with drug and alcohol addiction that led to his resignation from leadership in the group in 2014.

    But he denied any sexual wrongdoing.

    In a lawsuit filed last year in Los Angeles Superior Court, Jena Scaccetti accused Berg of inviting her to his mother’s apartment in 2012,

    plying her with alcohol and narcotic painkillers and making an unwanted sexual advance that included hugging her and fondling her leg.
    “It was an attempt to get her drunk and render her unable to make an informed decision,” her lawyer, Alin Bonavida, said in opening statements to jurors on Tuesday.”

    According to the lawsuit, Berg, who is married, reacted to Scaccetti’s look of shock by threatening to kill her if she told anyone about his behavior, and she left the apartment.

    Berg’s attorney John Cline acknowledged that his client, believing Scaccetti might be attracted to him, had invited her to the apartment for a drink but denied that he forced himself on her.

    “It turned out that Ms. Scaccetti had no interest at all in having sex with Mr. Berg,” Cline told jurors. “She told him, ‘no,’ and he stopped.”
    The lawsuit seeks tens of millions of dollars in damages from Berg and the Kabbalah Center for battery,

    intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.

    The case marks the latest controversy faced over the years by the Kabbalah Center, a non-profit founded in 1965 by Berg’s father, an ordained rabbi who espoused teachings rooted in metaphysical principles of Jewish belief.

    The mystical leanings of the center have attracted the likes of Madonna and Lindsay Lohan, seen with the red-string wrist bracelets many followers wear as a talisman. Berg himself officiated the 2005 wedding of actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.

    Critics in mainstream Judaism have accused the Kabbalah movement of corrupting the ancient, esoteric mystic traditions of Jewish faith by taking them out of context and repackaging them as a popular new-age form of superstition.

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