- As Adam and Rebekah Neumann constructed WeWork right into a $47 billion coworking big, the couple relied on the teachings of the Kabbalah Centre, a non secular group whose high-pressure donation techniques have drained a number of former members’ financial institution accounts, sources advised Enterprise Insider.
- Kabbalah Centre Rabbi Eitan Yardeni was a daily sight at WeWork workplaces, the place former staff stated he helped put collectively at the very least one deal, met with firm executives, and, in at the very least one occasion, spoke with the complete firm as a “non secular counselor.”
- In conversations with Enterprise Insider, former Kabbalah Centre members stated Yardeni pressured them into making massive donations to the spiritual sect, telling them that their non secular well being trusted it.
- Due to their wealth and social connections, Adam and Rebekah had been privileged members of the New York Kabbalah Centre, the place their particular standing earned them distinctive privileges and proximity to Kabbalah Centre management. Nevertheless, Adam left the middle in 2017 throughout an exodus of pissed off lecturers and college students.
- A spokesperson for the Neumanns stated the couple doesn’t follow Kabbalah however that Rebekah is pals with Yardeni.
- For more stories about WeWork, click here.
Along with his angular options, trendy stubble, close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair, and chunky glasses, Eitan Yardeni did not look misplaced at WeWork’s New York Metropolis headquarters, the place he was a well-recognized presence to staffers. However the 55-year-old Yardeni isn’t any tech guru: He is a non secular one.
Yardeni is a longtime confidant of WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann and his spouse, Rebekah. He’s additionally a high-ranking rabbi inside the Kabbalah Centre, a company claiming 1000’s of members based round tenets of Jewish mysticism. Although Kabbalah has been round for hundreds of years, the Kabbalah Centre is a uniquely trendy phenomenon — it marries intense non secular steerage, high-pressure fundraising techniques, and a give attention to wealth and celeb. Some former members have likened the group to a non secular cult and say it is designed to complement the household that based it. Yardeni has recommended such high-profile acolytes as Madonna, Man Oseary, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, and Roseanne Barr.
Because the Neumanns’ non secular adviser, Yardeni loved extraordinary entry and affect over the coworking startup because it soared to a $47 billion valuation — earlier than its dramatic crash in a botched preliminary public providing deliberate for September. Yardeni ran weekly conferences at WeWork that had been steadily attended by the Neumanns and different prime executives, together with WeWork cofounder Miguel McKelvey, Chief Working Officer Jen Berrent, and the now ousted executives Roni Bahar and Zvika Shachar, in accordance with folks aware of the conferences.
On at the very least one event, Yardeni addressed the complete firm as a “non secular counselor” at WeWork’s 2015 worker all-hands convention. In a video of the occasion, Yardeni is seen sporting a black yarmulke and a WeWork branded T-shirt.
The Neumanns’ curiosity in Kabbalah is publicly identified, and Neumann has gone as far to brazenly credit score the Kabbalah Centre because the inspiration for his firm. “I observed that within the Kabbalah group, folks had been actually serving to one another,” he told The Real Deal in 2013. “I needed to translate that into enterprise.”
However a Enterprise Insider investigation has discovered that Kabbalah was intimately intertwined not simply with the Neumanns’ non secular lives but in addition with WeWork itself, together with coinvestments, enterprise referrals, and beforehand unreported monetary connections between the startup and folks affiliated with the Kabbalah Centre. In keeping with interviews with 10 present and former WeWork staff and Kabbalah Centre members, the Neumanns had been deeply concerned within the heart’s management and wove Kabbalah teachings and symbolism into the very material of the corporate they constructed. And former Kabbalah Centre members described the group as relentless in its efforts to regulate the social and monetary decision-making of its most religious members.
Adam Neumann left Kabbalah in 2017, in accordance with former members of the group. Laurie Hays, a spokesperson for the Neumanns, stated neither Adam nor Rebekah follow it however acknowledged that Rebekah and Yardeni stay pals.
WeWork declined to touch upon the document for this story. The Kabbalah Centre didn’t reply to requests for remark despatched straight and thru an legal professional.
Kabbalah faces allegations of ‘fraud’ and being a ‘cult’
The Kabbalah Centre was based by Philip Berg, the late husband of matriarch Karen Berg, within the mid-1980s as an offshoot of Orthodox Judaism that centered on an historical e-book of Jewish mysticism often called the Zohar. By the late 1990s, it had opened its doorways to non-Jewish members and gained a following with celebrities like Madonna, who adorned their left wrists with crimson string, which followers consider will maintain them secure from the “evil eye.”
Former Kabbalah Centre members contacted by Enterprise Insider described a tight-knit non secular group that mixed parts of Judaism with self-help and astrology, the place seekers of enlightenment rubbed shoulders with intense and magnetic leaders who relentlessly inspired members to present as a lot cash as they may probably afford. Most members and employees had been based mostly in Los Angeles and New York, although the group claims to have facilities in 40 cities globally.
On the coronary heart of the group for a few years had been Karen Berg and her sons Michael and Yehuda. Whereas Karen and Michael nonetheless preserve management over the middle’s operations, Yehuda was compelled out in 2015 after a jury discovered him chargeable for inflicting emotional misery on a former pupil who accused him in a civil lawsuit of plying her with alcohol and prescribed drugs with the intent of raping her. Yehuda and the Kabbalah Centre had been ordered to pay a complete of $177,500 to the accuser; the judgment was affirmed on attraction.
Between 2011 and 2019, the middle was sued at the very least 3 times over fraud accusations, every criticism alleging that the Bergs and its lecturers — often called “chevre,” a Hebrew phrase that means shut pals — solicited tons of of 1000’s of in donations from Kabbalah Centre members for tasks that finally by no means materialized. Two of these lawsuits alleged that the Bergs skilled lecturers “to extract as a lot cash as doable” from members. The middle prevailed in each instances, and the plaintiffs had been ordered to pay the group’s authorized prices.
A category-action lawsuit filed in July on behalf of former chevre on the heart alleges that the Bergs “function a cult that preys upon these in search of to enhance the world by the efficiency of fine works.” The chevre allege that they had been required to work as much as 16 to 20 hour days for simply room, board, and $300 in spending cash, whereas doing private chores for the Berg household and soliciting donations from the members that met with them for non secular steerage. The criticism alleges the method concerned meticulously documenting “particulars resembling college students’ private funds, their household relationships, their sexuality, and their hopes, goals, fears, and anxieties.”
“Academics obtain no spiritual or non secular coaching from the Centre,” in accordance with the criticism. “As an alternative, the aim of those conferences is for the instructor to assemble particular, intimate details about the scholar as step one in figuring out how and what to influence the scholar to donate to the Centre.”
The Kabbalah Centre has advised the court docket that it intends to file a movement to dismiss the case, arguing that it’s protected by the First Modification’s religious-liberty provisions.
The Neumanns had been Kabbalah VIPs due to Gwyneth Paltrow
Adam Neumann was launched to Kabbalah in 2009 by Rebekah, who, in flip, was recruited by her celeb cousin, Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow. The couple had been quickly VIPs in their very own proper inside the group.
Yardeni was usually seen close by whereas the WeWork CEO was indulging his infamous Don Julio 1942 tequila habit, and when folks had been smoking weed, in accordance with one former worker. An unidentified rabbi was additionally noticed on a June 2015 journey to Mexico Metropolis, the place members of Adam’s small entourage spat tequila at each other, dislodged furnishings, and at the very least one visitor finally vomited within the cabin and the lavatory, The Information reported. (It is not clear whether or not the rabbi on the airplane was related to the Kabbalah Centre.)
The Kabbalah Centre barred members from contradicting Adam in any capability, in accordance with one ex-member, who described getting kicked below the desk by Karen Berg after disagreeing with Adam Neumann in a dialog. When Adam and Rebekah’s 5 children ran wild throughout quiet and contemplative Torah readings, one other member stated, members had been advised there was nothing that could possibly be carried out.
For the Jewish New 12 months of Rosh Hashanah in 2017, a number of months earlier than Adam Neumann publicly left the middle, followers met on the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan for a four-day celebration, stuffed with vigorous dancing and singing. At one level, Adam joined a small group of lecturers and different spiritual leaders on stage, the place he danced wildly for 1000’s of viewers members to see.
“There’s all the time a variety of singing and a variety of dancing. We raised the roof in these occasions,” one former member stated. “Normally on the stage can be the VIPs: the lecturers and people who find themselves very rich.”
Insiders say the Neumanns had been near elite members, together with Paltrow, the actor Lucy Liu, Moore, Kutcher, and Madonna. Although Paltrow has distanced herself from the group, she famously brought Kabbalah to the Hamptons in summer time 2010 and nonetheless publishes the occasional recommendation column from Michael Berg’s spouse, Monica, on Goop.
Kutcher, himself a tech investor, has identified Adam Neumann for greater than 11 years and is near WeWork. In January, the pair went on CNBC to debate WeWork’s Creator Awards, an occasion that Kutcher judged. Adam and Kutcher had been additionally photographed at a WeWork occasion in 2018 with one other Kabbalah devotee, Madonna’s expertise supervisor Oseary. Only one 12 months earlier than, Oseary married his longtime partner, Michelle Alves, in a Brazilian ceremony co-officiated by Yardeni.
Even from his earliest days within the group, members bear in mind Adam Neumann as egotistical however charming — a person with a variety of charisma and ambition, regardless that he had little to point out for it when he first joined the middle in 2010.
“After I met him, he launched himself as somebody who’s destined to greatness,” one former member stated. “Adam is de facto one in all a sort. He thinks otherwise than others. And he is a really beneficiant man.”
‘That is how a variety of companies fail’
On the Kabbalah Centre, items and donations had been inextricable from enlightenment. As is frequent amongst many non secular organizations, members are inspired to donate 10% of their after-tax revenue on to the Centre. However former members say they had been usually pressured into going past that to be able to entice what the Bergs described as “the sunshine.” For a lot of rich members, six-figure donations meant particular therapy and perks, from reserved seats at providers to extra time with the chevre.
A spokesperson for the Neumanns declined to reply questions on how a lot, if any, cash they donated to the Kabbalah Heart. However by the top of their time at New York Centre, they had been among the many wealthiest and most celebrated members.
Ex-members say it was frequent for the Bergs and lecturers from the Centre to attend intimate dinners with VIPs, and even to affix their households on luxurious holidays. The Neumanns had been no exception.
When Karen Berg wanted new clothes, or when a chevre wanted a brand new iPhone, they turned to college students, who had been taught that it was a privilege to pay for such items, the ex-members stated.
Usually, members made main donations on the suggestion of their lecturers or the Bergs to correspond with huge life occasions, the thought being that donating to Kabbalah would guarantee success. Former members stated that many followers felt that their donations protected them from hurt, and had been taught that they’re invincible if they offer sufficient cash to the Centre.
“It is a false feeling of safety, and that is how a variety of companies fail,” stated Tatiana Ganopolsky, who left the New York Centre in 2012 following the collapse of her personal enterprise, Taya Denims.
By the identical token, former members say, the Bergs warned members that misfortune would come to those that did not give sufficient cash. After her husband was identified with most cancers, one former member stated, Karen Berg advised her it was as a result of that they had not donated sufficient cash, regardless of having donated thousands and thousands of over the course of their membership.
Karen and Michael Berg couldn’t be reached for remark.
Former pupil says Yardeni misled him right into a $101,000 debt
For a lot of members of the Kabbalah Centre, the chevre’s affect over their decision-making prolonged properly past the realm of the non secular, from relationship and marriage to the timing and frequency of their sexual exercise to the administration of their enterprise affairs.
As Adam’s non secular guru, Yardeni typically confirmed up locations that made WeWork staff uncomfortable. He even helped negotiate offers, one WeWork worker stated, together with Adam’s controversial funding in 88 College Place, which Neumann made with Kabbalah Centre member and clothier Eli Tahari for $70 million in 2015. The Wall Road Journal first reported on the relationship between Kabbalah, WeWork, and Tahari on Wednesday.
By 2019, that constructing was on the heart of a significant scandal for Neumann, following reports that he had made thousands and thousands by leasing it again to WeWork. The constructing was put available on the market in August 2019, the RealDeal reported.
Ganopolsky, who ran her clothes enterprise along with her brother, stated she was concerned with the Centre for 10 years when Yardeni and one other Kabbalah chevre in Moscow, the place her brother lived, started pressuring them to extend their donations. Ganopolsky balked, however her brother needed to conform, she advised Enterprise Insider. She says Yardeni drove a wedge between between the pair and finally their firm, which was incomes $25 million in annual income, collapsed.
“Eitan Yardeni was my instructor. I thought of him like a buddy,” Ganopolsky stated. “However he was a traitor.”
Yardeni didn’t reply to a number of emailed requests for remark.
A number of former members stated that they had seen members take out massive loans, promote property, or run up bank cards to be able to make donations to the Centre.
Roger, whose identify has been modified for this story, was Yardeni’s pupil for eight years earlier than leaving the Centre in 2017. Roger stated the spirituality and group on the Kabbalah Centre modified his life for the higher. However he left the group after coming to consider that Yardeni was required to satisfy a quota for donations to be able to preserve his place as a high-level instructor.
Roger stated he had been with the Centre for simply six months when Yardeni requested him to donate $52,000 assist print copies of the Zohar, a standard request contained in the group. Roger stated he felt pressured into making the donation, significantly when Yardeni known as one in all Roger’s shut pals and requested them to persuade Roger that he would unfold the “gentle” if he made the donation.
A number of years later, Roger stated, he donated $101,000 to the Centre utilizing a line of credit score on his home after Yardeni advised him it might enhance his enterprise, which was struggling on the time. Roger stated his spouse vehemently objected to creating the donation, however he did it anyway.
After he left the Centre, Roger wrote a letter to Yardeni, which he shared with Enterprise Insider, accusing Yardeni of tying non secular growth to cash. “You advised me that you simply had been fascinated with me and that you simply bought revelation, a divine one, as you known as it,” Roger wrote. “You stated that [I needed to donate] to ensure that me to wash ‘all my sins and enhance my monetary scenario…. After realizing what you probably did to me and to different college students I wish to ask you Eitan do you consider in God? Did you consider in God in the mean time you dialed my quantity and began telling me the way it will clear and enhance, understanding that it is a lie? I don’t assume so.”
Roger estimates he donated greater than $300,000 to the Kabbalah Centre, along with a airplane ticket to Israel for Yardeni, jewellery, $10,000 household journeys to Centre occasions, time spent volunteering, and varied purchases to repair infrastructure across the Centre.
“I do know somebody who donated half 1,000,000 , and he needed to promote his condo,” Roger stated. “I do not know anybody who left to the Centre in a greater monetary scenario than they got here.”
The Neumanns are identified for his or her philanthropy
Contained in the Kabbalah Centre, Adam’s wealth was a relentless supply of hypothesis. In keeping with at the very least three former members, it was broadly believed inside the Kabbalah group that the Neumanns made donations value thousands and thousands of .
When the Centre opened up a brand new Manhattan location at 16 West 17th Road, rumors unfold that the Neumanns paid for the lease as a result of they needed a Centre inside strolling distance of their downtown condo. Others understood that he was financially concerned in acquiring a separate location in Brooklyn, which opened across the similar time.
Enterprise Insider was not capable of independently affirm any of those donations. As a non secular group, the Kabbalah Centre is exempt from submitting tax returns with the Inside Income Service, so little is thought about the place its cash comes from and the way it’s spent.
Whereas it is unclear how a lot cash the Neumanns donated over the course of their membership, public information give a way of the size of the couple’s basic philanthropy. WeWork’s submitting for the aborted preliminary public providing claims that the Neumanns have donated 15% of the worth of the inventory they’ve cashed out from WeWork, and that they’ve dedicated to donating greater than $1 billion to charity over the subsequent 10 years.
A spokeswoman stated the couple has donated $100 million to charity through the years. She declined to say the place the cash went.
Elevating the world’s consciousness
Former Kabbalah members say they see the affect of the Bergs’ non secular teachings in lots of WeWork’s extra unorthodox enterprise practices. The corporate’s distinctive acknowledged mission of “elevating the world’s consciousness,” in addition to the give attention to “vitality” that Rebekah reportedly delivered to the hiring course of each look like derived from Kabbalah Centre concepts, insiders say.
Daniel Matt, a scholar from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley who teaches programs on the Zohar, says Kabbalah’s most direct hyperlink to WeWork is thru WeGrow, the corporate’s recently shuttered private elementary school, which claimed to focus on “unleashing each human’s superpowers.”
“Each human has a spark of God in her and him,” stated Matt, describing Kabbalic beliefs. “You probably have qualities or powers or skills, then you’re conveying divine qualities. Your expertise is channeling divine vitality.”
Spirituality has infused the messaging of different Neumann tasks, together with a feature-length movie produced by a now-defunct entity known as WeWork Studios.
In 2010, Rebekah wrote and starred in a brief movie known as “Awake,” by which “a girl within the depths of the American nightmare is compelled to turn into enlightened or die.” Adam is credited as an govt producer.
Enterprise Insider obtained a duplicate of the brief movie, by which Rebekah’s character resolves her despair, vaguely linked to the terrorist assaults on 9/11, after stumbling upon a non secular guru within the forest. That guru, performed by Sean Lennon, instructs Rebekah to replicate on her life.
In a single scene, Rebekah’s character positions herself on a pillow subsequent to a hearth the place she writes an in depth account of her life. Images from the lifetime of the actual Rebekah flash on the display, together with one with Yardeni on what seems to be Adam and Rebekah’s wedding ceremony day. Seen on a pillow subsequent to the fireside is a duplicate of the Zohar.
“Awake” turned out to be a warm-up for his or her a lot bigger ambitions. In 2014, WeWork Studios produced the characteristic size movie “I Origins,” a sci-fi romance a few biologist who uncovers proof of reincarnation.
The one specific reference to a proper system of beliefs within the movie is to the attention of Horus, a protecting image from historical Egypt. However the narrative pits its scientifically-minded protagonist in opposition to his ultra-spiritual fiancée, who’s finally lower in half by a defective elevator after a combat over spirituality along with her betrothed. In the end, the biologist discovers that his late bride-to-be was proper in regards to the non secular world.
The movie has a rating of 51% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Neumanns weren’t the one Kabbalah followers at WeWork. The couple provided jobs and funding alternatives to different members of the Centre.
After WeWork filed its IPO registration in August, buyers and critics expressed concern over the corporate’s succession plan, which charged Rebekah and WeWork board members Bruce Dunlevie and Steven Langman with the facility to decide on a brand new CEO if Adam had been killed or incapacitated inside 10 years of the IPO.
Just like the Neumanns, Langman is a well-recognized face on the Kabbalah Centre with a daily seat on the head desk. Langman spent his profession in funding banking at Goldman Sachs and Lazard Freres earlier than founding the funding agency Rhone Group. Langman, who joined WeWork’s board in 2012, represents his personal curiosity on the board, fairly than Rhone’s, and personally owns lower than 1% of WeWork general.
In keeping with the Wall Road Journal, which first reported Langman’s connection to Kabbalah on Wednesday, Adam met Langman and one other Kabbalah member, real-estate investor Marc Schimmel, by Michael Berg. Each grew to become WeWork buyers.
A spokesperson for Langman declined to touch upon the document. Schimmel didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
Adam has additionally discovered jobs for a number of members of the group, insiders stated.
Final 12 months, two lively Kabbalah members, Jason Bauer and Avi Voda, had been introduced into WeWork to start WeWork Space Services, a pilot brokerage geared toward small-to-mid sized corporations.
Bauer was the founder and CEO of Crumbs Bakeshop, a publicly-traded bakery that took off within the early 2000s earlier than dramatically closing all of its shops in 2014. Bauer and Voda additionally ran an actual property agency named Voda Bauer Actual Property. Their third worker, Jacob Sussan, joined WeWork Area Providers final 12 months, in accordance with his LinkedIn profile.
In January, the previous govt chef on the New York Kabbalah Centre, Menachem Katz, joined WeWork as head of operations for WeWork Meals Labs, in accordance with his LinkedIn profile.
As well as, Kabbalah members discovered Adam to be a beneficiant supporter of their very own entrepreneurial endeavors. Kabbalah Centre member Michael Patterson advised different members that Adam invested in his vitality storage firm Romeo Energy, one individual stated. In Could, Romeo Energy reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had raised $88 million from 31 undisclosed buyers.
Patterson didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Adam left the Centre in 2017
Shortly after Rosh Hashanah 2017, after greater than seven years within the group, Adam left Kabbalah. The cut up got here within the midst of a disaster on the Centre that noticed six totally different chevre, and plenty of members, leaving in a fast succession.
Adam’s departure induced a stir in tight-knit the group, the place many members feared that shedding his donations might have a considerable affect on the success of the group.
Enterprise Insider obtained a recording of a town-hall model assembly in NYC from the top of 2017, lasting greater than two hours, by which Centre leaders Karen and Michael Berg, in addition to Eitan Yardeni, took questions from the group in regards to the group’s funds, the way it compensates lecturers, the way it handles controversy, and most pressingly, why most of its New York lecturers had left all of sudden.
In an emotional second, one girl described how the management stopped saying hey to her at first of Shabbat, and as an alternative centered all of their time on greeting higher-profile members.
“It’s true up to now we’ve given extra time to those that are larger supporters of the Centre,” Michael Berg replied. “I believe it is also vital to grasp the historical past. The truth is, the explanation the Centre exists as it’s at the moment is as a result of there are individuals who have supported the Centre financially.”
It was one in all three conferences held in shut succession to deal with the group’s issues. In the course of the second assembly, sources stated, Adam stood up and left.
Shortly after that assembly, Adam made a present of his departure. At a social occasion, a supply advised Enterprise Insider, Adam was overheard describing the Centre as a “cult.”
Within the months that adopted, the Neumanns hosted a number of Shabbat dinners at their house in New York with different ex-members, led by former Kabbalah Centre chevre who had additionally cut up from the Bergs.
Almost a 12 months later, in a December 2018 speech, Adam publicly linked himself to an Orthodox rabbi in Crown Heights by the identify of Rabbi Heller.
“As WeWork was rising and rising and we had been taking increasingly more of the ideas of our non secular follow and in placing them into the enterprise, issues labored higher and higher,” Adam stated in a speech on the UJA-Federation of New York fundraiser. He was launched by outgoing Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. “Till someday, I believe it was someplace across the $5 billion valuation, that is the place hassle begins. I used to be catching myself not having the ability to management my ego.
“The second you assume you’re higher than different folks, you possibly can’t assist them,” he stated. “I noticed I would like a brand new follow. I would like one thing even larger.”
To folks aware of Kabbalah, the message was clear: Adam had a brand new rabbi and a brand new denomination. Kabbalah’s golden little one had actually left the Centre.
However the break wasn’t clear. Insiders noticed Adam in movies of Yardeni’s second wedding ceremony on Could 15, 2018, months after his cut up from Kabbalah and around the same that WeWork began negotiations with SoftBank on a funding spherical that will double the coworking startup’s valuation.
Although Hays, the Neumann’s spokesperson, stated that the Neumanns do not follow Kabbalah, a number of former Kabbalah Centre members stated they’ve heard from Centre insiders that the Neumanns have re-established contact with the Centre’s management.
“The Kabbalah Centre makes use of the very best a part of folks, their need to turn into higher and to turn into non secular. They take lovely folks and screw them up,” Ganopolsky, one of many former members, stated. “I’m completely certain that each one of this mess, they create it.”
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