"Target Drops Bracelets"

September 25, 2004; Page B09

Target Corp. has stopped selling bracelets made popular by pop icon Madonna and other celebrities after a Jewish group said the item commercialized a sacred tradition.

The International Society for Sephardic Progress, a Florida-based advocacy group for Jews of Spanish descent, protested when Target began selling a string bracelet called "Kabbalah Red String."

The string is believed to ward off evil. It originates in Israel, where it is wrapped around the tomb of the biblical matriarch Rachel, spiritual protector and mother figure to adherents of Jewish mystical philosophy. The string is cut into pieces and sent to the United States to be sold under the auspices of the Kabbalah Centre, a Los Angeles-based organization.

Controversial in Orthodox Jewish circles for teaching that Kabbalah is not a Jewish philosophy but available to all people, the Kabbalah Centre sells a length of red string that makes eight to 10 bracelets for $26. Adherents wear the bracelets until they fall off, a period of time they believe depends on the amount of evil the person is exposed to.

The society wrote to Target in early August, asking the company to halt sales of the product. Target responded with a letter that stated the string had been removed from the stores and Web site and is no longer advertised or offered for sale.

Company officials did not respond to a request for comment, but the society celebrated the decision. "The Jewish people should not allow the corporate exploitation of their religion," Shelomo Alfassa, the society's executive director, said in a statement.

In an interview, the Kabbalah Centre co-director, Rabbi Michael Berg, said the commercial aspect of the center's work is not a detriment to the ideals of the Kabbalah because the sales benefit the nonprofit organization and its programs, including free after-school spirituality programs for children in a dozen cities.


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