Shaul Youdkevitch is one of the main figures in Kabbalah studies worldwide and the man behind Madonna's visit to Israel last year.
Police sources estimated that it would have been impossible for Youdkevitch to commit the alleged offenses without his wife, who serves as CEO of the center, knowing about them. Therefore, she was brought in for questioning at the fraud division offices.
Charged with exploiting terminal patient
The investigation was launched following a complaint filed by Rishon Lezion resident Boris Zonis, whose wife Leah died of cancer at the age of 50, not before being talked into paying tens of thousands of dollars to the Israeli Kabbalah Center, on the pretext that the donation would help improve her condition.
The couple has previously complained several months ago that they were told by the rabbis who run the center in Tel Aviv that the Leah should make 'a significant and painful donation' if she wanted to get well and overcome cancer.
A Kabbalah devotee, Leah put her faith in the center and contributed USD 36,000 to the organization. When her condition deteriorated, members of the Israeli branch recommended she donate another USD 25,000. Meanwhile, rabbis recommended that she also purchase holy water to improve her condition - at an exorbitant price.
The couple, who soon after extending the donations ran out of financial resources, continued to seek help with the center. The rabbis then suggested that the husband Boris leave his job and devote himself completely to work at the center.
Boris Zonis, a father of two young children, turned down the proposal and instead turned to the police to report the incidents. Leah Zonis died in August.
'Youdkevitch supported and encouraged her'
The Kabbalah Center's lawyers, Attorneys Amikam Hadar and Hedva Shapira, said in response that "The Kabbalah Center is very saddened by the death of Mrs. Zonis. The center's employees prayed for her wellbeing every day and read Psalms verses for her health."
"The deceased was a member of the center for about 10 years. Throughout the years, she participated in courses, classes and many other activities," they said.
"Her friends, including Mr. Shaul Youdkevitch and his wife Osnat, the center's managers, supported and encouraged her, as well as supporting her emotionally and mentally and sometimes even financially through various treatments," they added.
"When Mrs. Zonis was in need of urgent medical assistance from a special doctor who came from abroad, her husband approached the center and asked for a grant of USD 25,000," they claimed.
"Indeed, the saying that 'charity will save from death' is always true, but nonetheless, the center made it unequivocally clear to Mrs. Leah that she must continue receiving her customary treatments and medications," they said.
Attorney Hadar said that the police had not launched an investigation against other kabbalists when their promises of health or success were not realized.
"Unfortunately, there a public environment of blasting the Kabbalah Center," he said.