Madonna should be very pleased with herself. According to her Raising Malawi Web site, her first class of Kabbalah-trained African orphans has just graduated.
Posted on her Web site's blog on May 5 at 5:37 p.m., here is the entry from one J. Stephen Brantley. It's titled "A Momentous Day for SFK Malawi." SFK stands for Spirituality for Kids. It's the educational curriculum designed by Philip Berg, a former insurance salesman-turned-"rabbi" for the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles.
Interestingly, the SFK Web site has just been redesigned to cleanse itself of all connections to the Kabbalah Centre. Nevertheless, the Kabbalah Centre's Web site has all the links and explanations back and forth connecting it to Raising Malawi and Spirituality for Kids.
"In 2006, the very first group of Malawian children began to learn the tools for transformation and personal empowerment that are the core of the Spirituality for Kids [SFK] curriculum. Today, on the 28th of April 2008, that same group of children has completed the final class of SFK's Level Three course.
"They are now Malawi's first-ever group to have graduated from all three levels of SFK, and they are all from the Raising Malawi-Consol Homes Orphan Care Centre!
"This is, indeed, a mark of great progress in Malawi. Better yet, it is surely a sign of good things to come. These kids will go on to become leaders in their communities, to inspire other children to empower themselves and will eventually pass on what they've learned to a new generation. They are the foundation upon which a stronger Malawi is being raised.
"We would like to congratulate Malawi's first class of SFK full graduates, and to thank the teachers, donors and supporters who have made their education possible."
Despite Madonna's insistence in turning Malawi into a private refuge of Kabbalah babblers, all her efforts have not been so successful. The "documentary" that she showed at both Tribeca and Cannes - "I Am Because We Are" - failed to get a theatrical distributor.
There's been some rumbling that the film, a mission statement that some who've seen it have dubbed "We Are Because I Am," may be shown on the Sundance Channel at some point.
I should note that twice during the evening of the AmFar event in Cannes I was chastised quite strongly by Madonna's loyal manager, Guy Oseary. After assuring me no one cared what I wrote about Madonna, Oseary claimed I was harming Madonna's efforts "to save the world." He also questioned what I had done personally to do the same.
This is what Oseary and Madonna each do not get: Plenty of people do good things without asking for publicity or thanks. Madonna's interest in Malawi comes across simply as another PR stunt, tied to her interests in Kabbalah.
Celebrities needn't start charities unless none existed before. Brad Pitt, for example, saw the problem in New Orleans post-Katrina and pitched in. But Madonna operates in her own vacuum, one in which other aid organizations are irrelevant because she didn't sanction or invent them.
Plenty of famous people work quietly for causes they believe in without making this much noise. Jane Fonda campaigns against teen pregnancy in Atlanta. Paul Simon works with a group that brings needed medical supplies to impoverished areas. Sting and Trudie Styler work on helping indigenous peoples and the rainforests.
None of them has a religious agenda or curriculum as an underpinning. They just do it.