Cults shift their focus, expert says

The Miami Herald, Friday/January 27, 1984

By Adon Taft

Cults are growing and changing with recruiting efforts targeted more toward the marginal people in the society and the elderly, says a psychiatric social worker.

While B'nai B'rith estimates there are more than two million members of more than 2,000 cults in this country now, a recent FBI law bulletin indicated that the number could be as high as 7.5 million members in 5,000 cult groups, said Arnold Markowitz.

He is the head of the Anti-Cult Clinic of the Jewish Family Service of New York. He will be here Wednesday and Thursday to address social workers, parent groups and young people.

Markowitz said in an interview that his greatest concern today is about child abuse in some of the cults - most often those that are small, aberrant Christian groups, frequently found in the South. He would not name them but indicated some are active in Miami.

But from a Jewish standpoint, it has been the cults with an Eastern meditation orientation; those that are psychologically oriented; and those that are self-improvement kind of groups that have had the most appeal to Jewish young people, said Markowitz. He has personally been involved in counseling 150 members of cult groups and 500 parents of cult members in the past 3½ years.

He singled out the Divine Light Mission and Scientology as groups with strong Miami activity that have appealed to Jewish young people.

Fewer young people are succumbing to cults "because of counter-cult activity education about the cults," Markowitz said, but, particularly in Florida, California, and Arizona, the elderly more and more are being targeted by the cults as recruits. He named the group headed by Tony Alamo as particularly active in the area.

Rabbi Brett Goldstein, who heads the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Task Force on Cults and Missionary Organizations, said that Markowitz's major public appearance will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Fellowship Hall, 214 E. Hallandale Blvd., in Hallandale. That meeting is being organized by the Concerned Parents of Cult Children.


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