Madonna Sings in New Year at Kabbala Conference

Tamar Sukenik
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Tamar Sukenik

Clapping and singing, pop star Madonna joined a Kabbala conference in Tel Aviv on Friday to celebrate the Jewish New Year.

Madonna sung Jewish songs with the crowd of hundreds at the David Intercontinental Hotel, where the conference on Jewish mysticism was being held. At one point she coaxed another participant -- apparently a friend of hers -- up to the front, where he danced excitedly, making her and the crowd giggle and clap enthusiastically.

The 49-year-old diva was wearing a black jacket with elbow-length sleeves held at the waist with a large-buckled belt, along with a brimmed red-and-black plaid hat. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail.

Madonna arrived in Israel Wednesday night, on a private visit to the Holy Land, along with some 3,000 international guests of the Kabbalah Center. The singer did not speak to the media, and the conference was closed to TV cameras.

Madonna and her husband, director Guy Ritchie, arrived in their private airplane. Actress Demi Moore and her husband Ashton Kutcher, TV personality Rosie O'Donnell and fashion designer Donna Karan joined her the next day. They were seen out on the city streets Thursday night.

Madonna was raised a Roman Catholic, but has become a follower of Jewish mysticism in recent years, angering many Orthodox Jews, who see the adoption of Kabbalah by non-Jewish pop figures as an abomination.

Moore, Kutcher, O'Donnel and Karan joined Madonna on Thursday for the traditional shofar blowing in the hotel's conference hall, which had been converted into a synagogue.

More than 1,000 people attended the prayer session, assisted by a panel of interpreters and giant screens broadcasting the events -- which worked throughout the holiday and the Sabbath.

Friday also began with mass prayers and a ceremony greeting the Sabbath, which Madonna, Ritchie, Moore and Kutcher attended.

Madonna and her entourage refrained from direct contact with the other participants, in part due to the heavy security around them.

The singer has taken the Hebrew name Esther, and has been seen wearing a red thread on her wrist to ward off the evil eye. During her visit, she plans to visit sites sacred to Kabbalists.

Kutcher addressed Israeli businessmen and entertainers yesterday and told them how he and his wife grew closer to Kabbalah. He said it answered the most fundamental questions in his life and made him a better actor.