Rabbi Philip Berg, the founder of the Kabbalah Center in Los Angeles, died on
Monday aged 86, according to a statement by the institute.
founded by Berg became a magnet for celebrities drawn to the mysticism and
other-worldliness of Kabbala, the tradition of Jewish esoteric
Madonna, Britney Spears, Demi Moore, Paris Hilton and others
passed through the doors of Berg’s Kabbalah Center, which amassed assets worth
hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Kabbalah Center is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our teacher, Rav
Berg,” the institute said in a statement to the press on
“Throughout the Rav’s 86 years, he created a path for millions
to learn and live Kabbalah. The Rav has left us with incredible knowledge
through thousands of hours of teaching, examples of courage that we will never
forget, and the comfort of a Kabbalah Center that we can all call
The center and the path taken by Berg were controversial, however,
with much criticism from the Orthodox world leveled at the popularization of
Kabbala, which is a field of Jewish thought usually studied only by more learned
Orthodox critics also accused the center of teaching Kabbala in
a superficial manner and promoting it as a form of new-age lifestyle.
is known to have been unwell since 2004, when he suffered a stroke. Ever since,
his wife Karen and two sons have run the center and brought it to international
prominence with its celebrity student body.
The rabbi was born in New
York City and was ordained as a rabbi at Torah VaDaat in Brooklyn.
established the Kabbalah Center in 1969 and opened the Los Angeles headquarters
Berg’s body was brought to Israel for burial on Tuesday in the
city of Safed, renowned for being the home of the most important scholars and
authors of Kabbala in the 16th century.