Obituaries

Rabbi Philip Berg, Founder of the Kabbalah Centre, Dies

The center has attracted a slew of A-list followers over the years, including Madonna and Demi Moore, who married Ashton Kutcher there in 2005.

Rabbi Philip Berg, who founded the Kabbalah Centre, which counts A-listers including Madonna and Demi Moore among its members, has died.

The Los Angeles-based organization announced Berg's death on its website Monday. He reportedly had been in poor health after suffering a stroke nine years ago. According to the center, he was 86, but The Los Angeles Times cited public records stating that he was 84.

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"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 Centre that we can all call home," read a statement on the website. "Kabbalah teaches that the body is an instrument to do the work of the soul in this physical reality. When the body's work is done, the soul travels to the upper worlds to serve without limitation. Today we believe the Rav has begun to share with us from above, and we will all happily remain connected to and inspired by the Rav's soul and his vision."

Kabbalah, which combines new age teachings along with ancient Jewish mysticism, has attracted a slew of celebrity followers over the years. Those who have been associated with the center include Madonna, Moore, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Mischa Barton, Roseanne Barr and Rosie O'Donnell. Moore and her ex-husband, Ashton Kutcher, were married at the center in 2005.

Followers can be spotted by the red strings worn around their wrists. The center sells those along with special blessed water; the organization reportedly now has assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

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The center has been hit with controversy over the years, including a tax evasion investigation and scrutiny over a nonprofit organization run by the center. Madonna, meanwhile, removed her African charity out from under the center's control.

Berg is survived by his wife, Karen, and two sons, Yehuda and Michael, who are leaders at the Kabbalah Centre.

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