The head of the controversial religion Kabbalah — whose devout followers have included Madonna, Ariana Grande, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Roseanne Barr, Elizabeth Taylor, Gwyneth Paltrow, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton — has died, OK! has learned.
Karen Berg, 77, who was facing a class-action lawsuit that alleged violation of employment laws through a vast network of unpaid labor under extreme conditions for her own personal benefit, died on July 30.
News of her death has been kept relatively quiet and out of the media glare.
But it a message to followers of Kabbalah posted on their website, her son and heir to the religion, Michael, wrote: “It is with a heavy heart that we share with you that this morning in the moment of sunrise, on the death anniversary of the Seer of Lublin, my mother Karen chose to leave this physical world and join with the Rav and all of the tzadikim.
“While we are filled with overwhelming sadness, pain, and loss, we also know that she is happy now to be embraced once again by her soulmate, the Rav, and surrounded by all the tzadikim.
“In this moment, I remember a conversation we had a few weeks ago. My mother said: ‘I will do what I can to stay in this world, but if not I have had a full and meaningful life.’ I believe she knew that those words do not express all that she has done. My mother, Karen, changed the world. She gave millions of people, her family, chevre, students, and friends, life and love. We can never repay her but I know that all that she has given us will sustain us forever.”
It is understood Mrs. Berg, a widow, was a victim of cancer of the esophagus, OK! has been told.
She has been buried next to her late husband Rav Phillip Berg, who died of a stroke in 2013, in the holy city of Sefad, Israel.
Two weeks before her death, Mrs. Berg was facing renewed claims against the Kabbalah Centre International.
A number of former employees of the Centre filed a lawsuit and claimed they were induced to join the Centre as early as 1998 and alleged that the individuals who control the Centre — the Bergs — operate a cult that preys upon individuals who wish to help others.
Among Plaintiffs' allegations are that:
- They served as personal assistants catering to the whims of the Bergs, including performing menial labor and household work;
- They worked seven days a week, often for 16 to 20 hours a day, and were always "on call" for the Bergs;
- They were almost entirely focused on securing ever-increasing money and "donations" for the Centre;
- The Centre trained them to obtain, track, and exploit intimate details about the lives of the Centre's members in order to extract ever-larger "donations" from those members;
- The Centre made major life decisions for them, telling them where to live and work, when to marry, and whom to marry; and
- They were manipulated into giving up their material possessions and their relationships outside the Centre.
The case will continue even after Mrs. Berg’s death.
In the early to late 2000s, Kabbalah shot to prominence in part because followers wore a red string bracelet to ward off the evil eye, and it became a status symbol.
According to one folklore Hollywood story, the religion sold a $4 bottle Kabbalah water and Madonna allegedly tried to fill a swimming pool with it.