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The Kabbalah Centre’s impressive growth has been paralleled by the volume of its detractors, some of whom have labeled it “Jewish Scientology.” Disaffected followers have accused Berg and his family of treating congregants like personal servants, housing them four to a bedroom, paying them a -a-month stipend, and advising them to apply for food stamps. taking some of our sacred books and reducing it to mumbo-jumbo, all kinds of hocus-pocus.”Berg, who is now 81 and referred to by insiders as “the Rav” (an honorific meaning teacher), is still very much the patriarch of the Kabbalah Centre, despite a stroke in 2004.One prominent critic, Rabbi Immanuel Schochet, has said, “They are distorting Kabbalah .? But day-to-day operations are controlled by his wife, Karen, 68, and their two sons, Michael, 37, and Yehuda, 38, all of whom share the title of codirector.
The real-estate firm then failed to file a tax return, indicating it was a dissolved corporation and wiping out Geddes’s investment.
The center covers the Berg families’ food, furniture, clothing, gas, nannies, tutors, gardeners, housekeepers, personal assistants, and more exotic indulgences such as luxury cars, first-class flights, and spas.
The Bergs’ lavish lifestyle, one executive says, is “100 percent subsidized.”Kabbalah Centre tax attorney Shane Hamilton contends that the Bergs include ordained rabbis who are “treated as ministers of the Gospel” and are thus entitled to “a parsonage as part of their compensation.” Hamilton says some household services are provided by chevre, center members who take a vow of service and are supplied with basic necessities in exchange for 12-hour days of labor.
Hamilton will not “confirm or deny the taxability of any of the specific services” and also declines to say whether the chevre, or the Bergs, pay any income taxes.
The Bergs’ lifestyle seems extraordinary, especially in light of the application the center filed with the IRS in 1998 seeking tax exemption as a church.
Spirituality for Kids was Madonna’s pet project before Raising Malawi, and she served as its chairman of the board. Spirituality for Kids has also raised at least $5 million for Malawi.