Madonna's Religious Leader, "Rav" Philip Berg of Kabbalah Infamy, Dies at 86

Showbiz 411/September 17, 2013

By Roger Friedman

Phillip Berg, founder of the Kabbalah Center and Madonna’s religious leader, has died at age 86. Berg’s death was announced on the Kabbalah Center website. Born Fievel Gruberger, Phillip Berg reinvented himself around 1969 when he left his eight children and first wife (now deceased) named Rivka. He married a second time, to Karen Berg, and had two children. Philip Berg was a life insurance salesman during his first marriage but became known as “Rav.” He is thought to have adapted the Kabbalah Center from Karen Berg’s uncle, Rabbi Yehuda Brandwein, an actual Kabbalah scholar.

In March 2011 I published an interview here with one of Berg’s original eight children. He was concerned that his father, who hadn’t been seen in a long time, was in poor health. In 2010 I told you about Karen Berg globe trotting around the world with a new paramour while Philip Berg languished at home.

Thanks to the canny manipulation of a few celebrities, the Bergs have managed to amass quite a war chest and a lot of real estate. In the last few years they managed to get Madonna involved in the ill-fated charity Raising Malawi, collecting millions of dollars for a leadership academy that was never built in the central south African country of Malawi. At one point there were reports of a grand jury being convened to figure out what happened to the money.

Now it should be interesting to see how the Kabbalah Centre handles official succession. Stay tuned…

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