May 6, 2011
The Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles under IRS investigation
For more information on the investigation visit jewishjournal.com/hollywoodjew.
The Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre is under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal division.
The probe reportedly also involves two charities that are connected with Madonna, the nonprofit center’s most high-profile celebrity supporter. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Internal Revenue Service is looking into whether funds were diverted for the personal use of the Berg family, which has run the Kabbalah Centre for more than 40 years.
Karen Berg, 68, became CEO after her husband, Philip Berg, 81, who had been its head rabbi since 1969, suffered a stroke in 2004. She runs the organization with the help of sons Michael Berg, 37, and Yehuda Berg, 38.
The center’s assets are valued at more than $260 million. Exact totals are unclear, the Times reports, because the center has tax-exempt status as a religious organization and is not required to make its tax filings public.
Raising Malawi, which broke off ties with the Kabbalah Centre in March, is cooperating with the investigation, the Times reports. The children’s charity, which does work in the African nation of Malawi and is headed by Madonna, is the subject of a grand jury investigation in New York alongside the Kabbalah Centre and the Bergs.
In a statement, the Kabbalah Centre said it has received government subpoenas “concerning tax-related issues,” along with a second charity, its Spirituality for Kids initiative. Madonna chaired this charity’s board and donated $600,000 to the organization, according to the Times.
Madonna herself is not named in the IRS probe, the Times reports.
The Kabbalah Centre is credited with spurring popular interest in Jewish mysticism, although it has been criticized by mainstream Jewish leaders. The center grew enormously after Madonna began studying there in 1996 and raised its public profile. It now has branches in 31 countries and includes many celebrities among its followers.