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Founder of celebrity-friendly Kabbalah center dies

The founder of the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre, whose celebrity devotees include Madonna and Demi Moore, has died aged 86, the center announced.

Rabbi Philip Berg -- known as Rav to his followers -- had been ill since suffering a stroke in 2004, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"The Kabbalah Centre is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our teacher, Rav Berg," said a statement on its website.

The center, which was founded in 1965, has attracted criticism for the lucrative and celebrity-friendly way it presents ancient Jewish mysticism, the LA Times said.

But the center said Berg had "created a path for millions to learn and live Kabbalah. 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."

The first Kabbalah Centre was founded in 1922 by Rav Yehuda Anschlag, and the organization now has a presence in more than 40 cities around the world, it said.

In addition to Madonna, celebrity followers include actor Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears.

Kabbalah is "the world's oldest body of spiritual wisdom" and "contains the long-hidden keys to the secrets of the universe as well as to the mysteries of the human heart and soul," according to the LA center's website.

It said 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.

Berg is survived by his wife Karen,"will continue their work and vision for the Centre," the website said.

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