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By Saida Oliver, Woman's Life editor

With very little money, Karen Berg, along with her husband, Phillip, opened their first Kabbalah Center in 1971. Their vision was to offer traditional Jewish studies to women and non-Jews. In a recent 20/20 interview, Karen explained, “We were different. We wanted to take these very treasured and sacred teachings to the public, when they had previously only been available to scholarly men over the age of 40.”

The movement grew swiftly, Berg said. “It was almost like Jesus…talked on the Mount and brought people…And they brought more people.” Indeed, the Bergs have attracted a large following and mass-marketed the ancient religion, selling “must have” accessories such as red strings, bottled water and self-help books.

Karen Berg’s first book, God Wears Lipstick - Kabbalah for Women, is a guide to understanding the female role, both in life and intimate relationships. “The role of the woman has been suppressed worldwide,” Berg said, “yet women are the very messengers this world needs.” She explained that the women are nurturers who bring “the Light” into the home, manifesting spiritual energy, and helping those around them grow. Berg believes that if women understand how important their roles in life are, it would help them exploit their full potential. Therefore, success and happiness will follow.

Reactions from organized Jewish groups have been negative. In June, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein spoke with ABC News about his concerns with the new Kabbalah followers. “What the Bergs are offering is not remotely Kabbalah.”

Various sources describe the Kabbalah as an interpretative key to the Torah, the Hebrew bible, or the Jewish religious mystical system. Adherents describe the Kabbalah religion as a universal and secret knowledge of God and the laws of nature, saying it explains the laws of the “light.”

The Bergs, on-the-other-hand, do not approach the religion as a mystical system. They said that they see Kabbalah with a more realistic understanding. “I believe it is best described as a philosophy of life’s teachings that can help people become more conscious,” said Mrs. Berg. “The Kabbalah can be used as a way of creating a less reactive life and a more proactive life for every individual. It does not need to be mystical at all.”

For the last 34 years, the Bergs’ Kabbalah Centers have provided teachings to almost four million men, women, and children of all religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds globally. Though they are under scrutiny for allowing the religion to be a trendy faith, the Bergs said they are happy being the medium to their belief. “Those teachings should not be kept secret. They are for everyone. Within a truly spiritual place, there is no box to say who you are. Woman, man, child; it doesn’t matter. God’s energy is in everybody.” For more information about Kabbalah, go to www.kabbalah.info.


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