They surrender everything -- depending on the center for their food, clothing and shelter -- to draw closer to "the Light," the essence of God.
These most loyal disciples do everything, from preparing the weekly Shabbat feasts -- including special "higher-quality" meals for Madonna, the center's most celebrated follower -- to teaching newcomers that the desire to receive must be transformed into the desire to give.
But there is a dark side to their devotion. More than a dozen former chevre, staff and students told The Daily, in an exclusive report Monday, that the center exploits the chevre, depending on them to raise millions, then making them pawns in government scams to keep overheads low.
The sources accused the center and the chevre of engaging in immigration and Medicaid fraud, and its founding family, the Bergs, of using the chevre as personal servants, and claimed they have discussed the abuse with FBI and IRS special agents. For more than a year, the agencies reportedly have been investigating the Kabbalah Centre and the Bergs for income-tax evasion and misuse of funds.
Many of The Daily's sources asked not to be named for fear of retaliation by the center, which declined repeated requests for an interview.
"Breaking the law became habit in every possible direction," according to Shaul Youdkevitch, who served with his wife, Osnat, as chevre for 28 years before leaving in 2008 after raising concerns about what they claim was widespread corruption. "Everything was for the purpose of making money and power."
The FBI and IRS do not comment on ongoing investigations, so it is unclear how intently they are following these leads. Many sources told The Daily they have not talked to the special agents in months.
One person interviewed by the special agents said the FBI and the IRS had the names of at least 75 people with close ties to the center, roughly half of them chevre.
"They were interested in whether [the Bergs] were using the chevre to support their personal lifestyle," the source said.
To the sources, the Bergs' mistreatment of the chevre seems even more egregious because of the family's lavish lifestyle on the center's dime.
Former insurance salesman Philip Berg, 82, and his wife, Karen, 69, established the Kabbalah Centre out of their modest living room in New York City in the mid-1980s. Karen had the idea of bringing this esoteric school of Jewish mysticism to the mainstream, and Philip was an orthodox rabbi who had the ability to convey complex teachings in simple terms.
Their effort was enormously successful. The center has attracted a bevy of wealthy and famous -- such as Madonna, Demi Moore and Mick Jagger -- who in turn gave millions.
Kabbalah moved its headquarters from New York to Los Angeles; established dozens of additional centers, study groups and subsidiaries worldwide; and developed an endless array of pricey books, CDs and products purported to have spiritual powers, from $26 red strings to $10 bottles of water.
By 2009, according to a former chief financial officer, the center had an estimated $200 million in real estate assets, $60 million in annual revenue and a $60 million investment fund.
To read more, go to The Daily.