Nathan Helbrans, son of Shlomo, left the group last year after reporting that his resistance to orders from his father culminated in members of the group twisting his legs till they broke. After complaining to welfare authorities, Nathan’s five children were removed from their home by authorities because of evidence of abuse and neglect. They are currently under the jurisdiction of the Canadian welfare authorities, while living with a Hasidic family in Montreal. Nathan visits them as does their mother, who remains with Lev Tahor.
Accusations of child abuse and underage marriage have been circulating for years, with relatives in Israel urging the Israeli police and foreign ministry to take action on the matter. There are now Israeli parliamentary (Knesset) hearings in progress about abuse by Lev Tahor. Relatives staged a demonstration about Lev Tahor in front of the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv.
On November 27, a Quebec family court ordered the removal of another fourteen children from the group for placement in foster care, including a 17-year-old mother and her baby, because they were in extreme danger. But several days before they were due back in court, all of the families with children moved to Chatham-Kent, Ontario from their former home of Ste. Agathe-du-Mont, Quebec in Canada. A hearing on whether the province of Ontario will enforce the Quebec ruling is scheduled for January 10, 2014.
Following the relocation, two more children were removed from their home after a social worker spotted a bruise on one child’s face. The children were returned after a couple of days, but their case is being monitored.
In November, 2012 Amnon Levi, host of the documentary program “True Face,” interviewed two former members of Lev Tahor. When one of the men, Aryeh Laver, was 14 years old, his mother joined the group in order to remarry. But when Aryeh rebelled against the group, he was given NIS 600 (about $150) and put on a plane back to Israel. His mother, following orders, has refused to communicate with him in any way for the last seven years because he has not adopted the religious practices of the group. In the documentary, Aryeh returns to Ste. Agathe to try and reconnect with his mother.
I’ve prepared English captions for the program’s two parts. Click on the captions icon to see them.
Amnon Levi’s “True Face” of Lev Tahor, Part I
Amnon Levi’s “True Face” of Lev Tahor, Part II
For more on Lev Tahor, see my post on the two teenage girls intercepted in the Montreal airport, after their aunt went to court to file a petition prohibiting their leaving Israel. Their Beit Shemesh family considers itself part of Lev Tahor, and represented the group at two recent Knesset sessions in the child welfare committee.
More links on Lev Tahor:
Suspected Jewish child abuse cult flees Quebec homes (Hannah Katsman, Times of Israel)
Canada court orders Hasidic cult’s kids to foster homes (Hannah Katsman, Times of Israel)
Interview with Lev Tahor member relative (Jason Magder, Montreal Gazette)
Lev Tahor group amassed $6 million as charity (Allan Woods, Toronto Star)
Documents released from the Quebec hearing allege abuse (Tim Alamenciak, Toronto Star)