Ex-Lev Tahor Members Tell of Abuse, Expulsion, Teen Marriage

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Canadian Embassy Tel Aviv Embassy protestThe extremist Jewish group Lev Tahor has made it back into the news. The group is led by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, who was convicted for kidnapping in New York in 1994 and jailed for two years.

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)

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Comments

  1. “…including a 16-year-old mother and her two children, because they were in extreme danger.”

    I was wondering about this girl, since it was alluded in previous articles that some of the children in question had children of their own. A 16 year old girl with two children. Yikes! Seems safe to assume that she got pregnant with her first baby when she was around 14. I hope this isn’t commonplace in this cult.

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  2. It bugs me that the head of this cult is called HaRav by the Amnon Levi and that the sect are referred to as Charaidim. He is not a Rav and they are not Chareidim. They use the trappings of religious Judaism but they have very little in common with it.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  3. Hi, Why do you post so many articles about these cults? What’s it got to do with “Mother’s In Israel”? It’s such a small extremist group, and you give them so much publicity? Sometimes people read these kinds of articles, and that’s the impresion they get of all ‘charedim’. I enjoy your posts about parenting, schooling, breast-feeding, aliya, cooking, etc, but what’s this got to do with “Parenting and women’s issues” as is written in the description of this site. I apologise if I’m a minority opinion amongst the readers of this website.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

    • I was drawn to MII because of her coverage of hyper-tzniyut. I think there is a dangerous trend in some parts of the Jewish community that leads to excess. I think it is critical to expose these extremists and also to do ????? ???? about what is potentially dangerous in our own communities. I don’t expect MII to address only certain issues but even if I did, I think extremes in abusive parenting & hyper-tzniyut are parenting and women’s issues. While Motti Elon (who I will also not refer to by the honorific of Rabbi) is guilty of different crimes than the “lev Tahor” evil doers, I think the reluctance to discuss “dirty laundry” is similar in both cases-& bad for the community & worse for the victims.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • I see that my Hebrew typing didn’t come out. Instead of the question marks, it should read “Heshbon hanefesh, ” that is a little personal examination.

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    • Freedom of press. Say whatever is on your brain. The public can like it or not. You don’t have to.

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    • My flip answer would be to say that I should update the blog’s description to include the topic of “suspected child abuse cults,” but I don’t think that would make you happy.
      I write about issues that affect the welfare of mothers and children. I’ve been writing about “shal ladies” for a long time and this is part of that general group.
      One possible reason that LT may have gotten away with their alleged behavior for so long, is that the rest of the Jewish community feels that it isn’t our problem, and that calling attention to it just reflects badly on us.
      I write about what interests me and what I think needs to be out there. Obviously you are free to ignore posts that don’t interest you, or find other blogs on topics that you enjoy.
      Hannah Katsman recently posted..Ex-Lev Tahor Members Tell of Abuse, Expulsion, Teen MarriageMy Profile

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      • I think you mean “shawl ladies” – not “shal ladies”. :P

        To everyone else – the reason that she writes this is twofold:
        1) If you noticed there are links to her articles on Times of Israel. It’s called, “I’m proud of my writing in other places and I’d like you to read it.” Perfectly acceptable. And if the topic interested me enough, I’d read the links, because mII (broken “m” key, I copy/paste) happens to be a good writer, in my opinion.

        2) Because people write about what interests them. If you’ve noticed, blog posts over here are becoming more and more infrequent. One reason is, of course, that after a while the novelty wears off and you don’t have time anymore. Another reason is that after a while you’ve already written all your good articles on your usual fields of interest and there’s nothing left to write. So, here’s a new field of interest, and a way of saying, “I haven’t forgotten about this blog, I just don’t know what to write at the moment.”
        littleduckies recently posted..Flying CakeMy Profile

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  4. Whoa. Terrible. I don’t doubt for a minute that these abuses are rare. They are very common place. Why these beliefs (religion in general) still keep going on and on and on, totally disturbing. Infants grow into toddlers, then children and young adults. It’s a vicious circle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. This cult does not in any way represent the Jewish nation, in fact they are big sinners, extremer\’s, who do not deserve to be called Jews. Erez Shlomo Hellbrans should still be rotting in jail from his arrest in the 90\’s for the kidnapping of Shai FhimaErezThis Evil Cult leader: Mobster: Kidnapper: Solomon Arez Helbrans and his son Nachman are accused of hitting children with tire irons, forcing loving couples to divorce, forcing little girls at the age of 12 into marriage with old men 40-50 year old, forcing children to wear small shoes, forcing people to get \”nude\” so he can give them 39 lashes, placing people in solitary confinement for six month, denying people of nutritious food, issuing monetary fines, placing little children and babies with strange families against the wishes of parents, forcing people to take psychiatric pills without being diagnosed by doctors,he does not allow them to have a job, he forces them to go begging for money for him self for the mobster. what an evil, dirty, disgusting, way of life .This is just the tip of the iceberg. Google for: the rest of the story on: Lev (lo) Tahor…..

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  6. Or, another possible answer is that the media is misinformed and therefore the general public. It’s something nobody wantd to hear, but it’s the truth. There is nothing wrong with “hyper tsniyut”. The way they dress has roots and sources in Halacha and tradition. The “holierr than thou” factor is what tick people off.

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  7. FRESH OFF THE PRESS:

    IT’S OFFICIAL NOW… shame on them!!!!!

    The rumors that have been circling around for the past few days, have been confirmed by one of the cult members. The entire group from the UGLY Cult Lev Tahor, are planing to escape from Canada and resettle in Guatemala, so nobody can bother them, this way they can out smart the judicial system.

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