Lev Tahor Members in Guatemala Contracted Typhus

230 Lev Tahor members reside here

Temporary home of 230 Lev Tahor members

Back in April, I wrote about the squalid conditions of the Lev Tahor members who fled Ontario, Canada, to the small town of San Juan la Laguna in Guatamala beginning in March of this year. They chose the particular town because of a small community of locals, known as Torat Jesed, who observe Jewish traditions and hope to convert to Judaism.

About two weeks ago, the local council of elders voted to evict the Lev Tahor members. According to the Toronto Star:

After fleeing Canada amid allegations of child abuse, about 230 members of the ultraorthodox Jewish group Lev Tahor have now been expelled from the Guatemalan village where they had reassembled their reclusive community.

An edict from a group of indigenous elders in the town of San Juan La Laguna, 150 kilometres west of Guatemala City, said that the Lev Tahor members were no longer welcome in the lakeside town.

It was the culmination of a dispute with the local community that escalated in recent days with some Lev Tahor families having their water supply cut off and being threatened with violence, Nachman Helbrans, the son of the group’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, told the Star.

Lev Tahor then hired buses to take its 230 members to Guatemala City. The group currently occupies ten offices with no mattresses, showers or cooking facilities except for a makeshift kitchen in the parking lot.

Members of Torat Jesed joined Lev Tahor in the move.

Some of the reasons suggested for the eviction from the lakeside town included bathing naked in the lake and thus scaring away tourists (Lev Tahor requires daily religious immersion for men in a body of fresh water), lack of friendliness, refusal to pay for taxis or other services, and the threat that Lev Tahor could overwhelm the native culture. Locals physically attacked the residences of Lev Tahor on at least one occasion. The local culture considers child abuse to be especially egregious. According to some reports, the locals rejected Lev Tahor after learning of the accusations by welfare authorities.

Lev Tahor spokesmen have claimed that the group will stay in the office building until completion of its new housing in another Guatemalan location.

Guatemala allows marriage from age 14 and has minimal education requirements. It also has no extradition agreement with Canada, where the police and the child welfare authorities have opened files.

After all Lev Tahor members managed to leave Canada anyway, the local Chatham-Kent Children’s Services closed their files. However, two teenage girls still remain in foster care in Toronto,

One of the families that did not go to Guatemala recently returned to Israel, along with four of their twelve children. Their relatives made them a party.

Yesterday, a 14-page document with testimony against Lev Tahor was released to the press. It concluded that the allegations, if true, amounted to human trafficking. Lev Tahor leaders are suspected of forging passports and other official documents, some of which were seized during a search of the group’s premises in Chatham. Ex-members testified that they were separated from family members, denied food, locked into a room to pray for six hours before breakfast, given psychotic drugs (also seized), and instructed as to what symptoms to tell a doctor in order to get prescription drugs. Teenage girls were allegedly sexually molested, sometimes by family members, and imported from Israel to marry older men.

Today the French-Canadian newspaper La Presse quotes David Ouellette, Quebec Director for Public Affairs at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), about Lev Tahor’s situation in Guatemala: “Six children were born in the village, all to minor mothers. There were also cases of typhoid fever and diabetes and I was told that they refused to see a doctor.

Also today, family members throughout Israel filed complaints with the police that their relatives in Lev Tahor, Israeli citizens, are in imminent danger. They want the Israeli government to intervene to prevent further harm. None of the families has heard from Lev Tahor members in recent days.

Lev Tahor has succeeded in escaping the reach of the authorities, as it hoped. But what price will the group, especially its innocent children, need to pay for its independence?

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Comments

  1. > Members of Torat Jesed joined Lev Tahor in the move.

    See, and I’d hoped that after actual meeting the Lev Tahor nutjobs the Torat Jesed would realize what they’re getting themselves into and run far away.

  2. Nachman Rosner says:

    http://www.bill613.com/news/provincial-police-suspected-lev-tahor-human-trafficking-forgery-documents/#comment-71983

    A 14 page affidavit filed by Quebec provincial police to obtain a search warrant (called an Information to Obtain document), which contains written testimony by two former members of Lev Tahor-known as a CULT, was unsealed and obtained by News Agencies on Wednesday and the allegations in the document reveal that Quebec provincial police suspected Lev Tahor cult of human trafficking and forging documents.

    The document, which was signed by Sgt. Normand Dion of the Surete du Quebec, also describes forced prayer services, drugging and food deprivation. The affidavit also details that the suspicion of forged documents led Quebec provincial police to obtain a search warrant on January 29, 2014 in Chatham, Ontario, after Lev Tahor cult had fled from Ste Agathe to Chatham in the middle of the night. Among the items confiscated were hospital cards, laptops, marriage licenses from Missouri, bottles of medication including treatment for seizures (divalproex) and an antipsychotic medication (perphenazine), and a medicare card. The document was dated January 28th, a day before the search in Chatham.

    The affidavit also mentioned a CD containing documents from 2010 and 2011, which included a forged passport and power-of-attorney documents asserting control over members of Lev Tahor cult in case of incapacity. The CD had been given to the SQ by a rabbi who had received it from a former member of Lev Tahor Cult.

    The list of charges in the warrant issued in January include detailed allegations by former Lev Tahor cult members — including Helbrans’ own son Nathan — of physical force, braking his legs, use of psychotropic drugs, forced marriage of juveniles and sexual assault in a very bad way, according to Canadian reports.

    Read more: http://www.jta.org/2014/09/11/news-opinion/world/lev-tahor-sect-trafficked-in-human-cargo-documents-show#ixzz3DKLMcrpx

    In the interview section of the affidavit, a former member alleged that children were beaten with a hanger in the Shul, Ministry of Education documents had been forged by the former member of Lev Tahor cult on direct orders from the men running Lev Tahor cult, children were removed from their families and placed with other families if the parents didn’t follow Lev Tahor Cult rules, members of Lev Tahor cult were ordered to go to the doctor with a list of symptoms and ask for specific medications by name, children were brought in to Lev Tahor cult from other countries for arranged marriages, and mandatory use of medication (one witness said that he had been “forced to take pills with my meals three times a day.”) The witness also alleged that Lev Tahor cult leadership conducted violence of many natures (physical, emotional, etc), and did not allow children to be educated. Another witness added that when 13 and 14 year old girls disobey Lev Tahor cult rules they are tied up in basements, and that all money coming from the government must be handed over to Lev Tahor Cult leadership.

    More allegations came from a January 2014 interview with One who fled Lev Tahor Cult in 2012 together with his pregnant wife after questioning the ethics of Shlomo Helbrans, leader of Lev Tahor cult. According to the affidavit, he told the SQ that he was given instructions to beat children with a belt and that children under 16 were married. He was also forced to forge documents for the Ministry of Education.

    He also told the SQ that on Shabbos morning everyone was forced to Daven Shacharis for 6 hours followed by an hour of meditation. “he indicated that during the prayers at the synagogue in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, people were locked in the building … the doors were locked with a key so that no one was able to leave,” was written in the affidavit, according to the Toronto Star.

    The affidavit also reports that in August 2013 police and child welfare officials went to the community where they had to wait over an hour before going into the homes and saw very suspicious things, including a man going door to door carrying a paper bag. When they were finally allowed into the homes, they interviewed some members. One person told them that he had been separated from his family by force upon first arriving in Lev Tahor Cult. Placed with strangers, he had nothing to eat and had to beg. He also shared the story of a Lev Tahor member ordered to slap a woman in the face for refusing to wear the burqa Lev Tahor cult women wear. He also said that any income must go straight to Lev Tahor cult leadership.

    Lev Tahor Cult, who fled to Guatemala, denied all the accusations. CBC Windsor met Lev Tahor cult member Nachman Helbrand (who is a known lire) in Chatham as he was collecting things a family had left behind. He told them that the reason Lev Tahor cult left Canada is because they felt their religious freedom rights were violated.

    It is important to note that while Lev Tahor cult members dress like Chassidim, they are not considered Chassidim, let alone Orthodox Jews, by the majority of the Jewish world. they are a “cult” and cold blooded people just like the Nazis, In fact, All Chassidim in Montreal united to support and protect families who had left Lev Tahor cult.

    We object to using the term Haredi or Orthodox regarding these people. They are simply a crazy manipulative sect. They do not accept Torah Sheba’al Peh, the Oral Tradition, therefore they are simply “Apikorsim” and do not follow the Torah of Hashem. Why did the Monster, child abuser, Helbrans move away from Jerusalem? Because if he stayed he could isolate his group with himself and manipulate them, they would have been excommunicated even by the Haredim in Jerusalem.

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