Kikar Hashabbat, a haredi news site, reported the following story. Below is my translation, with a few notes.
It started about 8 months ago, when a 19-year-old haredi woman disappeared from her parents’ home. Two days later the parents located her by phone. The daughter explained that she was “strengthening herself” religiously, at a friend’s home. When the daughter again failed to make contact, the parents reported her absence to the police. But because of the daughter’s age the police refused to get involved.
One of the askanim (haredi functionaries–often used as a derogatory term but I’m not sure of the author’s perspective), who was in on the secret, told Kikar Hashabbat that at this point the parents realized that the daughter’s friend had gotten her involved with the “shalim” cult. This group advocates veils for women, and very strict sexual mores. The parents got more people involved, including an influential Jerusalem rabbi.
[Note: There are more and more women in haredi communities who wear "shalim," or cloaks, intended to disguise the contour of their upper bodies. There is a subgroup of such women who also cover their faces, break off contact with their parents, and practice extreme modesty. See my post, Face-Covering Families in Beit Shemesh: A Destructive Cult?]
The askanim began an investigation to locate the young woman’s hiding place for the previous three months since the last contact with her family. Finally, they found her in an apartment in Ramat Beit Shemesh [note: home of some of the cult's extreme members]. The cult held classes there, so the wife of a yeshiva student wrapped herself in a shal and attended a class. She used the opportunity to plant listening equipment in the apartment.
During the next few days, the missing woman’s voice was taped talking to a second woman who has not been identified. The second woman was heard warning the missing woman against her parents, because they don’t walk in the paths of God. The young woman must not make contact with them.
The mother dresses modestly, and even wears a shal. But does not cover her face, and does not belong to the cult.
The team kept a close eye on the apartment, but after the cult members found the listening equipment they brought the young woman to a second secret location.
A month later, the askanim believed her to be in a secret apartment belonging to “Shomrei Emunim” in Jerusalem. A number of yeshiva students kept an eye on the apartment but could not locate the missing woman.
The turning point came right before the Sukkot holiday, with the discovery that the cult had decided to marry off the woman to a convert ten years her senior. The worried parents tried to make contact with her. The head of the Edah Haredit, Rabbi Yitzchak Tuvia Weiss was approached and decided to publicize a special letter forbidding the marriage without the consent of the woman’s parents. [Although the letter, pictured here, only mentions her father.] The groom was also summoned to a hearing, along with the parents and others including Michael Levinzon who is reportedly among those responsible for the young woman’s disappearance.
Wedding canceled at last minute
The wedding was supposed to be this week, but the askanim managed to serve the groom with the warning letter of the Edah charedit rabbinical court. The groom notified the female matchmaker that he will not marry.
The big turning point happened early this morning: The askanim located a recording between the matchmaker and the groom, where she tells him the bride’s location. In an additional recording, the groom is heard telling the bride that her parents love her, and apparently the young woman then burst into tears. The groom added that the Edah Haredit forbids them from marrying. The young woman replies, “So what, Rabbi Aaron Tzvi Rumpler told me to marry.” Rabbi Rumpler’s yeshiva has been the object of protests, in light of his involvement in the cult.
On Wednesday after midnight, the askanim came along with the young woman’s parents to the apartment in Jerusalem, and waited for the daughter to come out.
At a certain point, the parents and the aiskanim broke into the stairwell outside the apartment and began making a big commotion. The neighbors called the police. The father was taken by the police for investigation, while his wife went to the door of the apartment and called out to her daughter in tears. The daughter and one of the askanim were investigated by the police. The family claims that the cult members filed a complaint against them.
- The article doesn’t say whether the parents succeeded in speaking to the daughter.
- Even an extreme community like the Edah Haredit feels threatened by this cult.
- Marrying someone ten years older is not unusual in those communities. A 19-year-old from a “good” family marrying a convert would be unusual. I think the point was that the young woman was presumably pressured into an undesirable marriage against her will.
- There could have been other problems with the guy, and she would have no way of knowing. Since haredi couples don’t know each other well, the parents are supposed to do the research on the propective partners.
- The parents acted as any parents would if their child joined a cult. Only it appears that in this closed society, the leaders have the power to achieve their goal of stopping the marriage.