Court to Rule on "Taliban" (Hyper-Modest) Sect

Taliban sisters - Nir Keidar - 05112011 -at Israeli border control

Photo by Nir Keidar via Haaretz

Haaretz reports this morning about a court case involving two young veiled girls from Beit Shemesh. The article contains many details about the group they belong to, which is known internally as “Lev Tahor” (pure heart). Maybe the press will finally stop calling them Taliban women.

The two girls were sent by their parents to an outpost of the group near Montreal. The grandmother’s brother filed a petition arguing that their welfare would be harmed because they would be married against their will. The Israeli court agreed to hear the petition. Canadian officials greeted the girls at the airport, and they were eventually escorted back to Israel by Canadian police.

The article contains background details:

The leader of the Lev Tahor community calls himself Shlomo Elbarnes. From Jerusalem’s Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, this charismatic figure began forming extremist Orthodox groups in the United States some 20 years ago. His followers are said to heed his authority entirely.

Elbarnes brought his followers to Canada after U.S. authorities expelled him due to charges that he coercively asserted control over a 13-year-old minor. Elbarnes settled with his group outside of Montreal, where they are said to be fervently religious, holding prayer services that last nearly the entire day.

Rituals of the Lev Tahor community reportedly involve lashing anyone considered a “sinner,” and sending 14-year-old girls to the wedding canopy.

How empowering is that?




  1. If it’s the same guy, the rabbi once spent 2 years in jail in the US for kidnapping (see google results).

    • Yes, also spelled as Helbranz. I wonder how much his group in Canada is connected to the one in Beit Shemesh, or are they largely separate?

      • I have no idea – I live on the west coast and had never heard of them until reading this….he seems to be a real winner, though 🙁

      • I have no idea – I live on the west coast and had never heard of them until reading this….he seems to be a real winner, though 🙁

  2. Would not be surprised to find out that many of these teenage brides go to the leader himself and his main men. That’s how it almost always is with these sects. Sick. Very, very sick.

  3. Confused… Is there somewhere to read up on all the history here? I thought this’Taliban’ dress was started in by the woman in Beit Shemesh who is now in jail… Any way to get the facts straight? Or is this a totally different sect?

  4. Nurse Yachne says

    Bad news. This stuff is uber-creepy. Very unwholesome. Hard to see how the shechina can dwell in darkness.

  5. Allan Katz says

    Very disturbing,

    easy to control people when they have to dress in a very ‘ exhitionist ‘ way emphasizing the external. A person who dresses very different , even if she is covered from head to toe – attracts attention – this is not modesty . The bigger problem of the focus on chitzoniyut – externality is that it denies the inner spark , the intrinsic values and thinking of the person. If we want to find that spark, we need to dig deep down inside of ourselves and focus on the intrinsic value and pninimut of what we do , giving something of ourselves – chelkeinu – to the mitvah. These people lose touch with themselves and become obedient slaves who deny their own existance and follow blindly. Feeling frum because of chitzoniyut is a big problem and very quickly the the superficiality is felt and a new quest for a new chumra starts

  6. Very creepy. I’m glad at least someone in the girls’ family seems to be looking out for them.

    PS You accidentally left the attribution off of the photo.

  7. This is an internal cult. There’s nothing Jewish about this, this is cult behavior using some forms of Judaism as it’s trappings. Unfortunately in the struggles of this generation, with both chozeh b’teshuva looking for more and more connection to Hashem without knowing the middle path and proper borders and those in the charedi community feeling more and more threat from an outside world that can no longer be blocked out with just a higher wall around the neighborhood, there is a solid sub-segment (coming from multiple directions) susceptible to religious behavior extremists and cult figures masquerading as tzaddikim.

    It’s rare but not unheard of, and the charedi community is poorly equipped to fight it as these behaviors initially present themselves as just strong forms of piety, and it’s hard for those who stress extra effort on piety to police those who just keep taking it farther – right over the edge.

  8. My first thought (don’t judge) was that they are going to ruin one of my favorite songs! Lev Tahor indeed. Feh. I would prefer if the press continued to call them “Taliban women” because I think it’s important to underscore how heinous and far from Yiddishkeit this is. We should continue to compare these extremists to their Muslim counterparts, as I do feel they are closer to that model. This is not the Jewish way, and I really feel for those poor girls. It will be interesting to see what the court has to say (though I strongly doubt that anyone in the cult will take seriously the ruling of a court outside of their little realm of influence).

    • The point of the ruling is that if the cult is ruled illegal, they can remove the children. I would feel for the foster families who would take the kids in, though. it’s very hard to un-brainwash children.

  9. Yet again – I’ll stress a point. No one ever argued that the Burqa was empowerment by itself. We were making a point that in the case of Beit-Shemesh cult – they were displaying a surprising amount of feminism by taking the halacha into their own hands and not surrendering to rabbinic pressure. Of course I highly doubt that the motivation had anything to do with feminism, but it was so nonetheless.

    However the case in this article appears to just be a simple charismatic male lead cult. So nothing that can be seen as feminist here.