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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Sect Accused of Abuse, Force Marriages, and Confinement

Feb 19, 2014

Just-released police documents include allegations of, among other things, beatings, sexual abuse and sex crimes, and forced marriages in the ultra-orthodox Haredi Lev Tahor Jewish cult.

According to the documents, in one case, a 17-year-old pregnant girl was taken to the hospital by ambulance in December 2012. Allegedly, the pregnant girl had been sexually abused by her father, beaten by her brother, and forced into marriage when she was 15 years old, according to Failed Messiah. Documents indicate that the girl was “in a psychosis” and unable to undergo an interview after being brought into a children’s hospital.

Allegations also include confinement and beatings in which crowbars, belts, whips, and a coat hanger were used, The Toronto Star reports. Claims are detailed in police documents tied to an ongoing probe into the sect. Documents include data used to obtain search warrants executed last month on Lev Tahor family properties in Ontario and Quebec, Canada, according to The Toronto Star. Paperwork also details a series of claims that reveal a community in which women and children were forced to live in a very controlled environment that was managed by a stringently followed set of regulations.

The intensely redacted police documents cover interviews with members of the sect, social workers, and unnamed witnesses and go back at least two years; children’s names are protected by a publication ban, The Toronto Star indicated. A number of items were seized; however, what these items are and specific offenses under investigation have not been released.

Not surprisingly, Nachman Helbrans, the son of sect leader Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, told The Toronto Star that the allegations are bogus and part of a campaign being waged against them by former members.

Prior court testimony delivered at a Quebec hearing led to the removal of 14 children who alleged a pattern of psychological abuse and control, inferior education, and terrible physical and dental hygiene. The group fled the province before the order, leaving their Sainte-Agathes-des-Monts homes for Chatham, Ontario. This led an Ontario court judge to review the Quebec order; the judge upheld the order for 13 of the 14 children. The 14th child is no longer considered a child under Ontario law and is now a mother herself, according to The Toronto Star.

Documents also reveal that so-called “disobedient” girls were confined in basements, and a social worker’s report indicates that one 14-year-old girl did not want to be returned to the community, fearing marriage. According to The Toronto Star, the report indicates she was intimidated into silence. “She doesn’t want to return to the community because she is promised to a man, she is very scared and seems to be very indoctrinated and members of the community are very present (redacted) to intimidate this young girl so that she does not talk,” the documents indicate. The girl also claimed that her father hit her in the face with a belt, and that the wife of a high-ranking sect member beat her with a coat hanger.

Another person the police interviewed said he witnessed one member ordered to hit a woman in the face because she refused to wear a burqa-like covering demanded by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans. Other allegations indicate that children were brought to Canada from other countries under false claims. In reality, they were being brought in to be married and were allegedly told “there are black angels who will come find them and they will burn them in hell,” the documents indicate. Allegations also discuss the use of forced medication. One community member’s statement includes allegations that her children took “mixtures of water with green powder.” Documents also indicate that a man in the community “bought all kinds of pills in a pharmacy and never wanted to say the reasons,” The Toronto Star reported.

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