Lev Tahor: Typhus, Forgery, Under-Age Marriage, and Torture

Lev TahorHannah Katsman just posted the latest update on the Lev Tahor cult of Shlomo Helbrans (aka Elbarnes) which fled to Guatemala in the latest leg of their border-hopping odyssey to escape the law in the US, Israel, and Canada. Guatemala is perfect for them. Marriage is legal at 14, there are no enforced education requirements, and they have no extradition agreement with Canada.

Katsman describes squalid unsanitary living conditions and a reported case of typhus. I wonder if Lev Tahor is running out of money.

Katsman also reports on the recent release of Canadian government documents revealing forgery, psychotropic medication control of members, underage marriages and other criminal and abuse activity.

See also Haaretz, ‘Jewish Taliban’ sect suspected of human trafficking and forgery.


25 thoughts on “Lev Tahor: Typhus, Forgery, Under-Age Marriage, and Torture


    • As long as Lev Tahor doesn’t say anything that sounds like the things which Open Orthodoxy rabbis say, then Chareidi Rabbanim will not come out and condemn Lev Tahor and say that they are not practicing “true” Judaism. Chareidi Rabbanim condemn Open Orthodoxy before Lev Tahor. After all, Lev Tahor wont serve in the IDF, wont use the internet, wont use smartphones, and wont have mixed dancing. Drugging women and children in order to control them? Marrying off kids at age 14? Physical and mental abuse? Intentionally defying, breaking and running from the laws of the land? (Democratic countries no less.) Apparently those things are not as bad as Open Orthodoxy, or as Conservative Judaism is for that matter, and not bad enough to publically be condemned by Chareidi Rabbanim, Chareidi gedolim, or the Chareidi “Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah” of the Agudah.

      • Lev Tahor albeit capitalizing on Hebrew words, is not “pure heart” but the soul of the devil. lucifer. And, I can’t document this now, but i think that marriages at 14 are progressive amongst them, from what I believe I’ve read. . Believe that far younger, and polygamous, please someone tell me i am wrong and hallucinating. if there has ever been a cult that should be shunned, cut off completely from the Jewish people, it is Lev Tahor, an abomination. LOL mixed dancing, no. chas v’ch. just child polygamous marriages. that passes the smell test.
        Give me YCT any day of the week.
        Has any Charedi authority ever commented upon them at all??? pro or con?
        This is what the goyim see and think is Judaism. A veritable Chillul Hashem.

        • They are abominable, but they are a tiny sect and “under the radar” of most Orthodox Jews, let alone non-Jews. To the extent they are aware of them, Gentiles know that there are and have been wacko Christian or Christian-derived cults, so any Gentile who claims Lev Tahor is representative of Judaism is already a hopelessly brainwashed antisemite. W/R/T a tiny, marginal group like Lev Tahor, we should only be worrying about what they are doing to their own members/victims. OTOH, other Orthodox groups which are neither small nor “marginal” [not to name names] that engage in repeated, public and private antisocial behavior here or in EY are another matter entirely ….

        • There was an article a few months ago in Mishpacha magazine (the American version) and it pretty much told the story without any whitewashing. Basically said the women are prisoners who starve and take lots of meds, and that the men don’t even learn. Instead, the men learn some whackadoodle “sefer” written by Helbrans hiimself. They have no relationship to a real Torah lifestyle and are just a teeny group of freaks. Nebach on those that feel trapped. Hope they figure out a way to escape.

  2. HaShem yerachem! The Mossad found Yossele (in the 1960s). It’s too bad their operatives, or those of the US, or Canada, cannot / will save these victims of horrific abuse.

  3. People see these aliens in the media, read “Jews” and the next time they meet a Jew they visualize these freaks – like the scene in Annie Hall. Pitiful.

    • A rabbi in Brooklyn made the shidduch between Helbrans and Torat Jesed, who helped LT get settled in the lakeside town. The Guatemalan Jewish community told them that they would have to live in a Jewish community abroad for a year and convert there, but so far Torat Jesed is not willing to do so.

      • Why isn’t Interpol involved in bringing these guys down? Does Interpol have jurisdiction in Guatemala? And where is Helbrans getting money to keep traveling the world with his ever increasing flock of sheepel? Where are the fraudsters when you need them? This would be a good time to do a Ponzi scheme on Helbrans, and wipe him out.

    • B’vadai b’vadai. But, keep in mind, that anyone who joined this cult, of their own initiative, of their own free will, is cognitively challenged. These “members” as far as anyone has written, were never kidnapped and made slaves. They joined willingly. omg, this is above and beyond any “kiruv” activity that so many find hateful. These few hundred individuals knowingly joined this cult. MY MAJOR QUESTION is why? what did he offer them, that would convince a normal, or even not normal individual to sign up for this lev tahor cult???? What was the carrot??? really, even for unbalanced, psychologically challenged people, there must have been a carrot???? what was that? Hannah???? do you know???

      • Yes I know its the escape to a never neverland to get away from the everyday responsibility to just forget about working for a living its the freeloading off society,tragically it backfires on them, and as we see right now its backifiring in a big way.

      • I think there are different “carrots” for different people. One thing to keep in mind is that those who join this cult have not been made aware of their vicious and violent behavior against their own members. They see only what the cult leader presents to them and the little they are shown of the inside. With that in mind, here are some possible carrots. One is “belonging.” Some people feel desperate to belong but do not fit into the general culture in which they find themselves. They see in insular group of other misfits and think that by joining, they will gain a sense of belonging. Another carrot is for those who are looking for a very “pious” and “spiritual” lifestyle. The cult presents itself as such, and so they join. They aren’t bothered by women in black, as they are told that the women do it of their own free will as a way of being extremely pious and spiritual in contrast to the excessive materialism of current Western culture. For others, their extreme mental health issues have lead them to believe that they cannot find a mate, and this cult promises to pair them up with someone to marry. The carrot for them is a wife or husband and a family. Again, those that join are not aware, as we are, of the extreme abuse of the cult. And they are often young and naïve about the workings of the world in general. Once in the cult they are brainwashed and become a prisoner of the mind. Those who show signs of defiance are drugged. And once these people become parents, they are punished via punishments towards their children.

        It is a pity that Canada dragged their feet on this cult, allowed them to grow in strength and finances, and that they were then able to escape to a no-mans-land country which doesn’t care about the human rights of it’s residents. If Guatemala kicks them out, I’m sure Lev Tahor can find a dozen other countries where nobody cares about human rights abuses like this. Between human trafficking kidnapping prostitution rings, child marriages, honor killings, and all the other garbage that goes on in the rest of the world outside of North America and Europe, this group is just a blip in the map of desecration of human rights. The problem is, they are OUR people, and therefore OUR problem. But our rabbanim aren’t interested in publically and jointly condemning them or calling on all of Klal Yisrael to help save the victims, cut off funding, or take other possible action. The rabbanim and gedolim have bigger problems to worry about, like the internet, being drafted into the evil Israeli army, bugs in fruit and mixed dancing. Besides, they are good, frum Jews, so, what’s the problem? Rivka Imeinu got married at age 3, why would age 14 be a problem? # end sarcasm

        • Seriously?. seriously you are my alter ego. emes. mixed dancing is more dangerous than any other possible chillul hashem, not to talk about the bugs in lettuce or kale, Do you have any idea how hard it is to wash out the bugs from kale????, a relative of mine has been in that professional situation, huge bugs, after hours and hours, had to throw it all out. luckily now that enterprise is ending. But re Rivka, Imeinu, think of the strength the muscular strength, toting buckets of water haloch v’chazor to the well, , over the generations, our 3 year olds have had their muscles atrophy, ka’nir’eh.. and, in fact, the lack of wells today, is the major source of the shidduch crisis. No wells is clearly the root cause of the shidduch crisis. hashem yerachem aleinu…..
          and furthermore, Yitzchak was so psychologically damaged that he was not able to find a shidduch on his own, so damaged (and blinded) by the akedah, that he was, more or less, non-functional. to what degree is debatable, but that is a story for another day…….

  4. Given the fact that a cult leader was able to convince the publisher of a major chareidi magazine, Ami, as well apparently quite a few chassidic rabbis, I wouldn’t necessarily characterize everyone involved in this cult as misfits, etc.

    • AMI magazine takes on all sorts of bizarre positions. They seem to feel there is a media market in being contrarian.

      I am not aware of any Hasidic Rebbe’s who still support them.

    • The publisher and editor of Ami is Chassidish. He is agenda-driven and continuously strives to defend extreme Chareidi practices and present them in a positive light. Chassidim have an interest in defending Lev Tahor because their own groups are not all that very different from Lev Tahor. They are only one or two degrees better. Chassidim do not allow secular education, believe in disobeying local secular law, believing in stealing from secular governments, and most importantly, chassidim believe in following their Rebbe, no matter what kind of ludicrous things their Rebbi says or instructs them to do. In a way Chassidish groups are like cults. Following a charismatic leader, being pressured to follow the group, being shunned and excommunicated for doing things differently than the group, being punished for disobeying the leader, etc. Because of these similarities, Chassidim have a vested interest in defending Lev Tahor. They are afraid that if the secular authorities get involved in Lev Tahor, it is not too far a step in the secular authorities intruding on the lives of Chassidim. They are right to be afraid. In England the secular government shut down a Chassidish elementary school which was not teaching any secular subjects, which is against the law. What non-Chassidish frum people do not realize, especially those in the 5 Towns, is that what looks quaint and pious, what with their 18th century clothing, and nostalgic Yiddish, is oftentimes very similar to a cult in the many negative and destructive ways in which cults operate. Ami magazine’s defending Lev Tahor as not being a cult is likely more proof that Lev Tahor is, indeed, a cult.

      • Hey, Seriously? Can you delineate the differences between a cult and a religion? I was once listening to a radio show and the moderator was saying that a cult is any religion that we don’t see as valid. He was referring to the possibility of having a Mormon president and how people were suspicious of the would-be president’s religious affiliations. To some degree, all religions try to keep their members separate from the non-religious world…..and thank you for your observations about this cult in relation to the Chassidish world. I wasn’t too threatened by them before, but you gave me some food for thought.

        • BauMayim – I cannot succinctly delineate that in a post here. There is just too much to say on it. There is a lot of info out there on the web where you can read up on the differences between a cult and a religion, and the main characteristics of a cult. My personal opinion on the most destructive differences between a cult and a religion is the communal shunning, punishing and trapping of cult members, which ultimately lead to removal of freedom of choice for the member. A chassidish 20 year old man who cuts off his kralte (long, curled) payis and beard will be kicked out of his home and community. He can barely speak English, nevermind read or write in English. He has no social understanding of the world at large. He is worse off than an immigrant from another country because immigrants read newspapers and were exposed to culture and information about the world in their old country. The Chassidish young man has no ability to earn a living as he has no secular education beyond a 3rd grade level, and doesn’t have the support of his community to start a business. He is cut off from every social and emotional bit of support that ever existed in his life. His siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends from his whole life – nobody will talk to or associate with him. An immigrant from another country always has his family and friends who he loves and misses and talks about “in my country.” Not so this young Chassidish man. Of course he didn’t start off by cutting his beard and peyos. He started by asking questions that were not deemed acceptable, and having thoughts and ideas that his group considered threatening. If he persisted in asking questions, his group punished him socially – they looked down on him, put him down and socially rejected him.

          A Catholic kid the same age may be called a “lapsed Catholic” and of course it depends upon the extreme adherence of his family and friends, but he usually wont lose everyone in his life if he leaves Catholicism. He will have aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who also don’t believe or who left Catholicism or who don’t feel like he needs to be shunned and punished for not believing in his parents’ religion any longer. Importantly, he will have the tools to pick up from Texas and move to Wisconsin without a lack of tools to cope with the world around him. He will have had as good a secular education as anyone else, will speak the language as well as anyone else, and have an exposure to the world around him and to the general culture in which he finds himself. There are many “mixed marriage” Christian couples around the USA where one spouse is religious and goes to church weekly, and another doesn’t believe at all. The couple compromises on the education of the children. Mormonism is more fundamentalist, and has a lot more shunning and rejection of those who are not like them. It’s always a question of degree. Read up on Scientology – it will fascinate you. In Europe Scientology it is not considered a religion, but the USA it is. But it doesn’t matter what it’s called. The bottom line is that it’s a group which punishes its members for non-belief, for not following or for stepping out of line. Scientologists are required to shun anyone that leaves or is not a member. Parents and children are not allowed to speak to each other if one has left the cult.

          Yiddishkeit should not be like this. We should be secure enough in our beliefs and in our heritage to accept all levels of adherence without shunning those that do not follow the exact dictates of our brand of practice. A Chassidish person who becomes Modern Orthodox will be considered as having gone OTD, their siblings wont get shidduchim, and their family will be “punished” in all these social ways. It’s extreme. And it’s cultish.

          The Yeshivish world didn’t used to be this way, but has become this way in the past 25-30 years. Our fathers went to good yeshivos and got solid secular educations and were able to be competitive in college with the secular education they received in yeshiva. But now there isn’t a single Yeshivish boys yeshiva that offers a solid secular education to their boys. A Yeshivish boy who goes to a good graduate school has a lot of competition and will almost never be able to graduate at the top of his class. He just can’t compete, even with his smart “Yiddishe kop.” It has become a social norm to have minimal secular education at the best Yeshivish yeshivos. Having a good English department is now looked down upon. This is Chassidish, it’s new to the Yeshivish world, and it’s part of the move towards greater insularity, and more fundamentalism.

          As a general rule, the more fundamentalist the group, the more cultish it becomes as it cannot tolerate anything other than it’s own ways, insisting on perfect adherence, and resorting to punishing those who exhibit any difference in thought, speech or deed. The punishing and social shunning then traps its members and it becomes a vicious cycle.

  5. There are many characteristics of cults which can help differentiate them from mainstream religions but certain sub-cultures within Yiddishkeit can have cult-like features. For example, in a certain community which I shall call Old Round the Rebbe has reportedly advised that old newborns with ” defects” such as Down syndrome be sent immediately to an orphanage. There is no real choice for the parents. This goes on in 2014.

    Rabbi Akiva Tatz has some interesting shiurim on individuality in Yiddishkeit online (YouTube) which address the Issue of conformity.

  6. Yeah, years ago I was at a wedding discussing which yeshivish yeshiva could provide the best secular eduacation for my son, and I was told that I “worry too much” about secular education….that son now blows me off when I try to talk to him about taking SATs or thinking about going to college in the future.

See Commenting policy ( http://wp.me/pFbfD-Kk )

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s