Police Allege Physical and Psychological Abuse Among Canada's Lev Tahor Sect

Children Forced To Marry Young, Drugged and Beaten

Women in the Lev Tahor sect are forced to wear a burqa like uniform that has led some to call the group the Jewish Taliban.
haaretz
Women in the Lev Tahor sect are forced to wear a burqa like uniform that has led some to call the group the Jewish Taliban.

By JTA

Published February 16, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Newly unsealed police search warrants allege physical and psychological abuse, forced ingestion of drugs and girls coerced into marriage among the fringe haredi Orthodox sect, Lev Tahor.

The documents are part of applications for search warrants from the Quebec Provincial Police. They were unsealed on Friday at the request of several Canadian media outlets.

The warrants claim that a young woman in the sect said she was hit with a belt and a coat hanger; and that a pregnant 17-year-old told nurses at a hospital she was beaten by her brother, sexually abused by her father and forced to marry a 30-year-old man when she was 15.

Investigators were told children were forced to drink water mixed with an unknown green powder and that “all kinds of pills” were bought from a pharmacy and given to members without explanation, reported the Globe and Mail newspaper, one of the media outlets that argued for the unsealing of the documents.

About 200 members of Lev Tahor fled Quebec in November just before the execution of a court order to remove 14 children and place them in foster care. Quebec authorities said they had evidence of psychological abuse, underage marriage, child neglect, poor health and a home-schooling regimen that fell well below government standards. Quebec police began hearing allegations against the community in April, 2012.

The community settled in rural Ontario, about two hours southwest of Toronto, where earlier this month a judge upheld the Quebec order, excluding one of the children. But he stayed the ruling for 30 days to allow time for an appeal, which is expected.

The police search warrants paint an alarming picture of life in the close-knit, reclusive community. One man was quoted as saying he was diagnosed with a personality disorder and forced to take medications. Another member told police about beatings with sticks, crowbars, whips and belts. “He was forced to take pills during meal times three times a day,” the warrants state.

A witness said he saw a woman struck in the face because she refused to wear the burqa-like outfit for women that has led some media to deride the group as the Jewish Taliban.

Girls who were 13 or 14 were disciplined by being held in house basements while girls who were 14 and 15 were married to adult men, the police documents said. Children were also taken from their biological parents if the sect’s leader deemed they were not taught properly, the document added.

“There are about 20-30 children who have changed families. [A person who spoke to authorities] said that some children adapt well and return to their families but that others are upset, cry a lot,” the warrants state.

The Lev Tahor’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, was convicted of kidnapping a young boy and served two years in a U.S. prison before being deported to Israel in 2000. He fled to Canada the following year on a temporary visa and was later granted refugee status.

An Israeli parliamentary hearing on the Lev Tahor sect has documented cases of physical abuse and said the sect is a dangerous cult.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.