Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Lev Tahor Leader Lied in Refugee Application to Canada: Report

The leader of the controversial ultra-Orthodox sect Lev Tahor may have used false evidence to gain refugee status in Canada, a Canadian documentary reported.

Ottawa’s granting of refugee status to Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans was based in part on testimony paid for by the sect, a boy involved at the hearing told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s program, “the fifth estate.”

The documentary, which aired Feb. 28, alleges that Shai Fima, the boy who was at the center of Helbrans’ 1996 kidnapping conviction in the U.S., was paid $5,000 to appear on videotape at Helbran’s hearing, denying that he was kidnapped and saying the rabbi was being unfairly persecuted.

Helbrans argued successfully at his 2003 hearing that as an anti-Zionist, he would be persecuted if returned to Israel. He was admitted as a refugee despite his American criminal conviction for kidnapping, for which he served two years in jail, and was then deported to his native Israel. Fima, who did not want to appear on camera, is quoted as saying he was not kidnapped.

Helbrans told the CBC that Fima’s claim he was paid by the sect is ”absolutely false and a lie.” Another sect member said the Lev Tahor did pay for Fima’s airplane ticket from Israel to Canada, but not for his testimony.

Helbrans’ claim included testimony from a man who is now the spokesperson for Lev Tahor, whose members fled Quebec last fall and have settled in rural Ontario. Uriel Goldman testified that as a young intelligence soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, he was ordered to spy on Helbrans.

The IDF has no record of Goldman, the program reported. When questioned, Goldman said he did not want to talk about his testimony at the refugee hearing. ”I know that Israel is watching very carefully,” he says in the documentary. “I think you can understand. I don’t want to receive one day a bullet from a Mossad agent if it gets ugly.”

Sect members are appealing an Ontario court decision to place 13 Lev Tahor children in foster care amid allegations of physical abuse, neglect, underage marriages and forced medication.

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.