Cults and the War of the Jewish Magazines

52

lev-tahor

[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman]

Recently, the Torah community has experienced what can be described as the “War of the Magazines.”  Mishpacha Magazine ran a fifteen page “expose” a few weeks ago about a group that calls itself “Lev Tahor” led by a certain R. Shlomo Helbrans. The article essentially described “Lev Tahor” as a cult that has had some serious issues involving medicating children, and behaviors that resemble child abuse.  The article explained that authorities in Canada are investigating Lev Tahor and have also placed some of the children in foster care pending the outcome of further investigation.

A short while later, Ami Magazine ran an article that claimed the exact opposite truth.  It claimed that there is no evidence at all of child abuse and that the movement is not, in fact, a cult.  The article was accompanied by the following sentence directly below the headline:

“The unjust persecution of a group of pious Jews, and the unsettling silence of the Jewish community.”

The Ami article claimed that the allegations are all spurious and that it is anti-Semitism which lies behind the taking of children away from these pious families.

The turn around is a bit shocking, because Ami Magazine itself ran a three page description in a previous issue delineating in detail what happened to one family from the perspective of the brother. That issue, from a number of months ago, featured Rav Kahaneman on its cover.  Tha first Ami article explained how many of the families are lacking in basic nutrition, but R. Helbrans sits to lavish five course meals, where he subsequently closes his eyes and explains that he ascends to the Heavens to talk to malachim.

Many readers of the latest Ami article were incensed and claimed that the article did not fully address the allegations that were brought up in the Mishpacha article, as well as in two documentaries produced in Canada – one by the television show “16 by 9” and the other by a show entitled, “The 5thEstate.” The allegations range across a very broad spectrum of issues including that the children are raised with a lack of hygiene and the treatment of children. In court they are currently investigating allegations of child abuse and under-age marriages.

Lev Tahor representatives and members have denied the allegations.

Older readers will recall how, many years ago,  R. Helbrans was arrested for allegedly kidnapping 13 year old Shai Fhima.  Shai later disappeared from his mother for over 2 years.  Although R. Helbrans was convicted and  Fhima was later found in France with a false passport, R. Helbrans successfully convinced the Canadian Immigration Refugee that the boy was never kidnapped.  He showed a video of Shai Fhima saying that he was not kidnapped.  Later on, it was allegedly reported that “Fhima said that he regretted making this false statement, that he was indeed kidnapped by Helbrans, and that he received $5000 for making the film.”

This author checked with some Gedolei HaPoskim who were quite wary of the Lev Tahor group.  One Rav even expressed the possibility that the Eida Chareidis of Yerushalayim may have previously come out against them.  This author checked with the Eida Chareidis, and in fact this was not the case.  However, the sentiment that this group is not normal was clearly expressed.  Ami Magazine, however, did quote some Rabbis who allegedly claimed that this group has been unjustifiably singled out.

Some of the issues that cause eyebrows to be raised among those spoken to by this author are the fact that the leader of this group does not have any authoritative contemporary Rabbinic leader to which he defers, allegedly does not have Smicha from any Torah authority, runs his group in somewhat of a cult-like manner, and has encouraged the women in Lev Tahor to wear Burka-type clothing and to dress all in black.  In this author’s opinion and in the opinion of many Gedolei HaPoskim this latter position runs counter to halacha.  The Gemorah talks about Bigdei Tzivonim, colored clothing as being completely permissible and all this runs against the Mesorah of thousands of years of Torah practice.

How do we differentiate a “cult” from a legitimate Torah organization?  Much of this revolves around how we define the term “cult.”  Chazal do speak of cults that existed in the time of the Beis HaMikdash and do refer to the cult of Essenes found in Yosifun (See for example a fascinating Maharsha on Kiddushin 71a).  Chazal also reference a cult of misbodedim.  There are also numerous pshatim in why Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is not mentioned in a number of places so that the religion not take on the characteristics of a cult of personality.

But aside from the issue of how a cult is to be defined, it is sometimes not so easy to tell.  The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) believe that a group that displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, is one such indication.  This, however, can easily be confused with legitimate emunas chachomim.  To differentiate, we can perhaps add the caveat that applies when this is being done against the belief system of the leading sages of Israel and against a clear indication in Torah sources.

A second indication is when‪ questioning and dissent are discouraged or even punished.  Although this too can be found in some of our circles – the differentiation can be made in degree of discouragement and in punishment.  It is not normal to lock children in a basement and there have been a few such allegations here.

A third indication is in implementing‪ mind-altering practices that are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).  Were medications given to children without doctor approval to keep them in line?  There are allegations of such practices here.

A fourth indication is when the leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel.  This happens to a degree in some of our circles as well, even though  many Gedolei Torah believe that it is very unhealthy and should be discouraged.  The difference between a legitimate Torah group and a cult would seem to lie in degrees here.

‪ A fifth indication is if the group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader and members, and has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.  This latter point is the crux of the issue.  The excessive practice of the burka here has created that.

A sixth indication is when the leader is not accountable to any other religious authorities.

‪The ICSA lists other indications too. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group.  The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt iin order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion. ‪ Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.  The group is preoccupied with making money.‪ Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities. ‪ Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.  The most loyal members feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

However, labelling an entire group of people “a cult” can very well be a violation of the laws of Lashon Horah, which are simultaneously  both quite serious and complex.  The ramifications of a violation of Lashon haRah can often be very devastating.  Entire reputations can be destroyed in a matter of days.  Indeed, Shlomo HaMelech – King Solomon wrote (Mishlei 18:21), “Maves veChaim beyad Lashon – Death and Life are in the hands of the tongue” which refers to the terrible consequences of Lashon Horah (Erachin 15b).

At the same time, however, an incomplete understanding of these laws could also lead to some dire consequences on the opposite end of the spectrum.  When people erroneously forbid information from being disseminated on account of thinking that it is Lashon Horah and forbidden, people cannot take protective measures.  At times this can be quite devastating.

A case in point: Gedaliah Ben Achikam was one of the Gedolei HaDor of his generation.  He was a Navi[1]. Indeed the Gemorah (Rosh HaShana 18b) explains that Hashem Himself (Zechariah 8:19) equates the death of this great Tzaddik with the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash!  Rarely do we find such testimony as to to the stature of any individual.

The future of Klal Yisroel was in the hands of this great Tzaddik and Gadol.  His decisions were of paramount importance.  Notwithstanding his greatness and piety and the fact that he was a prophet of Hashem, he made a crucial error in halacha and in its application.  He refused to take protective measures against Yishmael, when he was warned by Yochanan Ben Korayach of Yishmael Ben Nesanya’s malevolent intent (Yirmiyahu 40:16).  The consequences were quite grave indeed.  Gedaliah and all his men were brutally murdered (Yirmiyahu 41:2).

The Gemorah tells us (Niddah 61a) that Gedaliah Ben Achikam misused the halachic concept of Lashon HaRah and applied it erroneously.  It was a tragic error that resulted not only in his death, the scattering of the nation, and in the loss of Klal Yisroel’s independence as a nation.  Indeed, the repercussions of his error are still felt to this day.

The repercussions are felt in two ways.  Firstly, they are felt in exact ramifications of his miscalculation – that the nation of Israel ceased to be an independent nation.  But secondly, we still have not learned from his example.  To this day, there are many well-meaning people who misapply the notion of Lashon HaRah in ways that can cause Klal Yisroel to err and err again.

The results of Gedaliah’s inaction were so grave that the Mesilas Yesharim (chapter twenty) notes that the Gemorah (Niddah 61a) considers it as if Gedaliah himself had killed all of his people!  This is a remarkably thought-provoking notion.

At times, the sin of incorrectly “sounding the  Lashon Horah warning” and ignoring the information is so grave that one who does so is considered the actual perpetrator of the repercussions that have transpired on account of the silence, whether it be theft, molestation or even murder.

The conclusions from this are clear.

There are times that information must be given to ward off potential harm to others, in order that they be able to take self-protective measures.  At the same time, there are situations where it is forbidden for people to believe the information, even though they may act upon it to protect themselves.

Is there enough information here to be concerned?  Of the 127 children in the group, seven were taken away by the Canadian equivalent of Child Protective Services and placed in religious Yiddish speaking homes.  As of this writing, one of the children was released back to her seventeen year old mother but with the caveat that the father cannot see the child.  The court case for the 17-year-old mother will resume in July.

The cases for the six other children taken by Ontario child services will be heard May 7.

What is the Torah view on taking children away when they may be in danger?  Of course whenever it comes to pikuach nefesh where life is endangered (even emotionally) we must be stringent.  But we must also make sure not to do more damage in the process of helping.  In a halachic psak printed in Yeshurun Volume 15, page 642 Rav Elyashiv zt”l does take into account the issue of over-cautiously removing children from their home environs if it could lead to removal of children from an observant Jewish home environment.  Here, the Canadian authorities ensured that this not happen.  There may also be differences between the secular definition of “abuse” and what would be a halachic definition.  Not knowing who the Prime Minister of Canada is, is something that can readily be said of children in numerous Torah observant circles.  It is not a reason to take children away.

In the past week, former members of Lev Tahor have come out forcefully against the Ami Magazine article as a complete whitewash.

When safety of children is a concern, we cannot ignore a multiplicity of evidence indicating dangers – even if the sources of these indications come from venues that do not fit the criterion for Torah testimony.  Halacha recognizes the notion of raglayim l’davar whenever such issues arise.

In short, if there is in fact neglect here, and evidence of this will be presented to the Canadian courts, it is this author’s view that the Torah community should support the Canadian government’s placing of these children in mainstream Torah observant homes. Like they have been doing.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

[1] See Bais Shmuel (Even HoEzer, Shaimos Anashim veNashim Os Ches citing Maharit).  Indeed, this is why the name Gedaliah is spelled with a vov at the end in a Get.

ARTICLE PUBLISHED BY 5TJT




52 COMMENTS

  1. I was very surprised that Ami printed a lengthy series of articles in their Pesach Edition supporting these people. Who will give a voice to those who have none. The infants that are deprived of loving parental care instead are cared by robots who have been stripped from their humanity. Rabbi Helbrans removes all emotions excwpt an exagerated fervor that is totally misplaced. 3 year olds davening for 4 hours in a row???? Why would they ever want to be erlich after being streched way past the capability of a child that age!

  2. …..all is good, until they decide to go after you.
    It’s obvious that Helbrans is a cult-like figure in his community. I believe he’s a very bad and dangerous person who MUST be stopped. The AMI article fails in this regard.
    What Ami correctly implies is that using the strong arm of the government, however correct it may seem in THIS case, sets a bad and even detrimental precedent.
    If this continues to evolve, there’s nothing stopping CPS from going after you tomorrow.
    After all “it’s for the children! It has nothing to do with religious rights!”
    We must stop Helbrans from within. And if we can’t, then sorry to say, but we lost.

  3. Rabbi Hoffman, Yeshiva World and Mishpacha Magazine,
    Please stop writing about this group.
    It is mamesh loshon hara.
    It makes no difference if it is true or not.
    There is absolutely no to’eles in being mefarsem
    the virtues or the depravity of this group.
    Their alleged sins do not take them out of
    “amis’cha”, and loshon hara applies to them.
    The very serious issur of mesirah is also involved.
    If there are any issues with regard to the
    alleged safety of their children,
    it should be brought to bais din.
    Only a bais din can decide.

  4. After reading the Mishpacha article, the most telling piece of information IMHO is that they don’t learn anything but chumash without rashi and Helbran’s seforim.
    One of the key features of our Mesorah is the searing scrutiny EVERYTHING receives. So when a father says my father told me and his father told him etc. we were all at har sinai, it can’t have been made up. Because we don’t just accept, we ask and refute.
    A “religious” Jewish community that doesn’t learn Gemara or have questions is a cult.

  5. #3, very legitimate point. The answer is we need to know that an eruv rav is an eruv rav or they are just another brand of chassidus.

  6. Ami is a horrible magazine. Its editorial board is paranoid to an extreme. It ran a front page cover picture of the White House decked out in Nazi flags with Nazi storm troopers on the White House lawn. It ran a headline that “Leftist Jews are responsible for Toulouse Massacre” in which a father and two children were killed. It ran an article entitled “Protocols of the Elders of Agudah” and used Nazi imagery to attack those that criticized Agudas Yisrael. It has compared the Israeli government to Czarists Russia and has attacked Jonathan Rosenblun for saying that Chareidi MKs deserve some of the blame for the current religious – secular tensions in Israel. The list can go on and on. It is shocking that some respectable Talmeidei Chachamim still write for this xenophobic magazine.

  7. #3 Do you live in Quebec? Please do not spout nonsense. The government put these kids in frum Yiddish speaking homes. This has nothing to do with anti-semitism. Please stop the paranoia.

  8. The main issue at hand here is whether or not frum infants, toddlers, little children and teenagers should be kidnapped by the Quebecer government and handed over to a strange family to be brought up without their parents. The answer is unequivocally no. No child should be taken away from their parents on suprious charges; charges such as they had toenail fungus! You hear? They want to kidnap these children because the yeshiva doesn’t teach evolution, sex ed and they found fungus on the children’s toenails!! The main issue is that Quebec wants to shove down the throats of frum Jewish children a secular education that includes evolution, sex ed, and other apikorsus and immoralities.

    Regarding the so-called kidnapping 20 years ago in New York, all the Rabbonim supported R. Helbrans back then. Check out the NY Times articles from the time, other reports and ask around. The bar mitzvah bochor in question ran away from his non-frum family and wanted to become frum. Since R. Helbrans helped him become frum against his parents wishes, and found a frum family he could live with, they charged him. The county DA found it spurious and dropped the charges. Then the State reopened it due to political pressure. Fhima himself consistently, from that time until today, will tell you he was never kidnapped and he went on his own volition.

    It is true the Lev Tahor group does things above and beyond normal normative frum Orthodoxy, such as the women’s dress, (things they probably shouldn’t do) but that is a far cry from allowing to wholesale kidnap their children. Being weird is not a crime.

    In summary, all a cult means is a group you don’t like or are uncomfortable about. You can call anyone a cult including any Chasidus or Chareidim in general. ICSA lists could easily include Chareidim under ICSAs definitions.

    The allegations Quebec made were wholesale lies and spurious charges that were never accepted in court. Quebec lacked proof because none existed.

  9. #4 I agree. They don’t bother anyone from our community. The fact that the children may or may not be suffering is not our concern because the chances of them having what we would call a ‘normal’ life is anyways not going to happen.

    Are there crazies out there? Yes.
    Can we do much to stop them-NO
    Should we avoid accusing and pointing fingers-Absolutely.

    Until we know concrete information that we have seen ourselves or heard as a ‘To’eles’, everything else is Lashon Harah.
    When we get to Shamayim after 120 and they present us with a book of Aveiros that we know we definitely did not do, it is because we spoke Lashon Harah about those people.

    Please stop talking Lashon Harah.
    As one of my friends said, one of the worst problems with the internet is that there is not filter for Lashon Harah.

  10. Yitzchokm [2]
    Anyone with experience knows by now that the attitude of “we should stop abusers from within” is a great recipe for complete white-washing, and ultimately it’ll end up by the authorities and all over the media in a much uglier fashion than it had to be. Think about it: Who and how exactly is going to “stop them”?

  11. it is a mitzva to publicise the rishus of Helbrans, otherwise he will find more victims. klal yisroel has a sense of who is truly a servant of Hashem, today it’s getting skewed. I heard from relatives of his followers about what’s going on there, it must be stopped.

  12. crazykanoiy: The last Quebec government tried to ban Jewish all government employees, including doctors and other hospital employees, from wearing yarmulkas.

  13. I am in total agreement with carzykanoiy. AMI needs to be banned, no, people need to stop buying/reading it. Only a sick person can say there is no child abuse, when the Lev Tahor group acknowledges that 3.5 year old boys must daven shachris for 4 hours without being allowed to go use the restroom.
    As Chazal say, Lo ra-eenu anoi ra-ayah!

  14. Few things
    1)Yosifun does not mention the essenes, Josephus does,Yosifun is a 8th century forgery that some rabbanim in the middle-ages mixed up with Josephus. Second, all the chasidish communities up in candada are working with the govt. against lev tahor by the orders of their rebbe’s and they are the ones taking in the children. My rosh yeshiva called them evil as do most da’as torah. Let us stop evil group like them, and save those children

  15. WITH ALL DUE RESPECT WHAT KIND OF CHUTZPAH DOES THE AMI MAGAZINE HAVE THE RIGHT TO PUBLISH SUCH A RIDICULOUS, FALSE, ARTICLE LIKE THIS ONE. EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT THIS HELBRANS GUY DESTROYED COUNTLESS OF FAMILIES. EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT THERE IS HORRIFIC ABUSE THAT IS GOING ON THERE. THIS PLACE HAS TO BE CLOSED AND HELBRANS SHOULD BE PROSECUTED IN COURT FOR ORCHESTRATING ALL OF THIS STUFF. I PERSONALLY KNOW OF A FAMILY THAT WAS DESTROYED BY THE HELBRANS CULT.

  16. #10 “ben torah”

    sorry to burst you bubbles, but most rabbanim came out against helbrand years ago when the kiddnapping happened and Fhima thesedays says he was paid of by helbrand to lie. SO keep your facts straight. Second the quebec govt gave the kids of to mucacz and other chaddish groups (who are helping under the orders of their rebbe’s), so the kids are not being affected. ALso lev tohaor teaches things that are apikorsos according to all shitas. And it wasn’t fungus they found on the children’s nails, it was black fungus found on the whole foot and legs, a condition usually only found in the third world due to malnutrition. ALso the children had other signs of abuse.

    Don’t defend akipkorsim that have been condemned by nearly all gedolei yisroel

  17. What really makes me wonder is why in the world does someone become an authority on ANYTHING because they happen to have friends with money who will back a magazine for them? Why does the editor of a magazine become any sort of Daas Torah? It I’d ludicrous if you think about it. Really, who cares what Ami Magazine thinks? I stopped reading it a long time ago. I have zero interest in 100 pages of editorial about what one person thinks? When did their opinion become more important than anyone else’s? Its totally silly. Please don’t believe that any magazine has any authority from any Gadol to represent anyone.

  18. Dear R Yitzchok Frankfuther,

    Your typical איפכא מסתברא whitewash of Lev Tahor is a mockery of Torah, of our Msorah, of chasidus and indeed of investigative journalism.

    Is interviewing the person in charge of their public relations what one would call investigative journalism?

    Is being led through their enclave by their “minders” and talking to their leader himself what one would call digging for the objective truth?

    You’re so impressed by how clever their PR person sounds and by how smart and down to earth their leader Hellbranz comes across. Isn’t this how all cult leaders and demagogues throughout history came across? Didn’t they all make a cool, smooth and humble impression?

    If this is not a cult tell me what is.

    Your equating their life style and their educational system to that of all chasidishe yidden is an insult and a repudiation of yidishkeit and chasidus. How dare you throw salt in the eyes of your readers who happen to know better, who know quite well what goes on in that enclave. Their life style has nothing to do with frumkeit and kdishe. Rather the contrary.

    Your father’s cousin the tzadik R Cheskele Mertz, who was probably the biggest מסתגף and holy Oved Hashem that we knew, did not have his children dress in burkahs, lehavdil like fanatical Muslims, did not order them to get married as minors or with people decades their seniors, did not have them lead hermetic sealed lives, – a life style that is totally at odds with that of our ancestors and our Msorah.

    We happen to know the opinions of all gdolei yisruel in our generation towards them, including the Kashoer Rav and the Berech Moshe, who condemned their leader and considered the sect anathema and their life style and practices taboo. That is not in conflict to the Daas Torah of Rabunim in Montreal whom you quote who proclaim it forbidden to maaser on them to the Canadian authorities, and who naturally beseech yidden to financially help the poor souls. Of course it’s incumbent to help all yidden even if they stray from our mesorah or even if they sin chulileh.

    Malcolm Gladwell’s recent rather renowned article in The New Yorker about the mishandling by the U S government of lehavdil the David Koresh cult doesn’t make them less of a cult. A cult is a cult is a cult.

    Only a magazine like yours, which claims to be a charedi magazine, yet constantly tries to elevate the leader of modern orthodoxy and of Mizrachi in America to the same status and level as that of our gdolim and tzadikim can equate the Lev Tahor sect to that of other chasidus. (In this very article you equate Rabbi J B Soloveitchik to the Satmar Rebbe in the very same sentence. You are entitled to your opinion and Rabbi Soloveitchik was definitely a brilliant mind and great gaon, but it boggles my mind how someone who learned in Brisk and who is married into a prominent satmar family, or anybody with a right and balanced hashkuefe can be so irresponsible as to constantly extol Y U gdolim, Mizrachi and leaders of modern orthodoxy in a magazine which supposedly caters to a charedi readership).

    It is the same reckless standards which are applied to your investigative article about Lev Tahor.

  19. Rabbi Hoffman continues to excel himself with meticulously researched articles, usually straight halacha, in this case a bit different.

    Ami, however, is basically the National Enquirer of frum magazines. They buy into every conspiracy theory and present opinions as fact skewed 99% to one side. In fact, they are hardly original–most of their conspiracy stuff, like “the bid bad medical establishment”, parrots the same ideas found in goyishe magazines. Plus, they have super-paranoid John Loftus writing for them. Even where they are correct, they bury themselves by employing yellow journalism techniques; for example, in showing how Avi Weiss is beyond the pale, instead of mustering halachic arguments, they interviewed a Gentile professor of government and made sure he answered their questions the right way.

  20. The little secret here is that all the authors of the pro Lev Tahor opinions cited here would be terrified if their children or grandchildren would join this group.

  21. #18 kveens: That is false. The Rabbonim supported him against the false kidnapping case and Fhima has always backed up R. Helbrans as far as the facts of the case are concerned. And don’t be foolish; ANY child WILL be affected if he or she is torn away from their parents by the government and placed in some other family. They do not teach any such thing and it IS plain ‘ole fungus that is mentioned in the complaint against them. Nothing to do with “malnutrition”; even the Quebec anti-Semites didn’t claim that – they said the socks being on so long caused the fungus. Hey I have fungus; maybe I should be taken away?. That, and the fact that their yeshivos are “illegal” since they don’t teach evolution. The Rabbonim are against their shittos but they support them in stopping their kids from being kidnapped by the government.

  22. it does not take a rabbi to discern that this is a extreme fringe group that is one total screw up.

    If member of a group can not freely circulate and cultivate friends beyond the group, that is a strong sign that they are wackos. When the women think that only they are the yirat shimayim people and the rest of the frum ladies with their wigs and shaitels are prutzot, they have separated from the klal.

    Lev Tahor are the Tadukim of our generation, too frum to be normal and so they call the normal abnormal and exclude everyone but themselves.

    Sickos is not strong enough language to describe them and for any idiot who thinks this is lashon harah, he/she should re-read the laws since separating a person from a group like this is a mitzvah.

  23. To paraphrase Martin Niemöller:

    First they came for the Lev Tahor Members, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Lev Tahor Member.
    Then they came for the Antwerp Belzers, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Antwerp Belzer.
    Then they came for the Satmar Chassidim, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Satmar Chasid.
    Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came_

  24. “The last Quebec government tried to ban Jewish all government employees, including doctors and other hospital employees, from wearing yarmulkas.”

    True. And partly as a result of that they suffered a landslide loss in last month’s election. The Prime Minister of Quebec who proposed this awful law even lost her own seat in the Quebec National Assembly.

  25. Thank you, Rabbi Hoffman, for presenting the correct Torah perspective on this issue lucidly and logically.
    While a little different than your wonderful articles on Halacha, I found this one just as necessary and equally enlightening.
    And to Rebbe Y, #21: while I don’t allow either to cross my threshold, I would sooner allow the Enquirer into my home than Ami.

  26. garlic,
    “Lev Tahor are the Tadukim of our generation, too frum to be normal and so they call the normal abnormal and exclude everyone but themselves.”

    Well, in some level, we may be alike. give a look on every Chasidis, don’t we all believe that we are the most Frum, and the other chassidos who has a different Shita, not only is not Frum but is completely abnormal.

    I do agree that their Frumkeit is much different then any Chasidim and there’s a lot going on there.

  27. AMI is a tabloid magazine and serves that purpose well.

    No article is ever researched (Frankfurther did not interview any women or ex Lev Tahor individuals) or given substantial evidence. How Rav Wosner ever spoken to Helbrans or meet any of his chassidim? Ami article on Bet Shemesh, Israel affairs are all skewed and one sided, full of lies and inaccuracies.

    Their Pesach edition involved a ten page article about being frum and in prison and never once dealt with the circumstances of how to stay out of prison due to white collar crime. Helbrans was a felon who spent time in prison so that could be the connection between the articles.

  28. PEOPLE THAT DON’T FOLLOW OR CONFER WITH ANY GEDOL, IS MEISI AND MEDIACH. The to’eles of spreading this not loshon hara and serves to prevent people from joining him and stop giving him financial support. With no money, his group will disappear.

  29. #29 Anonyomus

    there are frum people and very frum people, but a sign of something not normal is when they try to exclude everyone but their own group.

    Chassidic groups may feel that their group is great, but they do not cut themselves away from people who are not part of their group. I know so many chassidim who marry ‘out’ meaning to people from another group. There is plenty of toleration between chassidic groups.

    But this group, Lev Tahor, does not mingle with anyone outside of their group. That is a sign that something is very wrong inside their group.

    We learn much from other groups: how to serve HaShem in one manner or another by being in proximity to other Jews who are different from us. Lev Tahor abhors any influence from the outside; we are not good enough for them.

    In their eyes we are compromised. Our women are not tzuim. Only they are tzuim!

    It is not a matter of live and let live but a manner to tell everyone to avoid them as they are a destructive group in which the individual suffers and can never seek help.

    It is a mitzvah to warn others.

  30. It bothers me how people make the argument that the worst thing the government could possibly do is remove these children from their homes. Obviously taking children away from their parents is a last last resort but children are defenseless human beings who look to adults to protect them. When the adults that are supposed to be their number one protectors, i.e their parents, are instead abusive then it is the responsibility of the community to step in and transfer these children to better homes. Yes, there will be pictures of children crying as they are removed from their parents but that does not mean this is not the right decision. Do you not give a child a tetanus shot because he is crying? Some things are painful but are for the child’s ultimate benefit. Keeping a child with their abusive parent is NEVER the right decision.

  31. #14 The last Quebec government proposed legislation to ban religious symbols being warn by public servants. The ban applied to Muslims, Jews, and Christians. It banned Niqabs, Hijabs, large Crosses and Yarmulkes. The purpose of the legislation was to prevent Muslim immgrants from wearing their face coverings while working for the government. It was a secular value charter and perhaps anti religion but there was nothing anti-semetic about it. Charlie Hall is also correct to point out that the Parti Quebecois which proposed the legislation was defeated in a landslide in no small part due to public opposition to the charter. Its leader and Quebec premier (not Prime Minister) Pauline Marois was defeated in her own riding.

    BTW Mishpacha magazine is not all that much better than Ami. Its article on the Burka ladies of Beit Shemesh (with a front page pathetic cover of a doll in a burka) portrayed the burkas as a somewhat legitimate form of tzniyus without highlighting the many real problems with the sad phenomena.

  32. #24 Ben Torah

    at the time of the kidnapping only Satmar backed him up, the rest of the gedolim did not and now years later the person who was kidnapped said he was paid off by helbrand to lie, even Mishpacha confirmed it.

    And in regard to that fungus issue, its not the stupid toe nail fungus you seem to think it is. It is a corrosive black skin fungus that eats away at the skin and can have long term health affects, and is usually only seen in the third world. Oh and the doctor the Quebec authorities hired to deal with the children and made the diagnosis was a chasid from Montreal who did so under the advice of his rebbe, and he has come out with a lot of the stuff on this. Wake up to the facts of this case and listen to gedolei yisroel on this

  33. Does anyone still have the mispacha article. I’d love to see it. The Ami one was tons of nonsense and rubbish. Please fax to 815-301-6599 Thanks
    And As a family member of a person psycologically drawn to another cult,I can attest, this Lev T**** is a real cult and a bad one. Those 3 Rabbis who endorsed, Should get their facts better.All I can say that when my family member was drawn to a NY cult, we families went from one Rabbi to another and they said that MDARF MEVARER ZAIN and they never did. They did not want to involve themselves because the cult leader that our family member was involved to, is a BENESHEK 🙁 we are still reaping very sad consequesnces

  34. To Ben Torah # 2 you say:”The Rabbonim are against their shittos”. Did they write this on their same support letters oppenly? Than I should go fetch back from the sreifas chometz the AMI to double check.

  35. I am very disturbed by this article, as well as the general response of the frum community.
    Let me start of by saying i don’t agree with anything that Lev Tahor does and if my child would go there i would be devastated.
    However what people dont realize is that there has been a accusation and no evidence to prove it. Most people myself included were quick to condemn Lev Tahor to hell because we dont like their way of life. After reading Ami’s article in its entirety i started seeing the other side
    While i agree that IF there is child abuse. i repeat IF, then you would be correct that the children should be removed from their parents. However there has been NO proof of real child abuse. You can read the court files all that has been found is some dirty houses, a urine soaked mattress and some fungus.
    I have personally spoken to a former member and he told me repeatedly that there was never any child abuse and that he had a very happy childhood. He didn’t say that they are normal or that he agrees with their way of life. I don’t agree or condone their form of Yiddishkiet. I am not the one to judge if they are a cult or not, however one point remains crucial, there has been a accusation that has not been founded. for us as Jews to sit by and watch happily as a community is torn apart and have their kids taken away, is wrong regardless of what we think of them.
    There are major repercussions for us as a community to have a legal precedent that kids can be taken away without concrete proof of child abuse. There are unfortunately many people that are looking to hurt us on every angle. They have tried to hurt our kids people like Waldman in Monroe or Friedman in Antwerp. To the outside world many things that we do look cult like. To a outsider they think that having our kids all day learning gemorah is absurd
    Besides for all that as someone who has dealt with broken homes and kids at risk. I can tell you that there are many repercussions with taking away children from parents. The fact that they would go to frum families that are yiddish speaking is not enough.

    I know one thing that 95% of the people who have spoken bad about the community dont know anyone that has been there, or anyone that is there now. Most of the information that they do have is coming from baised goyish media. Ami magazine interviewed many people who are there and some that have left. we cannot condemn them until we know the facts beyond a reasonable doubt.
    I will add this that if there was a accused murderer that you had spoken to someone who knew a family member and stated for a fact that this person was a murderer, however there was no proof in court. Wouldn’t it be a crime if he were given the death sentence? Regardless if you knew for a fact that that person was guilt because this would lead to innocent people being given the death sentance.
    Same goes here they have been under constant investigation for three years and there has not been any solid proof regardless of what you have heard on the street. You can read Dennis Baraby’s article as proof or watch his interviews. The proof that he has can be found in many fine Jewish homes.
    Yidden lets wake up and smell the coffee!!

  36. Anyone interested in really understanding the definition of a “cult”?

    listen to Rabbi Dr. David Gottlieb on JewishHeritageFoundation website:
    http://www.jhfweb.org/audio_shiurim/Rav_Dovid_Gottlieb/Jewish_Philosophy/IsThisACult.mp3
    or
    http://www.jhfweb.org/gottlieb6.html title “Is This A Cult”

    He refutes a lot of “indications” the writer of this article offers, and gives clear guidelines. I those terms the essens are not considered a cult, and for sure not the Chassidim, and so Emunas Chachamim won’t pose a question.

  37. MY FRIEND WHO HAS INSIDE INFORMATION SAYS THAT AMI GOT PAID TO PRINT THE CULTS POINT OF VIEW. LEV TAHOR HAVE LOADS OF SUPPORTERS AND ARE TRYING TO COVER UP FOR THEIR BAD BEHAVIOR OF TERRORIZING THE CHILDREN AND ADULTS OF THEIR CULT.

  38. To Chesssed

    Don’t belittle yourself with such a stupid comment. I know the Ami staff personally and they didnt get paid at all. Why is everyone so taken aback that someone actually cares about these families regardless of his vues of there way of life.
    While I will say that one meeting with the leaders can be misleading. Rabbi Frankfurter spent weeks interviewing many people before they wrote the article and at least attempted to get to the truth. Who did Mishpacha interview?? Where did they take their information

  39. #42 lakewood jew

    Mishpacha interviewed current and former members of Lev Tahor, people in the Montreal chassidish community who are helping the govt under the orders of their rebbe’s, canadian officials, gedolei yisroel and experts from the frum community. They did a real serious investigative piece, Ami basically just interviewed helbrands people and supporters and did not look into the actual evidence as well as trying to ask why the rebbe’s are ordering their chasidim in Montreal to help the canadian govt against helbrand. Ami did a white wash, Mishpacha did real journalism

  40. @lakewood jew:
    i’ll preface this by saying that i’m generally a big fan of ami. they have some excellent articles and some real Talmidai Chachomim writing for them.

    however, it does not seem that you read article. R’ Frankfurter did not say that he spoke to anyone in the group other than their leader/rabbi and the one spokesperson who has been all over the media. based on the pictures one can assume he also visited with the school boys. nowhere does he claim to have walked around talking with random people in the group or with members who have left the group or people who have visited the group, etc.

    in fact, the spokesperson (uriel gold-something, cant remember, but he’s the only one interviewed) badmouths his son in law and daughter who left the group (they are frum yidden but left the group). that’s quoted in the article. this is a frum young man in Monsey, with a wife and kids in the community. Ami does not mention that they contacted him or attempted to contact him before publishing his FIL’s negative view of him.

    while i did understand and appreciate Ami’s point that no actual child abuse has been proven by the Canadian legal system, there have been so many first hand accounts from frum family and from people who have left, that i do not understand what Ami thought to accomplish by printing this. (they do mention that irreligious family members are upset at their family who joined the group and are causing trouble. but there are frum families as well that have been broken by this.)

    lastly, while the letter from a canadian beis din was included in the article saying that no one should “mosser” the group, and now that someone did all should help them, there was no mention of previous letters from rabbonim warning against the teachings and methods of this group.

    the missing information causes the article to be seen as a one sided sales ploy.

    again, i am subscribed to ami, and will continue to be subscribed, although they have definitely toed the line a few times (interview with R’ Kamenetsky, which they apologized for, the defense of webermen, etc.)

  41. Most strange i found is that after defending lev tahor the supplement with short stories for pessach describes the suffering of a torn up family from a cult which although remaining unnamed so obviously describes lev tahor.

  42. Lakewood Jew makes the case that Ami read court records and Quebec’s Department of Youth Protection did not make a case for removing children. A little background on Quebec legalities is in order. When there is a strong suspicion of abuse, for Youth Protection to remove children for a 30-day assessment (which was the case in Ste. Agathe), it need only present the MINIMUM of proof to the courts to substantiate its request. After a 30-day assessment, should they want to keep the children longer, or have them permanently removed, Youth Protection must go to court to prove its case. Only then is ALL their proof presented to the court and the court then decides whether it is enough to warrant the children’s removal. Lev Tahor was very aware of this. That was one of the reasons they fled from Ste. Agathe to Chatham, Ontario (while all the while pretending to work closely with the Ste. Agathe Youth Protection authorities). Any court records Ami might have seen (since the records are not in the public domain, one assumes they were given to them by Lev Tahor itself, which in itself makes these records highly suspect), they represented only Youth Protection’s preliminary case, not its full proof. By fleeing, Lev Tahor effectively put a halt to the court proceedings. Quebec’s Youth Protection never had a chance to prove its case.

    On May 6, the Ontario Youth Protection will be presenting its case to the courts. One doesn’t know what proof they do or don’t have. Judge Templeton, in rendering her decision not to send the children back to Quebec (and by doing so showing great concern for the children’s psychological well-being since they have been bandied about like parcels by Lev Tahor itself from Quebec to Ontario to Trinidad/Tobaggo and then back to Ontario), did voice serious concerns for their general welfare. One thing is certain, though. Ontario’s Youth Protection is at a disadvantage from Quebec’s Youth Protection. When Lev Tahor took up residency in Ontario, they no doubt played by the rules. They bought the children toys; they certainly didn’t remove children from their homes and farm them out to other families; they improved the general hygiene; they, no doubt, stopped over drugging the children with high dosages of melatonin, and they did not marry off boys and girls at t he age of 14 after getting them engaged at the age of 12. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve changed their tune and are no longer interested in reverting back to these behaviors once they reestablish themselves in Guatemala. It only means they know how to play the game when necessary.

    Whatever way you look at this, it’s heartbreaking. Except for its leader and his inner circle who are knowingly responsible for Lev Tahor’s sorry plight, both the children and their parents are victims. Having personally spoken to some former members, I can tell you that what is happening there is dangerous and must be stopped. Lev Tahor, unfortunately, has acquired a number of useful idiots who are more than willing to advocate on their behalf, one of whom was featured prominently in Ami’s feature. I am personally very saddened that Ami now joined their ranks.

  43. Lakewood Jew ( Ami worker? )
    Everyone knows that Ami was paid big time for the defense of Weberman cover story, how do we know this wasn’t the same?

  44. Kveens: Fhima says until this day that he was never kidnapped and that he went voluntarily on how own volition to become frum and hide from his secular parents.

    The Mishpacha Magazine article was entirely based on conjecture, speculation, fear, uncertainty and a hatred for people different than themselves. It was not based on facts.

    crazykanoiy: If Quebec is anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish, that doesn’t lessen the fact that Quebec is anti-Semitic. Throwing in some more hate for other groups doesn’t make them less anti-Jewish. And note the proposed law by the previous Premier of Quebec would have allowed small crosses but not small yarmulkas. That is about as anti-Semitic as it gets. The French have a long history of anti-Semitism.

    The fungus they found was the same fungus many people get on their toenails. But Quebec decided it was because they wear their socks all the time. So that was another reason they gave to take away the children in addition to the fact that they don’t give a secular education that includes evolution and other halachicly problematic teachings.

    Even the unproven allegations of the Jew-hating religion-hating Quebec child welfare officials are mostly frivolous accusations. They don’t give them toys? Aside from it being unproven and the officials overlooking the toys, let’s even say there were no toys… chap the children away from the parents and distribute the children to strange families because they had no toys?? Insanity! And melatonin is categorized by the FDA as a dietary supplement and is not regulated as a drug. The accusations themselves are mostly absurd and pathetically meaningless even if true. And the rest are admittedly — admittedly by the Quebec authorities — pure speculation. Quebec threw into their court documents every accusation they had given to them by any disgruntled ex-member who offered zero proof, zero validation and no verification.

    Beautifully said “Lakewood Jew” #39.

  45. UJM – Please stop throwing around unsubstantiated allegations. You call the government of Quebec anti-Semitic yet you fail to list one example. For heavens sake, the children are transferred to frum houses! Where is the antisemitism here?

    You seem to be confused on the issue Secular Values Charter. The charter was meant to keep the government secular, not to attack Judaism. It targeted all religious displays by public servants. How can a rule that targets Judaism, Islam and Christianity possibly be antisemitic? Other countries have similar rules regarding certain religious displays. It was a dumb law and that is why it failed but it was hardly antisemitic.

  46. #49 UJM

    Sorry to correct you, but I saw him in a recent video interview where he says he was abused and kidnapped by Helbrand and that’s why he’s not frum anymore (also listen to the demands Helbrand made to the mother for him to give back the child, they were recorded and are available. He mocks and tortures the mother over the phone like a sadist).
    Also the Mishpacha article was not “conjecture, speculation, fear, uncertainty and a hatred for people different than themselves.” it was based on facts. Unlike the Ami article which only took Helbrand’s side into account Mishpacha interviewed Helbrand’s people, people who used to be members of his group, the government, gedolim in eretz yisroel and america who condemned Helbrand, including many rebbe’s. You are making a false statement and slander against Mishpacha and the gedolim on their rabbinical board who apporoved of it. It is also abvious you never actually read it.
    Try sticking to facts and stop defending a convicted criminal, child abusing apikores

  47. In the raw video of The Fifth Estate’s interview with the Lev Tahor rebbe, Shlomo Helbrans, there is an incredible scene where Hebrans puts the palms of his hands together mimicking Christian prayer, and says the complete words whose initials begin J.C.!!! No frum Jew I know would ever mention the C. word as it is the Greek translation of the word Moshiach. Most frum Jews wouldn’t say the first word starting with J. either. What’s worst of all is he sees nothing wrong in emulating the Christian mode of prayer with his hands together. For a “rebbe” to do such a thing is scandalous, insulting to the thousands of Christians watching the program, and shocking to say the least. Some say that there’s no difference between him and other groups that have rebbes. The gemara says that if your rebbe is like a malach Hashem, then you should learn Torah from him, but if he is not, do not learn Torah from him. A convicted felon is no malach.