More On The Death And Levaya Of ‘Lev Tahor’ Cult Leader Shlomo Helbrans That Drowned In Mexico

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As YWN reported, the leader of the extremist sect known as “Lev Tahor” reportedly drowned in a river in Mexico this past Friday. The funeral was held on Monday morning in Guatemala.

Helbrans was apparently immersing himself for Shabbos, when strong currents slammed his skull against the rocks in the river. The previous day it had rained heavily and the waters of the river were much stronger and higher than usual. According to the local newspaper, Diario Chiapas, the body of Shlomo Erez Helbrans was identified on Friday.

Helbrans was immersing himself in the Shujabal River into the town of Unión Juárez, located in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Of Mexico’s 31 states and 1 Federal District, Chiapas is the one that is most southerly, on the Guatemala/Mexico border. Reportedly, there was another person with him who had attempted to save Helbrans, but he was unable to do so.

Helbrans was 55 years old.

Helbrans was in Chiapas with a group of approximately 40 families who have signed fealty to the sect leader, for themselves, their children and all future generations. In Chiapas, there is another community of Jewish converts.

Sources report that no autopsy was performed because members of the sect were able to reach out to the mayor of Guatemala City, Mr. Alvaro Arzu. Mr. Arzu, who had befriended the sect, made a call to the Minister of the Exterior requesting that he not to allow the Israeli Embassy to take the body. Mr. Arzu had previously helped them with buses and temporary housing.

On April 25th 2017, an Israeli court ruled that Lev Tahor was a “dangerous cult” because it was physically and emotionally abusing the children in its community. The court ruling was petitioned by families of Lev Tahor devotees to increase pressure on the government to repatriate Israeli children living with the sect abroad and try to prevent others from being taken out of the country. Judge Rivka Makayes wrote that evidence showed “the Lev Tahor community treats the children of the community … with severe physical punishment, with underage marriage … with spouses who sometimes have age differences of up to 20 years.. there is a punitive policy toward members of the community that includes the separation of children from their parents – even in infancy – and the transfer of children to be raised in another family; the prevention of formal education and isolation from the outside world and all external sources of information.”

Helbrans was originally an Israeli citizen who began secular, then became a religious Zionist, and then became a staunch anti-Zionist. In the late eighties or early nineties he came to New York. In 1994, Helbrans was convicted in the United States for kidnapping Shai Fima, a boy Helbrans was tutoring for his bar mitzvah. Helbrans had served a two-year prison term before reportedly being deported to Israel in 2000.

He applied and was granted refugee status by the Canadian government in 2003. He had claimed that his life was being threatened in Israel due to his anti-Zionist teachings.

The group settled in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec. Quebec child-protection authorities had been seeking to place the children in the care of Jewish-Quebecer foster-care families. Iin November 2013, some members of the group (those without children) left Quebec for Chatham-Kent, in southwestern Ontario. Quebec authorities have been taking steps to prevent the 127 children from leaving Canada.

On March 5, 2014, after the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued a ruling as to the disposition of their children under Quebec child-protection law, nine members of the group, including six children, left for Trinidad and Tobago in an attempt to flee to Guatemala.

A large contingency of the group then regrouped in the tourist town San Juan La Laguna on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala.

Guatamalan authorities, upon the instigation of Israeli and Canadian children and welfare agencies, had raided Lev Tahor. After authorities did not find red flags, they government informed Lev Tahor that they would not bother them anymore.

Helbrans was still uncomfortable with the idea of remaining in San Juan La Laguna and developed plans to create another community. They rented a big apartment building in Guatalama City. In the morning after they rented the complex, the Israelis once again allegedly raided the place. They purchased 200 acres and wanted to plant avocadoes and various vegetables to support themselves. They moved into the woods in the new area they wished to develop. Israelis allegedly came to the new location as well – prompting Helbrans to look for a new location in Mexico. This occurred just three weeks ago.

Rumors about the group trying to relocate to Iran, beyond the reach of Israel are unfounded. One insider claims that this is simply more fake news.

The Mexican government had allegedly allowed Helbrans and his followers to temporarily remain in the country for 180 days, and the group had already begun a campaign to convince the Mexicans to let them stay longer.

Internal documents of Lev Tahor show that Helbrans has made his followers swear and sign to uphold the following principles among others.

(A) Everyone must negate his or her mind and mind thoroughly and completely, to the leader of Lev Tahor

2) They must subjugate soul, spirit, and will..

3) Each man accepts upon his descendants and descendant’s descendants until the end of all generations to be subjugated under the will of Lev Tahor’s leader.. this should be said openly to the leader himself.

4) Everyone must be ready at any time and moment of 24 hours of the day, whether on the Shabbath and Yom Tov, summer and winter, healthy or sick, to do the will of the leader.

5) Whether the person is a young man or an old man, virgins and women they must accept to do the will of the leader.

6) They must agree to throw away all his physical needs, including eating sleep and rest until he fulfills the desires the leader.

7) It is the obligation of each of them at the beginning of the morning prayers to recite and accept upon themselves all of the above with full mouth and supreme joy.

Some observers have written that these are signs of a cult. Indeed, this was the position of an author of an article that appeared in Mishpacha Magazine. Others, however, claim that there is nothing cult-like about the movement. Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter of Ami Magazine met with Helbrans and assured his readership that it was not a cult, even though a previous Ami article stated that it was.

Lev Tahor was founded by Helbrans in the 1980s. It is not clear who will now lead the sect, but it is said that an individual named “Meir Rosner” who is called the sect’s Rosh yeshiva may lead it.

Helbrans has three sons: Nachman and Yoeli are both involved in the movement. A third son had left the sect to the consternation of the brothers and Helbrans himself.

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)




32 COMMENTS

  1. As extreme as they are, part of theTekanos sure looks like someone wrote it in sarcasm. like 11, 14,19 , 27 sure looks made up, they are not THAT crazy to write in pen..

  2. The English translation doesn’t do the Hebrew justice. He taught that only he may beat the women, lying to protect him is a mitzvah and should be done ubiquitously, and that only he has the authority to marry or divorce couples. He advocates and tries to justify polygamy and physical abuse of men and women by his own hands only. Makes me sick to my stomach. Disband this evil cult!!

  3. We must now try and see to it that these tinokos shnishbar come back to genuine authentic Yiddishkeit. Isn’t this real pidyon shevuim. They were kidnapped in body and soul by this maniac. B”H his filthy body is not defiling Artzeinu Hakedosha.

  4. I read part of the small Hebrew print out of curiosity and found – amazingly – that near the end the statement was made that Helbrans was indeed MASHIACH!! – and that he would reveal himself……..
    so now that he is dead perhaps the whole movement should collapse!

  5. Can someone do me a favor?
    Get 2 or 3 of these innocent children, so my husband and I can build a family? These children deserve a life so anyone reading this who want something better for their children, please let me know.

  6. How long would you guess it would take a detractor to write up that stuff in those so-called שטרות and קול קורא? Two hours? Three hours?

    Oh, wait, there are signatures. Then it *has* to be real! How could I have missed that??

  7. Climbing – my statement is more of a question. Can anyone verify if this Tekanah sheet (I am not talking about the Shtar) is really authentic, as to me, part sure looks made up. Unless, these are not only insane and extreme, but Stupidly insane as well, to put the aforementioned in print.
    Anyone sitting with a PC can print out such a sheet.

  8. Who gave us these documents? How do we know they are authentic? The first page shows that these are from תשמ”ט. That’s 28 years ago. Is there anything more current?

  9. this sure sounds crazy. i just wonder how we know its real… especially since on the top of the Takanos paper it spells his last name ending with a “samech” and in the list of takanos it mentions that he had changed the spelling of his name to end with a “zadik”…

  10. Of course this sheet wasn’t written/typed by them, but it does reflect actual facts, and only part of it. anyone can verify it by talking to people who left the cult, or to askanim that tried to get them out. I personally spoke to someone involved in rescuing a girl a from there a few days before she would have married someone double her age. What I heard from him is 100 x worse then what is written on these notes.

  11. it’s not so easy for the cult members to leave. Helbran’s death, especially as it was brutal and unexpected, will have a very traumatic effect on these people. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are breakdowns and even suicides, and some real jockeying for power. it will be interesting – and frightening – to see what follows.

  12. Look at the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah, 201:2. If, as the article states, Helbrans was toiveling in a river and was swept away by an excess of rain water, then the tevila, which he gave his life for, was of questionable validity, as a rain-swollen river is very problematic.

  13. There are victims who escaped this cult that give speeches in Israel to raise awareness and warn people about Helbrans. They claim he “put a spell” on them and brainwashed them.

  14. Ayid, if this isn’t from them, then it’s a dishonest misrepresentation. So you say it’s true anyway. So then it should be told as it is, which is alleged facts with whatever sources there are, however reliable they are, without this source which is a lie.

  15. Very well written and almost believable!! Only problem is that in 5749 the REBBE was only 27 yrs old, and there was no “Kehilla” and they were not living in Monsey (as one of the takunos states). But whoever wrote this really does have a good understanding of how these people think and I would not pass any of these by them. Made me laugh, but its really sad that its not far from the truth at all.

  16. Tom Dick n Harry:
    I have now problem with YWN posting these sheets since anyone that reads it knows it’s not a genuine document, the only issue is what they wrote in the article :”Internal documents of Lev Tahor show……” this should be corrected.
    But the main issue now 1) is there anyway we can help these people get out of there. 2) in the future when someone is in jail for kidnaping it is not always a mitzvah to get the out, and because he burns the Israeli flag or makes a Broucha for 15 minutes … isn’t a reason that he should be excepted. for does who know the Chasam Sofer “חדש אסור מן התורה” was written in response to a new חומרא not a קולא …. if someone starts any new Minhag chomra… he should be hold as “guilty until proven innocent”

  17. voseppes- i was waiting for someone to mention that machlokes regarding a river after a rain, if its kosher. But because as it sounds, there was no other mikva the RM”a rules that its mutter.
    But the bigger problem is going into a river with strong running water, due to sekana (like what happend in this case) as the gemara says in yuma and brought in shulchan aruch או”ח סימן תריג סעיף ה. Plus look in פר”ח יו”ד סימן קטז

  18. Ayid, I fully agree with what you are saying in general about not rescuing every prisoner etc, and also specifically about Lev Tahor provided we can clearly determine the truth. False docs won’t help to that end.

  19. Thinker123:

    If he was Sephardi, there is no heter. (Don’t know his yichus.) And we are talking about someone putting himself into sakana for a bidieved kiyum of a minhag b’almah. Maybe he could have used teshah kavim. There was a ma’aseh of a family vacationing by the Amazon, and the ishah relied upon the Remah for her tevila, but that is halacha, not minhag.

  20. This so called “internal document” is complete and utter bogus. And it’s by far not a true representation for what they stand for. I don’t argue the fact that this sect is very extreme and it could be debated whether it constitutes a ‘cult’ but to post completely fake documents on a news site is totally unacceptable, and is violating the most basic journalistic standards.

  21. voseppes- you have a point (i think i saw somewhere that he was a sfardi). But i agreed with you that it was assur, i only said that the problem of a posul mikva is less of a problem then the problem of sekana.

  22. Does anyone have a link to the (Spanish) video that came out about a year ago. The reporter embedded herself with a LT family for several weeks and produced a documentary?