Shlomo Helbrans, Lev Tahor Cult Leader Drowns In River While ‘Toiveling’ On Friday

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According to multiple media reports, Shlomo Helbrans, the leader of the Lev Tahor cult, drowned on Friday in Mexico. He was 55.

Local media reports said his body was found in a river that he used as a Mikva.

The Israel Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the reports were being looked into by the Israeli embassy in Mexico.

According to local media, Helbrans’ body was pulled from the river by rescue forces on Friday afternoon after he was swept away by strong currents.

About three and a half years ago, Canadian authorities blocked the group from transferring underage members to Guatemala after Canadian courts issued a decree requiring some children to be transferred to foster families after being found to have been severely abused.

Welfare officials in Ontario and Quebec claimed that they had evidence of abuse involving beatings, underage marriage, and illegal education. However, the sect succeeded in transferring a number of the children to Guatemala giving rise to a legal battle over the last few years to expel them back to Canada.

In September 2016, at the request of Israeli authorities, Guatemalan law enforcement raided the Lev Tahor compound and arrested its leaders on suspicion of child abuse. The raid prompted its members to leave the site to a new location in eastern Guatemala, and complain that they were being persecuted due of their faith.

Helbrans and the group had crossed the Guatemalan border into the Mexican state of Chiapas several weeks ago.

Originally a citizen of Israel, cult leader Shlomo Helbrans went to the United States where he was convicted for kidnapping in 1994 and served a two-year prison term before being deported to Israel in 2000. He then settled in Canada.

In 1994 he was convicted in Brooklyn for the 1992 kidnapping of 13-year-old Shai Fhima Reuven, a Bar Mitzvah boy he was tutoring, and served a two-year prison term in the U.S. He was originally sentenced to four to 12 years in prison, but in June 1996 an appeals court reduced the sentence to two to six years. Three days later, he was placed in the work release program for prisoners less than two years away from the possibility of parole, where inmates are freed from prison if they have a job. After protests, he was moved back to prison.

The high-profile case drew much attention in the U.S., and gained further attention when Helbrans successfully convinced New York prison authorities to waive their requirement that all prisoners be shaved for a photograph upon entering prison, and to accept a computer-generated image of what he would have looked like clean-shaven instead. After the State Parole Board decided in November 1996 to release Helbrans after two years in prison, the case rose to near scandal with suspicions that the Pataki administration was providing him special treatment.

After his release from prison, Helbrans ran a yeshiva in Monsey, N.Y., and was deported to Israel in 2000. He then settled in Canada, where in 2003 he was granted refugee status, claiming his life was being threatened in Israel.




22 COMMENTS

  1. chizuk1: yes, but it is presumptuous and inappropriate to automatically assume such a connection. It’s not worth the risk to speculate, especially out loud in public.

  2. Thank you Yeshiva World for not using the word “Rabbi”!
    He’s not a Rabbi, he is a child kidnapper, kidnapped a 13-year-old for 2 years.
    Arranged child marriages, He brainwashed children, turned an entire community into a cult.

  3. This monster was a Rabbi like “Jim Jones’ was one,this crazed maniac single handedly destroyed hundreds of lives,
    this should have happened years ago before he managed inflict all this damage to Klall Yisroel.
    KEIN YAOVDU KOL OIVEICHO

  4. bh he is in the olam haemes where he can no longer hurt, abuse people and cause chillul Hashem. Perhaps a Chassidic
    group can now help rescue those innocent followers now that their leader is dead in the water. Hashem yerachem al amo.

  5. zahavasdad: cmon some perspective ! Whatever u think of him please don’t compare him to mengele please ! My opinion is also that he was a control freak, but pleeeasse!!! Ur like the willi boys comparing the tziyonim to hitler, c’mon

  6. I don’t know him, but he was a yid, and one is not happy when a yid dies!!!!

    Dovid Hamelech wrote Binfol ovecho al tismach’ that was said on someone who tried to kill you!! Kal vchomor on a yid that never tried hurting you. He may have had krumeh shitos, but that is not a reason for him to die!

    He did not kidnap the child. You sound like you come from the anti Semitic APP

  7. I am not defending how Lev Tahar treated the women and children, but please remember that the judge that sentenced him to jail on the kidnapping charge, was the same judge that did NOT give jail time to the arsonists who burned Rabbi Hillel David’s shul in Brooklyn.

  8. It is never good when a Yid dies. Was he a good man? I don’t know, but to be happy about his death is not good.

    What happens to the rest of his followers?

    It is a bad situation

  9. I went to visit Lev Tahor when they were in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala when the 2 cultures crashed in that place.
    I sat down to a Shabbos meal Saturday afternoon with Shlomo. He was the spiritual leader of these people as he saw Torah he led them. I cannot tell you everything about him because it was only for an afternoon all I can personally say is he was a nice man. What I really took notice of was that when the Guatemalan authorities raided them in the capital city I listened very carefully to what the doctor said about the more than 100 children that he personally examined (I am fluent in Spanish) ” I personally examined the children (he said) and found no signs of physical abuse on any of the children”. Also, they found no drugs that are for controlling the mind. Another error that is commonly repeated in all these articles is “they arrested the leaders” Not true nobody was arrested. How sad that even a Jewish news website would repeat lies and not verify. As for not giving the children a secular Canadian education well you know what the Sages say anyone who sends their children to a secular school is like Pharaoh who commanded his soldiers to cast the Hebrews into the Nile River. Pray for those that followed him.

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