The horrors of the Lev Tahor cult know no bounds, and they will do anything – including Chillul Shabbos – to maintain their stranglehold on its members.
Authorities in Upstate New York are currently investigating an alleged kidnapping of two of the recent escapees from the Lev Tahor Cult – which occured on Shabbos.
Sources confirm to YWN that two children of the Teller family that recently escaped from the cult in Guatemala were spending Shabbos in the Catskills, when the incident occured.
Our sources tell us that on Shabbos morning, a 14 year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy were discovered missing.
Police were called, and an investigation is underway.
It has been confirmed that the two children were seen entering a vehicle on Friday night (early Shabbos morning) at around 3:32AM.
The family had been spending Shabbos with professional therapists in the Catskills, along with other previous Lev Tahor escapees.
The missing girl was kidnapped several weeks ago as well, but was later found and reunited with her mother.
As YWN has been reporting, the Teller children arrived in the United States last month, following an intense international effort to rescue them from the Cult, currently located in Guatemala.
The children are the 4 daughters and 2 sons of Mrs Sara Feige Teller, a sister of current Lev Tahor leader, Nachman Helbrans. She is married to Rabbi Aron Aryeh Teller, rosh yeshivah of Lev Tahor.
[LEV TAHOR HORROR: Tales of Beatings and Torture Emerge From Excommunicated Cult Members]
Rebbitzen Teller escaped the cult several months ago, and had been thwarted on several attempts to rescue her children, on one occasion even being attacked by cult members armed with guns, knives and throwing rocks.
A massive raid by over 100 heavily armed Guatemalan police was unsuccessful in rescuing the remaining three children as cult leaders had likely moved them out of the compound prior to police arriving outside the compound’s barbed wire fence.
Then, Rabbi Teller and the 3 girls, accompanied by a woman who posed as their mother, were arrested as they attempted to cross the border into Mexico with false passports.
Bechasdei Hashem, Askonim were successful in bringing the children to the United States, joining their mother and three siblings who had arrived the week before.
Tragically, it appears the saga is not over and the Lev Tahor Cult is continuing to inflict horror on the lives of the these children.
YWN has reported extensively on the Lev Tahor cult – with dozens of articles over the years.
Lev Tahor practices include women and girls wearing black head-to-toe coverings day and night, arranged marriages between teenagers, and a violent form of Malkos. Lev Tahor only permits certain fruits and vegetables to be eaten, as well as whole wheat flour made into bread with a stone press.
Former members of Lev Tahor (who either escaped or were otherwise expelled) do not recall learning Mishnayos or Gemara, nor any Mitzvos Bein Adam LeChaveiro. They spend the majority of the day in deep prayer and are only allowed to study certain sections of the Chumash, with Lev Tahor commentary.
Internal documents of Lev Tahor show that Shlomo Helbrans made his followers swear and sign to uphold the following principles among others.
(1) 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.
In 2014 YWN ran an article titled “Cults and the War of the Jewish Magazines” in response to Mishpacha and Ami magazines running articles on Lev Tahor. Mishpacha Magzaine had run a fifteen page “expose” on the group, essentially describing Lev Tahor as a cult that has some serious issues involving medicating children, and behaviors that resemble child abuse. Ami Magazine claimed the exact opposite – and ran the following sentence below their headline “The unjust persecution of a group of pious Jews, and the unsettling silence of the Jewish community.”
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.
Helbrans and his followers had arrived in Mexico’s southern Chiapas province after spending three years in Guatemala. They had travelled to Guatemala from Canada, where child-protection authorities were moving to seize children allegedly suffering from neglect.
The group had been established on the outskirts of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, north of Montreal, for more than a decade before Quebec authorities began paying close attention. As they prepared to move in to protect children in the sect in late 2013, community members left en masse overnight for Chatham, Ontario. Before the next summer, they had moved on to Guatemala.
Court documents used by Quebec police to obtain warrants alleged that Lev Tahor girls as young as 13 and 14 in the community were routinely married off to much older men. The allegations in the documents, which became public after the sect had fled and were never proven in court, included sexual and physical abuse of children.
(Charles Gross – YWN)
How do you leave these children out of your sight when you know they are a target for kidnapping the people they were staying by should be held liable
Is it the father “kidnapping” his children or is it a stranger?
Nebech! What a rachmanus!
HaShem Yerachem! When will the רשעות end???
Just to correct you YWN: Teller doesnt have a 14 yr old son and 12 yr old daughter. Their kids are: 14 yr old married daughter, 12 yr old son, and their mix of 3 girls & a boy are 10, 9, 7 and 5. So I don’t know who was kidnapped here – the married daughter & 12 yr old son?
This so crazy. Looks like they will not leave them alone until they have them back. They had been settling in so well here. The 12 yr old boy was loving going to shul and seeing how normal people live, etc. Ugh.
I wonder if they’ll manage to smuggle them out of the country; isn’t there an alert out for them so that they can’t leave the country?
From their point of view this would be rescuing their children from shmad, and it’s a clear halocho, beyond any dispute, that one may break Shabbos to do so.
If they are engaging in kidnapping and use of weapons then I would imagine it shouldn’t be too hard to get the FBI involved or even the Mosad to break up this ring of twisted gangsters and throw them all in jail. This can’t be allowed to go on.
Please pressure for an Amber Alert!
I don’t know why we keep hearing about these crazy people. One thing I don’t understand, why are these weirdos running to the USA for cover? I assume the parents are Israeli, and the kids most likely Canadians, where they were living before, so why are they coming to America? is it our askonim who are pouring tons of money to bring them here and protect them? why are we getting involved in a sick and twisted jewish gangsters who are willing to kidnap young kids away from their mother? There is no mitzva of Pidyon Shvuim, these are messed up people who have been brainwashed and living in a bubble. Don’t forget Mrs Teller who is the subject here IS the daughter of the main leader of this crazy cult, she is part of it and believes in his ideology for years, all these kids were born in this dark society of theirs, her own husband who she is running away from is a rosh yeshiva there, so why in the world are we here in America getting ourselves involved in this mess, getting the police and Fbi involved for kids who most likely aren’t even american? Time to leave them alone, let them go find somewhere else to run to. it’s time for American “askonim” to stop wasting millions of most likely Tzedoko money on these psycho trash bag dark gangsters. That’s the life style they always wanted and chose, it seems things aren’t working out well for them, Let them fight it out between each other somewhere else!
Pilpel harif – you clearly have no grasp of halacha or the situation.
The leader of their cult, who may or may not be deceased, was a so-called self-styled rav. He did not have semicha and was not recognized as such by any legitimate bais-din or mechon horoa. He and his band of deluded lunatics are not, and never have been, authorized to be megayer anyone. Many of their followers are these so-called “geirim”. Others are just broken souls who were enticed to join them by various devious methods. A number of young girls were forced into illegitimate relationships with members of the “Hanhala”. Many have children from these relationships. They do not follow Halacha. They make up their dinim and halachos on a steady basis, constantly adding and changing their “minhagim” as they go along. They do not study gemara or mefarshim, only the so-called sefarim written by their cult leader. The only Jews they are similar to are the Tzadokim of long ago. We do not consider the Tzadokim to be legitimate Jews.
pilpel harif makes one good point. where was mrs teller 5 years ago? what was she doing? what was her attitude then? how has it materially changed now?
Okay, I have some insider info. This so-called ‘kidnapping’ was an ‘inside job’…. The 14 year old married daughter of Teller convinced her 12 year old brother that they should return to LT and SHE CALLED someone on Friday night with a cell phone she found in the house where they were staying for Shabbos, asking to be picked up so she can escape. She is still very brainwashed/messed up and does not want to be here. The whole situation is very sad; it’s almost impossible to deprogram people who are in a cult.
Pilpel, Mrs. Teller is being supported by people in the US bc obviously she wanted to escape the cult with her children but she has nowhere to turn. She has no family. her father was R’ helbrans. So whom should she turn to? Indeed she turned to Canadians who helped her out. I think it’s safer for her to be in the US than in Canada, and she has a bigger support system here. Why shouldnt we help out a woman whose life is in danger and so are her kids lives???
Curiosity- Actually I do have a very well grasp of Halacha, the situation we all know what it is for the past 8 years since they became popular. I have read many articles about Lev Tahor, and I know of two people who were part of the group and left years ago. In a nutshell the group of Lev Tahor is a bunch of mislead and brainwashed people who followed a self made leader who no one held of, took a bunch of thirty people to no mans land, made up his own version of Torah and Chasidus. I look at them like real nebach individuals, who think they know better, they aren’t looking for us to help them, that’s the way of life they chose for themselves, so let’s just leave them alone in their craziness. They aren’t doing any Averos Chamuros where they are that we need to give them the status of Pidyon shvuyim. this is not Lev Leachim rescuing women from Palestinian men, or someone who went off the derech, these are a bunch of nuts living in their own world, we shouldn’t get involved in their way of life, very simple.
i wish their leader and berland the same end as shabtai tzvi be’mehairah be’yamanu. remember he even convinced important achronim he was moshiach
Pilpul: now you’re singing a different tune… A tune similar to what many cultists in Guatemala are singing. But the kids didn’t choose this life, and although likely too brainwashed to know about (let alone want) a different life, they are suffering.
About Mrs. Teller. People can and do change. Sometimes it’s called Teshuva. She has a right to decide “no more” and protest her underage daughter’s marriage, and try to save her. And Mrs. Teller’s husband’s family is clearly American. They may or may not be on her side, but they are still the kids grandparents, and it makes sense for her to come to America. And Mrs. Teller’s mother, aka Mrs. Helbrans, I believe is also living in NYC., another “American” grandparent.
Finally, as Yidden we are responsible for one another, and if they are members of our town they take precedence over others living elsewhere.
Generally speaking, American Yidden have more resources to help them, so choosing to settle here was a smart move.
pilpul harif, why do you understand that we need to rescue girls who married Arabs? It was their own choice…
People change and if they want to be rescued, they should be helped in any situation.
Mammele: Do you know Mrs Teller personally and what her true intentions are? I don’t know her personally, but what happened all of a sudden that she decided to do a so called “tshuva” and become normal after she lived and believed in their twisted lifestyle? Do you really know well why is she doing a 180 turn if she truly is? isn’t she and her kids still wearing their Iranian black garbage bags style cloths where they’re staying in NY? why did she decide to take her kids and run? if she was worried about her daughter getting married at 14 that’s a common practice by them. do you know Lev Tahor’s internal issues? Maybe she wanted to become a leader instead of her brother, maybe one day she will establish a modified American version of LT somewhere in Monsey. do you know for sure the so called professional therapists is true as reported, or just a safe house for them in the meantime? something doesn’t make sense. Let’s assume there are people who might know her well and have good intentions of helping her and her kids, do they really understand what they getting themselves into? do they know that they’re dealing with a group that looks religious but armed to the teeth with knives and guns and won’t hesitate to kill anyone who threatens their way of life? how far are they going to execute an operation to go to their enclave to rescue a few kids whom most likely don’t even want to leave? and now that they did rescue them from there, the kids already managed to run off twice! in one of the comments here someone mentioned that the kids weren’t kidnapped but ran off on their own, that just makes the situation more complicated. so where does this end? Is there a bigger picture for the “askonim” about LT? are we going to do this every time some woman there decided to do so called “tshuva” and run to us for help? I think Rabbonim should come up with a big plan for this crazy group, either leave them alone in their mess, or totally break them up, arrest their leaders to the point that they totally fall apart. I hope someone out there has a plan for them and wish them good luck. and I wish all LT group a refua shlema and tshuva gmura.
philosopher: This is not about whether I understand why we need to rescue girls who married Arabs or not, it’s about Halacha and what halacha says. There is a Mitsva of Pidyon shvuyim to rescue individuals who fell to goyim, whether it was their choice or not, we still have an obligation to save them as much as we can. But does LT falls under pidyon shvuyim? they have their own version of Torah, like many do, unfortunately there are so many wackos among us who do strange things and have their own fashion of Judaism and avoidas Hashem, are you going to label them all as shvuyim?? in that case any Jew who commits a sin is actually considered captivated by his yetzer harah, so let’s go do pidyon shvuim on all irreligious people, all reform and conservative and so on, that just doesn’t make sense, and there is no mitsva like that, however there is a general mitsva of tochacha to enlighten people no matter who they are, to do the right thing, if they don’t want to listen then it’s their problem.
pilpul harif, I think it’s very simple that Mrs. Teller believes the sect has become stricter than her father intended it to be and it became too much even for her….and I believe for many others trapped there as well…I’m not sure what her exact intentions are but I doubt she can came to create such a cult here in the US, (although it is pretty scary seeing more of these black shmattah bag dressing in Monsey…but the pritzus dressing of frum women is even worse).
Anyway, there are other ex-members from this cult, Mrs Teller is not the only one. You may have a point though, that askanim must be sure to help only those who want to escape, not those who have ulterior motives. However, it is very unlikely that they want to establish a sect here when they can control their members so well in Guatemala.
Pilpel: just to get it straight, no we do not consider everyone that’s not Frum or just different “captives” in need of rescue.
We do consider people whose lives are in danger, especially children, in urgent need of rescue. On top of all the dangerous “minhagim” the Lev Tahor cult has, including starving their people, there is a risk of them committing mass suicide. We can not close our eyes to all this, and if it’s harder or more complicated it doesn’t absolve us of coming up with a better strategy, and putting in more funds for therapy etc. so the outcomes will Iy”h be successful.