Guatemalan Authorities Raid ‘Lev Tahor Cult’ Compound And Take All Children Away From Parents

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ltAccording to reports from Guatemalan news agencies, the building housing members of the “Lev Tahor” cult have been raided by the Public Ministry (MP) which investigates allegations of child abuse.

Authorities were reportedly notified of parents exposing their children to severe punishments that have resulted in injuries.

Personnel involved in the raid include the Attorney General’s Office.

Recently, a court in Guatemala indicted the ex-mayor of a small town for “participating in the expulsion of a religious community.”

In 2014, some 230 members of the Lev Tahor cult were forced out of the village following religiously tainted disputes with its Mayan residents, who are Roman Catholic. The local elders’ council voted against the group.

Antonio Adolfo Perez y Perez of San Juan La Laguna was charged with abuse of authority and discrimination and sentenced to house arrest, the local newspaper Prensa Libre reported. He had lost his political immunity on Jan. 14 after he was not re-elected.

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Lev Tahor had maintained a small presence in San Juan La Laguna, a village about 90 miles west of Guatemala City, for about six years, but it expanded considerably after a contingent arrived complaining of persecution by Canadian authorities. Tensions appear to have flared after the newcomers sought to impose its practices on the indigenous people.

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 Magazing 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.

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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.

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(Chaim Shapiro – YWN)




27 COMMENTS

  1. When is cult leader “Hell”brans going to be put in federal prison with FDLS “prophet” Warren Jeffs where he belongs. Too many people have suffered and are suffering because of him.

  2. Good. Now send the children back to normal relatives who hopefully will arrange for therapy. It’s terrible, & Ami magazine’s article was disgusting.

  3. Take away all the children and find some lawful way of sterilizing the men so that this cult will quickly die off. Allowing this type of child abuse to continue is a chilul hashem.

  4. Re comment 4, by Gadolhadorah: I am pretty sure this “cult” is evil, but not as sure as you. Where in Torah is “sterilizing the men” authorized as a way of dealing with a problem? My question is not rhetorical. There are lots of chiluls Hashem every day. When – if ever – is it appropriate to “sterilize the men,” and who should decide that – you, or Dr. M.

  5. A disgrace to Judaism.Children should wearing black potato sacks?? Jewish women sleeping in a sack so her husband should not see her feet?!?! Not eating rice or vegetable?? This is NOT Judaism. They are an extreme embarrassment.

  6. עתידים אנו ליתן את הדין
    לא תעמוד על דם ריעך

    Since the holocaust, not a single Jewish community was persecuted as much as Lev Tahor.

    Since the holocaust, not a single community was subject to so many blood libels and uprooting from one place to another.

    It is deplorable how our math skills let us stoop so low as to allow our fellow brothers to be כצאן לטבח יובל למכה ולחרפה.

    Here is the formula that allows us to stand by idly – guilt free:

    Mosrim + rumors + news reports = Facts

    This vicious cycle allows us to lead our lives knowing that a group of G-D fearing Jews are constantly being hunted down by secular elements in the Jewish community, and feel we have the right to not only allow it, but also to encourage the persecution and strengthen the Machlokes and שפיכת דמים.

    Not once has their been a fair two-way conversation surrounding Lev Tahor, Mishpacha magazine did not even respect the journalistic norm of having the other side express their point.

    Many Rabbonim will not express their concerns for fear it will backfire and affect their support and fundraising efforts. This element of silence allows us to cowardly recommend the most sadistic measures and punishment against our fellow brothers and sisters.

    When a mattress store shuts down due to a viral ad due to frivolous mention of 9/11, a community is being dubbed by Israeli media as the “Taliban” and nobody says a word about the frivolous mention of the term and what is represents.

    I urge my fellow yiden before Yom Hadin to please wake up and smell the coffee.

    This is the least I can do to declare:

    I WILL NOT FOLLOW KORACH’S WAY.

    עתידים אנו ליתן את

  7. Seekingtruth2626 there is a reason they are being persecuted. They are not living the way Hashem wants. Children Getting blisters on their feet because they are not allowed to remove their stocking while the sleep. They should be prosecuted and they should not get their children back.

  8. to # 9
    stop invoking the holocaust
    you cheapen your agrument!!!
    instead of quoting the pesukim that you do
    you should be running a campaign for pidyon shvuim
    to get these people away from this
    shaigetz and noiaf

  9. #9 writes “please wake up and smell the coffee”. We have and it stinks. The sooner this vile evil cult is uprooted the better. It has nothing in common with the Torah hakedosha. Take away all the children and give them to true Yiddishe homes for fostering.

  10. I visited the community numerous times, and was invited to their homes.
    I actually just received a document from one of the families, the doc was written by a child welfare worker which states that their inspection of the home and children was found to be satisfactory.
    Just so you know, the imvestigations started after two former members reported to the authorities regarding the education.
    Under Quebec law, any child that does not receive an education equivalent to the public school education, is considered ‘neglected’ and ‘abused’.
    When the community failed to reach a compromise with the education minister,the minister threatened with a letter stating that under Quebec law, he has no choice but to refer the matter to the youth protection agency.
    On a side but important note, When Stephen Harper was prime minister of Canada, it was a known fact that Israel was the third rail of Canadian politics and many policies.
    It was also obvious from Israeli cabinet meetings (which were videotaped and downloaded, the knesset has since taken them down) that Israel was very keen on breaking the community at any cost.
    Those two facts were the main driving force behind the investigations.
    Homes were searched numerous times and nothing was found.
    The Israeli government has only rehashed the false allegations and bribed officials in Guatemala to conduct a raid which was obviously done without any regard to the welfare of the children.
    The officials came at 6 am and simply broke down doors and raided home after home only to find nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada.
    It is sickening to see the comments on social media and news outlets, with no regard to Jewish men woman and children.
    Anyone who has had an honest conversation with individuals from Lev Tahor know that they are riteous and fine people.
    I urge all to get facts not from the Media or hearsay, rather facts from people who were there firsthand. (There are many individuals who have peacefully left the community after feeling it was not for them. Only a countless few hold a grudge and chip on their shoulder and find no happiness until the community is decimated completely, chas v’sholom).
    There are many individuals who left the Orthodox Jewish community, yet only a select few, with hatred, go to the media and badmouth orthodox Judaism. Just search ‘Othodox Jews’ on video sites, and see how many angry youngsters are appearing on television.
    If we don’t protest in support of Lev Tahor who’s to say we are not next?
    We live in a wonderful country where the status quo of the education and aspects of Jewish life was respected.
    Only when disgrunted individuals went to the court system, did the government get involved.
    There are so many facts to show and things to say revolving around Lev Tahor, so many misjustices that befell their part with terrible consequences, I implore upon all רחמנים בני רחמנים to open their hearts and minds to these helpless people and see to assist them in amy way possible.

  11. to the truth seeker

    you would have us belive that the israeli govmt that is busy all day fighting for its life on numerous fronts has nothing better to do then go after 300 people of a cult
    you are out of your mind

    any sane person that would follow its leader to some hole in guatemala
    is as sick as its leader

  12. Once again a comment with no basis other than hot air.

    I actually have a copy of the Knesset Cabinet meeting regarding Lev Tahor. Show me a way to send it to you and I will.

  13. Taking a good thing to extremes isn’t piety, piety is following halacha. Tznius is a value but Jewish women don’t need to be swathed in black sheets, and it’s not “better” if they are. They may be nice people but what they do isn’t Yiddishkeit, it’s something made up by their leader. And you can say the adults have a choice to leave, fine, but the children don’t and Jewish children are Hashem’s children. What right do the parents have to force Hashem’s children to live by rules some guy made up?

  14. That was when I stopped buying the Ami.If they want to be accepted they should live amongst us and be normal jews. Not run away. And just look
    Who the leader is. Is he a role model?

  15. You ask for assistance in anyway possible? Give money to the leaders and they will not pass down to members…. fact…. mail maybe some food. Tooth brushes toothpaste.shsmpoo.soap.

  16. I was the foster mother of 4 Lev Tahor siblings when they were taken into care in Canada. While I must say that the children, I had , were lovely,there is no doubt in my mind that the lifestyle they lived was extremely unhealthy. When they were in my care, their sister, who was 20 years old, had given birth to her 5th child. Legally, I am not sure what I am allowed to share …..butthis I do know. it is a cult. The children were taught things like the “the rebbe remember har Sinai and therefore everything he says has to be adhered to.” The children were not allowed to play ball, listen to jewish music…..they didn’t even know that children could paint and have fun. Forget about education. Even their knowledge of basic chumash was poor.
    I would not wish their lifestyle on my worst enemies.

  17. ATTENTION ASKANIM…we have to make sure that these children are placed in frum homes and not in Guatemalan homes.
    who knows what laws they have in Guatemalan ?

    will they place tehm in orthodox homes or in goyisher homes?

  18. This is Judaism at its worse, much worse than reform or conservative since many reform etc people actually leave and become religious.

    These people have perverted frum Judaism and made it into a disgusting and dangerous lawless cult.

  19. Here is a quote from the article
    ‘Canada Didn’t Want Them’: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Sect Vows Never to Return As Abuse Allegations Linger:

    Nobody answered to this in the newspapers. of course if someone want to decide that there are child abuse problems in lev tahor, no one can force him not to do so. But can someone tell me why doing so is not continue participating in the Lashon Harah that endanger the lives of lev tahor children and makes it impossible for the community to survive? Is it an obligation to do now the opposite and help them?

    The report makes several recommendations to agencies in Quebec and Ontario, including that they agree to uphold each other’s child protection orders, but Lev Tahor’s legal representative in Toronto, Guidy Mamann, told VICE News the report just further proves the group’s claims that they do not abuse their children. The reason it took so long for police and child protection to respond, he said, is there was nothing for them to go on in the first place.
    “The findings are remarkable because the commission acknowledged that [child protection services] was involved in investigating the Lev Tahor community for 17 months and they still found no evidence they considered actionable. They also confirmed that the police conducted a criminal investigation and the criminal investigation came up empty,” he said. According to Mamann, the commission did not contact him or anyone from Lev Tahor for the report.
    “That points to the fact that they’re not looking for answers. They’re looking for someone to blame,” he said.”They seem determined to continue in this theory that they were being abused, when this is nothing but hocus pocus.”
    There are currently no members of Lev Tahor left in Canada, he said. Most of them now live in Guatemala.
    When they first moved to San Juan La Laguna, a small beach town in Guatemala, last year, Lev Tahor members clashed with the locals over cultural and religious differences. Seeing men and women dressed in all black and speaking Yiddish was a new and confusing sight.
    Mamann, who says he is in touch with the group regularly, said things are better for them now; they are fitting in and want to live a quiet life free from government interference.
    “Certainly their children are no longer under attack like they were in Quebec. Now, nobody is telling them that their education system is inadequate or inappropriate,” he said. “You cannot compare Guatemala to Canada, a first-world country, but Canada didn’t want them.”

  20. What kind of kosher food do these people get in guetamala with all their chumros? Do they ditch dairy products or do they own their own cows? Do they survive on bananas apples and oranges?