When Nutty Doesn't Cut It

A family from Beit Shemesh was caught on the wrong side of the Jordanian/Israeli border.

This was no regular family, which perhaps took a wrong turn on a family hike and ended up over the often poorly marked international boarder line.

This family are members of the extreme Jewish cult "Lev Tahor". Lev Tahor is led by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans (aka Elbarnes) and is based in a small village near Montreal in Canada.

The cult consists of around 45 families in Canada and several families in Beit Shemesh.

This family, along with many of the members of Lev Tahor are balei teshuva, which is to say newly orthodox.  They previously hit the headlines in 2011 in Israel when they attempted to send two of their daughters, then aged 13 and 15, to Canada, only to have them forcefully returned to Israel by the Canadian authorities.

Allegations abound about nefarious activities in the insular cult, such as semi-starvation of members, forced medication/drugging, forced marriage of very young girls to much older men, and a strict regime of 'day long' praying. However, the most obvious aberration is the women's clothing - which consists of burkas, sometimes concealing 100% of their body and head.

The authorities in Israel, such as the Social Services are somewhat at a loss what to do about this and similar families.

The social workers are equipped with a check-list of criteria which can prompt intervention, such as when a child is in clear and current danger.

However, social workers who visited this family found all the children to be fed, well treated, healthy, educated and, well, fully functional.

It would seem there's no item on their check-list "belongs to nutty cult".

And therefore, despite consistent requests and pleas from their wider (secular) family, the Beit Shemesh social services have been unable and unwilling to intervene.

It's an interesting dilemma whether peculiar religious practises (where would you draw the line?) should be considered grounds for the state authorities to 'rescue' children from their parents?


  1. The next recourse is for rabanim to denounce the behaviors and to exclude the nutters from religiously-related events (aliya, mesader kidushin etc). There is historical precedent for making kol korey.

  2. What is the source for the story? I think preventing children from social interaction with anyone in the street by covering their faces is pretty serious.

  3. To understand this group, read the fascinating set of articles by a chiloni Haaretz writer, who interviewed the group in Canada:

  4. ...The weather out where the cult is located is just fabulous! Clean, cool, mountain air. I can see why people are attracted to it!

    Ari -former Montrealer- Enkin

  5. When I first became orthodox/baal teshuva, my family really believed I had gone nuts, and that I had joined a cult.

    I had broken off regular contact with my family, wouldn't even eat at the same table, was "obessively" performing rituals, I had changed my name, my dress-code, my way of speaking, suspended relations with my former friends, I had rejected my professional path (university & career), was following a charismatic rabbi, etc, etc..

    Should I have had my children taken away from me by the social services?

  6. What are the social services doing sitting on the side-lines; these parents are clearly crazy and abusive?!

    Remember that other Bet Shemesh fiasco, with the "burka lady", who was known for years by the authorities to be abusive, and was only arrested and imprisoned after the press blew the case open.

    These lunatics should all be locked up and their children salvaged & adopted by normative families.

  7. If we defined wearing burkas as dangerous, we'd have to social workers remove children from hundreds of Bedouin families...

  8. The issue is not burkas. The issue is the off-course misapplication, PLUS potential endagerment of the children (think Cleveland, when neighbors accepted initial police investigations on that house where 3 women were held captive and abused for 10 YEARS!).

    At this rate, we'd have to accord reform, reconstructionist and other OTD streams legitimacy, halacha be damned (note that shulkhan arukh prohibits dressing as goyim do so whazzup with the muslim look? Other halakhic implications are involved, too).

    The issue is that the burka crowd is into lack of individual identity. What effect do you suppose that has on physically maturing children whose psyches are thus affected? How will these kids conduct their adult lives?

    One more item: the discomfort of wearing dark head-to-toe clothing in Mideast heat is no picnic. Why didn't these folks dress as Quakers or Amish do?

    What's with the lack of color and faces? Females are known for expressing individuality - and a sense of happiness - with their clothing and accessories. Mental health professionals know that women recovering from mental health disasters are healing once they begin using cosmetics and dressing with a bit of flair again.

    I'm curious to know if the social workers tested the children for social acclimation skills plus emotional maturity levels, and the full implications of that. If the adult caretakers lack outlets for experiencing joy then these kids are in for lives of dullness, passivity and despair. Mentally ill people are notorious for denying the observable reality.

    Burka babes pursue joyless lives even if they deny the fact. Their devotion to joylessness is evident in their depressing garb, stooped postures and refusal to integrate with the normative halakhic world.

    1. חברי היקר!
      השאלה היא לא מדוע שירותי הרווחה לא לוקחים את הילדים מרשות ההורים.
      השאלה היא, כיצד בית משפט (נכבד, כמובן) יכול להתערב בהחלטות הנוגעות לאמונה והשקפה.
      לב טהור היא קיצונית, נכון מאוד. אמנם קיצוניותם ראויה לצל"ש, כן! למה צל"ש, כי היא דוגלת בשיטת היהודי הגלותי, שאם לא מתאים לו מקום מסויים הוא מחפש לו מקום שני. ובכן, לא טוב להם בארץ ישראל, הולכים לקנדה, לאמריקה, או לאיפה שהם רוצים. הם לא מתערבים לשאר הציבור בחייהם.
      ובכן, כפי שאני מבין, תושבי בית שמש הדלי"ם או החילונים, יש להם סכסוכים עם הקיצונים. האם זה לא רעיון טוב להציע לקיצונים ללכת למקום בו הם מרוצים כן.
      האם לב טהור מפגינים לך מול הבית, לא! הם בפאתי העולם, שיעשו מה שהם רוצים. תאמין לי, הם לא מרביצים לילדים, לא מחתנים אותם לפני גיל 16, אם הם היו עושים משהו קטן, הקנדים היו מטפלים בהם. אתה לא יודע מה זה שירותי הרווחה בקוויבק, הם שבעת מונים קפדנים יותר משירותי הרווחה בבית שמש או בישראל. אז הם אנשים קיצונים, לבושים בבגדים של לפני 3000 שנה, מה זה אכפת לך, או לרשויות או לסבתא או לסבתא רבה, וכי לא חינכתם אותנו "איש באמונתו יחיה"?
      זה טעות פאטאלית מצד הרשויות בישראל להחזירם בכפיה לישראל, להשאיר את צו עיכוב יציאה, זה אולי ישאיר משפחה אחת יותר בקהילת הטאליבאן בבית שמש, ומשפחה אחת פחות בקהילת הטאליבאן בקוויבק (הישג גדול!?), אבל זה יעשה רושם שלילי על כל החרדים הקיצונים כשיציעו להם לעזוב את המדינה שהם כל כך לא מרוצים ממנה, כל כך לא מתאימה להם, כל כך אויבת שלהם וכו' וכו'.
      תאמין לי, תקרא בספר דרך הצלה של האדמו"ר של לב טהור, ספר מפחיד מבחינה אידיאולגית, ממש אנטי ציוני, מי יודע מה, אבל בסוף הוא פשוט מציע לעשות דרכון, ולעזוב, יללה, למה לריב, למה לא להיות רחוק, מתוק!
      בכלל, תבין, הענין הזה של "כת" או "כת מסוכנת" היא לא נובעת מהשקפות דמוקרטיות, אם יש מישהו שמציק לילדים, פשוט תקרא למשטרה, אין שום בעיה להשים אותו מאחורי סורג ובריח, כמו כל פושע, תוכיח מה שהוא עשה והוא ישלם על זה. אם הוא מסוכן לילדיו, שירותי הרווחה יקחו ממנו את ילדיו, אל דאגה.
      אבל ההגדרה של כת, היא איזה סוג, שבאמת מותחים קו, אני הנורמלי, ההשקפה שלי היא המצויינת ביותר בכדור הארץ, ומי שמתרחק ממני כך וכך מטרים (אידאולגים כמובן) הוא עדיין "קצת שפוי", ואם או מתרחק ממני יותר מדי אז הוא כבר משוגע מטורף, אין לו שיקול דעת, אסור לו לחנך ילדים...
      אני שואל אותך, זו דמוקרטיה?
      למה לב טהור היא "כת?", האם המשטרה בקוויבק יש לה בעיה להגיש כתב אישום נגד מי שהוא שמרביץ או הרביץ לילדים, אלא מה אף פעם לא הרביצו לילדים! הילדים שמה כולם מסודרים סופר-דופר, לא פחות מהמשפחה בבית שמש, אלא מה הם קיצונים! למי זה מפריע, הם לא מפריעים לך, ולא לאף אחד, אדרבא תיקח את המשפחה הזאת לדוגמא לכל החרדים שמפגינים ו"מתפרעים" או דברים כאלו, תגיד להם: "לא טוב לכם, תחצו את הגבול ותלכו לקנדה, למונרו, ללונדון", אבל אם אתם תשימו על המשפחה הזאת צו עיכוב יציאה או להפעיל לחץ על שירותי הרווחה להוציא את הילדים מחזקתם, זה ממש יצדיק "מלחמת אחים"...
      טוב, תשמרו על עצמכם.

  9. First i want to tell you about myself before I begin. I am a Ger I converted to Judaism about 7 years ago along with my wife. It was an orthodox conversion. My wife and I are both college graduates i am a former Marine who served in Viet Nam and was also a police officer for a large city in Southern California I worked patrol and was a detective for several years working Juvenile division which included child abuse cases.
    We are both Hasidic Jews and love to visit different communities. We heard about Lev Tahor and I wanted to visit to see for myself. I heard many negative things about Lev Tahor and its Rebbe Shlomo Helbarnes. I made contact with them and was invited up, they had no idea about my background all they knew was that I was a ger and interested in seeing other communities.I went without my wife and spent a week during Purim. I was treated very warmly made very comfortable. No one as far as i could see was suspicious of me. It was a very uplifting experience. They may seem extreme to some, there services are long there is no mixing between genders at all. The women do cover themselves completely it is not a Burkha as some say but more of a chadra or outer cloak. I have six children of my own and eight grandchildren, and as a police officer i've seen kids that were abused I've talked to them and interviewed them. The children at Lev Tahor were some of the happiest and well behaved I have seen in any Jewish community they were Healthy well fed and clean, more than I can say for some other communities I have visited. Lastly I met the father of the to girls that were stopped from going there. He is a loving and very Kind person just looking for something better for his family to deny him this is wrong and very not very democratic. on the part of the Israeli government. Heis just normal god fearing Jew. I'm sorry this is so long but I just wanted to give my input. Zei Gezunt.

  10. Thank you for your personal story.

    I have no doubt that Lev Tahor are friendly, welcoming and loving to visitors.

    There is no contradiction to their being labelled as a Cult - it was cults who perfected the art of love-bombing.

    As for the happiness and functionality of the children, that is entirely the point of the Welfare Services.

    According to the regular check-lists - the children are doing fine.

  11. Yocheved Golani11 June 2013 at 10:38

    As I opined earlier, the problem is hiding in plain sight http://www.yourjewishnews.com/2013/06/n27608.html

    Wife of Jewish cult leading rabbi Shlomo Helbrans flees after being beaten by husband’s followers... “The main reason for my sufferings is the fact that I dared to voice opposition to the punishments that are being used in the village,” Malka said.

    Punishments include beatings of children, forced marriages between members of the community, marriage of minors as young as 14, achieving compliance through pain, denial of food, violent separation between parents and children from the age of six months, complete isolation from family in Israel, and more.

  12. This cult received $4.3M from an unnamed as a charitable organization? what did they do with this money?

    It was a real-estate deal that was masterminded as how to "launder the money" and use it to purches some properties, for others!!! same time by doing that (using their tax exemption) they avoided the taxes that was due to the Canadian goverment, that had Rachmonus and took in this monster Shlomo Hell-branz into Canada. The person who they did this laundering for, gave them a nice cut $$$$$$$$$$$

    This might be shocking,because after all this cult is very holy, but Nachman (the son of the gangster who led this elegal project) knows it's true!!! this is not made up, Cult leaders when you get caught you will feel the pain that you have caused to so many inisint women and children.
    "Lev Tahor’s Rosner refused to say who provided the $4.3 million but confirmed it was for an unspecified development that “didn’t work out.” thats a lie Rosner is looking for a way out of this. why would he refuse to name the contributer? because they broke the lay by "money laundering".

    Cult leader: Solomon Arez Helbrans is accused of hitting children with tire irons, forcing loving couples to divorce, forcing little girls into marriage with old men, forcing children to wear small shoes, placing people in solitary confinement, denying people of food, issuing monetary fines, placing little children with strange families against the wishes of parents for periods of two years or more from the age of six months, and forcing people to take psychiatric pills without being diagnosed by doctors.


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