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Controversial Jewish Sect In Canada Got Millions in Charity

Controversial Lev Tahor sect received millions of dollars to its charity societies managed by the sect's leadership.
By Dalit Halevi, Ari Yashar
First Publish: 12/11/2013, 7:58 AM

Illustration: money
Illustration: money
Flash 90

Recent revelations show that the anti-Israeli Hareidi-religious sect Lev Tahor received millions of dollars to tzedakah (charity) societies run by the sect's leadership.

Based on income tax reports, the Toronto Star discovered that the closed community established two tzedakah societies, Congregation Riminov and Society for Spiritual Development, both of which are managed by community leader Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans and eight of his close confidants.

Furthermore, a former member of the group told the Toronto-based newspaper that senior figures in the sect travel the world raising funds. According to the source, each of the senior figures has "one or more facade congregations which they…collect for, thus avoiding negative association with Lev Tahor."

Lev Tahor recently attracted media attention when nearly the entire community fled Quebec for Ontario after being investigated over child abuse accusations and non-compliant educational standards.

As a result of the investigations, 14 minors from the community were ordered into foster care by a Quebec court. However, due to the group already being in Ontario it was unclear how the order would be enforced.

Congregation Riminov was registered in 2001 as a religious charitable society, shortly after Helbrans left Israel and settled in Canada. He had been in Israel after being deported from New York, where he served jail time for kidnapping a young religious recruit. In Canada he has received political asylum.

The society Congregation Riminov in 2006 held $5.6 million in assets. A year later its status as a charitable society with the entailed tax breaks was negated after the society didn't send mandatory information to the Canada Revenue Agency.

In addition, the sect's Society for Spiritual Development was registered in 2004. In 2011 the society suddenly received a $4.3 million donation from another unnamed society. In 2012 the society transferred $3.3 million to another Jewish charitable society in Quebec, the Canadian Friends of Holy Land Institutions.

Lev Tahor stated that donations were received from Canada, the US, Britain and Israel. An Israeli source familiar with the sect told the Toronto Star that community members live on government welfare, roughly $2,000 a month per 5 or 6 child family. The welfare money is received by the sect leadership that later doles it out to members.

Sect members have blamed Israel for their troubles with the Canadian government, claiming Israel is not helping them because of their anti-Israel stance. One member, Uriel Goldman, said "if you're a Jew and you don't support the state of Israel they see you as a borderline traitor, the greatest enemy, worse than the Arabs or the terrorists."