Sensational accounts of the cultlike behavior of the Lev Tahor group were published in the Canadian media Sunday, as police there continue to investigate the activities of the group that has taken refuge in the country.
The Toronto Star on Sunday published testimony of the group's doings based on documents presented by police in an ongoing case against Lev Tahor that seeks to remove from its custody children it is claiming to “educate.”
According to the documents, group leaders imprisoned children in basements when they misbehaved, and physically and psychologically abused them. This was in addition to other practices of the group, in which children were sexually abused and forced to take psychotropic drugs.
Lev Tahor leaders for their part have denied all the charges.
“These things never occurred and the rumors are being spread in the media to defame us,” attorneys for the group said in a statement.
Two weeks ago, a provincial court upheld a Quebec court ruling which ordered the removal of 14 children from their parents and foster families, after reports surfaced claiming rampant child abuse, underage marriage and non-provision of adequate medical care in the cult.
The ruling applies to 13 children, as one of the 14 is over 17. The legal adult does have a child of her own, however - who will be transferred to foster care by court order.
According to Canadian media, one of the charges against the families was that their children – who are home-schooled - did not know basic math, and in several cases, could not speak either English or French. The group teaches children in Yiddish (a European Jewish dialect), and restricts education for girls to domestic tasks such as sewing and cooking.
Child protection officials also leveled serious accusations that included extremely poor hygiene in homes, substandard healthcare, and cases in which children were forcibly removed from their homes and placed with other families.
Relatives of Israeli Jews who have moved to Canada to join the cult, which holds extreme anti-Zionist views, have asked the Knesset for help. The families last November revealed additional serious charges, including serious physical abuse against children, a bizarre ideology that rejects parental affection, deliberate child neglect, underage marriage, and harsh punishment of adults who question Helbrans’ leadership.
MKs said Israel must get involved, as most of those involved are Israeli citizens who left or fled the country in order to live by Helbrans’s rules. “We have a responsibility and an obligation to Israeli children,” declared committee head MK Orly Levi-Abekasis (Likud).