Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Case of Adam Brudzevski

Case of Adam Brudzevski

Member - Lev Tahor (“Pure Heart”) Community

(Chatham-Kent ) Toronto, Canada

 Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, Canada

Administrative Assistant - Canadian Friends of United Wiznitz Institute of Israel, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Born - Denmark

Adam Brudzevski disclosed to the Montreal Gazzette, that he married his wife when she was 15 years old.  He was 25 at the time.  His marriage was arranged by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans.

Brudzevski stated that "there was much rejoicing in the community when it was announced that a date had been set for the 13-year-old girl to marry a 12-year-old boy. It meant the community had finally reached its goal of arranging marriages for 13-year-olds."

Brudzevski shared that the middle daughter of one groups leaders was married at 14, and had her first child when she was 15. Her husband was the same age.

The age of consent in Canada is 16.  However, the law includes two close-in-age exceptions.  Someone who is 14 or 15 may consent to a sexual relationship with someone who is less than five years old and someone who is 12 or 13 may consent to a sexual relationship with someone who is less than two years older. This assumes that the older person is not in a position of trust or authority (a doctor, teacher, camp councilor, police officer, etc.) where the age is a flat 18. 

Adam Brudzevski was raised as a secular Jew in Denmark and joined the sect in 2009.  He was ten years older then the woman he married. 


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Table of Contents

  1. Lev Tahor sect arranged underage marriage, former member tells youth court - Testimony at youth court hearing describes unions for children as young as 13 (01/14/2014)
  2. Adam Brudzevski enters the courthouse during a hearing for the Lev Tahor sect youth protection court case in Saint-Jérôme on Wednesday, November 27, 2013  (01/16/2014)
  3. Attempt to leave Lev Tahor sect thwarted, former member testifies (01/17/2014)
  4. Sect Lev Tahor: Testimonials Explosives (01/17/2014)
  5. Lev Tahor: Former member’s testimony into sect is released (02/08/2014)
  6. Linkedin Account (02/07/2014)

  1. Case of Rabbanit Bruria Keren
  2. Case of Adam Brudzevski
  3. Case of Rabbi Nachman Helbrans
  4. Case of Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans
  5. Case of Jacob Frank and The Frankist Movement
  6. Case of Sabbatai Zevi 
  7. Cults, Mind Control, Sex Crimes and the Jewish Community

Lev Tahor sect arranged underage marriage, former member tells youth court
Testimony at youth court hearing describes unions for children as young as 13
By Jason Magder
The Montreal Gazette - January 17, 2014

MONTREAL — The stated goal of the Lev Tahor community is to arrange marriages for children as young as 13.

That was one of the facts revealed during the testimony of a former member of the sect in the Nov. 27 youth court hearing to consider removing 14 children from the community and placing them in foster care. Among the reasons listed by Quebec’s Youth Protection Department for the removal of the children is the suspicion that underage marriages are the norm in the community, a claim the community’s leaders have vigorously denied.

The court order has not yet been executed, and the children have not been placed in foster homes, because the community members fled from Ste-Agathe to Ontario a week before the hearing, which was held in their absence. However, the testimony from the Nov. 27 youth court hearing may now be published, since a reporting ban was lifted on Thursday morning.

Adam Brudzevski, 28, revealed that he married his wife when she was 15 years old and he was 25. The minimum legal age for marriage in Canada is 16.

In court, Brudzevski listed the marriages of 10 people in the community that he attended over the span of two years where one or both of the participants was underage.

He then said there was much rejoicing in the community when it was announced that a date had been set for the 13-year-old girl to marry a 12-year-old boy. It meant the community had finally reached its goal of arranging marriages for 13-year-olds.

Brudzevski, who was raised as a secular Jew in Denmark and joined the sect in 2009, said it isn’t common practice among ultraorthodox communities to have weddings at such a young age.

He was married nearly three years ago, a union arranged by the community’s leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans. The rabbi called the man into his office and proposed the marriage. Helbrans proposed what he called an “A minus” girl who would need a strong man to keep her in line. Brudzevski didn’t learn his wife’s name until he saw it on the wedding licence.

Prior to his wedding, a little more than two years ago, Brudzevski said he was taught about his duties as a husband. On the day before the wedding, he was taught about marital relations by a teacher who used vague Yiddish terms for body parts. He was told not to worry too much about it, because the women would be knowledgeable on this matter. He said his wife told him that in her pre-martial lessons, she was told not to worry about sexual relations, because the men would know what to do.

Brudzevski said the main expectation for women in the community is to produce children. Women are urged to use ovulation tests to increase the likelihood of getting pregnant. Even the daughters of community leaders had the same expectation. The man explained that the middle daughter of one leader was married at 14, and had her first child when she was 15. Her husband was the same age.


Adam Brudzevski enters the courthouse during a hearing for the Lev Tahor sect youth protection court case in Saint-Jérôme on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 
The Providence Star - January 16, 2014

Adam Brudzevski enters the courthouse during a hearing for the Lev Tahor sect youth protection court case in Saint-Jérôme on Wednesday, November 27, 2013.


Attempt to leave Lev Tahor sect thwarted, former member testifies
By Jason Magder
The Gazette - January 17, 2014

Adam Brudzevski enters the courthouse during a hearing for the Lev Tahor sect youth protection court case in Saint-Jérôme on Wednesday, November 27, 2013.

MONTREAL – When the community leaders of Lev Tahor got wind that a member planned to leave, they told him he had a psychological disorder and forbade him and his pregnant wife from seeing each other for two weeks.

Adam Brudzevski, who has since left the sect, testified in a Nov. 27 youth court hearing in which Judge Pierre Hamel ordered 14 children from the community to be removed from their families and placed in foster homes for at least a month. The man’s testimony was part of a sweeping publication ban that was lifted Thursday after a challenge by The Gazette and other media.

Brudzevski, 28, joined the community in 2009 and was a member for two years. However, his wife was born and raised in the community. They left the community together in 2011.

Brudzevski said that when word got out that he and his wife, who was then three months pregnant, were thinking about leaving the sect, community leader Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans requested a meeting with him.

“I was called into the rabbi’s office,” he said. “My wife didn’t want to stay at home, because meetings with the rabbi could be long, so I took her to her parents’ house.”

During the meeting, Brudzevski said, the rabbi explained that Brudzevski would suffer in the afterlife if he left the community.

“He warned me that even if I continued to follow all the teachings after leaving, when I died, my soul would not go through a cleansing process in order to be close with God. Rather, it would be ground up to dust and thrown under the feet of the righteous,” he said. “This is a known concept in Judaism.”

Brudzevski said the rabbi told him he had borderline personality disorder and would have to attend daily workshops with three or four other members of the community who had the same affliction.

“I was told if I attended the sessions and followed a healthy diet, I wouldn’t need medication,” he said. “Other members had pills they were taking.”

He said the rabbi also told him that if he didn’t shape up, the community would have to find another family to take care of his baby after the birth.

For the two weeks that followed the meeting with the rabbi, Brudzevski said he wasn’t permitted to see his wife, who remained in her parents’ house.

He was only permitted to see her again after he made an oath of loyalty to the community. He explained that in the community, oaths are taken very seriously, because punishment for breaking them is retribution in the afterlife.

“I was asked to take an oath, and I accepted all the conditions without knowing what they were, just to prove my loyalty,” Brudzevski told the court. “I was told I would have to divorce my wife. The plan was to divorce her, and then to spend two years devoted to curing my borderline personality disorder. Divorced women can only remarry two years after they give birth, and my wife was three months pregnant. If I was successful in my treatment, I would be allowed to marry my wife again in two and half years.

“The next week, they took me in a car, saying they were taking me to a Rabbinical Court in Montreal so I could have my divorce finalized. On the way there, they stopped the car and told me it’s now clear I am obedient, and I don’t have to divorce my wife, if I agree to certain conditions. I told them I would agree to anything so as not to divorce my wife.”

Brudzevski made a formal oath of loyalty to the community, and a week later his wife was permitted to return home.

Despite the oath, his conviction to leave hadn’t waned, but he wasn’t sure about his wife.

Through nightly sessions, he started to teach her about the definitions of a cult and eventually explained how Lev Tahor had all the signs of a dangerous cult.

“Eventually, she started to recognize patterns (of what was happening in the community),” he said. “I could speak with her openly about the need to leave. She was (in agreement) with me on keeping it a secret.”

Brudzevski found a local rabbi who was sympathetic, and on his daily errands, he snuck out more of the couple’s belongings and brought them to the rabbi. He secretly bought a computer and switched his home phone line to include an Internet connection.

The couple purchased airline tickets to Denmark, where Brudzevski’s family lives. His wife clicked on the button to purchase the tickets, a symbolic gesture, Brudzevski said, because it showed she was on board with leaving the community, which also meant leaving her parents and siblings behind.

The local rabbi arranged a car to transport the couple to the airport in the middle of the night.

“Everything was planned so it would be dark and no one would see us,” Brudzevski explained. “At an agreed-upon time, we ran through the garden and the bushes to a car that took us to the airport.”

The couple had no contact with members of the community for several months.

“We had nothing to do with them until my child was born three months later,” Brudzevski said. “The main reason was my oath. I swore that if the community decided I needed to divorce my wife, I would be obligated to. My wife didn’t want to contact her family even though I encouraged her to do so. After the baby was born, she contacted her family for the first time.”


Kids forced to take drugs, hearing told
Fungus, bruises found on Lev Tahor youth, documents say
By Jason Magder
The Widsor Star - January 17, 2014

Children in the Lev Tahor community are forced to take strong psychological drugs, and have fungus and bruises on their feet, youth protection officials claim.

In testimony from a Nov. 27 youth court hearing, made public Thursday after The Gazette and other media contested a publication ban, social workers for the Youth Protection Department of the Laurentians region made the case for removing 14 children from the ultraorthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor, which was based in Ste-Agathe until last November.
In advance of a youth court date, most members of Lev Tahor fled and relocated to Chatham.

In their absence, St-Jérôme Youth Court Judge Pierre Hamel ordered the 14 children from three families into foster care for a period of at least 30 days. Hamel was particularly concerned the children had been denied a meeting with youth court lawyers, because their families did not show up for any court dates. An Ontario court is expected to rule on Feb. 3 whether youth protection officials in that province have the authority to execute Hamel's removal order.

The testimony was subject to a publication ban because Hamel was worried there might be retribution against the children who spoke to youth protection officials. Hamel was also concerned about a mass suicide after former sect member Adam Brudzevski told Sûreté du Québec police he was concerned this might be a possibility, though he denied there was a great risk of this when he testified in court.

The Youth Protection Department in the Laurentians was first alerted to problems within the ultraorthodox sect in 2007, when a new mother was found to be taking anti-psychotic
drugs in hospital. The baby was taken from the mother for a short period, but returned. Several months ago, the baby was placed with a foster family along with four other children. Officials continued monitoring the sect after that point.

Lev Tahor children forced to take drugs, youth protection documents say.

Then last summer, after receiving reports the children were not attending school, youth officials made several visits per week to examine the living conditions in the community.

Social worker Marie-Josée Bernier testified that a woman in the sect told a friend in Israel she wanted to leave the community, but was afraid her children would be taken away - a fact she denied when she met youth protection officials. Her children are among the 14 ordered to be placed in foster care.

Another Youth Protection Department social worker, Suzanne Tye, said parents told social workers children are often taken away from their families for weeks or months at a time as punishment for disobeying the community's strict rules. Tye said this was a form of psychological abuse.

Brudzevski, 28, testified that one toddler was routinely moved from one family to another and hadn't lived with his parents for months. He was picked up and brought to a new home every few weeks, often screaming and crying the whole way.

There were other troubling revelations during the hearing.

"Kids don't play outside," Tye explained. "There are four roads in a quadrilateral, and they don't leave. It's very isolated.

"When they saw us, they cried, or they prayed for us. They asked us why we're not burning up (because of the way we are dressed)."

One of the girls who is the subject of the removal order was 16 years old and pregnant when she first met social workers. Her baby is now four months old. She told youth protection officials she was married at 16, but later admitted she was actually 14 when she was married to a man in his 30s.

"She also admitted she was taking anti-anxiety drugs," Tye said. "But she asked us not to tell her parents," saying her husband has authority over her now.

She said the girl told doctors that the rabbi had wanted her to take a type of anti-psychotic drug, but doctors said she didn't need to take it. She was instead prescribed an anti-anxiety drug. Upon searching her home after the community fled, police found anti-psychotic drugs in her apartment, prescribed to her husband.

Tye said social workers had the children examined by nurses, who noted fungus all over their feet.

Nurses said the toenails of the girls they examined were very thick, and she suspected the infections had lasted for several years. In fact, several older women also commented that they had similar infections. The 16-year-old girl also had several bruises on her feet. Youth officials were not able to determine what caused them.

Tye said she suspected the infections were caused by adherence to the community's strict modesty laws, which compel girls and women to always wear tights, stockings and shoes.

Upon bringing their concerns about the infections to the attention of community leaders, Tye said the girls were permitted to remove their socks and tights at night, but many said they didn't feel comfortable doing so, because the practice was ingrained.

Brudzevski testified everyone in the community was encouraged to spy on one another. He said in one case his wife was seen walking in her house with socks and stockings, but without her shoes on, which goes against the sect's modesty rules. The girl's sister reported the event, and she was later punished by being denied access to the house of her parents on the day of the Sabbath.

"It was essentially a house arrest," he explained.

Brudzevski also described how children were routinely slapped and beaten in school. Each classroom had either a wooden stick or a rod, he said. He worked as a substitute teacher in the community from time to time and was told children who misbehave or speak out of turn should be beaten with wire hangers.

Tye said she was alarmed when she heard reports from bus drivers about the community's rushed Nov. 18 departure from Ste-Agathe in the middle of the night. She said the youth protection department had an email exchange with the drivers of the three chartered buses. The drivers said a leader of the community instructed them not to open the door of the bus for the duration of the 14-hour trip.

"No diapers were changed," she explained. "People urinated into Ziplock bags."

The bus drivers said they noticed there were more babies when they arrived in Ontario than when they left Ste-Agathe, and suspected some parents hid their babies under their clothing to conceal the fact there were more people on the bus than permitted.

Drivers said most members didn't have suitcases, having mostly packed their belongings in garbage bags. One driver said the passengers only ate bread crusts, popcorn and almonds for the duration of the trip.

Bus drivers also told officials that while the group was boarding the buses, many members were crying and screaming, but within a few minutes of departing, there was an eerie silence that lasted the duration of the trip, which leads officials to believe the community members were drugged beforehand.

Community members told social workers they give their children melatonin pills several times per day to keep them calm, Tye said.

The hormone helps people fall asleep, but pediatricians have warned there could be long-term effects on children who take it regularly.

This wasn't the first time officials heard members of the community were controlled through drugs.

In 2012, social workers met the youngest daughter of a community leader. The 13-year-old girl was brought to the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in a suicidal state.

"She was threatening to kill herself if she was returned to the community," Tye said. "She was promised to someone for marriage, but she didn't want to get married. Her father insisted she had serious mental health problems and absolutely wanted psychiatrists to give her anti-psychotic drugs."

Tye explained the girl was getting treatment at the hospital for several months. She was placed in a group home and then a foster family, both as a temporary measure, but her condition seemed to relapse every time she had contact with family members.
She was sent to live with an aunt in New York.

Tye said the department wants the children to be removed and returned to Quebec, because foster families have already been found within the ultraorthodox community in and around Montreal in order to ease the shock of leaving the community.


Sect Lev Tahor: Testimonials Explosives
Fears of Mass Suicides
By Marie-Claude Malboeuf
La Presse - January 17, 2014

Nine days after the chaotic flight of Lev Tahor group to Ontario, the Sûreté du Québec was feared that the 40 families feel hunted to the point of imitating the Order of the Solar Temple.

Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans used to terrorize, claiming that U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper raze their synagogue, by shining an arsenal of special weapons on the flanks of the mountain of Sainte-Agathe-des Monts. "He said that everyone would sit together and hold hands meditating according to the instructions and thoughts recorded in a document that was about to finalize," he told Adam Brudzevski, a former member who testified Court of Québec, November 27.

The 28 year old man also told police he had been question of collective suicide if the community broke out, as it had happened in the history of the Jewish people.

Chaotic escape
On November 18, the drain 200 members Lev Tahor to Chatham-Kent already had the air of doom. According to a social worker, a neighbor heard the screaming children, while their parents dragged aboard three buses with garbage bags full of clothes and pans. Other families went by car, and one fell into a ditch.

The drivers were all shocked reported to the DPJ. In an email, one tells of a man ordered him: "Nobody leaves this bus, close the door! "On board the small initial panic would quickly turned into a" can not silence. " Fourteen hours. Drivers found that the children had been medicated. The DPJ for its part believes they could be full of melatonin, a natural substance that promotes sleep, but children Lev Tahor reported taking as a sedative, in broad daylight.

"During the trip, the children urinated in Ziploc bags. There has been no change layer and women and children have not eaten anything other than bread crumbs.Others were deposited outside without a coat, "also reported an intervener.

A fireside is certain that babies were hidden under long black dresses for mothers, since most travel progressed, they were many.

Sexual assault
Towards the end of his testimony, Adam Brudzevski admitted marrying a 15 year old girl when he was 25 - which is illegal in Canada. The young man said to have attended seven other marriages between young people from 13 or 14 years. A teenager has given birth for the first time on the eve of its 15th anniversary.

According to the DPJ, another girl even admitted having married a man 20 years her senior when she was only 14 years - although it is a crime in Canada, where it is a form of sexual assault. Today 17 year old mother and a baby of four months, the teenager has yet to send a letter to the media where she denies.

In 2012, the DPJ also intervened with a 13 year old girl hospitalized in psychiatry at Douglas because she threatened to commit suicide if removed in the community.We had engaged the force. According to a social worker, Rabbi reportedly asked the psychiatrist medicate and write a letter saying that the marriage was considered desirable.

"For the rabbi, these marriages were common. He said it was based on a historical fact: being married so young, you could remove his demons, his bad instincts, "said Adam Brudzevski the judge.

Among other unusual practices, the women in the group would use a monthly test of ovulation to get pregnant as often as possible. During menstruation, they become seemingly untouchable. A man will ask for an object on the ground that his wife picks up, says Mr. Brudzevski.

Who is Right?
"I was shocked," said a social worker from the DPJ telling her reaction, Nov. 18, when she suddenly discovered the abandoned houses of his protégés. Their parents had promised to cooperate, but he finally was a simple strategy, she believes. A week later, the Ontario Social Services visited two families fleeing in a motel. Children were plasticine characters and playing with a remote controlled car, reported the intervener, who sees this as a public relations firm. "This is a smokescreen, a staging, it is indignant court. These games are totally prohibited, even the rabbi admits."Certainly, people Lev Tahor flatly deny everything they are accused - often preferring to speak to the media rather than judges, at least in Quebec.  They say witnesses are lying, exaggerating and that persecutes because they are against the State of Israel.


Craintes D'un Suicide Collectif

By Marie-Caude Malboeuf
La Press - January 17, 2014

Le rabbin Shlomo Helbrans avait l’habitude de les terroriser en clamant que le président américain Barack Obama et le premier ministre canadien Stephen Harper raseraient leur synagogue, en braquant un arsenal d’armes extraordinaires sur les flancs de la montagne de Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts. « Il disait que tout le monde s’assoirait ensemble et se tiendrait la main en méditant selon les instructions et les pensées consignées dans un document qu’il était sur le point de finaliser », a raconté Adam Brudzevski, un ancien membre qui a témoigné en Cour du Québec, le 27 novembre.


L’homme de 28 ans a aussi confié à la police qu’il avait déjà été question de suicide collectif si la communauté éclatait, puisque cela s’était déjà produit dans l’histoire du peuple juif.
Fuite chaotique

Le 18 novembre, la fuite des 200 membres de Lev Tahor vers Chatham-Kent avait déjà des airs de fin du monde. D’après une travailleuse sociale, un voisin a entendu les enfants hurler, tandis que leurs parents les traînaient à bord de trois autobus, avec des sacs-poubelle pleins de vêtements et de casseroles. D’autres familles partaient en voiture, et l’une a reculé dans un fossé.

Les chauffeurs scandalisés ont tout rapporté à la DPJ. Dans un courriel, l’une raconte qu’un homme lui a ordonné : « Personne ne sort plus de cet autobus ; fermez la porte ! » À bord, la panique initiale des petits aurait rapidement fait place à un « silence impossible ». Quatorze heures durant. Les chauffeurs ont conclu que les enfants avaient été médicamentés. La DPJ croit pour sa part qu’ils ont pu être bourrés de mélatonine, une substance naturelle qui favorise le sommeil, mais que des enfants de Lev Tahor ont dit prendre comme calmant, en plein jour.
« Pendant le trajet, les enfants urinaient dans des sacs Ziploc. Il n’y a eu aucun changement de couche et les femmes et les enfants n’ont rien mangé d’autre que des croûtes de pain. D’autres ont été déposés dehors sans manteau », a aussi rapporté une intervenante.

Une chauffeuse est certaine que des bébés ont été cachés sous les longues robes noires des mères, puisque, plus le voyage avançait, plus ils étaient nombreux.

Agressions sexuelles
Vers la fin de son témoignage, Adam Brudzevski a admis avoir épousé une adolescente de 15 ans alors qu’il en avait 25 – ce qui est illégal au Canada. Le jeune homme dit avoir assisté à 7 autres mariages entre jeunes de 13 ou 14 ans. Une adolescente a ainsi accouché pour la première fois à l’aube de ses 15 ans.

Selon la DPJ, une autre fille a même admis avoir épousé un homme de 20 ans son aîné alors qu’elle n’avait que 14 ans – bien qu’il s’agisse d’un crime au Canada, où cela constitue une forme d’agression sexuelle. Aujourd’hui âgée de 17 ans et mère d’un bébé de quatre mois, l’adolescente vient pourtant d’envoyer aux médias une lettre où elle nie tout.

En 2012, la DPJ est aussi intervenue auprès d’une fille de 13 ans, hospitalisée en psychiatrie à Douglas parce qu’elle menaçait de se suicider si on la renvoyait dans sa communauté. On venait de la fiancer de force. D’après une travailleuse sociale, le rabbin aurait demandé au psychiatre de la médicamenter et d’écrire une lettre disant que le mariage envisagé était souhaitable.

« Pour le rabbin, ces mariages étaient courants. Il disait que c’était basé sur un fait historique : en étant marié aussi jeune, on pouvait supprimer ses démons, ses mauvais instincts », a dit Adam Brudzevski au juge.

Entre autres pratiques inusitées, les femmes du groupe utiliseraient chaque mois un test d’ovulation, pour tomber enceintes aussi souvent que possible. Lors de leurs menstruations, elles deviennent apparemment intouchables. Un homme posera un objet par terre pour que sa femme le ramasse, raconte M. Brudzevski.
« J’étais abasourdie », a confié une travailleuse sociale de la DPJ en racontant sa réaction, le 18 novembre, lorsqu’elle a soudain découvert les maisons désertées de ses petits protégés. Leurs parents avaient promis de collaborer, mais il s’agissait finalement d’une simple stratégie, croit-elle. Une semaine plus tard, les services sociaux ontariens ont visité deux des familles en fuite dans un motel. Les enfants faisaient des personnages de pâte à modeler et jouaient avec une voiture téléguidée, a rapporté l’intervenante, qui voit là une entreprise de relations publiques. « C’est de la poudre aux yeux, une mise en scène, s’est-elle indignée devant le tribunal. Ces jeux sont totalement proscrits, même le rabbin l’admet. » Chose certaine, les gens de Lev Tahor nient en bloc tout ce dont on les accuse – en préférant souvent parler aux médias plutôt qu’aux juges, du moins au Québec. Ils disent que les témoins mentent, exagèrent et qu’on les persécute parce qu’ils sont contre l’État d’Israël. 


Lev Tahor: Former member’s testimony into sect is released
'I looked up the definition of cult ... we are a cult' member said he told leaders.
By Allan Woods
The Star - February 8, 2014

ST-JEROME, QUE.―From apocalyptic visions of an armed invasion, to a bogus diagnosis of psychological problems to corporal punishment, there were many signs to a former member of the radical Jewish group Lev Tahor that something was not right.

But it was not until he was called upon to fight allegations that the reclusive community was a cult led by Shlomo Helbrans, a self-proclaimed rabbi, that he was convinced to make a dramatic midnight escape from the group, the ex-member told a Quebec court.

The testimony, heard on Nov. 27, was protected by a publication ban based on fears that the 40 Lev Tahor families and their many children would carry out a collective suicide pact because of perceived persecution based on their religious beliefs. That publication ban was lifted Thursday after an appeal by various media organizations.

The former member cannot be named, but the tale of his experiences living with Lev Tahor between 2009 and 2011 can be now be made public. They helped convince the Quebec family court judge to rule that 14 children from the community should be taken into foster care.

A week prior to the hearing, though, about 200 members of the group fled Quebec for a new life in Chatham-Kent, Ont., where child protection workers are now fighting in court to enforce the Quebec judge’s order.

The ex-member was asked in the spring of 2011 to defend Lev Tahor’s reputation after two teenage girls from Israel were seized at the Montreal airport and prevented from joining the group because of perceived dangers to their welfare.

Nachman Helbrans, the son of Lev Tahor’s leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, sought out the ex-member because of his mastery of the English language and asked him to prepare a defence to claims Lev Tahor was a cult. He obliged, mainly because he had fallen out of favour for having tried to leave the community with his pregnant teenage wife. As punishment, the couple had been forcibly separated for two weeks, his wife had been pressured to divorce him and Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans had diagnosed him with borderline personality disorder.

“I looked up the definition of a cult,” the ex-member told the court. “Based on various checklists I told Nachman Helbrans that we are a cult.”

The testimony is one of just a few instances in which a renegade former member of the Lev Tahor sect has come forward to denounce their activities over the years. The former member’s concerns about the group’s conduct and practices also answer many of the questions about why Quebec’s child protection authorities seem so determined to take the 14 children into protective custody.

He testified that in the two years he lived in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., he personally knew of seven marriages arranged by Rabbi Helbrans that involved youth under the age of 16, which is the minimum age under Canadian law.

“It was common when I was there,” he testified. “It was the stated goal of the community to perform marriages at the age of 13.”

The ex-member, who now lives in Montreal, was himself in his mid 20s when he was called into Rabbi Helbrans’ office to learn about the girl who would become his wife. She was almost 16 — the minimum age at which one can be married in Canada — and described as an “A-minus girl from a respectable family.”

He only learned her name the next evening when he viewed the marriage contract at an engagement party. He didn’t lay eyes on her for the first time until the day of their wedding, two months later.

The ex-member normally worked in the Lev Tahor office, but occasionally he filled in as a substitute teacher at the boy’s school. The classrooms were filled with prayerbooks rather than textbooks and a wooden stick for discipline. He said he was instructed by one community member on how to enforce good behaviour in class.

“I was told first to warn them, then slap them in the face with an open hand if they would speak in class without permission or misbehave,” he said, adding that he used physical punishment three times on boys between the ages of eight and 13.

A girl’s education consisted of some English and mathematics. Lev Tahor’s boys were taught prayers, bible study and some Hebrew reading skills.

“The goal of these studies was to enable them to understand the rabbi’s teachings,” the ex-member said. “The belief is that boys should be busy with holy studies and girls run the house.”

The community is run with totalitarian discipline and in many cases, people are terrified to break ranks.

Quebec child-welfare investigators have documented how women are obliged to shroud themselves in head-to-toe black robes even when they are in the hospital to give birth, according to a nurse who was interviewed in the course of the probe. They often seek the express permission of Rabbi Helbrans before accepting pain medication such as an epidural, child-protection workers testified.

In person, Rabbi Helbrans can reportedly be quite charming. He speaks with a disarming lisp and a stutter.

In a recording released on the Lev Tahor website of a conversation with Quebec child-protection workers after the group fled to Ontario, Rabbi Helbrans can be heard explaining: “The people in this group are not my slaves, they are not my servants. I’m just a rabbi. It’s spiritual. I have a big influence over people, but not everybody follows everything that I say.”

But the ex-member countered that impression with the court.

On one occasion, shortly after the U.S. navy Seal raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, Rabbi Helbrans confided in him, he said, a vision of the near future that involved Lev Tahor members fending off full-scale assault by the Canadian and American militaries at the group’s compound in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts.

“He described how they would come over the mountain ridges to Ste-Agathe and will shoot everything they have at this community,” the ex-member testified, adding that the scenario had been written out in a document explaining that the overwhelming force would be repelled when the group’s members joined hands in meditation.

“I didn’t believe it. It seems that people were afraid of this happening but they were hopeful,” he testified.

On other occasions, Rabbi Helbrans would use reverse psychology to strengthen his emotional hold over the group, the man testified. He would threaten to leave Lev Tahor, which would render the group leaderless. While he locked himself away in his home, the community would go into a panic.

“People would ask his forgiveness. They would sleep outside the doors of his apartment because they were afraid of losing him,” the ex-member said.

By this point, he was beyond disillusionment. After his first attempt to leave the community, Rabbi Helbrans diagnosed him with borderline personality disorder, a psychological condition marked by unstable emotions, behaviour or sense of identity.

“The main point was that I would observe positive things and interpret them in a negative way,” he explained, adding that he was one of three or four people who had received the rabbi’s diagnosis. “There were no symptoms (except) them claiming the falsehood of my criticism.”

He was not seen by a doctor nor prescribed medication, but was put on a regulated diet and made to undergo telephone counselling with an Orthodox Jew in New York and adjust his life accordingly.

The ex-member began plotting a dramatic escape.

He secretly purchased a computer for his home with an Internet connection. Then he began feigning sickness and exhaustion, using the time at home to build trust and plot with his teenage wife who was born to a Lev Tahor family and knew nothing of the outside world.

Eventually, he made contact with an Orthodox rabbi in the town and started using his excursions into town to stash his family’s essential belongings at a girls’ school run by the Orthodox rabbi.

His family sent him money and the final step came when the young couple purchased airplane tickets. He had his wife, who was by this time six months’ pregnant, push the button on the computer, to ensure she was fully onside with the plan.

On the night of the escape, the local rabbi arranged for a car to take them to the airport.

“Everything was timed and planned so that it would be dark and no one would be around,” he testified. “We went through the bushes and into the waiting car.”

He testified that he has had no threats or further contact with Lev Tahor since leaving two years ago, but suggests that may be because he made copies of internal documents “that would be very problematic for the community if they were made public.”

“I figured that’s why they wouldn’t even dare to threaten me.”


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February 7, 2014



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