[A] member told police about beatings with sticks, crowbars, whips and belts… A witness said he saw a woman struck in the face because she refused to wear the burqa-like outfit for women that has led some media to deride the group as the Jewish Taliban. Girls who were 13 or 14 were disciplined by being held in house basements while girls who were 14 and 15 were married to adult men, the police documents said. Children were also taken from their biological parents [and assigned permanently to other families in the sect] if the sect’s leader deemed they were not taught properly.
Lev Tahor’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans (pictured), has a record that we’d call odd for a self-proclaimed man of God, if it wasn’t for the fact that crimes against children are rife within patriarchal religions and sects.
[He] was convicted of kidnapping a young boy and served two years in a U.S. prison before being deported to Israel in 2000. He fled to Canada the following year on a temporary visa and was later granted refugee status.
When Canadian law enforcement began to investigate the latest child-abuse cases last year, the alleged perps fled from Québec to Ontario. That, predictably, didn’t end their legal troubles, so they began to look for farther-flung destinations, and decided on the Guatemalan town of San Juan La Laguna.
They didn’t exactly endear themselves to the local population — so much so that the entire group of 230 Lev Tahor fundies has now been told to scram.
The town’s Elders Council voted last week to force the group to leave because they say some members of the sect have mistreated indigenous residents and tourists in the area. Antonio Ixtamer, who lives in the community, said that several members of the group had upset residents because of their arrogant attitude. He said several times members of the Lev Tahor community would go into stores and pay whatever they wanted for the products rather than the marked price. He said they also bothered tourists. “On one occasion there was a tourist taking pictures of a hill and the Jews thought he was taking photos of them and they clashed,” Ixtamer said. “This is not normal behavior in a community that lives off of tourism.”
Miguel Vasquez Cholotio, a member of the elders’ council, said the villagers decided to expel the group because they refused to greet or have physical contact with the community.
Lev Tahor members claim they are the misunderstood victims of anti-Semitism, and that they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.