Oct 25, 2020

CultNEWS101 Articles: 10/24-25/2020

NXIVM, Satmar Hasidic

"The Vow is getting a second season.

HBO has renewed the docuseries, which explores the NXIVM cult, ahead of its season one finale on Oct. 18. Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer will continue to direct and produce the new episodes, which will debut on HBO and HBO Max in 2021.

Set against the backdrop of the federal trial of The United States against NXIVM co-founder Keith Raniere, The Vow: Part Two will offer an exclusive view into Raniere's innermost circle. It will delve into the stories of NXIVM's top leadership in the U.S. and Mexico and into powerful, intimate stories of members of the group's sex ring DOS.

Part Two follows the legal and emotional journeys of the group's founders, supporters and defectors as new evidence and stunning revelations come to light while federal prosecutors and defense attorneys battle for opposing views of justice in a case caught in the national spotlight."

"Clare Bronfman once had a life that few can imagine.

She was an accomplished equestrian with Olympic ambitions and a US$132-million trust fund. She lived on a sprawling ranch in Virginia, trained in Europe and came from a line of billionaires dating back to her grandfather, Canadian liquor tycoon Samuel Bronfman, who founded the Seagram whisky empire.

But instead of fulfilling her dreams, Ms. Bronfman is sitting in a New York jail cell serving 81 months for her role in a cult based in Albany, N.Y., called NXIVM. It was led by Keith Raniere, a charismatic fraudster who dubbed himself "Vanguard" and charged thousands of dollars for a self-help program called Rational Inquiry. Prosecutors said his real purpose was grooming dozens of sex slaves who performed "tributes" and had his initials branded on their pelvises.

Mr. Raniere, 60, has been convicted of multiple charges of sex trafficking and forced labour, and he'll be sentenced later this month. Ms. Bronfman, 41, pleaded guilty to lesser charges involving recruiting workers illegally and identity theft. She has also insisted that she knew nothing about the sexual abuse.

In a letter to District Judge Nicholas Garaufis just before her sentencing last month, Ms. Bronfman tried to explain her actions. "For much of my life I was ashamed of my wealth, I felt it made me different, when all I wanted was to be accepted," she wrote. "I wish I could turn back the clock or take away the pain, but I can't."

Few of NXIVM's victims believe Ms. Bronfman's contrition or her claim that she was unaware of the grooming. Many believe she was just as culpable as Mr. Raniere because she has financed NXIVM with more than US$100-million and is even funding his legal defence.

Ms. Bronfman remains a perplexing character in the NXIVM saga; someone who used her vast wealth to enable Mr. Raniere but who also fell victim to his dark spell. Friends and relatives described Ms. Bronfman in court filings as a troubled woman who grew up in a disjointed household hating herself and craving a father figure. When she met Mr. Raniere in 2003, he knew how to manipulate her.

"The one thing that [Mr. Raniere] was skilled at was when he met people he could determine their weaknesses and their fears … and then home in and basically crack them open," said Rick Ross, a specialist in cult deprogramming who has been hounded by NXIVM's lawyers for 14 years. "Certainly he recognized all of Clare Bronfman's vulnerabilities."

Ms. Bronfman hails from a lesser known branch of the family. Her father, Edgar, took control of Seagram in the 1970s after the death of his father, Samuel. Edgar moved the headquarters from Montreal to New York and expanded the business into oil and chemicals. He married five times and had five children with his first wife; including Edgar Jr. who succeeded his father at the helm of Seagram in 1994."
" ... The leader of a Satmar Hasidic sect who called for Orthodox Jews to follow New York City's health regulations during the pandemic's first wave this spring has died of COVID-19.

Mayer Rispler, 70, died Friday, according to Vos Iz Neias, an Orthodox news site. He had been placed on a ventilator in late September, as infection rates were rising in the city's Orthodox neighborhoods.

While Rispler was hospitalized, city and state officials imposed restrictions on "red zones" with many infections, causing some Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn who burned masks in the street to protest their sense of being singled out by the rules."

Chino News Review: One nation under influence
"Since teaching her last class at Chico State in June 2018, Janja Lalich—professor emerita of sociology and a preeminent expert on cults—has not eased her way into retirement.

"I'm actually way too busy," she told the CN&R with a chuckle during an interview Thursday afternoon (Oct. 15).
She's conducted numerous media interviews and served as an expert witness in court. Every other Saturday, starting this spring, she's co-facilitated Zoom workshops for former cult members with Marin-based therapist Colleen Russell. Lalich also just completed the first draft of a memoir, for which she's seeking a publisher or agent.
Her work getting the most attention now: two documentaries on NXIVM (pronounced NEX-ee-um)—an ostensible self-help organization that masked the sex-slave group DOS at its core. The Vow wraps with its ninth episode Sunday (Oct. 18) on HBO (though it has a greenlight for a second season), and Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult debuts the same night on Starz with the first of four episodes.

Producers of both projects consulted Lalich. She attended the last two weeks of the trial where, in June 2019, cult head Keith Raniere was convicted on seven criminal counts including racketeering and sex trafficking. Members of his inner circle, including actress Allison Mack of Smallville fame and Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman, pled guilty and also faced jail time.

The Vow traces the 20-year history of NVIXM through the eyes of numerous members and actual footage from the inside. Seduced focuses on India Oxenberg whose mother, actress Catherine Oxenberg, fought to extricate her from the cult. Lalich got to know the Oxenberg family as well as whistleblowers who shared their stories—and scars—for a 2017 New York Times article that sparked the FBI investigation that brought down Raniere.
By phone from Walnut Creek, where she moved 18 months ago, Lalich spoke about NXIVM, the documentaries, meeting royalty and parallels to cults in the current political landscape.

When and how did NXIVM get on your radar?

I knew minimally about NXIVM over the years, and in particular because they hounded someone else who works in this field [cult deprogrammer Rick Ross]—I knew they were harassing him, filing lawsuits against him, things like that. But then I really got interested, of course, when the story broke in The New York Times; that's when Sarah Edmondson, who ran [NXIVM's] Vancouver center, came forward and was on the front page showing the branding they were doing on women's pelvic areas for the women who were part of that secret cult within a cult. That's when I got a lot more interested and a lot of people started contacting me, and shortly after that the documentaries started.

When Keith Raniere was arrested and put on trial, I went to New York for the last two weeks of the trial in the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. That was fascinating."

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