Apr 21, 2021

MANDEL: Could Ontario have rescued child brides of extremist Jewish sect?

Lev Tahor
Michele Mandel
Toronto Sun
April 20, 2021

An Ontario judge may have missed a chance to rescue a future child bride and others like her when the “Jewish Taliban” case came before her court seven years ago.

Instead, after winning their court case that prevented the return of their children to Quebec where they’d been deemed in need of protection, Lev Tahor parents were able to leave Chatham for Guatemala. It was at their compound there in 2018 that “Minor 1” — the victim at the centre of an FBI criminal case — was allegedly forcibly married off at 13.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced new child exploitation charges Monday against senior leaders of the 250-member Jewish extremist sect who are accused of kidnapping the teen bride and her younger brother after their mom fled the cult for New York State in November 2018.

The goal of their brazen kidnapping of the 14-year-old girl “was to reunite her with her adult ‘husband’ outside the United States for purposes of continuing their sexual relationship,” prosecutors alleged.

“Lev Tahor leadership, including the defendants, required young brides to have sex with their husbands, to tell people outside Lev Tahor that they were not married, to pretend to be older, and to deliver babies inside their homes instead of at a hospital, partially to conceal from the public the mothers’ young ages.”

The first alleged kidnapping plot was both devious and successful.

Six weeks after she arrived in New York, Lev Tahor allegedly sent the child bride a gift of honey, coffee, and a cellphone to communicate with the plotters. In the middle of the night, leader Nachman Helbrans is charged with taking Minor 1 and her brother from their home to the Scranton airport. Disguised in secular clothing — including a Superman hat for the 12-year-old boy — they were allegedly flown to Mexico using the passports of Helbrans’ own children.

According to the indictment, the victims’ next flight may have been on to Tehran if they hadn’t been rescued. At the time of the kidnapping, the anti-Zionist sect was actually seeking asylum in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

After a three-week international manhunt, the sister and brother were located in a Mexican City hotel and returned to their mother. Helbrans, Mayer Rosner and son Jacob Rosner, the 20-year-old “husband,” were extradited from Mexico to New York where they were charged with kidnapping.

Despite the arrests, Lev Tahor apparently wasn’t deterred.

Three months later, they allegedly tried to kidnap Minor 1 again. Her mother was allegedly told that Lev Tahor would not stop until her children were back in the fold.

Just last month, came a third kidnapping attempt. A member of the group is accused of approaching the children in New York with bus tickets to Georgia and fake IDs.

Would it have come to this if Canadian authorities had done more to protect these children?

Founded in Israel by Helbrans’ father, the late Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, Lev Tahor moved to Brooklyn where their leader was later convicted of kidnapping a student.

Released after two years, the senior Helbrans was deported to Israel but soon took his followers to Ste. Agathe, Que.

Quebec child workers accused Lev Tahor of medicating children with melatonin to control their behaviour, depriving them of even the most basic secular education, and arranging marriages at 13. A Quebec judge ordered temporary foster care because they were in imminent psychological and physical danger.

Before authorities could act, the group fled to Chatham. A lower court judge in Ontario agreed the children should be returned to Quebec but Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton reversed the move on appeal.

“To create further upheaval and instability in their lives would most surely have disastrous emotional and psychological ramifications for them,” she wrote.

Another court would reach a different conclusion.

In 2017, an Israeli judge called Lev Tahor “a dangerous cult that severely damages the physical and emotional well-being of the children of this community.”

But by then, Lev Tahor had long fled Canada for Guatemala where Minor 1 was allegedly being taken to her marital bed at just 13.


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