Three attempted kidnappings of a teenage girl in the United States are disastrous for Lev Tahor. Two members of the sect, Mordechay Malka and Matityau Malka, have just been convicted in the case, following the sentencing of two leaders in March and the extradition of two other spiritual leaders in April.
Posted at 5:00 a.m.
The victim, Yante Teller, was forcibly married at 13 to an 18-year-old man by Lev Tahor leader Nachman Helbrans in Guatemala in 2017. She fled with her mother and took refuge in the state of New York. Mr Helbrans and his henchmen kidnapped her in 2018 and took her to Mexico, where authorities found the teenager, who was able to return to her mother in the United States. Two other kidnapping attempts took place in 2018 and 2019.
Lev Tahor made headlines in Quebec between 2011 and 2013, due to a DPJ investigation into the treatment of children from this ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect. The sect fled in the middle of the night in 2013 from its headquarters in Sainte-Agathe, the DPJ being about to place some children. Their stay in Ontario was short-lived as the authorities kept an eye on them, and some of its members fled in 2014 to Guatemala.
It was not the first time that Lev Tahor, whose Hebrew name means “pure heart,” had run into the law since it was founded 35 years ago in Israel by Schlomo Helbrans. The latter was sentenced in the United States for having kidnapped a 13-year-old teenager.
Schlomo Helbrans drowned in 2017 in Guatemala and his son succeeded him. Nachman Helbrans is now in prison in the United States for 12 years, which will complicate the survival of Lev Tahor. In a desperate move, the group sought asylum in Iran in 2018 after the young woman was kidnapped, earning them widespread opprobrium in Israel. Recently, members of the sect have been seen in Bosnia, media reports.
- Estimated number of Lev Tahor members in 2022