Jerusalem – A controversial Chasidic sect has now been officially classified as a cult by an Israeli court, a move that will hopefully give others who might be considering joining the group reason to reconsider.
According to the Times of Israel (http://bit.ly/2pgEzwR), Judge Rivka Makayes classified Lev Tahor as “a dangerous cult that severely damages the physical and emotional well being of the children of this community.”
Mayakes’ decision, based on previous court rulings and testimony of groups that have investigated the group in the past, comes seven months after a September 2016 raid of the Lev Tahor compound found no evidence of child abuse reported Canadian Jewish News (http://bit.ly/2q5vycN).
Uriel Goldman, a spokesperson for Lev Tahor, described the raid as traumatic, noting that police, doctors and child care workers spent an entire day in a fruitless search for non-existent evidence.
“They expected beaten children,” said Goldman. “They didn’t find anything.”
But relatives of Lev Tahor members disagree with those findings, saying that children in the group are subjected to extreme behavior and physical abuse. Lev Tahor children are reportedly separated from their parents, denied a formal education and married off as young as 14 and 15 years old to spouses that can be two decades their seniors. Those who disobey the rules can be punished with lengthy fasts and eviction from the Lev Tahor compound.
The controversial group has moved from place to place on several occasions, moving from Quebec to Ontario in 2013 and then relocating to another location in Ontario shortly thereafter amid allegations of human trafficking, kidnapping and falsifying documents as previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2ouhSrM).
Lev Tahor, which also had members in the United States and Israel, has since moved to Guatemala where allegations of child abuse and other issues have dogged them, forcing relocations from the Mayan village of San Juan La Laguna to Guatemala City and finally to Oratario, located in Eastern Guatemala.
Under Mayakes’ ruling, children who are living with the sect are considered to be at risk minors and the judge called on Israeli authorities to return children who were taken illegally by Lev Tahor to Israel. Because Mayakes’ decision carries no legal weight in Guatemala, the request is considered to be symbolic at best, but family members of Lev Tahor members hope that it will deter others from joining the group.