The Lev Tahor haredi cult allegedly helped two of its children remanded to foster care to flee Canada for the US – and New York State is allegedly allowing the girls to live with their father in New York.
Above: file photo of two Lev Tahor girls
The Montreal Gazatte reports:
Two girls from the extremist Jewish sect Lev Tahor managed to flee their foster family and the country and have been reunited with their father.
Lev Tahor’s community lived in the Laurentians city of Ste-Agathe-des-Monts for 10 years before they became the subject of a police investigation into allegations of human trafficking and forging documents. They were also under the eyes of Quebec’s Department of Youth Protection for allegations of extreme neglect and abuse. The sect fled en masse to Chatham-Kent, Ont., last year ahead of a youth court date.
According to the sect’s lawyer, Guidy Mamann, the girls, aged 17 and 15, left their foster homes in Toronto and took a bus into upstate New York on Sept. 12. They are with their father in Borough Park, a district of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Mamann said they were reunited with their father after child welfare authorities in New York offered no contest. However, child welfare authorities in New York couldn’t be reached to confirm whether a hearing had taken place. The identities of the children are protected by a court order, so they can’t be identified, nor can their relatives.
The girls are among 14 children originally ordered into foster care last year in youth court in St-Jérôme. The order was made in their absence, because the group of about 250 had fled Quebec and relocated in Chatham-Kent, Ont. However, when court proceedings continued in Ontario to uphold the original Quebec order, the group fled again — this time to Guatemala City.
The girls were travelling with another family in March when they were found and apprehended by authorities in Trinidad and Tobago, on their way to Guatemala. They were brought back to Canada, but by then, their parents were already in Guatemala. So they remained in foster care.
In the following days or weeks, it’s expected they will join the bulk of the sect’s members, which have relocated to Guatemala. Mamann said the girls were motivated by their wish to reunite with their families and figured out a way on their own to get across the border. He said he believed they took a bus across the border.
However, that claim is disputed by several people with close ties to the sect, who said the girls were taken in a taxi. The uncle of the girls, who can’t be named because it would identify them, said he believes the sect arranged travel and sent them money to pay for it.
“The girls have led a very isolated life,” their uncle said speaking from Israel Monday. “They don’t have any money and they don’t have any way to travel on their own. I know that (community leader) Nachman Helbrans and their father arranged for this. And I know that there was money sent by the community to help them get out.”
The uncle said the operation to remove the girls was very sophisticated, and could not have been perpetrated by the girls by themselves.
He said he believes the girls will be heading to Guatemala to reunite with their family, and if that happens, there will be little chance to get them removed from the sect and sent to their family in Israel, as he has been pushing for.
“My parents (the grandparents of the girls) are very sad,” he said. “They’re crying every day.”
Jewish Family & Child, the group supervising the foster care of the children in Toronto, declined to make a comment, saying that it can’t by law provide specifics about children who may be in the care of Children’s Aid Society.
Documents released to the media early this month show Sûreté du Québec police suspect Lev Tahor engaged in human trafficking and evaded immigration authorities by forging documents. The allegations were part of a search warrant application given to a judge for permission to search the homes belonging to Lev Tahor members both in Ste-Agathe and in Chatham-Kent. It is not known if the SQ would will bring charges against members of the group.
The documents also allege that Lev Tahor leaders routinely use corporal punishment as a form of education, and that they force the marriage of underage girls to older men. The uncle said he has heard that the older of his two nieces, who is 17-year-old, has already been promised to another community member and will likely get married shortly after she is reunited with the community.
In the meantime, several other Lev Tahor members who were also ordered into foster care in Quebec have fled the sect and arrived in Israel, the uncle said.
Two parents and three of their children have left Guatemala and flew to Israel last week. They no longer want to live with the sect, the uncle said. However, there are two other children and one grandchild who are part of the family (all who were the subject of removal orders in Quebec) who have remained behind in Guatemala.