JERUSALEM – Bastet, a vegan and LGBT-friendly cafe whose blue tables spill across a central Jerusalem sidewalk, is a secular oasis for residents seeking Saturday refreshment in a city that largely comes to a standstill for the Jewish Sabbath.
But each week, a procession of ultra-Orthodox men, some in their finest fur hats and gold robes, invariably marches past in a show of displeasure at the cafe’s desecration of the day of rest. “Shabbos!” they chant, using the Yiddish word for the Sabbath.
On a recent Saturday, the wait staff struck back, lifting their shirts to reveal their bras in an attempt to push back the religiously conservative demonstrators.
The confrontation reflected a central tension in modern Israel over the very nature of the state, founded by secular Zionists but with an ultrareligious population that is growing in size and influence.
That tension came to the forefront late last month, thwarting longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to form a new government and sending a stunned nation to the polls for the second time this year. Netanyahu needed two competing factions, secular and religious, to form a governing majority in parliament, and they were deadlocked over legislation that proposes drafting the ultra-Orthodox into the military as other Israeli Jews are.
The ultrareligious parties oppose conscription as an attempt to assimilate their cloistered communities by thrusting their young men into contact with secular life and values.
But Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s ultranationalist former defence minister, has made resistance to ultra-Orthodox influence an essential part of his appeal to his political base of secular Russian-speaking immigrants. Those close to him say the conscription issue is part of his wider concern about a minority community that receives state welfare payments and tax breaks while contributing less than other Israeli taxpayers.
It is a victoryMira Ibrahim, one of the staff who disrobed
The ultra-Orthodox, a catchall for a religious community that includes a wide range of sects, choose largely to segregate themselves from the wider Israeli society to lead a life in which religious observance is paramount. Outside influences, such as films, the Internet and mixing with secular Israelis is discouraged, if not forbidden.
But in Israel’s fragmented parliamentary democracy, the political parties representing the ultra-Orthodox have become kingmakers in recent years, elevating their agenda and carving a fault line in Israeli society that is expected to grow.
For Israelis like Klil Lifshitz, the 28-year-old lesbian who opened Bastet 2 1/2 years ago with a “super feminist” wait staff rather than decamp to liberal Tel Aviv as most of her friends had, the shrinking space for secularism is a concern.
“They have more and more power,” she said of the ultra-Orthodox. “As long as they keep having the power they do in forming coalitions and governments, they are basically going to get what they want.”
It was during an usually large demonstration last month, called by ultra-Orthodox Jews to protest what they termed Israel’s desecration of the Sabbath as the country hosted the Eurovision song contest, that the wait staff decided to make their own stand. They said the purpose was to protect their tables and make an ideological point.
Since then the ultra-Orthodox have paused their weekly walk past.
“It is a victory,” said Mira Ibrahim, one of the staff who decided to disrobe, though she said the sense of triumph was tinged by a heavy-handed police response to the demonstrators that made the staff uncomfortable.
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By Andrea Karshan, a Jewish woman currently living in Crown Heights
In Chabad Crown Heights, the Jewish community is holding elections, and women aren’t allowed to vote.
Elections are being held in June in Chabad Crown Heights for the Vaad Hakohol and the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council for the first time in 8 years. The Vaad Hakohol is a religious organization in Crown Heights that deals with Kashrut. And the Crown Heights Community Council is a secular organization in Crown Heights that is partly government funded. The Crown Heights Community Council deals with food assistance, housing, medical insurance, community relations, and other things.
When I found out about this election, I was excited. And I thought to myself how can I get involved. But then I was told that women aren’t allowed to vote. I am a woman who lives alone. So my household will be not be spoken for in the election. The leaders of these organizations don’t just serve the men in the community. They serve the women too. Women should be able to vote also. We should have a voice in choosing the people who represent us in the community. In general elections, whether it be for city council, president or any other political position, Jewish women in Chabad Crown Heights are encouraged to vote, especially for candidates who local Chabad community leaders have endorsed. So forbidding Jewish women to vote in Crown Heights only applies to this election.
This policy of women not voting in these elections completely excludes unmarried, divorced and widowed women from the voting process. As for married women and women living with their fathers, the assumption is that everyone in the household would vote the same way. But perhaps the wife and husband or father and daughter would vote differently. Therefore, they should have their voice when it comes to voting. Any Jewish resident of Crown Heights over the age of 18 male or female should have a vote.
After hearing that women cannot vote in the upcoming Vaad Hakohol and Crown Heights Community Council elections, I went to talk to someone at the Crown Heights Community Council about it. One thing he told me was that the Crown Heights Rabbonim believed that based on Jewish history that only men voted, Jewish law was that women could not vote in this type of election. I replied to him what if we based American law on American history that only white men had rights and blacks and women didn’t? He couldn’t answer me. The Torah may be timeless. But these policies are definitely outdated.
The representative from the Crown Heights Community also told me that women voting policies were voted on by the community (men and women, and I believe that’s the only time that women voted) following a lawsuit in the 1990s. And the community voted that men only should vote. But the CrownHeights Rabbonim before the vote advised the community to vote that only men should vote.
I think as long as the Rabbonim are advising people to think this way about women voting in these elections, it is hard for people to publicly go against the Rabbonim. But I think privately many Lubavitchers in Crown Heights are for women voting in these elections.
Most refer to it as as religion but I believe it’s not. It’s a cult. When one person has control over thousands around the world… When you can’t leave without losing custody of your kids… When children are left uneducated and unqualified because secular studies are deemed worthless and unnecessary…. When young girls and boys […]
With Utmost Respect For This Soldier – we hope you are okay with us using your photograph.
The Historical Realities and Antisemitism –
For a Tolerant Civil Society
OPINION – LostMessiah and Contributors (Edited)
The war on education by some members of the ultra-Orthodox community is now a hot topic in the US, Israel and abroad. Each time those members are questioned, they claim Antisemitism. Coupled with the virtual Jihad declared by the Rabbi Teitlebaum in a 60 – minute long viral rant, which railed against both the education of Yeshiva youth in the US and IDF service in Israel, there is an historical dichotomy.
Historically, Ultra-Orthodoxy was not a thing in Eastern Europe during World War II. Many Jews were observant in cities like Visnitz, Belz, Satu-Mer (Satmar), Belarus, and throughout much of Eastern Europe. They were also self-sufficient and adept at business, medicine and highly educated. It was in large part the reason why Jews were viewed as such a threat in pre-war Europe. Radical, uneducated and uninformed indoctrinated Jews were non-existent, with little exception. That appears to be a post-war phenomenon.
Whether today’s radicalism is a reaction to World War II is a question for historians, psychologists, sociologists and political scientists. But the historical dichotomy between characterizing criticism as Antisemitism and the realities of Hitler’s Nazi regime is not lost here.
The Ultra-Orthodox claim Antisemitism as a mantra each and every time there is a critique of their behavior, of the lack of education of their youth and their business practices. Yet as they crowd the streets of Bnei Brak, for example, and throw stones at the IDF and police in defense of their position, they cannot definitively state a plan on how they would defend themselves and Israel were there to be a war. In fact, they do not believe in the existence of the State at all so it is likely they would surrender the country. In that regard, there is little difference between them and the anti-Israel terrorists some of whom threaten Israel’s borders.
The ultra-Orthodox cannot actually respond to questions regarding the medical care and birth of their children, the future of generations of youth not learning the language of the countries in which they live or the health of our environment, when questioned about their education. Unlike the great sages who preached and inspired self-sufficiency, the ultra-Orthodox seem to believe that as the “chosen” all others are here to provide for them, Jew and non-Jew alike. Their plan is apparently to continue to rely on the non-Ultra-Orthodox, the secular and the non-Jews to subsidize in all respects their way of life.
Were the ultra-Orthodox, supporting positions of anti-education and anti-Israel to be permitted to continue to run roughshod over civil laws and requirements throughout the world, they would not be educated nor would they learn much beyond Hebrew for biblical purposes and Yiddish for communications purposes. They would not be self-sufficient. To the contrary, they would be wholly and entirely reliant on anyone not them, the others.
How can a civil society function if each group within that society is not required, without flexibility, to follow the laws of that society? It cannot. And thinking it can invites Antisemitism, paves a path towards hatred, welcomes discord and indoctrinates dogmatic intolerance.
Though the issue of secular studies in ultra-Orthodox has long been a hot button issue in Israel, it has only recently become an issue in America, with NYC serving as its key battleground. Even those calling for change say the new guidelines may be a step too far
A teacher at an ultra-Orthodox school in Israel, where secular studies has long been a contentious issue. That has now spread to New York.\ Gil Cohen-Magen
BROOKLYN – New educational requirements issued by New York State’s Education Department for nonpublic and religious schools have the local ultra-Orthodox community up in arms.
School leaders and prominent rabbis are promising resistance and war if the new rules – dictating secular oversight of Haredi schools, known as yeshivas – are not changed.
The new regulations, issued by the state’s education department last month, require that students in religious schools be taught subjects such as math, science, English, social studies, art and music for a total of about 34 hours a week.
That would mean roughly eight hours of secular instruction four days a week. This is widely regarded as impossible, particularly for ultra-Orthodox boys’ yeshivas, which at the high school level currently offer zero or at most 1.5 hours of secular studies a day.
The new rules will also have public school inspectors visiting yeshivas, beginning next February, to assess compliance.
If schools refuse to meet the new requirements, they will lose the public funding they currently receive for record-keeping, school meals, computer systems, and the like. If a school is deemed not to be meeting the new rules, parents will have 30 to 45 days to put their children in another school. If they don’t, they could – at least in theory – be arrested for truancy, according to the state.
Though the issue of enforcing secular studies on Haredim has long been a hot-button issue in Israel (critics argue that a lack of proper education leaves the ultra-Orthodox dangerously unequipped for the modern world), it has only become an issue in the United States in the last two years, with New York City serving as the key battleground.
Sounding the alarm
Over the summer, a nonprofit group, Young Advocates for Fair Education, filed a lawsuit against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the education department’s top two officials, saying a recently amended law that relaxed academic standards at ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools would ensure that their students would continue to receive “a sub-standard secular education.”
Founder and executive director Naftuli Moster, center, at a Yaffed event in Brooklyn, December 2018.Debra Nussbaum Cohen
The first hearings in the suit will take place in January, Naftuli Moster, Yaffed’s founder and executive director, tells Haaretz.
The suit certainly seemed to sound an alarm bell with the education department. Initially, it was investigating just 30 ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, compared with now pledging to examine all of them.
Defenders of the yeshiva system say parents have the right to send their children to schools that provide a Jewish education consistent with their beliefs and traditions. There are nearly 275 Orthodox Jewish yeshivas in New York State, but some are Modern Orthodox schools that provide a full secular curriculum alongside religious studies.
Although the schools are private, they are not entirely free of government oversight, as a state law requires that instruction in nonpublic schools be substantially equivalent to the instruction given at public schools.
The current guidelines expand that oversight and Haredi leaders are furious, with at least one describing it as “war.”
In a speech late last month at a warehouse packed with Hasidim in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Satmar Rebbe Aharon Teitelbaum vowed that “the Jewish people will not surrender to the wicked, whoever they may be, even the state education commissioner. … We will not comply and we will not follow the state education commissioner under any circumstances.
skip – Satmar rebbe video
“A great battle awaits us, a difficult war, a long war, until we are able to correct it all,” he continued. “We must speak to the leaders of the Democratic Party, who are now at the head of the leadership in New York State. … It wouldn’t pay for them to start a war with all God-fearing Jewry in New York.”
The state’s education department did not respond to requests for comment about Teitelbaum’s statements and other strong responses from the ultra-Orthodox community.
A petition started by the head of a yeshiva on Change.org, titled “Yeshiva Parents Tell the State: Don’t Try to Bully Us or Our Schools!” has already garnered nearly 20,000 signatures.
The Flatbush Jewish Journal, which serves the Haredi communities in New Jersey, New York and Rockland County, has a box on its cover this week declaring: “Crisis Update: State Ignoring the Yeshivas’ Request for Clarification, and Yeshiva Tuition Will Go Up!”
Other Haredi authorities are taking a more diplomatic approach, calling out the guidelines for being unrealistic.
In a November 27 letter to MaryEllen Elia, New York State’s education commissioner, rabbinic advisory board members of the Haredi education organization Torah u’Mesorah wrote that the materials provided by the Education Department “seem to impose a rigid set of requirements that no yeshiva in New York can satisfy.” Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, the head of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, co-signed the letter with Rabbi Eliyahu Brudny of Mirrer Yeshiva.
In a video published by Agudah News, Reisman called the new rules a threat. “It’s immediate, and we must wake up to it before we wake up one morning and the yeshivas are being closed down. … Many thought they would start only with the weaker schools, the schools that don’t teach any English at all. Well, the news is that the goyim see us all in the same light. We’re all ultra-Orthodox fanatics, we all deprive our children of a proper education – never mind the fact that most of our yeshivas score far higher on the public tests than the 60 percent proficiency rates of the … public schools. This all doesn’t matter,” he said.
Agudath Israel of America also requested more information about the new requirements from the education department, but has yet to receive a response, its chief of staff and associate director of education, Avrohom Weinstock, tells Haaretz. The new regulations “are government overreach,” he says. “This is new ground and abridging our ability to function as Jews.”
The updated requirements even proved too much for the person who has pushed for increased secular education in yeshivas since 2012. Moster, who was raised a Belz Hasid in Brooklyn, says he set up Yaffed after realizing he had finished yeshiva high school without a basic education in things like math and English.
Moster says six or seven hours of secular studies in yeshivas “is unrealistic,” adding: “But state should have at least three or four hours a day.”
The Agudah, which represents Haredi interests to government officials, as well as providing guidance directly to schools, concurs.“While we don’t have an issue at all with health and safety requirements,” says Weinstock, “here the state went one step further – more like three steps further. They’re saying not only do you have to comply with statutory requirements, but we will also proactively go into your schools. With 34 or 35 hours a week, it appears to be even more onerous requirements than public schools have. We’re scratching our heads. How could any Jewish school function?” he asks.
Weinstock says many people are not thrilled when the education department says it wants to become so heavily involved in the running of yeshivas. “Should the state be telling nonpublic schools this many hours or that many hours? It’s a slippery slope, and we’re going down it,” he warns.
Most Orthodox yeshivas are located in the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, with some in Manhattan and Staten Island. Others are in Rockland County, which is home to Haredi strongholds Monsey, Kiryas Joel and New Square.
New York State law has long required religious schools to offer instruction that is “substantially equivalent” to the secular education offered in public schools. But the education department has permitted Haredi yeshivas to self-certify that they are doing so. The yeshivas have long claimed that talmudic study offers that “substantial equivalency” and actually provides a superior education to the one public school students receive.
Yaffed published a 90-page report last year, “Non-Equivalent: The State of Education in New York City’s Hasidic Yeshivas,” detailing the secular studies offered at a range of Haredi high schools. At Bais Yaakov in Borough Park, for instance, girls are taught English, math, science, social studies, physical education and art. However, at the Belz, Satmar, Pupa and Lubavitch boys’ yeshiva high schools, they get none, the report says.
Non-Hasidic Haredi institutions, like Brooklyn’s Torah Vodaath and Mirrer Yeshiva, tend to provide more secular studies to students than their Hasidic equivalents, many of which teach only in Yiddish. Haredi girls of both streams are generally offered far more secular classes since, unlike men, they are expected to find work and generate income for their future households.
In fact, students at Haredi girls’ high schools receive enough of a secular education to score well on the New York State Regents Exams – a series of tests that are given at all public high schools. On Wednesday, the Jewish Press touted them as evidence of the effectiveness of Haredi education, though the Orthodox newspaper did not mention the fact that nearly all the high-scoring Haredi schools teach girls.
Goy with a yarmulke
Another aspect of the new guidelines will ensure that teachers of secular studies in yeshivas are qualified educators – something many of the present teachers in boys’ yeshivas (Haredi ones in particular) are not.
Just ask Yitz Finkelstein. While he was a college student, he was also teaching secular subjects at the Satmar boys’ yeshiva United Talmudical Academy, Williamsburg. The lessons were at the end of the school day, which is when secular topics are always scheduled.
“I taught first grade from 3:30 to 4:40 P.M. and fourth grade started at 5 P.M. I was not in any way qualified to do this,” Finkelstein said, speaking as a panelist at a Yaffed event in Brooklyn on Monday. “There was no real support or talk of lesson plans, and children were openly disdainful,” he added.
“They called me goy and shegetz right to my face,” he said, even though he is Jewish and wore a yarmulke while teaching there. Secular education at the school was so bad, Finkelstein added, that “I had fourth-graders who couldn’t spell their own names in English.”
It’s not just the ultra-Orthodox community that is angry, though. Catholic schools said this week they will not let state inspectors through their doors and are willing to lose the government funding they receive.
Moster praises the direction New York’s education department is taking, even if he feels it has for now set unrealistic expectations.
“For so many decades yeshivas basically operated outside the law, and don’t understand why someone is now demanding a basic standard,” he says. “But we’re just asking for basics. We’re not asking they prep kids for Harvard, but that they give kids a basic education.”
But Weinstock warns that the Haredi community is ready to fight the education department over these guidelines, no matter how long it takes.
“We don’t use the word war, but at the same time we have to make sure our religious freedoms and way of life are preserved,” he says. “We won’t walk away from that. It would be un-American to think otherwise.
DRAMA IN THE SKY: 2 ElAl Flights Have Shabbos Issues, 1 TO LAND ON Shabbos, 1 Lands In Athens
Two El Al flights from New York to Israel have had serious “Shabbos issues” on Friday afternoon.
There is much confusion and disinformation going around, and the following are the exact details.
Both flights, 008, and 002, were delayed for hours leaving NY on Thursday due to the snow storm.
Flight 002 was supposed to depart JFK Airport at 6:30PM, and was supposed to arrive at 11:50AM on Friday morning in Israel. The flight eventually departed NY at 11:45PM. The flight is packed with Frum people, and a decision was made to land in Athens before Shabbos. The passengers were being put up by El Al in a hotel.
Flight 008 also departed late, but it was a flight that to begin with that was supposed to land at around 3:40PM on Friday (Shkiya is around 4:40PM in Tel Aviv). It does not appear to be full of Shomer Shabbos passengers. Despite that, the plane was going to land in Rome for Shabbos, but a person became seriously ill on board and a Shaila was presented to Hagaon HaRav Yitzchak Yosef. He ruled that the plane should continue to Israel, and land on Shabbos – due to Pikuach Nefashos. It appears the flight will be landing at around 5:30PM – around an hour after the Shkiya.
El Al said in a statement that “extreme weather in New York is causing cancellations and delays in hundreds of flights, including El Al flights that left Israel last night. Due to the delays and delays, El Al does not fly on Saturday, the company is forced to land Flight 002 in Athens and Flight 008 in Rome.”
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LEV TAHOR HORROR: Gunfire, Knives & Rocks Directed at Woman Who Came to Rescue Her Children From The Cult
The horror stories involving the Lev Tahor cult, currently located in Guatemala, continue following the death of its leader Shlomo Helbrans in Mexico in 2017. Since then, the leadership has moved into the hands of Nachman Helbrans, along with Mayer Rosner and Yaakov Yoel Weingarten, who are even more radical and aggressive than the late founder.
The latest story involves a woman who left the cult and came back to rescue her children, but was attacked with knives, gunfire and rocks and was not successful in the rescue mission.
The story involves a woman named Rebbetzin Teller, a sister of current Lev Tahor leader, Nachman Helbrans (Shlomo’s brother). She is married and has 6 children: 4 girls and 2 boys. Her oldest daughter is 13, and was forced to marry a 17-year-old boy, the son of cult leader Mayer Rosner. They reportedly now have a baby.
Rebbetzin Teller didn’t agree with the forced marriage and was placed in Cherem for a year. Lev Tahor Hanhalah took away some of her children and distributed them to other families, and all members of Lev Tahor were forbidden from communicating with her. She was also reportedly forced to work as a cleaning lady in Mayer Rosner’s home.
Several weeks ago, she contacted a friend in Guatemala City, where there is a small community of ex-Lev Tahor members, asking for help. The friend immediately traveled hours to see her. Rebbetzin Teller decided to travel to Guatemala City to speak with askonim over there. She two of her children along for the journey, about a four hour drive.
Askonim urged her not to return to the cult. However, she was extremely concerned about leaving her other children behind. She decided to return and try to rescue them, accompanied by several members of the community.
Askanim Tzvi Herschkowitz and Isaac Weiss told the story to BeChadrei Chareidim:
At around 11:00 PM, two vehicles set out for the 4 hour trip. It was in middle of the hurricane season and the roads were murky. No police were among the group of rescuers. What transpires could be associated with a horror-action film.
Arriving in the early morning, Rebbetzin Teller immediately took one of her children. As she approached the other children, Lev Tahor members rushed out of their ramshackle wooden cabins and began physically assaulting the men protecting Rebbetzin Teller.
Soon, more members arrived with knives to attack the unarmed rescuers. Rebbetzin Teller and the men from the Guatemala City community raced to their vehicles. As they made away with Rebbetzin Teller and one of her daughters, members of Lev Tahor threw stones at the car, smashing windows and mirrors. “Suddenly, one of the rescuers was wounded by shrapnel. They did not know what weapon was used but it appears it was a gun used by cult leaders”.
Both vehicles were badly damaged and several cell phones, which had been used to take photos and video, were lost in the operation.
Other horror stories involving the cult have emerged, from young members who were banished for one reason or the other.
One, a 17-year-old boy, was expelled for listening to music. Another, a 15-year-old boy, was expelled for refusing a forced marriage to a 12-year-old girl.
YWN has reported extensively on the Lev Tahor cult – with dozens of articles over the years.
Internal documents of Lev Tahor show that Helbrans has made his followers swear and sign to uphold the following principles among others.
(1) Everyone must negate his or her mind and mind thoroughly and completely, to the leader of Lev Tahor.
2) They must subjugate soul, spirit, and will.
3) Each man accepts upon his descendants and descendant’s descendants until the end of all generations to be subjugated under the will of Lev Tahor’s leader.. this should be said openly to the leader himself.
4) Everyone must be ready at any time and moment of 24 hours of the day, whether on the Shabbath and Yom Tov, summer and winter, healthy or sick, to do the will of the leader.
5) Whether the person is a young man or an old man, virgins and women they must accept to do the will of the leader.
6) They must agree to throw away all his physical needs, including eating sleep and rest until he fulfills the desires the leader.
7) It is the obligation of each of them at the beginning of the morning prayers to recite and accept upon themselves all of the above with full mouth and supreme joy.
Some observers have written that these are signs of a cult. Indeed, this was the position of an author of an article that appeared in Mishpacha Magazine. Others, however, claim that there is nothing cult-like about the movement. Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter of Ami Magazine met with Helbrans and assured his readership that it was not a cult, even though a previous Ami article stated that it was.
In 2014 YWN ran an article titled “Cults and the War of the Jewish Magazines” in response to Mishpacha and Ami magazines running articles on Lev Tahor. Mishpacha Magzaine had run a fifteen page “expose” on the group, essentially describing Lev Tahor as a cult that has some serious issues involving medicating children, and behaviors that resemble child abuse. Ami Magazing claimed the exact opposite – and ran the following sentence below their headline “The unjust persecution of a group of pious Jews, and the unsettling silence of the Jewish community.”
Originally a citizen of Israel, cult leader Shlomo Helbrans went to the United States where he was convicted for kidnapping in 1994 and served a two-year prison term before being deported to Israel in 2000. He then settled in Canada.
In 1994 he was convicted in Brooklyn for the 1992 kidnapping of 13-year-old Shai Fhima Reuven, a Bar Mitzvah boy he was tutoring, and served a two-year prison term in the U.S. He was originally sentenced to four to 12 years in prison, but in June 1996 an appeals court reduced the sentence to two to six years. Three days later, he was placed in the work release program for prisoners less than two years away from the possibility of parole, where inmates are freed from prison if they have a job. After protests, he was moved back to prison.
The high-profile case drew much attention in the U.S., and gained further attention when Helbrans successfully convinced New York prison authorities to waive their requirement that all prisoners be shaved for a photograph upon entering prison, and to accept a computer-generated image of what he would have looked like clean-shaven instead. After the State Parole Board decided in November 1996 to release Helbrans after two years in prison, the case rose to near scandal with suspicions that the Pataki administration was providing him special treatment.
After his release from prison, Helbrans ran a yeshiva in Monsey, N.Y., and was deported to Israel in 2000. He then settled in Canada, where in 2003 he was granted refugee status, claiming his life was being threatened in Israel.
Helbrans and his followers had arrived in Mexico’s southern Chiapas province after spending three years in Guatemala. They had travelled to Guatemala from Canada, where child-protection authorities were moving to seize children allegedly suffering from neglect.
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