Jewish sect says exodus from Quebec tied to clash with education authorities


It was a radical move by a sect of orthodox Jews that has been branded the Jewish Taliban for its strict interpretation of the faith.

Under the Monday morning moonlight, at about 1 a.m., 40 families numbering nearly 200 people boarded a convoy of buses to flee their homes and what they considered the imminent threat of Quebec’s child protection authorities.

The exodus of the Lev Tahor (“Pure Heart”) community led them west along Highway 401 to salvation in Chatham-Kent. It may not be the promised land — most families are lodged in two dozen rooms at the local Super 8 motel — but the southwestern Ontario town of 108,000 is now home.

Nacham Helbrans, the son of Shlomo Helbrans, the group’s leader and a self-proclaimed rabbi, told the Star they were forced out of Quebec over a clash with education authorities regarding the secular curriculum they were being ordered to teach their home-schooled children.


Written By: Allan Woods
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  1. It’s a creepy cult that has a lot of attention here in Israel, where they have blocked minors from boarding planes to serve the cult leader in bizarre ways.

    Granted, the more extreme any religious adherent is, the creepier he or she becomes.

  2. What are they so afraid of? If they had real faith in their imaginary god, they’d think that their children would have adequate protection against the evil world.

  3. Charismatic jailbird leader… ignorance… widespread child abuse. What’s new?

    I would hope simply crossing a provincial boundary does not mean they escape the consequences of their actions.

  4. In reply to #2 by PeterDunning:

    Not a comment, but a question. How do they support themselves. Welfare?

    Presumably. Hey, it works for Anjem Choudary in the UK, so why not?

  5. I can’t quite get my head round the anti-Zionist pro Arab Israeli thing.

    I once became acquainted with an Israeli Palistinian who fought in the five days war, and that kind of confused me as well!

    Who’s side was he on? I take it, Israel.

    Oh, non of it makes sense!

  6. In reply to #6 by Stafford Gordon:

    I can’t quite get my head round the anti-Zionist pro Arab Israeli thing.

    It’s not that complicated really. Zionism by definition is a racist ideology. Actually, someone may quibble that Jews aren’t a race so I’ll revise that to just say Zionism is by definition a bigoted ideology. It says that a certain group of people have special rights over certain lands for religious reasons.

    There are a lot of Jews, even in Israel, who are very left wing and so Zionism is anathema to them. And I don’t know anyone who is pro Arab Israeli in the sense of claiming special rights for Arabs in Israel. There are people, again many of them Jews, who believe in secularism and who believe that Arabs who are citizens of Israel and not Jewish deserve exactly the same rights as Jews who are Israeli citizens. I don’t keep that current on Israeli politics but the last I heard I’m pretty sure that Israel still has some special rights for Jewish citizens that don’t apply to Muslim Arab citizens.

    I do agree though that the anti-Zionist angle in this article was kind of confusing. Everything else about this cult sounds like they are very much fundamentalists and I would expect them to be right wing and pro-Zionist. I’m not sure how they ended up on the other side.

  7. It is not that they are blocked from religiously indoctrinating their kids, they are also required to give their kids an education that would let them survive in general Canadian society. They want their kids educationally hobbled so they cannot run away from the cult.

    I suspect they treat their kids in ways that would be considered abuse. They have to expect jail or having their kids taken away if they persist. Canadians will no longer accept child abuse in the name of religion. This fight will put the spotlight on them.

  8. In reply to Red Dog # 7:

    Thanks for that clarification; I’m relieved to learn that I’m not the only one who’s slightly confused.

    I don’t suppose I should be bewildered by any sect or cult, since religions can be made up by anyone at any time to mean anything.

    I am aware that very many Jews are deeply unhappy about the conduct of successive Israeli governments since 1948.

  9. In reply to #7 by Red Dog:
    IIRC there are some extreme Jewish Groups who are opposed to a Jewish State. They insist that the Messiah has to come first.

  10. In reply to #11 by Zme:

    In reply to #7 by Red Dog:
    IIRC there are some extreme Jewish Groups who are opposed to a Jewish State. They insist that the Messiah has to come first.

    Thanks. I thought it was probably something like that.

  11. How to differentiate between religions and cults? That’s relatively simple; if you believe in it it’s a religion and if you don’t it’s a cult.

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