Members of Lev Tahor in Guatemala.
(photo credit: JORGE LOPEZ)
The leader of the extremist ultra-Orthodox sect Lev Tahor (Pure Heart) reportedly drowned in a river in Mexico on Friday.
According to the local daily Diario Chiapas, Rabbi Shlomo Erez Helbrans’s body was identified on Friday, after a strong current swept him along the Shujabal River into the town of Unión Juárez. The rabbi, 55, had reportedly been carrying out a ritual immersion in preparation for Shabbat.
The Foreign Ministry said it was awaiting confirmation of the report from official sources.
Helbrans was in Chiapas with a group of 40 families affiliated with the cult, who according to Diario Chiapas
, had entered the state three weeks ago after being expelled from Guatemala, as victims of xenophobia, religious intolerance and discrimination over their appearance and dress.
Lev Tahor was founded in the 1980s and practices an extreme form of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, and also advocates anti-Zionism. It’s sometimes described in the media as the “Jewish Taliban.”
Helbrans is an Israeli citizen who was granted refugee status by the Canadian government in 2003, after claiming his life was being threatened in Israel due to his anti-Zionist teachings. He was convicted in the United States for kidnapping a boy he was tutoring for his bar mitzva in 1994, and served a two-year prison term before reportedly being deported to Israel in 2000.
In April, an Israeli court ruled that Lev Tahor was a “dangerous cult” because it was physically and emotionally abusing the children in its community.
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