A remote Canadian area is home to an extreme Jewish religious cult known as "Lev Tahor" ("Pure Heart") whose membership consists mostly of Israelis. Israel Hayom will bring you the full details of how the cult operates and what life is like for its members in Friday's edition.
The cult is run by a charismatic leader named Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, a 50-year-old Israeli citizen who became religious and gathered a group of followers around him whom he proceeded to rule over through physical and mental abuse.
According to witnesses, cult members — who number around 250 people, 100 of whom are children — are coerced through the use of extreme violence, mind-control and various methods of manipulation.
Israel Hayom has heard the unwavering testimony of people who have fled the cult, viewed documents witnesses have provided and heard recordings of vicious beatings of children. There were also documented incidents of weddings involving 14-year-old children and forced marriages and divorces of cult members.
Helbrans has been known to encourage obedience to his demands through methods such as extreme ostracism, excommunication, monetary penalties, food deprivation and the confiscation of holy books. He has also, on occasion, forcefully separated parents and children in what he considered to be defiant families.
The cult leader conducts "psychiatric evaluations" of members on his own and orders his patients to take medication he himself prescribes. Former cult members say the rabbi has total control over his followers, including how they spend their days, what they eat and when they sleep.
The community is said to abide by unusual customs based on traditions of various Hasidic sects, including an extreme dress code which has young girls from the age of three and above donning a head covering similar to the Muslim hijab.
Ultra-Orthodox communities have expressed concern about Helbrans and have warned people to stay away from him.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Lev Tahor cult has been mentioned in connection with several incidents investigated by Israeli police, the FBI, and courts both in Israel and the U.S. Helbrans has, in fact, spent time in a U.S. prison for kidnapping a child from his parents.
Israeli crime investigators are currently in the process of collecting evidence obtained during investigations against Helbrans and his cult and transferring the information to Canadian police in the hope of shutting down the cult and prosecuting suspects involved in the case.
You can read the full story in Israel Hayom's Friday edition. Sign up today for our newsletter.