Leaders of ultra-orthodox Jewish sect controlled care of children, hearing told

Sun News, Canada/March 20, 2014

By Jennifer O'Brien

London, Ontario -- The care of the Lev Tahor kids who settled in this area last fall seemed to be controlled by community leaders, not their own parents, an Ontario court heard earlier this month.

Details of the hearing held March 5 behind closed doors in Chatham, Ont., are contained in a transcript released Wednesday in response to a request from several media outlets.

The ultra-orthodox Jewish sect fled Quebec last fall amid a child-welfare probe, and settled in Chatham.

They deny allegations of child abuse and neglect, including forced marriages of girls as young as 14.

The hearing was held after 14 children left Chatham in violation of a court order. At the conclusion of the hearing, a judge issued an emergency seizure order.

Six of the children were since intercepted in Trinidad, two others in Calgary. Six others are thought to be in Guatemala.

Ted Heath of Chatham Kent Children's Services testified at the hearing that most of the agency's concerns revolved around the lack of education for girls in the community and arranged underage marriages.

The children appeared clean, fed and unbruised, he said.

There was always food in the fridges of the families who moved to Spurgeon's Villa last November.

There were toys, too -- though they were usually kept in boxes or appeared "staged" and not age-appropriate for the kids in the home -- but that seemed to be the doing of three men who act as community spokespeople, Heath said.

"They control food in the community, the way (others) dress," he testified.

"The leaders pay their rent. It seems to be up to the leaders, not up to the parents to provide (for children)," Heath said. "(Community members) don't have the freedom of choice."

That's why the sight of those leaders -- Uriel Goldman, Mayer Rosner and Nachman Helbrans -- jumping into a van and driving away, moments after family service workers arrived March 4 to check on families who had been ordered to stay put, raised red flags, Heath said.

"Usually all three are there and make the decisions," he said.

At the end of the hearing, Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton ordered the kids be tracked down and immediately apprehended based on the original accusations of abuse, which haven't been tested in court.

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