Mother of six escapes Jewish 'cult' in Guatemala fleeing to Brooklyn after being told her 13-year-old daughter would be forced to marry one of the leader's sons

Daily Mail, UK/December 20, 2018

A woman who escaped from an ultra-orthodox Jewish cult in Guatemala has arrived in Brooklyn and blown the whistle on its alleged 'barbaric and abusive' customs.  

Sara Helbrans, 32, had been a lifelong member of the Lev Tahor sect founded by her father until earlier this year. 

She was told her 13-year-old daughter would be forced to marry the son of a community leader. Her objections were ignored so she fled to the U.S. along with her six children. 

Now she is lifting the lid on the secretive group 's way of life.

It has led to the start of numerous custody battles and the arrest of five former community leaders, including her brother. 

Sara alleges the group from which she escaped, is a cult — and she and her six kids are in desperate need of protection.

'I am very imminently afraid from the cult and what the children's father and other cult members may do now that we are no longer under their power and manipulation,' according to filings she submitted to a Brooklyn court.   

Before Sara fled, Helbrans had been a part of the cult her entire life. 

Her father, Shlomo Helbrans, founded the group in Jerusalem in 1987 and flourished after he moved the group to the U.S. in the early 1990s.. He drowned in a river on a trip to Mexico in 2017 according to the New York Post.  

The community, which believes the Jews must remain in exile, has won the admiration from some for its devoutness but others condemn it to cult-like sect

Sara says the group has continually abused and tortured its members.

It is accused of kidnapping and torturing children and severely restricting the lives and wellbeing of its followers.

Lev Tahor is a radical strain of Hassidic Judaism that believes television and computers are bad and must be avoided.

The group rejects the state of Israel because it views the Jews as a people who must remain in exile.

The sect were based in Canada in 2014 but then had to flee amid allegations of child abuse and suspicions the group was carrying out underage marriages. 

They then headed to San Juan La Laguna in Guatemala from which they were also moved on to a different village after similar accusations. 

Shlomo's son, Sara's brother, Nachman Helbrans, took over the leadership role along with a group of associates and by all accounts has made the cult even stricter.

Despite being siblings with the new leader, when she complained about plans for her 13-year-old daughter being married-off, her complaints were not well received. 

Court papers allege Sara was ostracized by her community, separated from her husband, Rabbi Aron Aryeh Teller and children and ordered to perform menial tasks. 

'They tortured her. She was forced to clean toilets. She wasn't allowed to talk to anyone,' said a source to the Post. 

Sara was finally told to leave the sect and renounce custody of her kids, according to court filings.

After refusing, she then tried to gather all of her kids together in order to escape.

The children had been separated and were living with different families. 

Sara only managed to find three of the kids, taking her 10, 8-and 5-year-old children with her - before 'running for her life'.

Her three other children were initially left behind -  13-year-old Yante and two of her brothers, 12-year-old Chaim and six-year-old Duvid.

The children were later located and found to be living in Mexico with their father who was detained by the authorities. 

Her brother Nachman and four other Lev Tahor leaders, Meyer Rosner, Chaim Yankel Rosner, Uriel Goldman and Malka were also arrested in Mexico on Wednesday in a joint operation involving the FBI and Interpol in Mexico, according to The ­Yeshiva World. 

All six children then made it to Brooklyn with their mother. However, Yante and Chaim are now missing and Sara claims they've been 'kidnapped' back by cult members in the U.S.

The teens were last seen getting into a vehicle in front of the home,' the New York State Police said in a press release. 'The children are not believed to be in any imminent danger, and are believed to have traveled to New York City.'

She fears the same fate awaits her other children.  

'I am very worried, afraid and concerned that the father and his fellow members of the cult will try to kidnap the children and compel the children to return to the cult, where they are in danger of malnourishment, corporal punishment and forced to marry persons much older than them,' she wrote in her November 14 filing in Brooklyn Family Court.

Sara is now seeking custody of her children and an order of protection against her husband.

Just as she had filed the order to obtain custody of her own children, one of Lev Tahor's leaders, Shmiel Weingarten, arrived in Brooklyn from Guatemala to file a petition on behalf of the 13-year-old girl, Yante.

The order from the teen requests that she lives with her father or in Guatemala.

The order also contained allegations of abuse against Sara. 

'She would beat the children much more because of anger, and the house became a nightmare, until my father had no other choice but to send the children to other families from time to time,' says the petition filed in Yante's name.

The father, meanwhile, denies all claims of abuse and mistreatment of children in Lev Tahor and considers the children kidnapped.

One of Sara's supporters has dismissed the allegations saying the group often makes counterclaims against escapees.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.

Educational DVDs and Videos