Matzav Shmooze: Is Lev Tahor A Cult And Why That Question Matters


Lev Tahor made the news yesterday after nearly one hundred Guatemalan police officers raided the compound, searching on behalf of a woman who has left the group and was no longer allowed to see her children.

While the strange sect, founded by R’ Shlomo Helbrans, has always been controversial, with a parent making it a issue of custody, the question over their legitimacy has never been more consequential.

Is Lev Tahor merely another religious sect, albeit a very strange one with intensely strict rules and regimen? Or are they a brainwashed cult, trapped by strong leaders who are imposing their will on them?

The answer to this is very relevant to the more mainstream crowd then you might think. From Lakewood to Monroe, from Brooklyn to Monsey, divorced parents are fighting custody battles to protect their kids from former spouses who have left the community and are trying to bring their offspring with them.

All of a sudden, the question hits home. Are these Lev Tahor adherents any different then other groups of chassidim? They both wear a levush that seems strange to the outside world but fits perfectly with their own lifestyle. Would we say that these people are in a cult and that children should be taken out of there and breakaway from their religion? Chas V’Sholom! Of course not!

Or is Lev Tahor a whole different ball game and the comparison can’t be made. If that is the case, we should all be very clear in denouncing their ways. Otherwise, we might be setting a very dangerous precedent.

Not a Posek


  1. From Lakewood to Monroe, from Brooklyn to Monsey no one lives such a life! Hashem yaracheim.. Abusing children, escaping every 3 weeks to a different area, living in sikkas the entire year, marry by the 12 and having children every 10 months, nebech!!! This is truly not to compare. I pity these innocent cute children.

  2. Whatever it is, it is guilty of child abuse – which is a violation of Torah and secular law. The leaders should be arrested and the group dispersed.

  3. you dont have to be a posek or a mar bar rav ashi to figure out that this is a cult where peoples minds and bodies (rl) are being played with and manipulated

    helbrans was a self declared rebbe with no backing from anyone

    dry up their assets so these people can be saved

  4. Being ultra-frum is fine, but it’s no excuse for abuse. When children are forced to marry at a young age, or women are forced to take drugs, and children spy on their parents what audio they’re listening to, and then people are punished by separation from their families, etc. etc. Do we need to go on?

  5. They have very extreme practices. Their burkas for women are probably a violation of normal tznios hanhagos. If they are true, the allegations of extreme cruelty in dealing with some of their people is alarming. They need to be reviewed by competent gedolei Torah. There is no recognized gadol batorah that invented their path.

  6. No comparison at all!!! Lev Tahor craziness starts at the top. They where Burkas which no one else does that. It is 100% a brainwashed cult. There is rampant abuse which starts at the top. They run to different countries….

  7. Are these Lev Tahor adherents any different then other groups of chassidim?

    Yes. Allegations of abuse have followed them wherever they have gone. That has nothing to do with their way of practice of religion. Their official representative in a public interview did not deny that such allegations have followed them everywhere but gave a very silly reason as to why.

    That said I do not support a mass taking away of all children in Lev Tohar away from their parents without it being proven that (1)abuse on a personal level. Not guilt by association and (2)taking away children can only be an absolute last resort. It can not be mixed with feelings of “I don’t like this group anyway/don’t want to see anyone grow up in it.”

  8. You don’t need to be a genius to see that this is a cult of crazies. This isn’t Satmar on steroids. This is craziness on steroids

  9. By comparing these Barbaric sinners to righteous Hasidim, you are stopping people from intervening and saving hundreds of victims from this terrible cult. All that is needed is a drop of understating how this cult evolved since Hebrans death, JEWS torturing JEWS. both physically mentally and emotionally in the highest degree of human torture.

  10. It is a cult, they control peoples’ minds and lives in irrational ways. the followers own nothing. the leaders live in luxury. they force marriages and torture the members who step out of line. this is not a question. Do not confuse them with Chassidim who have a leader who guides and blesses his adherents and anyone who wishes to leave is free to do so.

  11. I do not know what a cult is or isn’t. There are however a few distinct differences between Lev Tahor and other groups of Yidden who dress differently than society.
    A. There is no accepted group that has changed there dress in a manner for which there is no mesorah. The chassidim and anshei yerushalyim are sticking with the old levush, not instituting new ones.
    B. Lev Tahor does not have a leader who is a recognized gadol or even Talmud Chochom. Any movement started by someone who is not from the meorei hador is suspect, and easily misguided.
    C. Reportedly, Lev Tahor does not learn Gemara and the other basic limudim that Klal Yisrael has relied on throughout the ages. Even mainstream groups that have veered from the standard limudim have been criticized (IE, a certain group that focuses more on Rambam than Shulchan Aruch).
    D. The issues with leaving the sect are quite alarming, and not the norm in mainstream Yiddishkiet.
    For these reasons, Lev Tahor has set themselves apart in a manner that perhaps even Neturei Karta has not.

    • “a certain group that focuses more on Rambam than Shulchan Aruch).”
      I’m quite familiar with many different groups in Klal Yisrael, I’m not sure which group you might be talking about?

  12. I believe Rabbi Dr Abraham J. Twerski and Shea Hecht the author of the book confessions of a Jewish cultbuster spell out clearly what the definition of a cult is

  13. find out what he did to kashou rebbe Rav bloom and you will understand that its pidyoin shvuim to save the children and lock up the parents

  14. I personally know the person that treated Helbranz before he started his cult when he still lived in israel as a Frenk. He had significant issues that had to be addressed and taken care of and instead he turned to his chassidish levush, went to america where noone knew his past and started this cult which was an expression and a result of his own personal ills he was suffering from. I do NOT believe he died; I believe he faked his death and will come back to his cult to let them know that he had techiyas hameisim. Or that he is somewhere else playing a different act on another group of people. He is a very sick man and built up an equally sick cult. Anyone that equates this to chassidim has not only a very small mind but also a very cruel and crooked way of assessing things. Hopefully this cult with its vicious leaders will be dissolved and the children and teenagers will receive the right treatment to enter mainstream society and lead healthy lives.

  15. Cult | Definition of Cult by Merriam-Webster
    English Language Learners Definition of cult. : a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous. :
    If that is the definition, they are undoubtedly a cult.
    Their religion is based on Judaism, & possibly, chassidic Kanoey type, however it isn’t Judaism, it has vered out, like other Religions which started out of Judaism & went another direction.
    The Rambam uses the word Loikeh, Shulchan Aruch, Never uses it, the reason being , at the time of shulchan Aruch we no longer had a beis Din with the power to give malkus. At this point giving malkus, even with consent would be a violation of the Lav of Bal Toisif. In their religion they give malkus. Just one example.
    Everyone there is in danger & the leaders need arresting to save the populous. Once you have freed everyone, you could decide if the leaders are still dangerous or not, weather to press charges or let them disappear do tshuva, or whatever they want.

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