"J'accuse! The unjust persecution of a group of pious Jews."


Posted by Tomim Ti | The Partial View | Monday, May 5, 2014.

Following the article on Lev Tahor in pesach issue of Ami Magazine, Rabbi Frankfurter wrote in his editorial that he stands by his assessment of lev Tahor in his original article. However he acknowledges the feedback both positive and negative as the matter touches upon issues that effect not only Lev Tahor but all of klal Yisroel and debate even when heated is therefore of the essence.

here are some excerpts.

There have been few articles in the orthodox Jewish media in recent times that triggered as much attention and discussion as did the series on Lev Tahor that appeared in the Pesach issue. In response we received both effusive praise and biting criticism many hailed us as saviors and heroes for defending Jewish mothers, fathers, and children under siege while others saw it as positive coverage of a group they deem to be a cult...It should be noted that defending people's fundamental rights is by no means an endorsement of their way of life. For example one may be highly critical of some of Lev Tahor's teachings or dress code while at the same time insisting that they be treated humanely, pursuant to the dictates of both Torah and common law... Lev Tahor is certainly obligated to heed the directives of gedolei Yisrael with regard to dress and behaviorand it goes without saying anyone who has first hand information of child abuse in Lev Tahor. or for that matter in any other community, is obligated to share that information not with reporters or a blog but with the authorities or local police department. and by the same token, we must also heed the directives of the Rambam and shulchan aruch as to how to offer rebuke without shaming or slandering the recipient, loving our fellow Jew as ourselves.

The article ends with proving how the approach taken by Canadian authorities where authorities call religious instruction, abuse, was used in a Belgian court of appeals against that country's orthodox community. To deem all Orthodox Jewish education in Antwerp as a form of child abuse. For that Ami was right on target. SOURCE

J'accuse! The unjust persecution of a group of pious Jews, and the unsettling silence of the Jewish community. By Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter | AMI Magazine | April 9, 2104 9 NISSAN 5774. pp. 159-172.

It took me a while to complete the reading of this article because unlike much of what has been written, this writer is not following the usual script, and he is also not circumscribed by the need to produce sound bites for maximum popular effect. Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter has thoughtfully tried to present an alternative view. Some of us who did express our dismay at what was occurring had done so as individual voices without the strength or authority of united numbers. Most of us are not Jewish, so it comes as a relief to me that Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter has joined a small group of Jewish supporters who speak with authority and in a spirit of brotherhood which we have come to expect from all persons who belong to communities of believers. I cannot forget that there was one Canadian, Dave Formosa, who did more than write and who organised a demonstration of public support for the community. I have included articles about his efforts under "Public Support for the Lev Tahor community."

But back to Rabbi Frankfurter's article. It begins with a description of his unpleasant welcome to Canada at the border where border patrol officers appeared to go beyond the call of duty, to say the least, and where he was interviewed and had the data on his iPhone searched. He follows with a brief overview of recent events in Lev Tahor's struggle with quoted inputs by Guidy Mamann, one of the Lev Tahor lawyers. He notes connections between operatives who had worked against other Hasidic communities in the USA - Kiryas Joel and New Square, and who were now involving themselves with Lev Tahor. He comments on his viewing of two lengthy Canadian news reports about Lev Tahor which were produced by 16x9 on Global News and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and his conclusion that they provided no credible evidence to advance the case being made against Lev Tahor, but may have betrayed instead only religious intolerance and persecution.

"Instead of focusing exclusively on the welfare of the children, the show spent most of its time and energy trying to reveal "troubling facts about the past of its leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans."

[My note: I have deliberately given these reports no additional exposure on this blog for the same reasons. There was another documentary produced by Israel's Channel 10 News, over which, if these were laughing times I would have certainly rolled on the floor in amusement. Without much sophistication and at the appropriate moments, sinister background music was introduced to heighten the sense that we were in the presence of pure evil. Even an innocuous sandpiper searching for a meal in a tidal pool would have have been hard pressed to prove its innocence if that music had accompanied his wading. The Israeli blogger who did one good thing and provided the English subtitles ensured that their bias could be more widely understood.]

Rabbi Frankfurter goes on to seek explanations for the factors that led to this situation by exploring the possibility that it is a clash of cultures, of one group's otherness being perceived as a threat to the lifestyle and beliefs of the mainstream. He draws a parallel between this and the tragedy of what happened to the Branch Davidians in 1993 near Waco, Texas and quotes Malcolm Gladwell, who said that "Americans [and maybe also Canadians, the Rabbi wonders] aren't very good at respecting the freedom of others to be so obnoxiously different."

I was particularly interested in his insight into what some of us have only been trying to imagine  - the mood of anxiety and sorrow within the community which his descriptions made palpable:

"I feel like I've landed in a prewar European shtetl where the Jews live in mortal fear of the government. Even the youngest fear that nothing short of being separated from their parents will satisfy the Canadian authorities."

This is what I had wondered about constantly. What effect is this having on the souls within the community? What is this doing to the children who have been taken away?

Rabbi Frankfurter explores the accusation that Lev Tahor is a cult. 

..."the pejorative use of the words "cult" and "cult leader" aginst Lev Tahor and Rav Helbrans has served as a means of dehumanizing this community, so that now the burden of proving their innocence lies upon them. In other words, they are guilty until proven innocent, And who can possible meet that test?"

Included on page 164 on this article is the text of an announcement coming from Rabbonim Dovid Meislish, Yochanan Wosner and Yaakov Elyahu Unsdorfer to the Jewish  [I am assuming, religious] community in Montreal. I had no idea that such a statement had been published last month and I wish that it had been circulated as widely as the news stories. I have taken the time to copy it from the image file since it brought me much comfort. My apologies if I have made any errors.

"We have received word that some in our camp have gone out and raised a hand against the Torah publicly and have committed calumny in the worst possible way, against a group of individuals who have been blessed with large families, directly affecting their welfare, their property and their children. (We cannot elaborate enough with details of the betrayal for they are many.) The details have been broadcast worldwide, both televised and in print media, some which have exposed this in an unprecedented fashion.

"Details of which they have informed on these people include many details of their way of life in accordance with the Holy Torah and G-d's commandments, and on their dedication to the education of their children in the pure ways of the Torah, and adherence to the laws of modesty and holiness of the Jewish Nation. Anyone who hears this shudders from the implications of this story. If we are to silently let this pass, who knows what the results will be? It is not farfetched to deduce that this can put the entire education system of all Jews in this country in jeopardy.

"The informants have caused this community to be uprooted from their homes, to take up their walking sticks and to move to a new, unfamiliar place, while suffering public humiliation and pain. This did not suffice for the hard-hearted slanderers; they continued their crusade and caused infants and young children to be mercilessly torn from their mother's arms and to be placed among gentiles or non-religious families. Still other children sit in fright daily, hoping against hope that their lot will not be the same. The suffering of these unfortunate people, their tears, their cries, reaches up to the heavens; yet on earth there is only silence. Nobody has come to their aid, there has been no outcry, no protest.

"We have spoken to one of the Rabbis who signed against his community and he clearly says that he never allowed them to inform on these people.

"Hence, we who are in close proximity to the victims have concluded that if we have been silent then we have sinned. We cannot stand idly by, lest it be interpreted into our agreement in such despicable behavior. Therefore we are hereby announcing publicly that all these things are prohibited and among the strongest transgressions on the Torah.

"The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat ch. 16) writes explicitly that this is as if one has cursed G-d himself and raised up a hand against the Torah. In ch. 358 it states, "One who informs on a Jew to a gentile, be it against his person or monetarily, he loses his share in the World to Come. The SHa"ch [53] quotes the words of the Talmut [Rosh Hashana 17;a] "Informers descend into Hell, are sentenced for generations and their souls disintegrate."

"We are hereby protesting in the strongest terms against anyone who has a hand in this, whether directly or indirectly; publicly or privately, and anyone who has the ability to repeal or rectify what has already been done must do whatever possible as is stated [ibid, ch. 426;1] "one who can [repeal this] and does not, transgresses the verse of Thou shalt not stand [idly while] your bother's blood [is being spilled]. And one who can protest against transgressors must do so, especially when it comes to such a horrific desecration of G-d's name. The Talmud [Shabbos 54;b] says that one who has the ability to protest his fellow townsfolk and does not, is caught up in their sin (the Talmud expounds this to say that even the righteous Tzaddikim who are pained by the local transgressions but are silent, are also at fault for they should have spoken out against it).

"It is our hope that Hashem will infuse us with a Divine Spirit and the Name of the L-rd will be sanctified through our actions, and may the foundations of the Torah and Israel be strengthened.

4th of Adar 2, 5774
Montreal Quebec
Rabbi Dovid Meislish
Rabbi Yochanan Wosner
Rabbi Yaakov Elyahu Unsdorfer

This has been a review of only some of the material covered in the article. The author also discusses his positive impressions of the Lev Tahor children and their well being, his meeting with Grand Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, the conflicts between some Lev Tahor members and their families outside the community and the betrayal of the community by some in the Jewish community. He resolves to do whatever he can to assist Lev Tahor and urges others to do the same. Do read more here if you seek an alternative opinion.