Life in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Lev Tahor is supposed to be simple: the rules for dress, diet, schooling, marriage and worship are clearly defined and closely followed. But last November, in the middle of the night, about 200 members of the sect fled their homes in Quebec to start a new community in Chatham, Ontario, amid allegations of child neglect. Now the sect is fighting to keep more than a dozen children that a Quebec court ordered removed from their families. Recently released search warrants show Quebec provincial police have been investigating allegations of unlawful confinement and physical abuse of children within the sect, as well as marriage of underage girls to much older men.
Their ongoing legal battles are raising an old dilemma: when does a group’s right to religious freedom get trumped by society’s obligation to protect children? It’s also prompted a lot of questions about life inside the secluded community - and the past of its charismatic leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans. The fifth estate’s team travelled from New York to Israel to investigate his murky history, and host Gillian Findlay spoke to people with an intimate knowledge of his past. With unprecedented access to the community in Chatham, including first-hand footage of a police raid there and an extensive interview with Helbrans, ‘Rabbi of the Pure Hearts: Inside Lev Tahor’ reveals the challenges of life in the Jewish sect.
A joint investigation with Radio Canada's Enquete program