Last Updated: Friday, 23 June 2017, 14:43 GMT

Israel: Information on Lev Tohor; its activities; its leaders; its structure; affiliated groups; relation with the group Neturei Karta; relation with the government of Israel

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 26 April 2004
Citation / Document Symbol ISR42499.E
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Israel: Information on Lev Tohor; its activities; its leaders; its structure; affiliated groups; relation with the group Neturei Karta; relation with the government of Israel, 26 April 2004, ISR42499.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/41501c24e.html [accessed 24 June 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Overview of Lev Tohor

Lev Tohor ("Pure Heart" [Rising Sun 26 May 2002]) is a congregation of Hasidic anti-Zionist Jews whose views are expressed on the website called the Jewish Embassy organization, a group without any apparent links to any actual official embassy (Jewish Embassy n.d.a). The goal of the Jewish Embassy is to represent the views of anti-Zionist Hasidic Jews from around the world who dispute the legitimacy of the State of Israel (ibid. n.d.f). The group also purports to promote peace and friendship with the Arab and Muslim world and seeks ideological support from all the nations of the world (ibid.).

According to the Jewish Embassy Website, Lev Tohor was founded in Jerusalem at the end of the 1980's, Lev Tohor claims to have been subjected to vocal opposition from other Orthodox Jewish groups as well as Israeli authorities (Jewish Embassy n.d.c). After facing alleged possible abuses in Israel for their anti-Zionist stance, and then also finding their views on Zionism unwelcome in the United States, the Jewish Embassy Website says that the group decided to relocate to Quebec (ibid. n.d.b).

Since 2000, the Lev Tohor community has been based in St. Agathe des Monts in its newly established neighbourhood of Kiryas Rimnov, where it is under the leadership of Grand Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans (ibid. n.d.b, ibid. n.d.g, ibid. n.d.d). Barnard Campus News describes the followers of Shlomo Helbrans, the leader of Lev Tohor, as "zealous" and "radical Hasids" (7 Dec. 2001). More specific information on Lev Tohor's structure as well as its relationship with Neturei Karta, another anti-Zionist Jewish group with a large presence in New York State (Association for One Democratic State 20 Nov. 2003; Neturei Karta International 2003) and the Israeli government could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Activities

The Jewish Embassy Website says that Shlomo Helbrans' Lev Tohor was inspired by the teachings of Rebbe Joel Teitelbaum (1887-1979) (Jewish Embassy n.d.d), leader of the Satmar Hasidic sect (which equally denies the legitimacy of the State of Israel) (Outlook Magazine n.d.). In Israel, Helbrans published and distributed his first book, Derech Hatzolo, which expressed his group's views on Judaism and Zionism, and delivered lectures throughout the country in promotion of anti-Zionism (Jewish Embassy n.d.d). Following the lectures, the group alleges that several of its members, as well as its synagogue, were attacked (ibid.) and as a result Helbrans fled Israel for the United States in 1990 (Jerusalem Post 14 May 2000), with many of his followers also leaving (Jewish Embassy n.d.d). According to an article in the Barnard Campus News from 7 December 2001, Helbrans' reluctance to return to Israel may have stemmed from possible investigations there into the Rabbi's alleged involvement into kidnappings (see also Jerusalem Post 14 May 2004; Jewish News Weekly 19 May 2000).

In 1994, Helbrans was convicted in the Brooklyn kidnapping of Shai Fhima Reuven (Jerusalem Post 14 May 2000; Jewish News Weekly 19 May 2000; New York Times 1 Apr. 2001; VisaLaw n.d.). Reuven, a secular (New York Times 1 Apr. 2001) Israeli-born bar mitzvah student had allegedly been kidnapped and brainwashed by Helbrans, his yeshiva teacher, who believed that the boy possessed a "special religious 'light'" (Barnard Campus News 7 Dec. 2001). Shai Fhima Reuven resurfaced in 1994 and was seen in France (New York Times 1 Apr. 2001) and elsewhere; he denied that he had been kidnapped or brainwashed (Jerusalem Post 14 May 2000; New York Times 1 Apr. 2001), stating that he was "following the religion, not Helbrans" (ibid.). Nevertheless, Helbrans was jailed for two years and subsequently deported to Israel (ibid.) in May 2000 (Jerusalem Post 14 May 2000; Jewish News Weekly 19 May 2000).

Affiliated Groups

The Jewish Embassy Website states that in 1993, Helbrans established Hisachdus Hayereim (Union of the God-Fearing), an organization that allowed both members and non-members of Lev Tohor to participate in organized anti-Zionist activities (Jewish Embassy n.d.e). The group has also established the office of Derech Hatzolo (The Pathway of Rescue) in Israel in order to promote its ideological platform (Jewish Embassy n.d.f).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Association for One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel. 20 November 2003. "Newsletter." [Accessed 23 Apr. 2004]

Barnard Campus News [New York City]. Barnard College. Columbia University. 7 December 2001. "Barnard Director of Safety and Security Featured in The Zaddik, A New Book About New York Kidnapping Case." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]

The Jerusalem Post. 14 May 2000. "Rabbi Convicted of Kidnapping Deported to Israel." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]

Jewish Embassy Website. n.d.a. "Welcome." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]

_____. n.d.b. "Rimnov: Living Together with One Purpose - Keeping the Torah." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]

_____. n.d.c. "Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans: A Man of Faith, Conviction and Community." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]

_____. n.d.d. "A Short History of Our Anti-Zionist Opposition." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]

_____. n.d.e. "Beyond Dissention: Consecration." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]

_____. n.d.f. "Jewish Embassy." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]

_____. n.d.g. "Contact." [Accessed 19 Apr. 2004]

The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California [San Francisco]. 19 May 2000. "Rabbi Deported Over Kidnapping." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]

Neturei Karta International Website. 2003. "What is the Neturei Karta?" [Accessed 23 Apr. 2004]

The New York Times. 1 April 2001. Joseph P. Fried. "Following Up: Overcoming Tug of War of His Family and Rabbi." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]

Outlook Magazine [Vancouver]. n.d. Michael Benazon. "Dissent in the North American Jewish Community." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]

Rising Sun [France, in French]. 26 May 2002. Message 4377/5506. "Juifs et Palestine." (Yahoo! Groupes France) [Accessed 23 Apr. 2004]

Visalaw.Com - The Immigration Law Portal. n.d. "Rabbi's Deportation Angers Many." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Attempts made to contact several professors specializing in the sociology of religion at Bar Ilan University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv University were unsuccessful

Internet Sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Haaretz, Human Rights Watch (HRW), US Department of State, World News Connections (WNC)

Publications: Jewish Sects, Religious Movements and Political Parties

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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