Friday, November 16, 2018

Lev Tahor Revisited - and Mishpacha’s Cover

This week's Mishpacha Cover
That such a cult exists is beyond belief.  And yet it does. Lev Tahor is a cult founded by a human piece of garbage named Shlomo Helbrans. Fortunately he drowned in 2017 and is no longer able to abuse his adherents with his brand of ‘religious’ torture disguised as piety. Unfortunately, however, his son, Nachman, has taken over leadership. So nothing has changed. If anything, things have gotten even worse under his ‘leadership’

If anyone want to know what Lev Tahor is like these days, YWN has an extended feature on them based on a new Mishpacha article.  I had written about them before back in 2014 and do not wish to regurgitate all the gory details of that story. I will, however, cite a couple of excerpts from YWN demonstrating Lev Tahor’s abuse: 
Rebbitzen Sara Feige Teller, a sister of current Lev Tahor leader, Nachman Helbrans… was placed in Cherem, reportedly after she voiced opposition to several new Takkanos imposed by the cult’s leadership that she felt differed from the Mesorah of her father, Shlomo Helbrans. She also had voiced opposition to a forced marriage of her eldest daughter, 13, to a 17-year-old son of cult leader Mayer Rosner. Several of her children were taken away and placed in other homes, and she was forced to work as a cleaning lady in the home of Mayer Rosner…
In the Mishpacha article, it is revealed that the brainwashed 10-year-old girl was shouting “Mommy is a Rasha” as her mother dragged her from the family’s hut to a waiting vehicle. It is also revealed that her 2 sons had fought to free themselves from their rescuer’s grasps, thus thwarting the mission to free themselves and another sister.
Rebbiten Teller and her 3 daughter arrived safely in New York last week.            
I doubt there is a Jew anywhere in the world - or anyone calling themselves human - that feels anything but absolute disgust for this cult. No matter what their denomination; no matter what their Haskfafa. In my view a life sentence in a maximum security prison would not be enough punishment for the leaders of this cult. And it’s current adherents will need deprogramming and probably a lifetime of therapy.

My strong condemnation of this cult is therefore superfluous. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that a lot of Lev Tahor’s ideology and ‘piety’ is really nothing more than taking right wing ideas (such as notions of modesty in women’s clothing) to their most absurd and destructive extremes. Something to think about for those that seek ever more stringencies and extremes of  religious observance.

I do want to focus on the Mishpacha Magazine's cover that features a picture of some Lev Tahor women.

You read that correctly. For the first time Mishpacha has published an undistorted picture of a woman. That might be seen as progress. For what seems like the longest time Mishpacha and other Charedi publications like it have refused to publish any pictures of women. No matter how modestly they were dressed. They have in my view – been justly accused of catering to the extremes of Orthodoxy – and thereby contributing to the erasure of women from the public square.

That type of censorship has caught on in other publications. In one rather egregious instance of that. a very clever publication called ‘A Yiddishe Kop’ (A Jewish brain) actually features an illustration of a a father was making Kiddush at a Shabbos  table without out his wife (and the mother of the male children seated there) in it! Unless  there is God forbid a death or divorce - is there any Shabbos table that does not include a wife and mother?

Picture courtesy of Kleinman Holocaust Education Center
That was quickly becoming the ‘new normal’ of right wing Orthodoxy. A normal that do did not exist at all in Charedi circles except in some Chasidic enclaves. Not even on pre Holocaust Europe as the accompanying picture of Beis Yaakov high school students from the 30s will attest to. That was the old Charedi normal. The new Charedi normal is the sweeping tide of a ‘Female free zone’.

But has the tide really been stopped by Mishpacha’s picture? Not in my book. Not even slightly. Pictures of women wearing Burkas is not a picture of anything remotely resembling a woman. They are pictures of tents. Who knows what’s under those tents? The could be men for all we know. So no! ...I will not give credit to Mishpacha at all for this – as others have.  Not until Mishpacha publishes at least a head shot of some of their female contributors like Alex Fleksher - as they do with their male contributors like Jonathan Rosenblum. If that happens it will be a step in the right direction for which I will be first in line to applaud. Until then, nothing has really changed.