Friday, July 14, 2017

Drowning of Lev Tahor leader raises fears over ultra-Orthodox sect’s future | National Post

To the roughly 200 Lev Tahor adherents who followed their charismatic rabbi from country to country, Shlomo Helbrans knew the path to eternal truth. To his numerous detractors, he was a dangerous charlatan who deserved to be locked up.

Now, after Helbrans drowned last week in Mexico at age 55, the future of the cult-like group has been cast into doubt, and a path that has jumped from Israel to the United States, Canada, Guatemala and Mexico looks less clear than ever.

“There is now a power vacuum,” said Marci Hamilton, a professor of religion at the University of Pennsylvania who has been watching the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect for about a decade.

She said it would be hard for anyone to replace Helbrans, particularly when his death was so sudden. “The attachment to a charismatic leader in a very isolated group that engages in illegal practices is so strong,” she said.

Drowning of Lev Tahor leader raises fears over ultra-Orthodox sect’s future | National Post

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