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Two children from Canadian Jewish sect taken into protective custody

TORONTO (JTA) — Child-protection authorities in Ontario have taken two children into protective custody from the reclusive Jewish sect Lev Tahor.

A lawyer for the group told The Toronto Star on Monday that officials with the Chatham-Kent Children’s Services in southwest Ontario seized the two children from one family on Dec. 12.

The circumstances surrounding the seizure are not known, but the Star quoted a source as saying that the children taken into custody are not connected to a Quebec court ruling last month that ordered 14 children from Lev Tahor into foster care.

A second source told the newspaper that the children are a brother and sister about 3 or 4 years old.

The original ruling from Quebec targeted children from two Lev Tahor families ranging in age from 2 months to 16 years.

About 40 families from the extremist haredi Orthodox Jewish group fled from north of Montreal to Chatham, about 200 miles southwest of Toronto, on Nov. 18, a few days before the Quebec ruling was handed down.

On Dec. 4, Ontario child-welfare authorities sought a warrant to seize all the children. An Ontario justice of the peace denied the request; an appeal of that decision will be heard on Dec. 23.

Quebec authorities have documented what they say is evidence of neglect, psychological abuse, poor dental and physical health, and an education regime run by the community that falls below provincial standards, according to The Star.

The sect, led by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, reportedly uses extreme violence and mind control. Most of its members are Israeli-born with children born in Canada.

Originally an Israeli citizen, Helbrans went to the United States, where he was convicted in 1994 for kidnapping and served a two-year prison term before being deported to Israel in 2000. He then settled in Canada.

An Israeli parliamentary hearing last month documented cases of physical abuse and said the sect is a dangerous cult.

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