(JTA) — Two young teens who were kidnapped on a Shabbat morning after previously being rescued from a Jewish religious cult in Guatemala were found in Mexico more than three weeks after their disappearance.
The children, a 14-year-old girl and her 12-year-old brother, who were members of the Lev Tahor sect, were last seen getting into a car early on Saturday morning, Dec. 8, near a resort in the Catskills, where they were attending a therapeutic event with others who had escaped the cult.
The children were located in and recovered from Mexico in an operation that involved the FBI, Interpol, the U.S. State Department and Mexican Police, according to the Yeshiva World News website on Sunday.
The children, Yante Teller, 14, and brother Chaim Teller,12, are expected to be reunited with their mother who is the sister of one of the cult leaders, next week.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey told reporters that the children were found Friday morning in the Mexican town of Tenango del Aire.
Lev Tahor, which was based initially in Canada, practices an extreme form of Orthodox Judaism. Its some 230 members fled to Guatemala claiming persecution by Canadian authorities that accused the sect of child abuse and neglect. Arranged marriages between teenagers and older cult members are reported to be common.
The group shuns technology and its female members wear black robes from head to toe, leaving only their faces exposed. It also rejects the State of Israel, saying the Jewish nation can only be restored by God, not humankind.