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"When they leave the cult, the ground slips"

How to save people from Lev Tahor? "The people inside the cult do not call us, they are in a state of total blindness" • Interview with the Director of the Center for Cult Victims of Orthodox sect
Yoel Koritz, B'Chadrei Charedim, ה' תמוז תשע"ג 13/06/2013 23:17

מנהיג לב טהור, הרב  שלמה הלברנץ

The escape of Malka Halbernetz, wife of Shlomo Halbernetz, Lev Tahor cult leader, from her home in Canada - as revealed in B'Chadrei Charedim - caused headlines around the world.

After the article appeared, an associate claimed that she temporarily left the community to visit Israel and is currently living in Israel to be with her father, who is not feeling well. But the evidence, some of which were revealed in B'Chadrei Charedim, and some which cannot be published for legal reasons - prove otherwise.

Malka Halbernetz is not the only one who abandoned the sect. So far there were several cases of families or family members, after receiving assistance from external sources left the cult. The Center for Victims of Cults was established seven years ago and so far has handled over 10 center cases of families and individuals who abandoned Lev Tahor.

"These are people who when they leave the cult, the ground slips from under their feet," explains Rachel Lichtenstein, director of the center, in a conversation with B'Chadrei Charedim. "They are also outcast from the cult which they left - and cut off from their past life."

Lichtenstein explains that the sect is conducted on the basis of religious ideology. "People go to the sect because of the ideology that attracts them, because the leader of the sect based on the same ideology.

"People who come out tell on the evidence uncovered in the past and known to the public, and especially the typical controlled and demilitarized behavior by the sect leaders, which includes intrusion into families, cutting off small children and moving them from one family to another, cutting them off from extended families and more."
• How do you save people?

"The people inside the cult did not call us; they are in a state of total blindness. Those who called us are members of their families in Israel or elsewhere, who want to help them."

The procedure of a single person or single family is not easy. "We have no magic dust that removes people from cults, but there is a process that includes strengthening ties with the outside family and if it continues successfully the process finally raises questions about the ideology in which they believed, thus trying to pull them away."

• How does one help the people who abandoned Lev Tahor?
"Family or individual who left such a cult need much emotional and professional support. They have fear because of the great confusion generated. They drag with them fears, their mental state may be suicidal and economic situation is not simple at all. One comes out and has to start life anew. This is a very complex procedure that may take long time."

• Do you work in cooperation with authorities in Canada and Israel?

"Unfortunately, the police in Canada do not understand the severity of the term 'cult'. Rules in the country in important things such as child abuse are very loose. The police have no interest in helping us."
In contrast she praises the Israel Police. "It took them a while to realize the severity of it, but when they carried out an investigation and passed it to Interpol; you could say they did with the things that they the opportunity to do what they should have."

Finally Lichtenstein says: "Cults can be anywhere, it is important that people are aware and know to be careful."

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