When the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect called "Lev Tahor" fled Quebec for Ontario in November 2013 it set off a firestorm of debate. The group says it left because of a conflict over religious beliefs and education rights, but child protection workers allege something more sinister is at play. The children are being abused and neglected. The controversy since then has only grown and so the 16x9 crew decided to travel to Lev Tahor's new community in Ontario where they were granted unprecedented access.
What Tahor was leaving behind in Quebec was more than empty houses. They were moving away from disturbing allegations that they were abusing and neglecting their children and living under extreme control at the hands of their grand rabbi, a convicted felon, Shlomo Helbrans.
Child protection workers started investigating and were taking two families to court, but on Monday morning when they arrived for their final meeting they've found the community all but abandoned. Every family with children under 18 had fled. In court on Tuesday a judge ruled the children in those two families should be placed in immediate foster care, but by that point they were gone.
The leaders of this community denied the allegations of abuse and neglect. They say they left because of a conflict over education. To understand Lev Tahor one must first understand that religion is the underpinning of everything there. It dictates the way people dress, eat, work... Yes, people will admit, life there is strict but to them this is the purest form of Judaism practiced to the letter of the Torah.
Teaching that religion begins almost immediately; boys begin school at three years old learning the Yiddish alphabet. At this age there's still time to play but within two years they'll start learning Genesis. By their teenage years class begins at 7:30 in the morning, it continues until 9:30 at night. The day is spent poring over scripture and memorizing the Jewish laws. In Quebec such a curriculum wouldn't be allowed, but in Ontario private schools operate independent of the government.
Latest news: Some members of Lev Tahor apparently fled Canada.