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Rally planned in support of Lev Tahor

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Some of the children in Lev Tahor [Paul Lungen photo]

A man in Chatham, Ont. will be organizing a rally later this month in support of the controversial ultra-Orthodox Lev Tahor sect.

According to the Chatham Daily News, Chatham resident Dave Formosa, the founder of a local human rights Facebook group, is planning a Feb. 25 “community peace rally” near the Chatham-Kent Courthouse in support of Lev Tahor, which he feels is being unfairly maligned.

Formosa, who is not Jewish and is using Facebook to publicize the event, said the Feb. 25 date was chosen because that’s the date Lev Tahor members will be at the courthouse to file their appeal of an Ontario court ruling earlier this month that upheld an earlier Quebec court order to send 13 children from the group back to Quebec to be placed in foster care.

He said he met with members of the sect to ask about how they would feel about a rally and said they approved.

“Basically, all we’re trying to do right now is get people to understand that they [Lev Tahor] are people just like anyone else,” Formosa told the paper.

The group’s original lawyer had said the appeal of the Ontario court ruling would come last week, but as of last Friday at The CJN’s deadline, the appeal had not been filed, Lev Tahor spokesperson Uriel Goldman said.

He also said the group has been instructed by its new attorney, St. Thomas, Ont., family lawyer Julie Lee, who will be handling the appeal, not to speak to the media any more about the group’s case.

Goldman added that Lee will also be handling the group’s dealings with Chatham-Kent Children’s Services, including setting up meetings.

Child welfare authorities in Chatham-Kent had been closely monitoring Lev Tahor with near-daily visits since the group’s arrival in the area. The last visit was late last month, and the group told The CJN it’s no longer co-operating with them, because its contends the visits were intrusive, repetitive, and didn’t turn up evidence of abuse or neglect.

Meanwhile, details of a Sureté du Québec investigation of the controversial Lev Tahor sect were expected to be released Feb. 14, much of it purportedly containing testimony by Adam Brudzewsky, who spent two years living with them.

Brudzewsky is being described by supporters as a whistleblower and by detractors as mentally unstable, the Toronto Star reported.

The Danish-born Brudzewsky, who is in his late 20s, reportedly testified at a Quebec youth protection hearing last November in Ste-Jerome that he had undergone an arranged marriage with a 15-year-old girl and personally witnessed mistreatment of Lev Tahor children, who were living in Ste-Agathe until last Nov. 17, when some 200 members of the group moved en masse to Chatham, Ont.

The court documents reportedly contain Brudzewsky’s allegations of physical abuse, underage marriages and limited education of the children.

However, according to the Star story, Harold Boss, grandfather of Brudzewsky’s wife, Leah, said Brudzewsky has shown signs of psychological problems – including a past suicide attempt – and that his testimony should be fully investigated before being accepted as true.

Brudzewsky and his wife left Lev Tahor in 2011 and went to his native Denmark. They later settled in Monroe, N.Y., to live with her family.

According to the Star, 10 prominent haredi rabbis met Jan. 7 in Montreal to discuss how the children would be housed with religiously observant, Yiddish-speaking foster families, but they also issued an edict forbidding their followers from helping Lev Tahor financially.

Montreal Satmar Grand Rabbi Dovid Meisels is quoted as describing Brudzewsky as “a real liar.”

Brudzewsky told the Star he stands by his allegations against Lev Tahor, saying, “I challenge anyone to catch me in any lie whatsoever.”

 

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