Ontario Court: No Pesach Visit for 'Jewish Taliban' Kids

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Lev Tahor members at Ben Gurion International Airport in 2011. They are known as the 'Jewish Taliban' for their dress and extremist views.Credit: Shaul Boyer

Two children who grew up in the fringe ultra-Orthodox Lev Tahor sect and have been placed in foster care over allegations of abuse were denied a request to spend Passover with members of the community in Canada, the Toronto Star reported this week.

The request was denied by an Ontario Court of Justice judge who cited a concern over flight risk, the Star reported.

Lev Tahor, sometimes referred to as the "Jewish Taliban" because all women and girls in the community wear long black robes resembling burkas and cover their heads with black scarves from the age of 3, is appealing an Ontario court ruling that upheld an order from adjacent Quebec to place 14 children in foster care.

The family of Lev Tahor community leader Mayer Rosner was willing to host the children for three days over Passover and return them to foster care if so ordered, the Star quoted William Sullivan, the lawyer representing the children, as saying.
But Canada's Chatham-Kent Children's Services said Rosner was involved in the flight of families from Canada that prompted an emergency order on March 5, the Star said.

"The long and short of it is that it's much more complicated than the girls spending a few days in the community," the paper quoted children's services lawyer Loree Hodgson-Harris as saying.

Last month, 14 children and several adults from Lev Tahor fled Canada ahead of an appeal of an Ontario court order mandating that the children be placed in the care of children’s aid in Quebec. Eight children have been placed in foster care with Jewish families in Toronto. Six children are in Guatemala with their parents.
In addition, three sect members with Israeli citizenship are in custody until they can be deported back to Israel.

The Ontario court ruled that although the children would not be returned to the community, their parents would be allowed eight hours per week of supervised visits, the Star said, adding that Chatham-Kent Children's Services agreed to pay part of the cost for the parents to travel to Toronto to see their children.

Child welfare officials said they had evidence of abuse, squalid living conditions, underage marriages and substandard education. Lev Tahor members deny the allegations, saying they are being persecuted for their strict religious beliefs.

JTA contributed to this report.

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