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I fled an extremist Jewish cult in Guatemala when I was 15 years old.

Mendy Levy was born in 2003 in Canada to parents who were members of Lev Tahor, an extremist Jewish cult founded in the 1980s. Shunned by members of other Jewish groups and facing a kidnapping scandal, its leader Shlomo Helbrans had moved Lev Tahor to Canada in the 1990s. Helbrans then moved the group to Guatemala in 2014, in the wake of child abuse investigations in Quebec.

Levy escaped the group in 2018 and now splits his time between Canada and New York. Shlomo Helbrans drowned in Guatemala in 2017. US authorities arrested his son, Nachman Helbrans, and other Lev Tahor leaders in late 2018 and 2021. They're currently on trial in federal court in New York on kidnapping and fraud charges, to which they've pleaded not guilty. Lawyers for Helbrans and other leaders didn't respond to Insider's requests for comment.



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