Leader of the notorious Lev Tahor cult- Nachman Helbrans, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment on Thursday for six convictions including child sexual exploitation and kidnapping.
The US federal court sentenced Helbrans- leader of the extremist Jewish Lev Tahor cult to 12 years imprisonment after he was convicted of the crimes by the federal Southern District of New York court in November and had faced a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison. Another defendant in the case, Mayer Rosner, received the same punishment.
During the hearing, the prosecution asked Judge Nelson S. Roman for a harsh sentence, saying Helbrans both set the policy of illegal child marriages in Lev Tahor and carried out the kidnapping himself by taking the children from their mother’s home, disguising them, and deceiving transportation authorities.
Helbrans has instead accused authorities of antisemitic persecution and continued to “malign” the victims, he said. The mother of the children who were kidnapped, Helbrans’s sister, pleaded for leniency. She said Helbrans’s “mental stability” had declined after their father died in 2017, and he took command of Lev Tahor.
After his father died, “Something in Nachman changed. His face and his eyes changed. His face became white and he became gaunt and hunched over,” she said. He began obsessively praying and became “irrational and distant,” and believed God was punishing the community, especially after another relative died of an allergic reaction, she said.
When allowed to speak, Helbrans quoted from the Talmud he brought and likened his prosecution to “harsh decrees” by the Roman empire against Jews. He held up the history book he brought in from the jail library, comparing himself to a photo of a Jewish child in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.
He said he had asked his wife and children to mark the day of his sentencing, and “to make a celebration, a kiddush [blessing], and to keep this day a holiday. I have an opportunity to be persecuted and punished only because I’m a loyal Jew,” he said. “Thank God for that.”
In addition to his 12-year sentence, Helbrans will be on probation for five years after his release and will need to register as a sex offender. He has already been in custody since December 2018, a time that will count toward his overall prison term.