Welcome to Chatham-Kent?
By Greg Holden
By now you have heard of the Lev Tahor, their struggles with authorities and how they dress. Other readers may have seen miriamhelbrans.com or many of the written articles on the conviction of their leader, Shlomo Helbrans, for kidnapping in the US. What isn’t in black and white print is the unspoken mistrust of the Lev Tahor in our community. While some people are pleased to express their dislike of the Lev Tahor in online banter, many people leave it unsaid. Our curiosity about them is piqued by their unique fashion, as a community they distinguish themselves as different. The time is ripe to ask, has the welcome expressed to the Lev Tahor to Chatham-Kent made you proud?
The stares in the shopping centres give us away, we are curious about the Lev Tahor. The news that they arrived in town immediately carried a negative tone with the Chatham Daily News identifying them as the Jewish Taliban, fostering a xenophobic atmosphere of misinformation. Sun Media has been taking a blistering series of condemnations for their reporting on the case on social media, aggravated by Jane Sims continued usage of the term Jewish Taliban. The prejudice runs so deep that it is accepted in mainstream media. The Taliban are not listed as a terrorist organization in Canada, however at least one foreign government does list them as a terrorist organization. The fear sprung up everywhere, in seniors centres, coffee shops and online. Reporters showed up on their doorstep by the dozen and with all that coverage many people remain curious. What are they really like? Are they to be compared with terrorists? The Lev Tahor take their religion seriously. That religion causes them to be a people of peace. They maintain a strict way of life to align with their interpretation of the Torah. That interpretation also includes that Jewish people should not have a homeland, a national government, so they are anti-Zionist. This controversial position pits them against the government of Israel and their supporters. It is also part of why they were given refugee status in Canada. The Lev Tahor say that Israel should be populated by arab people and not exist as a country. While this runs against most people’s political perspective, so too does voting NDP. Canada allows for dissenting political views. Our need to know, to pry, into these people’s lives and render that they might be compared to terrorists is how history will record their welcome here. Fleeing Chatham comes to mind.
There are others in Chatham who support the Lev Tahor. “I love them”, one supporter told me. The shame these people feel for the reception the Lev Tahor have had in Chatham-Kent has been muted by an avalanche of fear expressed in online comments for them to leave immediately… and worse. When I moved to Chatham I didn’t have a media horde on my front lawn and if I did they would know what my derriere looked like. The community that is the Lev Tahor in Chatham are a large group, not just one person or family, who sought out this area as a refuge. They have praised the Chatham-Kent police and mayor Hope after speaking with each of them. When no crime has been committed by any of their entire community, while this publication has daily reports of others in the community committing crimes and so long as the Lev Tahor are depicted with negative stereotypes, the question remains; does the welcome that the Lev Tahor have had in Chatham-Kent represent you?