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Expulsion order carried out for group of Hasidic Jews in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts

Most of the young, Hasidic Jewish men who were court-ordered out of homes they were renting in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains had left as of Thursday night, said the town’s mayor.

Denis Chalifoux of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts said he had little choice but to obtain a court injunction ordering the roughly 50 young men from the homes after consecutive summers of complaints by residents claiming they were making noise late into the night.

“They sing songs and play drums — it’s a party,” Chalifoux said in an interview. “And it’s already two summers that it’s happening.”

“They don’t respect the rules.”

He said the court order stipulated the young men had until Thursday at 5 p.m. to leave.

The group was renting a couple of homes belonging to members of a Hasidic sect called Lev Tahor, said Alex Werzberger, a member of a Hasidic community in Montreal whose grandson works in Sainte-Agathe.

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Members of Lev Tahor had become the subject of a youth-protection investigation in Quebec over allegations of neglect and child abuse before the community fled to Chatham, Ont., in 2013. The sect, totalling about 200 members, left shortly before some of them were due to appear in front of a Quebec judge for a hearing to ensure child welfare officials had regular access to their children.

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Werzberger said the Lev Tahor-owned homes were rented and being used as a dormitory and as a private, all-boys school for the summer.

The boys — from different parts of Canada and the U.S.– may have been a little “rambunctious,” Werzberger said, but he added he doesn’t believe they made enough noise to warrant an expulsion order.

“Boys will be boys,” he said.

Chalifoux said the Lev Tahor sect left behind about 20 buildings in the community when it moved to Ontario in 2013. Some of the homes were sold by the city to recoup back-taxes, while others were seized by financial institutions.

A small number of the homes were still owned by members of the sect — two of which were being used by the newer residents in violation of zoning regulations, Chalifoux explained.

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Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts and several villages in the Laurentians are home to various Jewish communities, some of whom have been the victims of hate crimes over the years.

In 2012, vandals broke into about 15 of 50 homes owned by Jewish people in the neighbouring town of Val-Morin. The vandals damaged houses and spray-painted swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti on the Jewish-owned properties.

“I know that a member of the community has accused the city of anti-Semitism but that’s absolutely not true,” said Chalifoux.

“The Jewish community has been in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts for 100 years.”

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In general, relations are friendly between the region’s Jewish communities and non-Jewish residents, Chalifoux said.

The mayor said most of the young men had already left as of Thursday afternoon, and a city employee would pass by Friday morning to make sure the court order had been respected.

Watch 16X9’s full one-hour special on Lev Tahor