Jewish Chronicle, 28.11.2012

Beth Alexander online campaign launches

A young British Jewish mother fighting for custody of her children in Vienna has launched a web campaign to raise awareness of her situation.

Beth Alexander, a Cambridge University graduate from Manchester, married her Austrian husband Dr Michael Schlesinger in 2006.

The couple had twin boys, but following a bitter separation, in which she struggled to gain a “get” – a religious divorce – she lost custody of the three-year-old boys. According to Ms Alexander, there have been claims that she is suffering from mental illness. But a court commissioned medical report found earlier this month that at no time had she suffered from any form of mental illness.

As part of the effort to push the Austrian courts to restore full contact with her sons Benjamin and Samuel, a YouTube video has been posted entitled “Save the Schlesinger Twins in Vienna”.

The video accuses the Austrian justice system of turning “two innocent children’s lives… upside down”.

A website has also been created to draw attention to the case and provide updates.

“There are many people – all over the world – that feel very passionately about correcting this and are doing all they can to try to help the twins,” said Ms Alexander. “I receive so many messages of support each day.”

972 hits on YouTube in less than 24 hours

THANK YOU!

Thank you to every single person for all your support. The video has had 972 hits in less than 24 hours! I’m overwhelmed by the amount of support Samuel and Benjamin have and how many people deeply care.  So many people have asked how they can help. We are working on finding ways to mobilise this incredible amount of support into powerful action. Will keep you posted. In the meantime, please keep dear Sammy & Benji in your thoughts and prayers. x

Response from Schlesinger’s Lawyer Following Custody Decision

Response from Schlesinger’s lawyer in response to my urgent request to see the children after they were taken:

“After this traumatic experience, the children now need calm above all and must not be re-exposed to stressful situations. Therefore, any contact (with the mother) in the next 14 days is inconceivable…..her and her parents must first learn to accept the new situation.

Following the adjustment phase of the children, (visits) will depend on the state of the children and the behaviour of your client.

However, only fully supervised visits in a visiting centre are conceivable in the coming months.”

Email, Marina Breitenecker, Wedenesday 27 July 2011, 6pm

Von: Marina Breitenecker
Gesendet: Mittwoch, 27. Juli 2011 18:00
An: ‘Mag. Irene Oberschlick’
Betreff: AW: Schlesinger

Die Kinder brauchen jetzt nach diesen dramatischen Erlebnis vorrangig Ruhe und dürfen nicht erneut belastenden Situationen ausgesetzt werden, sodass ein Besuchskontakt in den nächsten 14 Tagen nicht denkbar ist.

….sie und ihre Eltern erst lernen müssen die Situation zu akzeptieren.

….Wie es nach einer ersten Ruhephase weiter geht hängt maßgebend vom
Zustand der Kinder und vom Verhalten Ihrer Klientin ab.

Jedenfalls ist nur ein begleiteter Kontakt beim Wr. Famileinbund in
der nächsten Zeit denkbar…

 

Article in “Heute” Austrian newspaper 26.11.2012

http://www.heute.at/news/oesterreich/wien/art23652,828518

JUDICIAL SCANDAL: VIENNESE COURT TAKES CHILDREN AWAY FROM MOTHER!

It is the nightmare of every mother. Beth S. (28) is feeding her twins, Samuel and Benjamin (three and a half years old), as the doorbell rings. Four police officers enter the home and take her children away! Reason: A court in a custody battle granted the father sole custody on the basis of a dubious report.

The sad story: Since January 2010, Beth has lived apart from her husband and the father of the children; the battle for custody of her sons landed in court. The children’s father, a trainee doctor, repeatedly alleged his wife was “mentally ill” and even tried to commit her to a mental hospital. In response, the court commissioned a psychological examination. The result: the mother had “reduced child raising capabilities.”

And so, a judge in the second district court of Vienna ruled against Beth and ordered her children to be taken away. But the dubious report, on which the judge’s ruling was based, is a scandal: Two new reports (of which this newspaper has copies) have proven that Beth is not mentally ill in any way. On the contrary, these psychologists have challenged the first psychologist report: The mother has never had any history of mental illness. The first psychologist report is unreliable and illogical.

The mother, a Cambridge graduate, is fighting for her children. “My husband was violent during the marriage,” she says. “I had to flee to a women’s refuge. He now has the kids and they are in a terrible condition. “It breaks my heart.” The father declined to comment.

 

Isabella Martens

Please sign this PETITION and urge others to sign.

 

 

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

We’ve launched this website on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women as it seems befitting. On this site you can follow developments of the case and read updates of Samuel & Benjamin’s welfare.

Thanks for your support

RETURN SAMUEL & BENJAMIN TO THEIR MOTHER

BEFORE

AFTER

The current situation:

The father has temporary custody pending further investigation

On 25th July 2011, my twins Samuel and Benjamin Schlesinger were just 2 years, 2 months old when they were removed from my care. The custody decision was a scandalous document and offered no real justification for such an outrageous decision. The judge, Susanne Gottlicher, awarded the father full and immediate custody, without allowing the children to stay with me until an appeal decision was reached.

No Austrian lawyer of the many I have consulted has ever read such an outrageous legal document. Children are only removed so suddenly if they are considered to be in imminent danger. The judge did not cite any danger as grounds for her decision. I was not awarded any visitation rights. The judge left it up to the father to decide when and how often I could see my boys. It was 8 weeks before I saw them again.

My lawyer wrote a 30 page appeal listing all the irregularities in the case and evidence of professional misconduct. The Higher court reduced the father’s custody to temporary and referred the case back to the lower court for further investigation. They gave the judge the following instructions:

a) to confirm whether the mother was suffering from any form of mental illness

b) to assess whether the father was as was tolerant and cooperative in granting the mother access as he promised to be (when asked how he envisaged having custody, he said he would grant me a 50-50 split, would allow me to take the children on holiday to England and see them whenever I wanted)

c) to see whether the children develop better under his care.

Since then……

a) The judge in January commissioned a second psychiatric assessment. He assessed me in August and it has taken until now for him to publish his results. The psychiatrist concluded, ‘neither at the time of the examination nor at any time in the past has Beth Rebecca Schlesinger suffered from any form of mental illness.’ Dr Werner Leixnering, senior psychiatrist and psychotherapist.

b) the father regularly cancels my visits at the last minute. Recently, he denied me access for 7 weeks! He has employed 2 Filipinos to ‘care’ for the children. The court has no idea who these women are or what their qualifications are.

c) the children are in a terrible state. They are 3.5 years old. They don’t talk, are still in nappies and are extremely disturbed and confused. In April the father had Sammy’s 4 front teeth taken out.

We are now awaiting a final decision. The situation is critical and desperate. Samuel and Benjamin have suffered long enough.

 

London Jewish News, 16.11.2012

 

JewishNewsReadableFull online newspaper (see page 3)

Wembley demo for custody battle mum

DOZENS of community members demonstrated outside Wembley shul last weekend in support of a Jewish mother who is battling an Austrian court ruling that grants her only limited access to her three-year old twin sons.

Manchester-born Beth Schlesinger moved to Vienna six years ago after marrying Austrian doctor Michael Schlesinger but the couple divorced in 2011, after which judges ruled she could see her boys for only six hours a week and every other Sunday. The custody decision came in the wake of a report, which she insists was “flawed”, alleging her to be mentally ill.

Nearly 50 protesters with placards supporting the mother targeted the shul last Sunday in order to raise awareness of the case among guests at a concert featuring Vienna-based Chief Cantor Shmuel Barzilai. The event was selected because of the expected presence of the Austrian Ambassador, but he didn’t appear.

Her brother, Adrian Alexander, who helped organise the demonstration, said: “This was our first demo, where we could gauge the mood of the public. There was a strong voice from the crowd.

“We now want to organise much bigger protest in the next few Weeks with a bigger impact, at a venue that will catch the eye of Austrian diplomats.”

Speaking to the Jewish News from Vienna, the mother said: “The demonstration really strengthened my resolve. I was really touched. It has made me even more determined to get my children back.”

Her supporters include former head of London Beth Din Dayan Ehrentreu and Vienna’s Chief Rabbi, as well as 7,000 members of a Facebook group set up to highlight her plight.

She was also buoyed by the conclusions of the latest court commissioned psychiatric assessment, submitted this week.

In the 17-page document, senior psychiatrist Dr Werner Leixnering states: “Neither at the time of the examination nor at any point in the past, has [she] suffered from any form of mental illness.”

“It’s momentous,” said the British-born mum. “It shows the original report was flawed, and the basis for the original custody decision unsubstantiated.”

The next court hearing is due to take place on 26 November.

Dr Schlesinger could not be reached for comment.

 

 

Jewish Chronicle, 15.11.2012

Demonstrators support Beth Alexander

“AUSTRIAN JUSTICE STINKS” read one of the placards held by a 40-strong group of protesters outside Wembley Synagogue on Sunday night.

The demonstrators were friends and family of Beth Alexander, an Orthodox Jewish woman from Manchester who lives in Vienna. A Cambridge graduate, Ms Alexander has lost custody of her three-year-old twins in the Austrian courts to her estranged husband Michael Schlesinger, who, she says, claims she is “mentally ill”.

Ms Alexander currently has only minimal contact with her sons Benjamin and Samuel and is unhappy about their development.

Mr Schlesinger was not available for comment.

Sunday’s protest was held outside a concert given by Vienna’s chief cantor Shmuel Barzilai. It was staged to help raise awareness of Ms Alexander’s case in the Austrian Jewish community.

Her supporters believe that if the rabbinate in Vienna put enough pressure on Mr Schlesinger, who was described by Ms Alexander’s brother Adrian as part of “a very powerful Austrian Jewish family”, he will return the children to their mother.

“We believe the Jewish community could be doing more,” Mr Alexander said. Another brother, Graham Alexander, said: “We’re very touched so many came from so far [to take part in the protest}. We just hope Cantor Barzilai will take the message back with him.”

Speaking before the event, Mr Barzilai said: “If someone from [the official Austrian community] was there I would understand, but it’s just me. I am only the cantor. I am very sorry about what happened, but I am just the cantor.”

Ms Alexander, who cannot leave Austria because she wants to maintain contact with her children, said: “This public display of support has made me more determined than ever to continue the campaign for justice for my little boys.”

Galus Australis, 25.10.2012

http://galusaustralis.com/2012/10/6478/injustice-in-vienna/

Can you imagine how a young a mother would feel to have her only two children ripped away from her by the police and handed into the “care” of her ex-husband? Can you envisage her innocent children, twin boys then aged only two, trying make sense of what is going on, calling for their mother day and night with no one to listen to their piercing cries?

You may be forgiven for thinking I would be talking about a developing country or war torn nation, but you would be wrong. The horrific scandal of the Schlesinger twins is happening right now in 2012 in Vienna, Austria, an accepted EU country trying to “supposedly” break away from its past atrocities.

You might be forgiven for thinking that local rabbis would intervene and help where they can. Once again, you would be wrong. A local Chabad rabbi has been continuously acting in favour of the father having sole custody of the children and being an obstacle in the visitation rights of the mother to see her children – how does that seem justified?

Beth Alexander, a young girl originally from Manchester, England, moved to Vienna in 2006 when she married an Austrian Jewish trainee doctor. Following the collapse of the marriage, Beth lost custody of their then two-year-old twins following some very dubious decisions by the judge. Many dayanim and rabbanim in the UK and around the world are quite rightly abhorred at what is taking place in Vienna and are working around the clock to save these children who are currently not in a very good state at all.

How can one sit back and watch these children lose the ability to live their lives to the full? Shouldn’t three-year-old boys be running around enjoying themselves?

If you feel as strongly about it as I do – an educator working with this age group daily – then please don’t be an “armchair” supporter! Speak to your local rabbi and inform him of this dire situation. Maybe he has contacts or is just willing to be vocal and speak out against this atrocity. We don’t want to be sitting here in a year’s time saying we knew about this horrific story but didn’t do anything about it. Think how it must feel not being able to give your child a simple kiss when you wave them off to school each day.

When you put your children to bed tonight just spare a thought for Beth who would love to have the opportunity to even read her boys a story and kiss them good night.

The situation is serious and critical which is why we request you all to sign this petition.

Kayla (full name suppplied),
London, England.