Algemeiner 22.05.2014

U.K. Chief Rabbi Assails Austrian Courts Over Schlesinger Twins Case

Read the article online here: http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/05/22/u-k-chief-rabbi-assails-austrian-courts-over-schlessinger-twins-case/

http://www.algemeiner.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Beth.jpg

Beth Schlesinger and her children. Photo: Helpbeth.org.

Commonwealth Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis on Tuesday criticized Austrian Courts for their “unusual decision” to deny a British-Jewish woman custody of her twin sons.

Beth Schlesinger (nee Alexander) lost sole guardianship of her 4-year-old twin boys Samuel and Benjamin in July 2011, and her appeal to Austria’s Supreme Court was rejected in January with a one-word response that read “refused.”

A judge in an Austrian family court granted Dr. Michael Schlesinger, the father of the twins and Beth’s ex-husband, full custody despite local social services recommendations to the contrary, The Jerusalem Post reported. The judge’s decision went against a previous ruling of an appeals court that denied Michael’s appeal against an earlier custody award to Beth.

The couple married in October 2006 and when they separated in 2009, both parents applied for sole custody of their children.

In a letter seen by The Algemeiner Mirvis said the latest court ruling, which limited Beth’s visiting rights, has been hard for the mother of two and that he is concerned about the children’s well-being.

“The court’s unusual decision to deprive a mother of the right to raise her children, coupled with the limited access that she has to her children, which is sometimes denied to her, has placed a significant restraint on Mrs. Schlesinger,” Mirvis wrote. “More significantly, I am concerned about reports that suggest that the twins’ growth and development are suffering, while the mother is not included in any way in matters relating to her children’s health, welfare and education.”

“I would ask that all concerned should address the best interests of the children and consider ways to build a better future for the boys,” he added.

Before announcing its decision, the family court heard evidence from police, paramedics and a police psychiatrist who confirmed that Beth is mentally stable, the Jerusalem Post reported. However, the judge relied on a court psychologist’s report that said the Jewish mother was mentally ill, although the assessment was later refuted by another court psychiatrist who said Beth never suffered from mental illness.

Beth’s family has campaigned on her behalf for custody of her sons to be returned, and she has received the support of British parliament members as well as the British Board of Deputies and the Manchester Beis Din. A website for the “Help Beth and Her Boys” campaign says it aims to “save 2 innocent children whose lives have been turned upside down by a scandalous and unjust Austrian court ruling.”

After the final court ruling the British Members of Parliament attacked the Austrian justice system and the rulings made by various judges including Judge Susanne Göttlicher, who awarded custody to the father. MPs called the case a “miscarriage of justice” while one claimed that “corruption” was the main factor behind the judge’s decisions, the Jerusalem Post noted.

 

Sunday Telegraph 04.05.2014

Beth Schlesinger: ‘I still hope that a miracle will bring my boys home’

You can read the article online here

A British mother of twins is suffering in Vienna what an MP calls ‘one of the worst miscarriages of justice’

Inside a first-floor flat in central Vienna, a mother is reading her twin boys a story. Snuggled together in their bedroom, the four-year-olds, skin still pink from a hot bath, cling to the woman as she points at pictures and puts on different characters’ voices.

The scene appears no different from those that play out every night in family households all over the world, except for one detail: it’s the middle of the day.

Beth Schlesinger, 30, a solicitor’s daughter from Manchester, sees her sons so rarely, and misses them so desperately, that when she does get time alone with them she frequently gives them a bath, draws the curtains and reads them a story, just to recreate the bonding routine of bedtime that most mothers take for granted.

Thanks to an Austrian family court judge, who has awarded full custody of the children to Mrs Schlesinger’s estranged husband, the petite Cambridge graduate has not put her boys to bed at night-time for almost three years. And yet her former partner, Michael, was deemed so violent and unpredictable at the time of their separation that social workers recommended not only that Mrs Schlesinger be granted sole custody, but also that, on the occasions the father had access to the twins, he never be left alone with them.

The alteration to that original decision has been described by one British MP as “one of the worst miscarriages of justice” he has experienced in nearly 25 years as a politician, and by another as a “blight on the Austrian judicial system”. It has raised serious questions about the impartiality of the judge on the case and hints at a sinister conspiracy that spans both the Austrian Landesgericht (Court of Appeal) and the social services.

More worrying still, it appears that the twins’ development is suffering in their father’s care. Only recently out of nappies, the boys, Samuel and Benjamin, are still unable to talk, three weeks shy of their fifth birthdays.

“It’s like a living grief,” says Mrs Schlesinger, sitting on the edge of a couch in her front room, opposite shelves stacked with puzzles, soft toys and sticker books. “I’m mourning my children, but it’s kind of a perverse mourning because they’re still alive. I know they’re alive and I’m so close to them – I’m just down the road – and yet I can’t see them or play any meaningful role in their lives.”

Like all brides, Mrs Schlesinger began her marriage with high hopes. The youngest of three children from an observant Jewish family based in Crumpsall, Manchester, she met her former partner during a student weekend in Paris, just a few weeks before her finals at Girton College, Cambridge, in 2006.

Four years older than her and recently qualified as a doctor in his home city of Vienna, Michael struck Beth, who had never had a serious boyfriend, as sophisticated and charming.

“He wooed me and flattered me,” she says now. “He then came immediately to visit me in Cambridge and London.”

It was a whirlwind romance. As soon as her exams were over, she went to meet his family in Vienna. Her parents flew out a few days later; by the end of the week, Michael had proposed. They were married (despite the reservations of her parents) later that same year.

“I loved my wedding day,” she says. “I was ecstatic. My brothers sang. I thought I’d won the lottery – I’d married this handsome doctor from Vienna. We were going to have this lovely life together.”

But things turned sour very quickly. During the honeymoon, according to Mrs Schlesinger, Michael complained of feeling unwell and spent most of the time outside the hotel, avoiding her. When the couple got back to Vienna, where they set up home, he continued to act coldly towards her and the relationship went from bad to worse.

“There was a car park behind our building. I used to run there and just cry for hours,” she says. “But every day I used to hope it would get better.”

Finally, in a desperate and, some might say, naive attempt to rescue the marriage, Mrs Schlesinger agreed to try for a family. She became pregnant almost immediately and discovered in a scan 12 weeks later that she was expecting twins.

The children were born healthy and, during their first few months, reached all their developmental milestones. But their arrival did nothing to repair the relationship between Mr and Mrs Schlesinger. In fact, the tensions between the couple grew worse.

Finally, in February 2010, after an argument over the children during which Mrs Schlesinger says her husband physically assaulted her, she fled her flat and sought refuge in a women’s shelter. When she returned early the next morning, her husband, furious that she had “abandoned” him for the night, accused her of irrational behaviour and said a psychiatrist had agreed to have her committed to a psychiatric hospital.

Paramedics duly arrived with four police officers. But it quickly became apparent that the psychiatrist, a friend of Mr Schlesinger, had never met Mrs Schlesinger and had been willing to have her committed on the basis of a conversation in which Mr Schlesinger had told him that his wife suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

The police summoned their own psychiatrist to the flat to assess Mrs Schlesinger and, after being informed that she had no mental-health issues, changed their plans. Instead of taking Mrs Schlesinger to hospital, they ordered her husband to leave the flat. He was issued with a restraining order.

Devastated by her husband’s behaviour and at the end of her tether, Mrs Schlesinger filed for divorce. The children remained in her full-time care. Mr Schlesinger was allowed to visit them three times a week for two hours but had to be supervised at all times, a rule endorsed by a social-services report that stated he was a “danger” to the children.

In normal circumstances, Mr Schlesinger’s abuse of his doctor’s credentials and attempt to have his wife committed under false pretences – thus separating her from her children – would have excluded all possibility of him ever gaining custody. And, in fact, the case judge, Susanne Göttlicher, rejected an application by Mr Schlesinger for custody in April 2011.

But, just three months later, Judge Göttlicher reversed her decision and placed the children into his full-time care.

“That day was the most horrific day of my life,” says Mrs Schlesinger, her voice cracking with emotion. “I was at a play centre with my babies, completely unsuspecting. I got a phone call from social services: ‘Be home in 10 minutes, the father is coming to take away the children. There’s a court order.’

“I just screamed: ‘What are you talking about?’ It was a complete shock. All the professionals had said there was nothing wrong with the children in my care.

“I fled to the British embassy for help, but the consul was away, there was no one there and my lawyer was away on holiday. I had no one to turn to.”

Later that day, she was forced to hand the twins over to Mr Schlesinger. “He came with the police and the children were taken away screaming,” she says.

She was then forced to wait eight weeks while the court decided on visiting rights, during which time she wasn’t allowed to see her children. Today, she is permitted to see them for just six hours every Tuesday and once every other Sunday.

Anxious not to antagonise the Austrian authorities, Mrs Schlesinger initially dissuaded MPs in Britain from speaking publicly on her behalf. But after the failure of numerous appeals, including a final appeal to Austria’s Supreme Court, she is now hoping that the Government will make direct representation to the Austrian government.

In January, Graham Stringer, Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, Mrs Schlesinger’s parents’ constituency, brought the case to the attention of the House of Commons in an adjournment debate and called on the Minister for Europe, David Lidington, for assistance.

“This case is Kafkaesque,” he said at the time. “That is an overused word, but what has happened to Beth Schlesinger defies normal understanding. Authorities have taken decisions about her life and her children’s lives which are inexplicable and certainly unjust. “I have the greatest respect for the Austrian state… but the decision in [this] case is a blight on the Austrian judicial system and I hope that it will be put right.”

In particular, Mr Stringer and other supporters of Mrs Schlesinger point to two troubling aspects of the case. The first is a report by a psychologist that seemed to echo Mr Schlesinger’s false allegations about his former partner’s mental health, and also blamed Mrs Schlesinger for failing to spot development delays in her children.

Despite the assessment by the psychologist, Ulrike Willinger, being carried out in German, Mrs Schlesinger only had a translator for part of the test. She has also, subsequently, been given a clean bill of mental health by three highly qualified psychiatrists who have all confirmed she is of sound mind.

The children’s so-called developmental delays were diagnosed after measuring against a benchmark for two-year-olds, even though Mrs Schlesinger insists they were tested only twice – once at 14 months and once at 16 months old.

“Willinger diagnosed her as psychotic which is total nonsense,” says Marianne Springer-Kremser, professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Medical University of Vienna. “She wasn’t qualified to make such a diagnosis; she had the wrong background and the wrong experience.

“She also characterised the children as severely disturbed. The children might have had certain retardations, but the picture painted by Willinger was over the top. The tests were not appropriate for such small children.”

What’s more, Prof Springer-Kremser says Willinger has failed to assess the father and his interaction with the children since July 2011. “That was a major omission,” she says. “There is no excuse for such a poor report.”

She is also scathing of the judge, who, she says, failed to give equal weight to another expert, a neuropaediatrician who had a far more moderate opinion of the boys’ development.

“The way the judge acted was incredible,” she says.

The decision is regarded as so inexplicable, in fact, that Mr Stringer and others suspect the judge has been unduly influenced. It is a matter of record that, very soon after Mr Schlesinger was evicted from the flat, he sought the help of a judge from the Court of Appeal, Konstanze Thau, who is a friend of the family. Judge Göttlicher has admitted that she has discussed the case with Judge Thau.

“At the very minimum, there appears to have been irregular and unprofessional behaviour,” says Mr Stringer.

Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South, the neighbouring constituency to Mr Stringer, who has taken a close interest in the case, goes further.

“There is no doubt that there has been inappropriate intervention in this case by another judge who is a personal friend of the father,” he says. “It’s following that intervention that the judge on the case started making decisions that were incredibly supportive of the father.

“We know that Thau has had private conversations with the judge. It’s extremely sinister. Thau is not objective – she is a family friend, she has an interest.”

Playing together in Mrs Schlesinger’s flat last Sunday, Benjamin and Samuel displayed obvious affection for their mother. They hugged her spontaneously and giggled as she chased them around the living room.

But it was also obvious that both of them now have quite serious language delays. Due to turn five later this month, neither spoke a full sentence, in either English or German, while I was present. Mrs Schlesinger has been told that the boys, when not at kindergarten, are in the care of Filipino nannies who speak neither language.

“Every day that this drags on is another day of damage to the boys and another missed day of their childhood; time we can never get back,” she says. “I am tortured with questions: who is with them? What are they doing? Who puts them to bed at night or reads them a bedtime story – if at all? I have no way of knowing what their lives are like.

“The past four years have been one long journey through hell – all sanctioned and directed by those in the highest positions of authority and trust. But I will not crumble.

“I cling to the hope that justice will eventually be done, or that a miracle will bring my boys home. That is all I have to keep me going.”

print edition

Times of Austria 29.04.2014

The Wisdom of Solomon And A Modern Tragedy

Beth Alexander

© Beth Alexander 29. 04. 14. – 13:00

Read the article online here.

http://austriantimes.at/news/Blog/2014-04-29/50801/The_Wisdom_of_Solomon_And_A_Modern_Tragedy

Eight months after meeting and falling in love with an Austrian doctor, Cambridge graduate Beth Schlesinger abandoned her career and moved to Vienna to marry him. When the marriage began to go wrong, she agreed to try to patch things up by starting a family and they had twin sons. But rows over the children drove them further apart – and now she has lost custody of the four-year-old boys after an Austrian court ruled that her husband is a better parent.

Our correspondent has this comment on the case to date:

There was once a judge that had to make a difficult decision in a story most will know.

Both women insisted that the child in the custody case belonged to them. The judge called for a sword and ordered the child to be divided with equal shares for both claimants.

The first woman cried out for the child to be spared and given to her rival, the other agreed with the judge. Then the judge ruled that the first woman was surely the mother and the child was restored to her. The wisdom of King Solomon was legendary – all Israel was in awe of his judgements.

A judge is supposed to be independent, fair, and scrupulous in applying the law. Although this is a universal standard, it is too often found to be lacking in Austria where judges favour vested interests, fixing, or are simply mediocre. Despite their impressive credentials, their ‘intellectual rigour’ gives way to the desire to appease the Proporz system that afflicts public life. Dr Franz Fiedler, a former High Court judge and director of Transparency International has referred to the Austrian justice system as ‘corrupt’ an opinion that is generally reflected in the performance of many lawyers and judges. Whilst the ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ may be beyond an ordinary judge, in Austria justice is often opaque and only available to the privileged and their connections.

In the case of Mrs Beth Alexander (formerly Schlesinger), a mother has been deprived of custody of her twin sons through irregular and seemingly corrupt practices, or at least this is what has been alleged by Jewish leaders in the United Kingdom. Divorce and custody battles are always difficult to resolve with children suffering most of the fallout. Nevertheless a judge has a duty to examine all of the information impartially and to reach a conclusion that is in the best interests of the children. Almost always, those interests are served when the mother has custody of the children with the father having fair access. Whether correct or not, most people accept that this is conventional wisdom.

Yet according to Beth Alexander when the marriage broke down, the police came to the marital home and her ex-husband, Dr Michael Schlesinger, a medical practitioner himself, attempted to have her admitted to a psychiatric hospital, the Otto Wagner Hospital. It is also the hospital where he is now employed, in a move that she alleges was in order to discredit her and so gain full custody of the twins. A later medical examination confirmed that Mrs Alexander was of sound mind and capable of being a good mother to her children. Yes despite this,  the court awarded sole custody to the father allowing the mother twice weekly visitation rights at a cost of €50 per appointment. Quite apart from the departure from the norm where the mother might have expected custody and visiting rights, in Austria it is not only the other way round, but the mother has to pay a fee in order to see her children? The visits are also at times that make it impossible for her to hold an ordinary job, and any attempts to change this position have been rejected by the ex husband and the judge. In such circumstances one has to ask why the court did not want to require Dr Schlesinger to have an independent psychiatric assessment as well, but no examination has taken place. The reason it might be expected is that Beth Alexander raised questions about his character and behaviour. Does this lapse suggest a lack of impartiality and common justice? This situation has now prevailed for four years. Dr Schlesinger has failed to make any statement or explain himself and this apparent lack of cooperation has apparently not been reviewed by the court.  It is also worth noting that it can be difficult for a foreigner (Mrs Alexander is British and like her former husband, a member of the Jewish community) to understand legal procedure in Austria and to avoid exploitation, meaning that the court should be under a moral obligation to extend every reasonable assistance to her. She feels that the reverse is evident.

The judge with oversight of the Schlesinger case is Frau Susanne Göttlicher. On her blog http://helpbeth.org/, Beth Alexander has commented that the judge appears to have delayed the case, shown favouritism, and can it be true that she alleges the judge is linked to friends of the Schlesinger family? She believes that Judge Göttlicher may have failed to seek advice about disqualifying herself from hearing the case on ethical grounds in order to assure absolute probity. A bid to have her replaced has so far failed. Furthermore, another unconnected judge, a member of the Jewish community in Vienna, has according to Beth Alexander, been active behind the scenes in an improper manner. The judge is suspected by the Alexander family of collusion sourced from within the IKG (Vienna Jewish Community).

The apparent lack of concern by the IKG for the interests of Mrs Alexander is also a peculiarity of this affair being a violation of Halachah (Jewish law). The Manchester Beth Din (religious court) issued a statement in February 2014 that referred to the ‘abandonment’ of Mrs Alexander by the Vienna Community. The Beth Din also criticised the ‘obvious miscarriage of justice’ by the Vienna courts.  The Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews stated that, ‘there is a strong feeling that justice has not prevailed in Austria. The custody and access arrangements for the two boys and Beth and her ex-husband are self evidently inadequate’. The matter was debated in the British Parliament in January 2014 when MPs speaking under privilege condemned “the corruption and conspiracy in Austria”.

There is speculation that the behaviour of the Austrian authorities may affect United Kingdom – Austria diplomatic relations.  Insiders say there has been a high level British request for information about the case from Austrian authorities.

As the legal case stalls, the boys are coming ever closer to school age. Beth Alexander feels they have suffered neglect and that their basic language skills are suffering – and argues that in the interests of the children and common justice, Dr  Schlesinger should be made accountable to the court.

It is a matter of record that Mrs Alexander has had the determination to fight for custody of her children in a foreign country, against overwhelming odds, for four years with little or no support from anywhere in Vienna. Apart from anything else, this indicates that she is resourceful and well able to take custody of her sons.

That determination shows no signs of wavering.

The Children of Vienna

The message delivered by President Shimon Peres to the Jewish community of Vienna on an especially poignant date, Mother’s Day in the UK: 30.3.2014:

“We must never forget the events of the past.”

“We must teach our children the lessons of history. Let the Shoah be a warning to us and our children…We must never, not for a moment, discriminate against anyone.”

If only the Vienna Jewish leadership would really listen and act on the stirring words of a truly great and courageous leader who’s not afraid of standing up for what is right and just

20140330_Shimon-Peres-Dorotheum_IMG_2922_FINALS_HR
DSCI0865Samuel & Benjamin Schlesinger: the children left behind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Email to Mr Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel

Shimon Peres is making an official visit to the Vienna Jewish community.

Shimon Peres is making an official visit to the Vienna Jewish community.

This week the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, a former Nobel Peace Prize winner, and statesman for Jews all around the world, is visiting Vienna. He will be addressing the Vienna Jewish community at the weekend. Please sign the letter below to make him aware of the grave injustice that has happened concerning my dear sons, Samuel and Benjamin in this community. Hopefully, he can exert some pressure on the leaders to finally wake up to our on ongoing pain and suffering.

Thank you for your support

(If you experience any difficulties with this website, or wish to send your own email, please feel free to do so at public@president.gov.il or using other contact information here: http://www.president.gov.il/English/Pages/english.aspx)

 

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your Postal Address, including country (although this is not required, it is more likely to be taken seriously if your address is supplied)

This form is now closed, please feel free to send your own email to public@president.gov.il

SUBJECT: Austrian Injustice Against the Schlesinger Twins

Dear Mr President,


We, supporters around the world, are shocked and outraged at an ongoing tragedy involving two innocent Jewish boys in Vienna, Austria.


Twin boys Samuel and Benjamin Schlesinger were just 2 years, 2 months old when they were snatched from their British mother Beth after Viennese judge Susanne Göttlicher favored the local Austrian father for custody. This ruling was based entirely on one now-discredited psychologist report, and visiting rights for the mother are restricted to a few pitiful hours a week. The children are denied overnight and weekend stays with their mother without any justification whatsoever.


Despite reports that the children have been self-harming and are significantly developmentally delayed, the Lauder Chabad Kindergarten, where the children attend, is preventing access to the mother to discuss the children's welfare with the teachers. The children are nearly five years old and do not speak.


In January 2014 the matter was even raised in the British Houses of Parliament, where MP's blamed 'corruption and conspiracy' for the highly irregular decision to deprive 2 young children of their mother without any real justification


A statement from the Board of Deputies of British Jews has described the case as "a serious miscarriage of justice" and "a stain on the reputation of Austria.”


Beth has also been publicly endorsed by the Manchester Beis Din who stated:


"The concerns about the physical and emotional development of the children only seek to highlight the tragedy of this case."


"Whilst ... our influence on the judicial system in Austria is extremely limited, we do feel however that there needs to be a wakeup call to the Jewish Community in Vienna who have abandoned Beth and shattered her expectations of what a community ought to provide for those experiencing difficulties."


We understand that you are due to visit the Vienna Jewish community soon.


We ask that you, as President of the State of Israel, former Nobel Peace Prize winner, and statesman for Jews all around the world, make your own investigations and do whatever you can while in Vienna, to appeal to the leaders of the Vienna Jewish community to intervene to allow the children a greater, more meaningful presence of their mother in their lives.


Yours,


your name and address



http://helpbeth.org

 

לכבוד

נשיא מדינת ישראל

מר שמעון פרס היקר


אנו, תומכים מרחבי העולם, מוכים בהלם וזעזוע על רקע טרגדיה מתמשכת בה מעורבים שני ילדים יהודים רכים וחפים מפשע, בוינה שבאוסטריה.

גילם של התאומים שמואל ובנימין שלזינגר היה שנתיים וחודשיים בלבד, כאשר נלקחו מאמם הבריטית בת' רבקה אלכסנדר, לאחר ששופטת וינאית בשם סוזן גוטליכר ביכרה להעבירם לחסותו של אביהם האוסטרי.

החלטה זו התבססה באופן מוחלט על דו"ח פסיכולוגי, שמאז הוזם באופן חד משמעי.

זכויות האם מוגבלות כיום למספר זעום של שעות בכל שבוע, הילדים מנועים מלבלות לילה או סוף שבוע עם אמם, וזאת ללא כל הצדקה שהיא.

על אף דו"חות הילדים פוגעים בעצמם ומפגרים בהתפתחותם באופן משמעותי, גן הילדים 'לאודר' של חב"ד, אותו פוקדים הילדים, מונע באופן מהאם הדואגת כל אפשרות לפנות לגננות בכל הנוגע לרווחת הילדים.

התאומים הנם כיום כמעט בני חמש, ועדיין אינם מסוגלים לדבר.

בחודש ינואר 2014 הועלה המקרה בפרלמנט הבריטי, שם האשימו חברי פרלמנט כי "ההחלטה הלא שגרתית בעליל, לשלול משני ילדים צעירים את הזכות לגדול עם אמם ללא הצדקה ממשית, נגועה בשחיתות וקונספירציה!"

הצהרת הוועד המנהל של יהודי בריטניה תארה את המקרה כולו כ"פעולה של אי צדק" וכ"כתם על המוניטין של אוסטריה"

בת' קיבלה גם את גיבויו הפומבי המלא של בית הדין של מנצ'סטר אשר הצהיר: "הדאגה להתפתחותם הפיזית והרגשית של הילדים ממחישה את הטרגדיה. בעוד השפעתנו על המערכת המשפטית באוסטריה הינה מוגבלת ביותר, הרי שלמרות זאת אנו חשים כי ישנו צורך בקריאת השכמה לקהילה היהודית בוינה, אשר נטשה את בת' והכזיבה תקוותיה בקהילה, ככזו שעליה מוטלת החובה לעמוד לימינם של הנתונים בצרה".

הובא לידיעתנו כי אתה עתיד לפקוד את הקהילה היהודית בוינה בקרוב.

אנו פונים אליך בבקשה, כנשיא מדינת ישראל וכנושא דברם של יהודים באשר הם, כי תפעל בכל מאודך, בעת שהותך בוינה, לשכנע את מנהיגי הקהילה היהודית המקומית לאפשר לילדים נוכחות רבה ומשמעותית יותר של אמם בחייהם

בכבוד רב


your name and address 
http://helpbeth.org

 
 

To the Vienna Jewish Community…

Over the past 3 years, the inboxes of the leaders of the Viennese Jewish community have been flooded with emails of requests and emotional pleas to intervene to help relieve the continued suffering of Samuel and Benjamin. And yet the so-called leaders continue to bury their heads and refuse to take responsibility for this tragedy happening on their doorsteps while the rest of the world looks on in horror and disbelief, desperately doing all they can to help.

With the writers’ permission to publish them, here are two of the most significant letters that fell on deaf ears:

 

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jonathan Arkush
Date: Mon, Nov 11, 2013 at 6:47 PM
Subject: Alexander custody decision
To: Beth Alexander; Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister; Chief Rabbi Paul Eisenberg ; Raimund Fastenbauer; Ariel Muzicant; Oskar Deutsch
Cc: “‘President’ of British Board of Deputies

Dear Colleagues and Rabbonim,

I am deeply troubled by the judgment, having been given its key points by a German speaking relative who read the full decision.  While I am an English rather than an Austrian lawyer, I do not believe our family law in this area to be dissimilar.  I continue to be at a loss to understand why the Court did not take as its starting position that the custody of young children should be with their mother.

As I understand matters, the Court stated in the judgment that it disregarded all suggestions made by the father that the mother was suffering from any mental  illness or should be unfit in any other way.  The basis of the decision was simply that, after two years in the father’s custody, it was in their best interests that this continued.  This seems to me to be a very inadequate foundation for the decision that leaves these young children in the custody of the father, which in effect means child-minders for much of the day, and the mother with such restricted access.  The position is made worse by the father’s tendency to cancel access visits by the mother.

I hope that I have not misrepresented the Court’s decision, as I have not yet seen a full translation.

I would like to express on behalf of the British Jewish community deep disquiet and strong reservations about this latest decision.

May I ask my colleagues who lead the Jewish community of Austria to make any suggestions as to what might be done to bring this deeply regrettable state of affairs to a just conclusion?

I realise that the Court has made a decision, but is it too late even at this stage to persuade the father to agree to a community-supported mediation ?  I can assure you that we in England would do all in our power to assist the process if such mediation could be arranged.

With cordial regards

Jonathan Arkush Jonathan Arkush
Vice President
Board of Deputies of British Jews

—————————————————

From: Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag
Sent: 10 June 2012 22:42
To: Chief Rabbi Eisenberg,Rabbi Josef Pardes, Chabad Rabbi Jacob Biderman
Cc: Mag Raimund Fastenbauer (Secretary General of Board of Jewish Community Vienna)
Subject: Beth nee Alexander

 בס’ד

נחום נתן גוטנטג
רב דק”ק ווייטפילד

Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag

Whitefield, Manchester
M45 7PD
UK

10th June 2012
20th Sivan 5772

Chief Rabbi Chaim Eisenberg
Rabbi Yosef Pardes
Chabad Rabbi Jacob Biderman

Vienna

Kvod Harabbonim hachashuvim shlita

Please pardon me for intervening like this from the outside, but as you know the case of Beth nee Alexander formerly of Manchester is causing anxiety.

From our perspective we can see a young lady living far away from her parents and family, having gone to get married in a foreign country and community, with that marriage broken down, now deprived of custody of and access to her children. She finds herself now set against a former spouse who has the advantage of local family support, natural community affinity, and knowledge of the civic law situation. Through the involvement of the civil authorities the mother has lost custody of her children and is now being deprived of access to them.

It would appear that justification is being made for this situation, based inter alia on some allegations that there is mental health problem with Beth or her family.

To an outsider these sound like biased accusations that would tend to get made in aggravated break down of a marriage. But they are simply not fair nor just. My wife taught Beth at Yavneh Girls High school in Manchester . She remembers her as a kindly, quiet and very fine student. Family Alexander in Manchester is a family with a good name for solidity and communal involvement. I believe that it is simply an unworthy slur for Beth and her family to be characterised in a manner that I understand that they are being portrayed, and most unfair. There are always two sides in any situation, and one would expect a kehilla and its leadership to ensure that reasonably fair play is being maintained. From what it appears in this situation, however, and for whatever reason, there is an unfairness and an injustice being perpetrated against Beth, a single woman in a foreign country, without proper support – pitted against a family, in a community with all the connections naturally available to them.

I believe that you as the rabbinic leadership of the Vienna kehilla have it within your power to provide fairness to the situation and relief to Beth and her family. I write to you collectively dear honoured rabbonim, to appeal to you – please do that which is in your power to have this matter sorted in a manner which will reflect fairness and justice and uphold the good name of the esteemed Vienna kehilla.

The hanhogo of a kehilla is in the joint hands of rabbonim and baaley battim, and for that reason you will I am sure agree that it is correct and appropriate for me to write at the same time to the lay leadership of the kehilla, which as you see can I have done.

With many thanks

Bevirkos kol tov

Jonathan Guttentag

Same old court, same old games

I recently reported ( http://helpbeth.org/denied-contact/ ) that Judge Susanne Gottlicher gave up the case and transferred it to a different court, in the father’s district where the children reside. I was informed of this by no less than THREE court orders and it is something that should have happened a long time ago.

 However, the father appealed and shockingly won!

Only Judge Susanne Gottlicher, ‘knows the parents’ personalities'” and ‘knows the needs of the children!’ stated the court order. The case must stay with her.

They said she now needs to make a quick decision about my visitation and that’s also why the case must stay with her. I applied weeks ago for the father to uphold my Tuesday visits since the visiting centre closed down.

After not granting me my Tuesday visits for weeks, the father now wants the handovers to be supervised in a private arrangement (against the court order) by the woman from the visiting centre (that has closed down). He wants me to pick the children up from a supermarket near his house, for which I must still pay 50 Euro – plus 25 Euro if a visit is cancelled at short notice. He rejects the generous offer of Chief Rabbi Eisenberg to do the handovers for free in the Synagogue near my apartment. Obviously that would be too easy and too humane for the children.

My visit tomorrow is cancelled. If anyone in Vienna would be kind enough to take a picture of my children in their costumes (if they even have one) or even let me know if you see my boys this Purim, I would be so grateful.

Open Letter From the Manchester Beis Din

בס״ד

בית דין צדק דק״ק מנשסתר

Manchester Beth Din

JEWISH ECCLESIASTICAL COURT FOR GREATER MANCHESTER

Registrar: Rabbi Y. Brodie BA (Hons)

27th February 2014

As Registrar for the Manchester Beth Din I have followed the tragic case of the Schelsinger twins with great dismay, but with overwhelming respect and admiration for the heroic way in which Beth has remained focussed on the need to do her utmost for the children’s development.

It is obviously not for the Beth Din to comment on the Austrian judicial system save as to say that in all the decades of experience of dealing with issues of this nature I have never ever seen a mother deprived of an ability to relate meaningfully with her children or indeed of such tender young children being placed with their father. This goes against all the norms of child welfare where the interests of the child are primary and where it is almost without exception that young children are placed with their mother. The fact that she has to pay to visit her children and to maintain them when her ability to relate to them is kept to a minimum beggars belief.

I know Beth personally and if anyone can be commended for being mentally and emotionally stable it is she. She has gone through nightmare after nightmare and whereas others would have capitulated or worse she has remained strong, steadfast and highly motivated to protect her children. This does not sound like the type of mother who ought to be denied the right to bring up her children. The concerns about the physical and emotional development of the children only seek to highlight the tragedy of this case.

Whilst, as stated above, our influence on the judicial system in Austria is extremely limited, we do feel however that there needs to be a wakeup call to the Jewish Community in Vienna who have abandoned Beth and shattered her expectations of what a community ought to provide for those experiencing difficulties. I knew Beth prior to her marriage and know that her hopes and desires were to set up a Torah true Jewish home. The fact that this was not possible with Dr Schlesinger is hard enough for her to bear, but the fact that she equally hoped to be a staunch member of an Orthodox community and now feels totally bereft and lacking any meaningful support, is something which she finds even more concerning.

It is the sincere hope of Manchester Beth Din that the community will see Beth for what she is, a true heroine and devoted mother, who could bring so much happiness to her children and ensure their proper development. The community is asked to support her in every conceivable way and to ensure that the obvious miscarriage of justice is rectified at the earliest opportunity thereby enabling her to relate properly and meaningfully with her children.

Yours sincerely

Y Brodie
REGISTRAR

You can download the PDF of this letter here:

pdf-icon
ManchesterBethDinEndorsementLetter_page1ManchesterBethDinEndorsementLetter_page2

Jewish Telegraph 28.02.2014

COURT’S TREATMENT OF BETH BEGGARS BELIEF, SAYS RABBI

 

Vienna Jews ‘abandoned tug-of-love mother Beth’

MANCHESTER Beth Din has accused the Vienna Jewish community of abandoning Manchester tug-of-love mother Beth Alexander and demanded that the miscarriage of justice suffered by her is rectified.

Describing the decision of an Austrian court to grant custody of her four-year-old twins to their father as “beggaring belief”, registrar Rabbi Yehuda Brodie said Beth was “a true heroine and a devoted mother”.

TRAGEDY: Beth and her twin sons

TRAGEDY: Beth and her twin sons

Beth, who sees Sammy and Benji for six hours a week and on alternate Sundays when their father Dr Michael Schlesinger does not cancel the visits for which she has to pay, has fought a near-three year battle against the intransigent Austrian legal system.

She was wrongly branded mentally ill by a court in Vienna, which later accepted that she was not.

She is concerned that the twins’ development is severely retarded.

In a damning indictment of the Vienna Jewish community, Rabbi Brodie insisted that it needed “a wake-up call”, adding that it had “abandoned Beth and shattered her expectations of what a community ought to provide for those experiencing difficulties”.

Rabbi Brodie said: “It is obviously not for the Beth Din to comment on the Austrian judicial system save as to say that in all the decades of experience of dealing with issues of this nature I have never ever seen a mother deprived of an ability to relate meaningfully with her children or, indeed, of such tender young children being placed with their father.

“This goes against all the norms of child welfare where the interests of the child are primary and where it is almost without exception that young children are placed with their mother.

“The fact that she has to pay to visit her children and to maintain them when her ability to relate to them is kept to a minimum beggars belief.”

Rabbi Brodie added that he knew Beth personally “and if anyone can be commended for being mentally and emotionally stable, it is she”.

He said that she had endured “nightmare after nightmare” and whereas others would have capitulated or worse, she had remained “strong, steadfast and highly motivated to protect her children”.

Rabbi Brodie declared: “This does not sound like the type of mother who ought to be denied the right to bring up her children.

“The concerns about the physical and emotional development of the children only seek to highlight the tragedy of this case.”

Rabbi Brodie said that the fact Beth had hoped to be a staunch member of an Orthodox community and now felt “totally bereft and lacking any meaningful support” was something which she found even more concerning.

He concluded: “It is the sincere hope of Manchester Beth Din that the community will see Beth for what she is — a true heroine and devoted mother, who could bring so much happiness to her children and ensure their proper development.

“The community is asked to support her in every conceivable way and to ensure that the miscarriage of justice is rectified at the earliest opportunity, enabling her to relate properly and meaningfully with her children.”

You can read the full statement from the Manchester Beis Din here.

JewishTelegraph20140228

Thank you for the birthday love!

Thank you to all my very special friends and family for making today so much easier. All your good wishes and prayers got me through the day and have given me so much hope and strength for whatever the coming year brings.

Growing old is scary! Turning 30 would have been a bleak milestone for me even in the best of times – but without my children was especially hard. Your love and support is just wonderful!

I have received such meaningful messages and gifts from such lovely kind, thoughtful people.

A million thanks from the bottom of my heart!!!

Some special gifts:

twins fun1 twins fun2

Pictures from Cinzia! Thank you my dear friend:)

….And a very special poem that touched my heart. Thank you, Ewen!

Glimmer

In the bleakest darkness,

Just one candle is all that is needed.

To breathe light.

It has the kindness to show you:

There is a way out.

Like the Ner Tamid.

One candle of glimmering hope.

And despite each drip of scalding wax

Your grip never falters.

With determined stride,

And candle grasped firm,

Through the darkness

You bravely forge ahead.

The glimmer of a candle is all that is needed.

Praying for my little boys, Sammy and Benji today and every day. May this year finally be our year!