Jewish Telegraph, 30.11.2012

JewishTelegraph20121130 (1)Heartache of a tug-of-love Mum


A DISTRAUGHT Manchester grandmother is crying out for support for her daughter who is fighting a contentious custody battle for her three-year-old twin sons in Vienna.

Sylvia Alexander, of Crumpsall, told the Jewish Telegraph that her Cambridge graduate daughter Beth Alexander met her Viennese husband Dr Michael Schlesinger at a Chabad weekend in Paris six years ago.

They were married soon afterwards and Beth gave up a post-graduate journalism course in New York’s Columbia University to settle in Vienna. But the marriage went badly wrong, particularly after the birth of the twins — Daniel and Benjamin — two-and-a-half years into the marriage.

Claiming that Beth was mentally ill, Dr Schlesinger attempted to take the twins from her. But a psychiatric report found that Beth had never suffered from any mental illness. Nevertheless, after lengthy court battles, last year Austrian judge Susanne Göttlicher granted Dr Schlesinger full and immediate custody of the children. He afforded Beth extremely limited access to her children, whom Dr Schlesinger claimed were “retarded” — despite social service reports to the contrary.

After the custody decision, Beth claims that the twins are still in nappies, are not speaking and are “extremely disturbed and confused”. A YouTube video shows graphic shots of the twins before and after the latest custody decision. Beth is accusing the Austrian courts of causing the children “untold psychological trauma and months of suffering”. She says that although the social services received six danger reports, they have closed the case.

Beth did obtain a get from Dr Schlesinger through the efforts of Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, of the London Beth Din, but she does not yet have a civil divorce.

In desperation at the custody situation, the family have launched an online petition which has thousands of signatories. Demonstrators with placards stating ‘Austrian Justice Stinks” recently stood outside Wembley Synagogue during a performance by Viennese chief cantor Shmuel Barzilai. The demonstration was organised by Beth’s brothers Graeme and Adrian Alexander, who live in London.

Sylvia Alexander told the Jewish Telegraph: “We have support from all over the world. “Rabbi James Kennard, who was Beth’s head teacher when she was in Yavneh and is now principal of Melbourne’s Mount Scopus College, started a campaign in Australia. “Support from all over the world has kept us going in our darkest times. “It makes us feel that despite the apparent hostility of Austrian Jewry to our situation, we are not alone. “I just want my daughter to have her children back.”

Please sign this PETITION and urge others to sign.

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