London Jewish News, 16.11.2012


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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.



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