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
| 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
נחום נתן גוטנטג
רב דק”ק ווייטפילד
Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag
10th June 2012
Chief Rabbi Chaim Eisenberg
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