UK rabbis slam Austrian peers for ‘shunning’ orthodox woman in custody battle

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UK rabbis slam Austrian peers for ‘shunning’ orthodox woman in custody battle

Beth Schlesinger (née Alexander) with her two children

Some of London’s leading rabbis have slammed their peers in Austria for “shunning” an Orthodox woman after a Viennese court deprived a British Jewish mother of her children.

The group of 17 rabbis, from London, Liverpool, Reading and Manchester, as well as one from Australia, called on other rabbis to get involved, saying Beth Alexander had been through “dreadful and unnecessary pain”.

In a series of legal rulings following her divorce from Michael Schlesinger in 2009, Alexander lost custody of her children, Sammy and Benji, and is now limited to six nights a month, no weekends, having to pay handover fees and child maintenance.

Last year, British lawmakers said the case was “Kafkaesque,” and rabbis last week mirrored the language, calling the rulings which all but barred Beth from seeing her two boys “perverse” and “an injustice”.

The rabbis’ letter blasts the “Austrian Jewish community and certain members of the Austrian rabbinate [who] have largely shunned her,” and takes aim at “Austrian Jewish communal leaders [who] have not adequately supported a vulnerable and defenceless young woman”.

Among the signatories are Rabbi Danny Bergson of Pinner, Rabbi Boruch Boudilovsky of Borehamwood and Elstree, Rabbi Boruch Davis of Chigwell and Hainault, Rabbi Elchonon Feldman at Belmont, and Rabbi Yisroel Fine, formerly at Cockfosters.

Others include Rabbi Moshe Freedman from New West End shul, Rabbis Pinchas Hackenbroch and Gary Wayland of Woodside Park, Rabbis Dov Kaplan and Marc Levene of Hampstead Garden Suburb, Rabbi Daniel Roselaar of Alei Tzion, Rabbi Meir Salasnik from Bushey and Rabbi Nissan Wilson from Redbridge.

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