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May 22, 2014 12:19 am

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

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Beth Schlesinger and her children. Photo:

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.

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  • Hadassah Weinstein

    Judges are being BRIBED to give custody to fathers. Child Custody suits are a $50 Billion yearly business in the US and this industry would not exist unless fathers know they are likely to win. Fathers hire very expensive lawyers who then bribe the judge and the court appointed psychologist to diagnose the mother as mentally ill – even mothers with no history of mental illness. This is happening all over the world because Judges and Lawyers are making millions of dollars by torturing mothers and children. Sometimes it is innocent fathers who are forever cut off from their children -falsely labled molesters or domestic violence abusers by mother’s lawyers who bribe the judge and the custody evaluators. The solution is end all custody suits and make a law that custody goes 70% mothers/30% fathers and no law suits that end up cutting out one parent totally and cost both parents hundreds of thousands (sometimes over a million) dollars.

  • Sylvia

    I can’t believe this is happening in Europe. Why are these young children being tortured. They can only see their own mother 3 times in two weeks for a few hours? What will they think when they are older? Did Michael not see his mother when he grew up? And he is a religious man? Those poor children. They are not even allowed to be with their mother every other weekend the whole weekend in the past 4 years!? She has their own young children 26 nights and he 339 nights in a year?! Well that is fair. Judges and social workers are not even that cruel to animals why to two young children that would like to be also with their mother. I hope the children, when they are 12 years old can choose with whom they want to live (just like in Holland) their father or mother and that till then they are allowed MORE time with their mother.
    The judge, Susanne Göttlicher, said ( ‘ Die Idee ist, dass sie sich in den Alltag einklinken, die Kinder zum Arzt bringen oder bei den Hausaufgaben helfen und dadurch auch die Mutter aktiv entlasten.’ So she encourages fathers to be a part of their children’s life but Beth is not allowed to say or do anything with her own children??

  • I agree with Penny, and the only way things will change is when more women become empowered in higher positions — legally, politically, etc. it may take a few generations, but it’s the only way to reach equality in every sector of society.

  • penny

    the sad truth is that this is happening to mothers all over the world, the justice system has gone mad, im surprised at the uproar of the British Government when they have the same practices in their own country and their laws and justice system also separate loving caring nurturing protective mothers from their children and give them over to the abusive fathers, especially when a mother raises the issues of child abuse and sexual assault on her children by their father. the courts all over the world are taking the side of the father’s rights over the mother’s rights even when the children are being hurt and are in danger, hence the rise in child death numbers, the courts and the laws are to blame and its happening all over the world, not just in Austria!!!!

  • ev meyer

    Every day without their loving mother is a lifetime for these 5 year olds. Something must be done NOW. Spread awareness amongst your friends and contacts. This is a disastrous outcome for these innocent children.
    Austrians should hang their heads in shame

  • Norma

    The continued silence and blanking out of Beth Alexander’s pleas to the Chabad kindergarten for information about her children, , plus the continued blocking of even the court agreed visits of the children to Beth Alexander, let alone the extremely suspect Austrian court ruling to give sole custody to the father, Michael Schlesinger, make this an important case that needs both intervention from the British Government ( Beth is a British citizen), and also pressure from Jews everywhere to convince the father, Vienna Chabad, and the courts to re-evaluate heir decisions and take an honest look at how to resolve the issues so that the children, Benjamin and Samuel Schlesinger, may be given the benefit of their mother’s care to counter the lack of her loving care that has injured them in these past two or more years.