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Injustice in Vienna

October 25, 2012 – 4:47 pm33 Comments

Can you imagine how a young a mother would feel to have her only two children ripped away from her by the police and handed into the “care” of her ex-husband? Can you envisage her innocent children, twin boys then aged only two, trying make sense of what is going on, calling for their mother day and night with no one to listen to their piercing cries?

You may be forgiven for thinking I would be talking about a developing country or war torn nation, but you would be wrong. The horrific scandal of the Schlesinger twins is happening right now in 2012 in Vienna, Austria, an accepted EU country trying to “supposedly” break away from its past atrocities.

You might be forgiven for thinking that local rabbis would intervene and help where they can. Once again, you would be wrong. A local Chabad rabbi has been continuously acting in favour of the father having sole custody of the children and being an obstacle in the visitation rights of the mother to see her children – how does that seem justified?

Beth Alexander, a young girl originally from Manchester, England, moved to Vienna in 2006 when she married an Austrian Jewish trainee doctor. Following the collapse of the marriage, Beth lost custody of their then two-year-old twins following some very dubious decisions by the judge. Many dayanim and rabbanim in the UK and around the world are quite rightly abhorred at what is taking place in Vienna and are working around the clock to save these children who are currently not in a very good state at all.

How can one sit back and watch these children lose the ability to live their lives to the full? Shouldn’t three-year-old boys be running around enjoying themselves?

If you feel as strongly about it as I do – an educator working with this age group daily –  then please don’t be an “armchair” supporter! Speak to your local rabbi and inform him of this dire situation.  Maybe he has contacts or is just willing to be vocal and speak out against this atrocity. We don’t want to be sitting here in a year’s time saying we knew about this horrific story but didn’t do anything about it. Think how it must feel not being able to give your child a simple kiss when you wave them off to school each day.

When you put your children to bed tonight just spare a thought for Beth who would love to have the opportunity to even read her boys a story and kiss them good night.

The situation is serious and critical which is why we request you all to sign this petition.

Kayla (full name suppplied),
London, England.

[Eds: some content of this letter has been removed at the joint request of the author and the family of Beth Alexander]

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33 Comments »

  • Ari says:

    While I am all for justice and fair resolutions to conflict, neither this post or the petition makes clear what is going on. All that has been said is that a mother lost custody of her children in an unfair judgement. It reminds me of a Muslim who once told me the only way to appreciate the Quran and see its truth is by converting to Islam and reading it in Arabic. A little more info about the facts surrounding the case would go a long way to convincing me to sign the petition and also go further to making your case appear like more than just biased hype.
    Such facts could include the stated ruling, why the ruling is unfair (apart from your implied assumption that in every case children should be with their mother), how to reasonably justify the circumstances which lead for the judge to rule against the mother.

  • Derik says:

    Ari, I don’t claim to know much more about the case than what I read here and other snippets I found on Google. However, the fact that these children have been taken from their mother in this horrific way, and the fact that Ms Alexander has the full support of major Batei Din in the UK, certainly rings alarm bells. After reading about Natascha Kampusch and Joseph Fritzl, I fear this may be another case of Austria being incapable of looking after its children. I have signed the petition and hope everyone reading this signs it too.

  • sarah says:

    I know Beth personally. She was a wonderful, loving, caring and devoted mother. Depriving those boys of her love is a heinous crime. It is obvious this is wholly unjust

  • Ari says:

    Thank you for your comments. Still no more information about why the judge gave custody to father and why the judge was wrong. Not the best way to garner support for a cause. Especially when in cases like this there are always more tha one side to the story. A Cambridge graduate and a really nice person on the outside doesn’t always mean their children are not better off in their father’s care. What are the accusations? What are the refutations? Have the dayanim sought expert assessments to refute allegations? Is it always prudent for Rabbis to take sides in cases such as these?

  • sarah says:

    Ari, where did you read that she´s a Cambridge graduate? and where did you get that about Dayanim from?

  • Ari says:

    It came up in something that I googled and is found in the above piece and the petition. None of which actually says anything.

  • Important to bear in mind that this is a letter from someone on one side of what looks like a very unpleasant dispute happening 10,000 miles away. Not even sure why it’s been published – is there some Aussie connection in this story?

  • The criteria for the publication of a letter is different (i.e. lower) than for an article.

  • Terry says:

    I think it is so important for Galus Australis to publish this kind of story on their site and we should all be extremely grateful to them. No one knows who will fall victim to a scandal or injustice, it can happen to any innocent person without warning. Perpetrators need silence and cover-ups to continue their path of destruction. Once the lid has been lifted, not only does this help the current victim, it prevents the evil from spreading to other innocent victims who are shamed into silence. We in the Australian community should be fully aware of how dangerous silence and cover-ups can be.

  • Fanny says:

    I agree with Terry, this is a very important issue that needs to be heard around the world. Does it matter where the incident is taking place? What is important here is the children’s lives. Do we want to have an incident where the twins don’t know their mother???
    I certainly don’t want to have to open a paper and hear another story like this again.
    Kayla I have just signed the petition. I hope the situation is resolved quickly. Will you let us know what happens??

  • James Kennard says:

    Beth was a student of mine in England and I have been in close contact with her for the last year.

    After the parents split, the father literally kidnapped the children from Beth’s home and the judge awarded custody to the father, with very limited visiting rights to the mother on the basis of

    1. The children were now with the father, so it was unwise to disturb them
    2. A psychologist’s report on the mother, produced after no actual examination of the mother, by a psychologist whose similar reports in other cases have now been exposed as unreliable.

    Since then the father has, on a number of occasions, artibtrarily cancelled some of the few visits that the court has allowed.

    There are many further reasons to suggest that the court is acting improperly which it is not appropriate to disclose here.

    There is also significant evidence that the children are not thriving in the father’s care.

    I hope that sheds further light on the matter, and underpins the sentiment in the original posting.

  • TP says:

    Ari, I totally hear what you are saying! You are right. Unfortunately, it sounds like they are not really at liberty to say anything. Or perhaps they are scared of the backlash! I think they should publish all the details with all the Rabbis and Dayanims’ names. I think this is a travesty! Both parents should have rights to bring up their children. What country gives the father full rights and neglects a mother?! That is extremely rare! This mother has been fighting for over a year to see her kids! Thats a fact! why cant she visit her own children? If not on her own than with a supervisor? Think of these poor children! Its outrageous! And you know why things have to be published in Australia and other parts of the world is because hardly anyone with power is helping her fight for her children! Its time for the Jewish world to stand up and do something.

  • Ben G. says:

    What’s happening to Beth and her children is horrific, the result of a manipulative (ex) husband and a fatally flawed Austrian system.
    We all have a responsibility to all our fellow Jews to help them – no matter how distant. Beth obviously (and justly) needs the help, support and lobbying power of all of us to help her get justice and her children. I’ve signed the petition, and now I’m writing to my Rabbi.

  • Adam says:

    Ignore the fact that they are Jewish. Ignore the fact that they are young twins. Focus on what is important in any case like this: What is best for the children.

    Regardless of whose side you are on, to consider yourself to have even a hint of humanity, you must be on the side of the children. How can the best outcome for the children be determined? Through a fair trial, the verdict of which is honoured by both the mother and the father. Has that happened? No. How can we tell? Because nothing about this case sounds quite right.

    Everybody takes a side when they read a case like this – it is natural, but in this case the two sides are such worlds apart that the discrepancy really calls for a court to clarify. So instead of taking sides, try campaigning for a fair trial, where the mother and father are equally represented and given a fair chance to explain their side.

  • Yocheved says:

    First of all, consider one thing: custody has been awarded to the farther. This is extremely rare in Austria or any other EU country. Austria is an EU country with a solid judicial system in place. We are not talking about some 3rd world country. The court tries to act in the children’s best interest. So, you can imagine how serious this case has been so far. There is very good reason why the father has received custody rights. It is amazing how people, who are not familiar at all with the case can be so biased, and believe anything going around. We left Vienna recently and are very familiar with the country, the Viennese Jewish community and, as it happens, this particular case. All I can say is, the judge has been right so far. Ever since the children have been with the farther, they are blooming again and are developing nicely. As a matter of fact, everyone in Vienna knows Beth as a very unstable and unbalanced person (even before her seperation), better to be avoided. BTW, Beth has visiting rights and sees the children on a regular basis. People who are not familiar with the case, should better be quiet or go and see for themselves.

  • James Kennard says:

    It’s not appropriate to go into details in this forum, but I must state that Yocheved’s comments are simply not true.

    The children, sadly, are not blooming with their father. The mother is absolutely not an unstable person and fortunately more people in Vienna are realising exactly which parent is the seriously unbalanced one.

    The mother does have visiting rights, except when the father arbitrarily and spitefully cancels them, which is often.

  • Yocheved says:

    As Mr Kennard is not based in Vienna to see for himself, I don’t think he is in an appropriate position to make such statements. I assume, he is most likely relying on statements made by Beth herself,without knowing the other side, nor having seen the children. Overall, it doesn’t matter, as it is anyway (and luckily) in the courts’ hands. It is ridiculous to blindly mobilize rabbis and people, without really knowing any details and just relying on one party’s statements.

  • James Kennard says:

    For the information of Yocheved and all others, I have spoken to a number of people in Vienna before making my comments.

    It is far from ridiculous to mobilize people and rabbis, when there is a blatant case of injustice, both within the courts and within the community.

    I have declared my interest (see my posting above). Would Yocheved declare hers?

  • Yocheved says:

    Again, Mr Kennard does not live in Vienna and only has 2nd hand accounts. I don’t have any interests to declare, but for the fact, that it is really upsetting and extremely unjust to see this kind of mobbing against the other party. This is even against the halacha. We have lived there until very recently and have seen, like many others, what is really going on there. From an objective point of view, it is all happening for the best. Especially, when you see how nicely the children have developped. You simply cannot rely on Beth’s statements only, the subject is very complexed. I suggest Mr Kennard will pay a visit to his former student in Vienna and will see for himself. He might be up for a surprise.

  • James Kennard says:

    Just to be clear; my information comes from sources other than Beth. Based on that information, there is plenty I can say about the other party and his conduct but this is not the place.

  • Derik says:

    Yocheved, you make the very dangerous accusation: “everyone in Vienna knows Beth as a very unstable and unbalanced person.”. By your own standards, I would have to describe this as “mobbing” and also against Halacha. On what basis are you making these claims? Are YOU simply believing false rumors being propagated by “2nd hand accounts”. Have you ever met Beth? Are you a qualified psychologist able to assert her mental state based on a personal examination? Beth is a Cambridge educated graduate with no history of any mental illness and has earned a fine reputation among teachers and colleagues throughout her schooling. It reflects very badly on those people in/from Vienna who are in total contradiction. If anything, it makes me far less trusting of your Austrian “justice” system if this is your approach to a fair trial. Claiming mental illness is a well-known technique of abusers to discredit their victims and is often dismissed in modern courts. Apart from Austria, we have moved on from the dark ages.

  • Fanny says:

    Solely on what I have read here I seriously fail to see any justification for the way this poor mother is being treated. Even if the courts were to decide it is in the best interest for the custody to be awarded to the father, how can it possibly make any sense for the mother to have only minimal visiting rights and no say in any aspect of the children’s lives? Until someone either refutes these facts or provides a suitable reason why the mother is being treated this way, I’m afraid I must agree with Rabbanim worldwide condemning the courts decision and the father’s behaviour to the highest degree. Here is once again another example of Austrian moral bankruptcy for everyone to plainly see!

  • Bella says:

    I’ve known Beth from when we were both three years old and can 100% testify that Yocheved obviously does not know her and sounds like she has a screw loose herself, or else is very close to Michael and therefore has to stand up for him. You’d have to be blind or a fool to see how the boys are now, compared to how they used to be under Beth’s care, to think how Yocheved thinks. Yocheved, I hope something similar happens to you and you get the reaction you’re giving Beth.

  • Fanny says:

    Yocheved and everyone else, watch this video and see for yourselves how these poor innocent children are suffering. The world needs to stand up and see that these children and Beth need help. How can anyone deny a mother the right to live with their mother?

  • Sara says:

    Yocheved, your claims are simply crazy, how do you or anyone else have the right to decide that because (in your words) “everyone knows Beth is unstable” that she should not have her children with her? first, who are you to decide that she is unstable, and so what if she does have a mental illness? so anyone with a mental illness should be unable to look after children? Yocheved I know that mental illness in the frum community is viewed as an alien from another planet, but please wake up, you could, I could, anyone could develop a mental illness.

    There is no reason, if (and I am 100% sure she is) Beth is being properly treated with the correct medication she can not look after her beautiful children, who cry for their mother. A mother without her children is like a fish without water, a part of her soul a part of her body is missing. ALL children need their mothers, and the father sounds a rather sick nasty person not giving his children their god given right of their mother. Noone can imagine what Beth must be going through every second of every day, when she wakes up she sees in her mind her children, when other mothers are dressing their children, making their lunch, sending them off to school, laughing with them, crying with them, putting them to bed, bathing them ….Beth is crying.

    The sad fact is, a person with a mental health problem is as able, if not more able (due to the fact of being more sensative to others) to bring up children, the sad fact is you mention mental health out loud in a courtroom, with judges etc all other reason goes out the window,all people can see is that little part of the person who has the mental health problem,, they dont see the whole person. The loving person, the kind person, the caring person, the vulnerable person, ….The MOTHER.

  • I am absolutely appalled how this disgrace has not yet been resolved. I have signed the petition calling for justice and urge everyone reading this to sign it too:

    http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-british-and-austrian-governments-ensure-a-fair-court-hearing-for-beth-alexander-s-twin-sons-in-vienna-2

    http://helpbeth.org

  • Anna says:

    THE Legal system in Vienna is highly respected and there is no doubt that they would deprive a mother of her children without good reason!! The publicity of this case is pure propaganda against the true facts of the case. The current decision of the court shows the truth of the situation. As an attorney i know that public displays like demonstrations may lead to sympathy, but the facts and rulings by the legal system tells the truth!

  • Anna says:

    I urge everyone to be suspicious when watching things like the above you tube videos, as remember anything can be created to appear how someone wants with the truth being completely distorted, exps with our technology that can photoshop pictures and faces to create a false reality. Courtroom facts do not lie.

  • James Kennard says:

    I think we’ve learnt from enough miscarriages of justice, even in “respected” judicial systems, that “courtroom facts” do, on occasion, lie. And “facts and rulings by the legal system” do not always “tell the truth”.

    For instance, reports by the psychiatrist who wrote the original report on which basis the children were removed in the first place, have now been discredited. And that’s just one of the irregularities in this case.

  • I do not know the people involved and have no internal knowledge of the case, but I have yet to read of ANY justification for taking the children from their mother at such a young and vulnerable age. Not only were they taken, but full custody was given to him, not even a split.

    Until someone can tell me otherwise, I the only viable explanation is described in the article here : http://www.thejc.com/news/world-news/102481/beth-alexander-judge-investigated

    I feel it is important to mention “Judge Konstanz Thau” by name so that this page will come up on internet searches for her. I wonder how much of a friend to Schlesinger she still is after being globally exposed in this scandal.

    http://helpbeth.org/video-of-demonstration-on-youtube/

  • Franziska says:

    It was asked above why this report was published in Australia when the scene of all the action in the case of Beth and her twins is Vienna, Austria. There seems to me to be a logical reason for this: it is a very common phenomenon in Australia for children to be taken from their primary carer – usually the mother – by the courts and given to abusive fathers. In fact the Family Court of Australia is an extremely controversial institution for this very reason and should probably be replaced by a tribunal made up of experts on child development and behaviour, as well as domestic violence and child abuse. Judges with no training in these fields are obviously not the right people to be making decisions which will negatively affect the lives of both parents and children. I am not aware of the situation in Austria, where I happen to live, but Beth’s case leads me to question what some of the posters above have taken for granted, ie that family courts act in the children’s best interest. In many countries, this is simply untrue and we know from women’s movements in many western countries what agony ignorant judges are causing. Anybody who is not informed about this could start by looking at STOP EXIT’s page on Facebook to find out more. “Courtroom facts do not lie.” This is a joke and the poster particularly naive.

    After getting to know Beth, I can tell some of the posters here that she is anything but unbalanced (have you met her too?). In fact she is a delightfully normal young university graduate, mother and teacher of English to speakers of other languages. Dr Werner Leixnering, a renowned child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist in Austria, has assessed Beth – my feelings after meeting her were confirmed by the result of his testing. She is definitely not unstable and anyone who declares that she is has apparently not met her but merely heard lies about her from dubious sources.

    The children are clearly the most important people in this whole extraordinary affair. Their lack of speech must be especially peturbing at the age of 4. Twins often start talking later, as do boys, but for them to have been pronounced “retarded” makes one wonder what maltreatment they have been subjected to since their unjustified removal from their mother. The children in the “before” photos have sparkling, intelligent eyes but the ones in the “after” pictures and video look markedly different, more like neglected street kids with dirty marks on their clothing, unkempt hair and masses of missing front teeth, like boxers. A parent radiating the love that Beth exudes does not have children like these poor little boys appear to have become.

    So what has happened in Vienna for this human catastrophe to have taken place? It is easy to locate the father using names of local public teaching hospitals and Google. He seems to be a hospital intern. But he is described in the article above and on http://www.helpbeth.org as an intern back in 2006. That’s a long time to be an intern, so somewhat mysterious to me. Then there is the psychologist who claimed Beth is paranoid and apparently more. But why a psychologist? In Austria they are not qualified – unlike a psychiatrist – to diagnose psychiatric disorders, only problems related to psychology. And why was there an intervention by the original judge so that another, who is a member of the Vienna Jewish community, could take over the case? I am not Jewish, have nothing to do with this community and hardly dare to suggest that there must have been very obvious bias in Beth’s court hearings. But one can scarcely conclude anything other than that the whole thing must have been a Jewish conspiracy against a young Jewish woman who was a newcomer in town, in other words, an appalling travesty of justice. The Austrian judicial system cannot be proud of this.

  • Trevor says:

    Here is the most comprehensive article I have found so far about this disgusting case in Austria. How is this being allowed to continue?

    http://helpbeth.org/the-vienna-review/

  • Gracee Moon says:

    I have heard today that the Judge gave final custody to the father,without Beth being involved in the court,all done behind closed door. http://helpbeth.org/custody-decision/. I am so very very sorry Beth for you your sons and family and friends. I wish you GOOD LUCK in your appeal. There is definite bias in this custody case Austria you should be ASHAMED so should the FAMILY COURTS of AUSTRIA, and so many other countries for the way protective Mothers and children are treated in Family Courts. All these children will one day grow up and take with them on their life journey all the heartache and unhappiness from their childhood.Feelings of abandonment, fear and missing their Mothers,people they meet on their journey will have to suffer along with them, because Family Court Judges sold out to the highest bidder.The ones rich enough to keep fighting or the ones who known the right people.My heart breakes for the for these children, they need their MOTHER.

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