UK Chief Rabbi Secretly Flew to Vienna to Help Desperate Mother Reunite with Kids After Years Apart

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Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Ephraim Mirvis. Credit: Office of the Chief Rabbi.

ENGLAND (VINnews) — A shocking story has surfaced of a secret trip by the Chief Rabbi of the UK, who flew to Austria in 2018, trying to help a desperate mother reunite with her young children.

Beth Alexander, age 37, has tragically only seen her now 12 year-old twin boys once in the past five years. Her ex-husband has refused to let her visit, and he severely limits their phone time. The Austrian courts have repeatedly blocked her attempts at visitation rights.

Since 2016, she has only been with her sons once–a short, supervised visit last year that was “very traumatic, very painful”. As reported in the Chronicle, “They were a bit estranged from me,” she said. “I cried my eyes out when I left, it almost broke me.”

Ms. Alexander feels that the Austrian Jewish community has always sided with her ex-husband, Dr. Michael Schlesinger. She has tried desperately to get the courts to grant her custody, however all her attempts have been unsuccessful. Recently, she used a different approach, and was quite hopeful the courts would grant her request.

However the court completely denied her request for contact with her children, leaving her devastated. The British Jewish community has responded to the news strongly. A Facebook group in support of Ms. Alexander attracted 4,000 followers in just six days.

As reported in the Jewish Chronicle, after hearing about her struggle in 2018, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis took the enormous step of personally traveling to speak with the boys and appeal to community leaders, hoping his presence would achieve the improbable.

Rabbi Mirvis brought a secret group to Vienna, assessed the children’s wellbeing, and sent pictures to Ms. Alexander. According to the report, the Rabbi asked to meet Ms Alexander’s ex-husband, but his offer was declined.

He and his delegation met with Rabbi Biderman and other community leaders, urging them to push the local Jewish community to pressure Dr. Schlesinger. Although they appeared sympathetic, they said that there was nothing they could do.

After the trip, the group continued to lobby the boys’ father and community to secure visitation for their mother, with little progress. Ms. Alexander kept the negotiations under wraps for years, because she felt that it was inappropriate to publicize. However with her frustration growing, she has decided to go public

Rabbi Mirvis was quoted by the Chronicle as saying that the “latest setback adds another layer to this long standing injustice.”

The Vienna court ruled that Ms. Alexander did not have a right to see her children, even if she came to Austria. The judge claimed that contact with their own mother is “not in the best interests of the children”, because they had “developed a decisive willingness against such contacts, as well as against holiday contacts in Austria”.

The judge cited Ms. Alexander’s assertion “that this willingness is influenced by the father and his family”, but concluded “that the children have based their opposition on their real experiences”.

Ms. Alexander says that she will continue to fight for the right to visit her children.


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