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Thursday, June 06, 2013 

Judge awarded custody to abusive Satmar father because religion takes precedence over safety

It sounds like the judge in this custody case, which is under review now because of new evidence against the husband, ruled based on the notion that specific religious sects must be appeased or something:
When a chasidic husband and wife in the midst of a bitter custody battle want to go their own very separate ways, what’s in the “best interest” of their three young children who have only known the religious and cultural cocoon of upstate Monsey?

That question, a thorny one even when the parents’ breakup is amicable, takes on added emotional freight in the case of Kelly Gribeluk (Myzner) vs. Guillermo (Moshe) Gribeluk, the couple that until recently shared a home in the Satmar enclave. There are allegations that the father is physically, and perhaps sexually, abusing the children. And there is the mother’s vow, relayed in court documents, to take the three boys away from the only religious community they have known and instead raise them in a secular Jewish environment.

Add to that allegations that the father has a hair-trigger temper and flies into fits of rage, and that the mother was carrying on an affair with her husband’s 19-year-old nephew and you have a vivid portrait of a family coming apart at the seams. Then consider the fact that the family court judge hearing the case has received sizeable campaign contributions from Rockland’s powerful Orthodox community, and the story becomes that much more dizzying.

Caught in the crossfire are her three sons, all of whom suffer from severe ADHD and require special care. They say they don’t want to live with their father. But a Rockland County family court judge — convinced that raising the boys in two different worlds would be catastrophic — recently ruled otherwise, awarding custody to Moshe. The ruling is on hold, however, pending a new Rockland County Child Protective Services investigation that found evidence that Moshe had been hitting the boys.
I think that should be proof enough why the children would be better off in any environment other than what the Satmar run. The story says that the wife was drawn to the ultra-orthodox community because of her own broken home when she was younger. But to think the Satmar would be a good choice to live among is very naive and extremely stupid.
Myzner’s case, though unique in its harrowing details, represents a common phenomenon, according to advocates of those who break from the religious life.

“When a parent leaves the chasidic lifestyle, the community comes together to keep that parent away from the children, in any way possible,” said Shulem Deen, editor of Unpious.com, a website for those who have left the chasidic world. (Deen has written about the case on his site.) “For them, it’s a battle over the children’s religious souls.” Deen, who left the chasidic world five years ago and is now estranged from his own five children, has set up an online fundraising campaign to help Myzner appeal the ruling.

While resistance from the community is to be expected, it is alarming that the judicial system, a supposedly impartial arbitrator, is also structurally biased against those who leave the religion, advocates charge. “Since it’s always considered in the best interest of the children to keep as similar a life as possible, custody always goes to the parent staying in the community,” said Freidy Riess, the founder of Unchained At Last, an organization helping women leave arranged or forced marriages. “There’s supposed to be the separation of church and state, and there’s supposed to be a freedom of religion, but in essence what’s happening is that the courts are punishing anyone who wants to leave.”
It could be worse if this were a case involving Muslims. Nevertheless, this is indeed a very scary case where religion has taken precedence over the safety of the children, and something has to be done to restore the proper influence of the Constitution's religion clause.

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