UK – Ultra-Orthodox Jews raise funds to keep children out of ‘evil’ secular lifestyle
1-24 NEWS – Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the UK have started a £1 million fundraising campaign in order to prevent children from leaving the faith and going to grow up in secular households in the event of their parents divorcing, the Independent reports. The money is being raised in order to pay the legal fees of parents fighting for custody of their children in court against ex-partners who have gone secular.
Flyers have been distributed around Stamford Hill, London — a heavily ultra-Orthodox community — calling on people to join the “Rescue the Children Convention.” The flyer, according to the Independent, suggests that donors join with a minimum donation of £500.
A letter from a local rabbi accompanied the report, saying that the group was currently involved in cases involving 17 children.
“To our great pain, and our misfortune, our community finds itself in a terrible situation — 17 of our pure and holy children where one of the parents, God rescue them, have gone out into an evil culture, and want to drag their children after them,” the Independent quotes the letter as saying.
“This is a degree of apostasy and this situation has motivated our rabbis who are in Israel…to come here in a personal capacity to increase prayer and to gather money for legal fees, and to achieve this a convention has been organized of prayer and also to collect money,” the letter continues.
A spokesperson for GesherEU, an organization that supports ultra-Orthodox Jews who want to leave their communities, told the Independent that such child custody battles are “seen as a huge threat to the Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] community, knowing that people can leave the community and take their children with them and give them a decent secular education and live successfully outside of the community.
“It is very common within the Haredi community for the religious parent to receive full financial support throughout the court process to ensure the children remain within the community,” the spokesperson continued.
“The religious parent will be pressurized into filing for full custody and even lie in court so that the other parent is seen as ‘an unfit parent’ and lose custody/contact with their children. Often parents who leave will experience domestic violence as the religious parent will resort to threats and emotional and physical abuse to try and coerce their spouse to remain married and living within the Haredi community,” they added.
The spokesperson called the initiative a “scare tactic,” saying that it “does work to some extent and deters many who would otherwise leave knowing they will be facing a legal battle with potentially devastating consequences.”
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