Bitter court battle over Orthodox family split

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Bitter court battle over Orthodox family split

A man who split from his wife and left the Satmar community has been accused of exposing his children to an 'alien way of life' by allowing them to break Shabbat

Lady Justice
Lady Justice

A Jewish father who left an ultra-orthodox community when splitting from his wife was accused of letting their two young children ride their bikes on the Sabbath and watch television, a family court judge has said.

The man’s estranged wife told Judge Judith Rowe of her concerns about what the children were allowed to do when they visited their father.

She said she was afraid of them being “exposed to an alien way of life” and of religious rules being broken.

The mother said the children had “made many allegations”.

One child had been allowed to press a traffic light button on the Sabbath.

The other had been “shown an electronic device”.

They had also had been allowed to eat non-kosher food, she said.

The woman also accused her estranged husband of taking off his kippah on Sundays.

Detail of the case has emerged in a ruling by Judge Rowe following family court hearings in London.

No-one involved has been identified.

Judge Rowe said family court litigation had started more than two years ago.

She said she had made decisions relating to when the children, who lived with their mother, should spend time with their father.

“The whole family lived a Satmar ultra-orthodox Jewish life until early 2013 when the father decided to leave the community,” said Judge Rowe in her ruling.

“This was a seismic event for the family.

“The father continued thereafter to follow his Jewish faith but at least for a time he did not practise within a settled Jewish religious community.

She added: “The court had … to contend with the mother’s distress and fear of the children being exposed to an alien way of life on the one hand, and the father’s impatience at having to continue to follow the Satmar way of life during his time with the children on the other hand.”

Judge Rowe said she did not think that the man had deliberately flouted “expectations on him”.

She said “two loving parents” were struggling with arrangements for the children’s care.

She said the youngsters should spend equal time with each parent.

And she said it was important that the children saw that their father was “still Jewish”.

Judge Rowe added: “There have probably been occasional deviations from the Satmar rules for reasons including mistakes and occasional carelessness of the father or others, however I do not find that the father has deliberately or intentionally flouted the expectations on him or, in any event, that these have been either frequent or generalised.

“The father knows what is at stake here. I find that he would not now deliberately cause problems for the children.

“They must spend important religious days with him just as with the mother. Both parents must be part of the fabric of the children’s lives.”

Judge Rowe said the children had to be given the “clear message” that their lives with each parent were “equally important”.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: