An Italian Court of Appeals has annulled a decision by the
country's Minors Court, which had granted custody of two
Orthodox Jewish girls to their self-professed Catholic
father. Another custody hearing will be held at a date to be
The case began several years ago when the parents of Nitzan
and Danielle Dulberg, Moshe and Tali, native Israelis living
in Genoa at the time, were divorced and the mother was
awarded custody of their two children, Nitzan then 6, and
When the mother became religiously observant and moved to
Israel, the father filed for sole custody, claiming that his
former wife had become unfit to raise their daughters.
An Italian court, in a blatantly one-sided decision, accepted
the claim based on "expert" opinions indicating that an
observant Jew is unfit to be a satisfactory mother. The court
refused to hear any testimony from experts who are
immediately familiar with the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle, and
relied on the information supplied by the father.
The court also ruled that contact between mother and
daughters must be minimal and subject to conditions imposed
by the father.
The court also refused to hear testimony about the fitness of
both parents to raise the girls, including psychological
evaluations of both the mother and the father.
The father had in the meantime become a practicing Catholic,
and wished to bring up his daughters accordingly.
In its ruling, the Italian Minors Court ignored the accepted
approach and did not consider the wishes of the children, nor
provide that their relationship with the mother be allowed to
continue. This is in stark violation of all international
agreements about the rights of children.
The Italian UN ambassador, Francesco Paolo Fulci, is chairman
of the UN Commission on the Child. The UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child provides that a child has "a right to
maintain personal relations and direct contacts with both
parents on a regular basis."
Thousands of letters were received by Italian authorities,
and many international figures were enlisted to try to see
that justice is done.
All outside authorities agree that it is important that the
health and welfare of the children be the primary test of
what to do in this case. It is also important that the Court
show respect for Jewish practice, identity and culture that
are in many places around the world the basis for healthy,
vibrant communities that allow their members to fully
interact with the world.
Many readers responded to our earlier calls for writing
letters and faxes. Readers are urged to continue to pray for
Devorah Nitzan bas Tali and Danielle bas Tali.