Sunday, June 7, 2015

Beth's words of gratitude and appreciation of Rabbi Yehuda Brodie - a rare exception

MY five-year battle with the Austrian courts to win custody of my sons Sammy and Benji from my ex-husband has brought me into contact with so many rabbis around the world.

But I have been shocked and dismayed to discover that, contrary to the picture-book image I was fed as a child, not all those with the title "rabbi" are worthy of veneration.

Rabbi Yehuda Brodie was a rare exception.

It takes more than a title to make a rabbi and Rabbi Brodie, the registrar of Manchester Beth Din who died on Tuesday, personified everything a true rabbi should be.

He knew of me growing up in Manchester and knew my family well.

However, there are others who were closer who chose "not to get involved" as I battled the Austrian judicial system to try to get my boys back.

They distanced themselves from our crisis and made it clear they were not even willing to listen.

The very first person to call me when the news of my plight broke back in 2010 was Rabbi Brodie.

Without a moment's hesitation, he offered to take the next flight out to Vienna to try to mediate and help in my hour of need.

At the time, I didn't yet realise just how far things would escalate and told him there was no need. But looking back, I will never forget such a spontaneous act of courage and kindness.

Since then, he never deserted me.

His steadfast support, encouragement and belief in me got me through many a dark day when I thought nothing could break the spell of disconsolate misery.

Rabbi Brodie had a unique sense of humour and even at my lowest points, he knew just the way to cheer me up and make me see that there is always light ahead.

For every occasion, he had the perfect words, delivered with an inimitable wit that could slice through a stone.

Rabbi Brodie was indeed my rock and I will miss him terribly.

He always offered the sincerest advice and non-judgemental opinions.

A modest man, he shied away from lofty praise. And for his self-deprecation alone, a trait so exceptional in a public figure, I admired him more than perhaps he was even aware.

In every email and meeting we had, he called me a heroine. But for me, he was the real hero.

A natural leader, he didn't need to command respect.

His actions and unassuming manner unquestionably earned him the highest esteem.

I always wished my boys Sammy and Benji could meet the man who unconditionally fought so much for them and learn of his greatness first-hand.

Unfortunately, that isn't to be. But if I can instil in them even a fraction of the values and lessons Rabbi Brodie exemplified, I will be profoundly proud.

The giant who made a massive imprint on our lives leaves a towering legacy which will always be remembered.

Beth Schlesinger (Alexander),

(formerly of Manchester),


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