An Orthodox Jewish mother of six who was barred from speaking with her own children because she insisted on raising them in a religious home has been thrown in jail because she lacked the financial means to reimburse her wealthy ex-husband $10,000 in court costs as order by an Ohio judge.
Julie Goffstein and her husband Peter Goffstein had been raising their boys as members of the Chabad community in Cincinnati when Peter Goffstein decided that he no longer wanted to live a religious lifestyle. Given an ultimatum of choosing between her religion and her marriage, Julie chose to continue living her life as a Jew and the Goffstein’s bitter divorce began to unfold in 2010. After hearing the testimony of 11 character witnesses and two court ordered evaluations, Judge Jon Sieve of the Hamilton County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas awarded full custody of all of the Goffstein children to their mother, specifically noting the importance of continuity for the boys who had been raised in an Orthodox home.
Nine months later, Peter filed for a reallocation of custody and within weeks Judge Sieve had reversed his decision, awarding Peter full custody of the four younger children, observing that Julie’s insistence on sending the children to yeshiva was not in their best interest. While Judge Sieve’s ruling allowed the children to remain in yeshiva, Julie was held responsible for paying their tuition, with Peter given the authority to make all of the children’s educational decisions. Over time, the situation continued to deteriorate, with Peter filing multiple lawsuits against his former wife and Julie moved with the two older boys to Crown Heights where they continued in yeshiva, while the four younger boys were sent to public school against their will by their father.
As the court battles continued, Peter Goffstein continued to keep the younger children shielded from both their mother and their Jewish heritage, allegedly chopping off one child’s payos, removing the boys’ yarmulkas and making them eat pork. Friends of Julie’s also reported that he smeared urine on one child’s face as a punishment for a religious observance and that Peter repeatedly bullied anyone who supported Julie’s mission of raising her sons in an observant home. Eventually the court forbade Julie from discussing any religious matters with her sons, and she was found in contempt of court for telling one son of her efforts to get him back into yeshiva.
While Peter is extremely wealthy, Julie’s financial situation is very bleak, having been stripped of all marital assets by Judge Sieve. His latest decision, holding Julie in contempt of court for being unable to reimburse her ex-husbands court costs and sending her to jail, seems to be the latest obstacle thrown at Julie simply because she has chosen to raise her sons as practicing members of the Jewish faith. Julie’s sons, ranging in age from nine to eighteen are living a life of turmoil, with the younger boys facing their father’s reported harassment and the two older boys now living alone in Crown Heights because of Julie’s imprisonment.
5 WAYS TO HELP
1. A Chesed Fund campaign has been set up to help raise money for Julie and help with all legal fees and to gain her immediate release. She has been unable to pay her attorney full due to financial challenges.
Click here to help. To donate via paypal:firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. A grassroots efforts on Facebook by The Women’s Coalition has been organizing a call in and email campaign asking Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to disqualify Judge Sieve for discrimination and to demand Julie’s release.
3. Other ways to help include pressuring Cincinnati media outlets to cover the story.
4. For Ohio residents to reach out to their elected officials and ask them to advocate for Julie’s release and Judge Sieve’s censure.
5. Those wishing to further help Julie can email Stuart Lichter (email@example.com), president of Industrial Retail Group, where Peter serves as a senior vice president in the Cincinnati office and ask for Peter Goffstein’s removal because of his unacceptable behavior.
Judge O’Connor can be reached at 614-387-9250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sample text to send the judge:
Dear Judge O’Connor,
I am contacting you today to protest the discriminatory treatment of Julie Goffstein by Judge Jon Sieve, an extremely biased judge who threw Julie in jail on July 11th.
Julie has been found in contempt for not paying her ex’s attorney’s fees and for contacting her children and is being forced to pay $10,000 for her wealthy ex’s attorney’s fees, which she does not have because Judge Sieve deprived her of her rightful marital assets. She is also being found in contempt for contacting her children, who he unjustly took away from her, ostensibly due to her religious beliefs—which is unconstitutional. Tellingly, he only took the four youngest boys because the father did not want the two oldest, proving that it is not really about religion; it is about empowering the father. He also ordered Julie to pay $500 to a fathers’ rights group before he was rightfully admonished by you.
Judge Sieve claims that the children have experienced emotional distress due to their mother contacting them, but the real harm to the children was caused by him taking four young boys away from their mother, their primary bond, who was a loving, stay-at-home mom.
There are many other things which confirm Judge Sieve’s bias. Please stop the injustice against Julie by disqualifying him and send a message to other judges and the public that discrimination against women in family courts will not be tolerated.