Exclusive: Chicago Father Faces Jail for Bringing Daughter to Church

Still, during this dark time came a blessing, their daughter, Ela, born in November 2006. Ela "is the nucleus of everything I do," said Joseph. "She is this "perfect, amazing little girl," Rebecca said.

But for all the joy she brought, decisions on how to parent her would bring a lot of pain.

Religion Becomes a Battleground

With their marriage collapsing, religion became a battleground, and little Ela came into the cross fire.

They had firmly agreed to raise Ela Jewish, said Rebecca. "We had pledged in the marriage contract to raise Jewish children and so we had a Jewish home."

Their Jewish life, according to Rebecca, meant frequently going to synagogue, sending Ela to a Jewish preschool, and celebrating Jewish holidays. "Being Jewish is a humongous part of who I am," she told Cuomo.

Joseph told a different story, denying that he had agreed to have a Jewish home and raise Jewish kids, claiming that religion was not a significant part of their life.

But Rebecca countered with an inconvenient fact for Joseph. He converted to Judaism after Ela was born, complete with a "ritualized circumcision" that involved a pin prink to a very sensitive area. That takes commitment, Rebecca said, "that's a Jew right there."

Explaining why he subjected himself to that, Joseph said: "Because I loved my wife. And I wanted to see her happy. And I wanted to put us in the situation where being married to me wasn't problematic to her parents."

No matter whose story is true, they agree that the marriage had become toxic, and tensions were about to explode.

"I was angry," said Rebecca, "I was angry that my fairytale was dying."

And so was Joseph's. He suspected his wife was having an affair after she changed her cell phone account, seemed distant, and started wearing sexier clothes to work, he said.

One day, he said, he happened upon a cache of her personal e-mails, dozens of steamy messages between her and another lawyer.

Rebecca denied having an affair. "I didn't leave him for anybody else. I left him because of who we were," she told Cuomo.

But she did leave, and according to her, he did not take it well. "I called him to let him know that Ela and I were gonna go to my parents' house and he showed up the next day with the Skokie police, saying that I had abducted his daughter," she said.

Joseph said he was beat up in divorce court, a system that he believes is rigged against men. He lost early on: Rebecca got the home, the car, custody of their child.

Joseph Fires Back With Secret Baptism

But Joseph fired back. He sent Rebecca an e-mail with pictures attached, saying they were "taken of our beautiful daughter on the day of her baptism."

"It made me kind of sick that he would do something like that, when I'm the custodial parent, without talking to me," Rebecca told Cuomo.

Rebecca said that in her most cynical moments she believes he did it just to punish her: "He knew that it would really hurt me. It really did," Rebecca said tearfully.

"Because I'm Jewish. Because my daughter's Jewish. Because my husband was Jewish. And I never want her to think that she has to choose between her mommy and her daddy, ever," she told Cuomo.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...