Feb. 26, 2010 -- Rebecca Reyes, the Chicago mother who obtained a temporary restraining order against her estranged husband for taking their daughter to a Catholic church, finally tells her side of the story.
Joseph Reyes had their 3-year-old daughter Ela baptized at a church without her knowledge. In what some are calling an extraordinary move, a family court judge issued a 30-day restraining order forbidding Joseph Reyes from "exposing his daughter to any other religion other than the Jewish religion during his visitation."
With local media crews in tow, Joseph Reyes allegedly violated the order and took his daughter Ela to a church again. Rebecca Reyes asked for him to be held in contempt of court, stating that his actions posed "harm" to their child. A trial date has not been set on those charges.
For the first time, Rebecca Reyes is speaking out about these events in an exclusive interview with "20/20" anchor and chief law and justice correspondent Chris Cuomo. Part of that interview aired Feb. 26 on "Good Morning America."
The full transcript of Chris Cuomo and Rebecca Reyes' interview can be found here:
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
On Dating, Marriage and What Went Wrong
CUOMO: All right, Rebecca, Chris. Let's just begin at the beginning, nice and easy. How did you meet this Joseph?
REBECCA: I'd moved back to Chicago, I'd been living in Anchorage doing-- some-- a clerkship, after law school. And I joined a gym-- where I was working. And-- I started boxing, and he had trained with the trainer there, and he came back-- to sort of reunite with his trainer, and we met.
CUOMO: So, you were a boxer?
REBECCA: At-- the very loose term, yes, I was a boxer. I really enjoyed doing it as a training technique. It's just an exercise thing.
CUOMO: So, you are working out, you're boxing, you meet this Joseph Reyes, what did you think of Joseph?
REBECCA: I thought he was captivating.
CUOMO: What does that mean?
REBECCA: I loved how easily he talked to me. I loved the thoughts that he had. I loved how he challenged me intellectually. I liked that we had this sport in common, because I think it's an amazing sport. I liked that we had fitness in common. If you agree on how to spend time, like, spending time at the gym, I think that's pretty important to a relationship. I thought he was great.
CUOMO: Quick spark? Did it take time? Friends first? How did it develop?
REBECCA: Quick spark, for sure. He was-- I think at the time that we met, he was already called up for active duty, so it was a bit of a challenge, logistically. But I thought he was fantastic from the moment that I met him. And-- by the time he was more available and around, we were together all the time.
CUOMO: So, it became a romance?
CUOMO: How long did you date?
REBECCA: Before we got married? Maybe two years. Because he was on active duty, too, so there was that impediment.
CUOMO: Did you always know that he was the one, when you were dating?
REBECCA: Yes, I did. I loved him very much.
CUOMO: And did he know that you were one-- the one? Did you guys talk about marriage a lot before?
REBECCA: Yes, I think s-- we did talk about it, I don't know what he thought, but I can tell you what he said. (LAUGH) And, yeah, we did talk about it.
CUOMO: Now, obviously, his character, his personality has changed, in your eyes, over time. But the original Joseph, how would you have described him to people?
REBECCA: I don't think that Joseph has changed that much over time, actually. I-- I-- I-- obviously, his religion has changed. But his basic personality I don't think has changed. I think that he's still articulate and interesting. I think that he is a thinker. He's a very deliberate person, and always, as long as I have known him, has been a very deliberate person. I don't think that-- I wasn't the-- the brunt of whatever anger he's feeling, so I can't say how he's different in that way, because I didn't really see that. But in terms of how engaging he is and t the-- the fact that he thinks a lot, and is passionate about a lot of things, that hasn't changed.
CUOMO: And you loved him?
REBECCA: I really loved him.
CUOMO: How did you get engaged?
REBECCA : It was so planned out. It was the least romantic thing you can ever imagine. It was because he was-- he was gonna be deployed-- so we picked a date, and I got a dress. And we went to-- Spiaja Restaurant (PH), and it was-- it-- for-- to me, it was perfect. And there was a ring, and we sat on this little booth, next to each other, and-- and our families were waiting-- for us, for a celebration afterwards. And our friends were waiting and as far as I was concerned, the whole world was possible. I still think that.
CUOMO: So, he was not worried about getting a "No"?
REBECCA: (LAUGH) No, he wasn't-- (LAUGH) worried about me saying, "No."
CUOMO: There's always that little bit--
REBECCA: No. (LAUGH)
CUOMO: --you never know. It's all speculation till the words actually come out of the mouth.
REBECCA: No. He had no reason to worry.
CUOMO: You picked the ring together?
REBECCA: No, he picked it himself.
CUOMO: Did you like it?
REBECCA: Of course, it was from Joseph.
REBECCA:I would've liked plastic.
CUOMO: And when did you get married, after he came back?
CUOMO: That must've been scary, waiting for him, when you knew where he was, right?
REBECCA: Oh, my goodness, it was really scary. He was in Afghanistan, and-- he was gone for a while, maybe five months, six months.
CUOMO: Did you know what his job was over there?
REBECCA: I knew that he was a counterintelligence agent. I don't-- I don't-- I didn't know very much more than that.
CUOMO: Scary though, 'cause you would just see in the news what was going on.
REBECCA: Obviously. And so I-- we-- when we-- before he left, we spent every Sunday, half of the day, with his family, half the day with my family. And I continued to do that for the entire time that he was gone, so that I could be around his family. I mean, it was-- it was beneficial for both of us. It was important to them that I be there, for support. And it was important to me to be with them. He used to call me pretty regularly. And so, if I was his parents' house when he called, then his mom got a chance to talk to him. And that was really important.
CUOMO: How long was he gone?
REBECCA: I think he was gone six months.
CUOMO: And how long after he came back did you get married?
REBECCA: I think he came back-- in April, March or April, and we got married in October.
CUOMO: Did you plan the whole wedding? Was it what you wanted?
REBECCA: It was a dream. It was perfect. Yes, exactly what I wanted.
CUOMO: And do you remember how Joseph was?
REBECCA: What do you mean?
CUOMO: At the wedding, at the marriage. Like, how much did this mean to him, how happy was this for him?
REBECCA: Well, there were two segments, actually, of the wedding-- because we had a Jewish wedding, so a couple days before the actual ceremony, we signed the Jewish marriage contract. Which, in the eyes of the Jewish religion, meant that we were married then. So, the-- I remember the rabbi saying to him, "There's nothing to worry about now, you're already married, it's already done." So, that was a beautiful thing to say, and we had-- my parents were there, and we had witnesses to the marriage contract, so it was a really beautiful side ceremony. And then we had this beautiful wedding, Jewish wedding, with the chuppa (PH) and-- and in-- in the round, so that the-- everybody was a participant. And the breaking of the glass, and it was-- it was magical, I had that death defying moment, where I thought they were gonna catapult me from the chair afterwards, because all my cousins had been drinking. And I thought, "This is going to be tragic." And he was delightful. I think there was one point in th-- that he didn't feel well-- but how could you not? You know, this is a surge of emotions, but it was a perfect day.
CUOMO: What was the dream? What was supposed to be your life together?
REBECCA: We were just supposed to be happy. I had no preconceived notions of what it would look like, day-to-day. I was with him, and that's really all that mattered. But if you're asking-- what details we did think about-- we wanted children, for sure. We lived a Jewish life. That doesn't mean that we went to synagogue every Friday s-- night and Saturday morning, but we went almost all from nights. We observed the High Holy Days together. We picked our synagogue when we moved, before we had Ela, based on where he wanted to convert. We were active members of the synagogue, and-- and that doesn't mean that that was absolutely-- our whole lives. But it was-- it was meaningful, and-- and we had pledged, in the marriage contract, to raise Jewish children, and so we had a Jewish home.
CUOMO: So, let's back up a half step, you two were dating.
CUOMO: Reyes is a good Latino name--
CUOMO: --he's a Catholic boy, you knew him as that. What did religion mean to you two when you were dating?
REBECCA: Well, I didn't know him as a Catholic boy. He was certainly born Catholic, and his parents were Catholic. But he never went to church, and actually talked with me and my family about how he had problems with the religion.
CUOMO: He did not go to church regularly?
REBECCA: No, never, I was with him every Sunday morning.
CUOMO: And it wasn't at church?
REBECCA: No. (LAUGH)
REBECCA: We went to hi-- we went to his family's house in the morning, and we would w-- wait for his mom and grandmother to come back from church. And we'd hang out with his brothers while they were gone, and-- but no, that was never a part of who he was.
CUOMO: And when you were going to get married, was there a discussion, "Do we do it in a church? Or do we do it a traditional Jewish wedding?"
CUOMO: Any discussion?
REBECCA: No. It was just a Jew-- it-- we were-- it was always gonna be a Jewish wedding. We went, and we interviewed rabbis. There was no discussion that there would even be a partial Catholic component. It was always just going to be Jewish, and-- and to be candid, Joseph is absolutely entitled to be Catholic. But if he had wanted to be Catholic in the marriage, I just wouldn't have gotten married. Not because he's not allowed to be Catholic, but that's just not the life that I wanted. That's just one of the criteria that I had for a life partner, was, it's important to me to be Jewish. So, I would've said, "I love you, and this is wonderful, but this-- this isn't going to work. You're absolutely entitled to be Catholic, but I really want to be Jewish, 'cause I'm Jewish."
CUOMO: And did you want him to convert?
REBECCA: No, I didn't care.
CUOMO: As long as the lifestyle and the way that the big events went in your life were Jewish, according to that culture and faith, you were okay with it?
REBECCA: As far as I was concerned, he decided whether to be Jewish or not.
CUOMO: He did? This was his decision?
REBECCA: Oh, yes, but I mean-- I mean in terms of what you believe in yourself. I didn't need a ceremony to-- to decide that he was Jewish. If he wad deciding for himself to be Jewish, and we were having-- and-- and-- and-- and this is the Jewish home that we were building, it was immaterial to me whether we had a piece of paper that said he was Jewish or not.
CUOMO: So, it was important to you that he become Jewish, at least in his head and his heart?
REBECCA: That he dec-- that-- that-- that was a choice that he made, absolutely. And if it wasn't a choice that he was willing to make, that's fine. It's just-- he just couldn't-- we just couldn't be together.
CUOMO: Did your parents like him?
REBECCA: My parents had problems with Joseph, from the very beginning.
REBECCA: Because they didn't see him treat me very well. It had nothing to do with whether he was Jewish or not, he could've been Orthodox Jews-- an Orthodox Jew, it wouldn't have made any difference. All that they wanted was for him to be good to me. And they didn't see him be good to me.
CUOMO: Were they right?
REBECCA: I didn't think so.
CUOMO: Were you wrong?
REBECCA: I don't know. We-- it-- it turned into a toxic relationship. By the end, it was a-- a-- a-- a poisonous home. And that's why I left. But, at the time, I made the right decision for me. And it didn't make them happy, and--
CUOMO: Did they have facts? Did they point to things? Or was it just a feeling, "I don't like the way he looks at you. I don't like the way he talks to you." What was it?
REBECCA: That's not-- that's not really the conversation that we had. I'd made a decision. When I made that decision, they respected that decision. But they-- they didn't like him. If they didn't like him, it was because they didn't see him treat me well. It had nothing to do with Judaism. It had nothing to do with how we practiced Judaism. They would've loved anybody who treated me well, and then Ela.
CUOMO: The idea that Joseph converted to Judaism to please your parents, so they would accept him, fair?
REBECCA: Completely unfair. First of all, it just doesn't make any sense. He converted after Ela was born. There-- there was no pressure to be brought to bear at that point. If that had ever been an issue, which it wasn't, in-- to me, it would've made sense to have done that before we got married, if p-- if they wanted him to Jewish, if that would have impacted the way that they saw him, then do it before we get married. Or do it before Ela was born. But he didn't convert either of those times, and that's because it was completely immaterial to them.
CUOMO: How long were you married until the relationship started to turn?
REBECCA: Until I realized that the relationship wasn't good? We weren't married very long before I realized that things were difficult. But--
REBECCA: That wasn't enough. And by the time I left, my-- concerns about the-- the poisonousness of the relationship had only to do with Ela. I loved him when I left. I didn't leave because I didn't love him anymore. I left because the relationship was gonna hurt and was, I believed, was hurting Ela.
CUOMO: What was going wrong?
REBECCA: We just didn't see the world the same, I guess. We had different expectations for what two people in love should act like. And-- that came down to very minute things, as well. And, you know, the details of that aren't necessarily important, it was the result. So that there was just a lot of tension. And the way that we both deal with anger-- concerned me a lot, because Ela was feeling a lot of tension. She did not gain any weight for the three months before I left.
CUOMO: She did not gain any weight for the three months before you left. How old was she?
REBECCA: Fifteen months old.
CUOMO: Wow, that's scary. What did the doctor say?
REBECCA: That I needed to bring her back in three months, to make sure that she is gaining some weight.
CUOMO: How-- sh-- she's 15 months old, was the feeling that she was stressed?
REBECCA: No, there wasn't-- it-- it wasn't alarming. She was growing, she was eating-- she was progressing-- ahead of schedule, in terms of her cognitive motor skills, all of those things. It was just-- there was this one manifestation, and that spoke a lot to me.
CUOMO: Allow me to pry a little. What kinds of things can you point to that were upsetting about Joseph?
REBECCA: The way that we spoke with each other. One of the-- the big strains on the marriage is that he wasn't contributing financially, and that we had made financial decisions based on a two income family. And he had reason after reason why he wasn't participating financially. That's not good in any relationship, there's no doubt about it. I went back to work full time after-- first part time, and then full time, after-- Ela. But we had agreed that I was gonna be able to take some time off. But because of his failure to-- work, I couldn't. So, I was figuring out how to be a mom and how to be a professional-- a lot earlier than I expected. And-- and I was coming home to a lot of tension, so I was out working all day, coming home just wanting to be mom, wanting to be a wife, and I was coming home to an incredible amount of tension, and she felt it.
CUOMO: Fair to say he had changed in some way? Was this a side of him that you did not realize?
REBECCA: Well, I-- I-- it's-- that is only fair in that what I understood about Joseph when I met him was his work ethic, he was in the military. He had been a professional for a lot of his life. I didn't marry him s-- for whatever money I thought he could generate, but I did really respect in him this c-- this-- this relationship he had with his own work ethic. And then we got married, and-- and there wasn't any of that left. And-- so, to that extent, I guess, there was a change, but--
CUOMO: Fair point that the two of you had decided that he would go to law school, and that's why you went back to work? That that was the plan?
REBECCA: No, this was a year's difference. This was in 2006, that we had Ela, and 2007 when I went back to work. So, that was years off. At the time, he was-- h-- first, he decided he wanted to be a wealth management person. So he was working and-- and-- we had to f-- find a way to pay for his licenses. There's a whole series of licenses that you have to get, tests to take and review courses to take. And then he decided he didn't want to do that anymore. So, he walked away from that. Then he decided he wanted to be a trader, so I think around that time, he was deciding that he wanted to be a day trader. So, we had to pour a lot of money-- that I was making into that ambition, and then that didn't work. And then he started his own business, and that didn't work. And so, he just walked away from a series of things without considering the amount of money that-- that I had asked from my parents to support us. And that was really difficult. And then, all of a sudden, the entire financial burden was on me. And we had made financial decisions that required two incomes.
CUOMO: Was this solely a personal industry issue? Or was it how he was dealing with you, and the situation emotionally, as well?
REBECCA: The latter, both of those things. Yes.
CUOMO: Right, 'cause people can not-- get it together work-wise, but you know they're actually trying, and you know they love you, and they know-- you know that they're doing the best by the relationship that--
CUOMO: --they can. So it can be okay. That wasn't the situation?
REBECCA: No. That wasn't the situation. And I was really concerned, and I was scared and-- and-- we couldn't talk about it. We couldn't talk-- in a positive way about it. And now there was a-- there was a third person implicated here. And that was-- that was just really scary, and-- and us not being able to communicate as husband and wife, and a lot of blame running around, I was just as guilty of that as he. It wasn't getting better.
CUOMO: Were things-- how were things before the baby?
CUOMO: Did you-- this-- was this one of those, "Maybe the baby'll make it better"?
REBECCA: No. To-- to be completely honest, I hoped that it would, but it was always our plan to have children. So, the timing of it wasn't based on hoping that the relationship would get better. Although, it would be c-- completely disingenuous of me to say that I didn't hope that it would make it better. As-- as immature a-- a hope as-- as that is, I did hope that it would make it better.
CUOMO: Were there steps to the decline of the relationship?
REBECCA: I don't know. It's hard-- it's hard to know that. And I haven't spent that much time isolating it in that way. Because I'm really just interested in trying-- I was, at least at that time, pr-- in particular, just interested in trying to find a way to co-parent, and figure out what was good about us, that we could m-- give to Ela, once I-- I-- once I knew that the relationship was doomed.
CUOMO: Did he see it? Did Joseph agree with your assessment about the relationship?
REBECCA: I don't know. I don't know. I-- I don't think so. I'm the one who left. And-- and he had decided right before that, that he had wanted to go to law school. And I think that he was very hopeful that that was gonna solve some problems. But I hadn't seen any of his decisions solve any problems. And, look, I want nothing more than his personal success. I hope that he is a fantastic lawyer, who finds an incredible amount of happiness. I hope that he meets someone that makes him really happy. It is in my best interest that he succeed as a human being, and that he's a great father to Ela. I want all of those things. I just couldn't find a way to make all those things happen in the context of the relationship.
CUOMO: He says you're angry. That you were angry at him, that you were unsatisfied with him, and that you don't want his best wishes, that's why you're holdin' his feet to the fire in the divorce case. That's what he says.
REBECCA: Yes, I was angry. I was angry that my fairytale was dying. I was angry that the things that I had really hoped were true about the relationship weren't true. Yeah, I was angry when I left. But I'm not an angry person. So that wasn't helping at all. So then I just focused on Ela. And in terms of holding his feet to the fire in the divorce, I'm not sure that I understand what that means.
CUOMO: He says you've made it very hard on him. That you've tried to strip him of his rights as a parent. You tried to separate him from his kid.
REBECCA: Okay, so first of all, I can't strip him of anything. I'm not the court system, I'm just Ela's mom. And, no, it is my-- it is my supreme hope that he has a healthy relationship with Ela. I would not-- I would be so sad for Ela if she did not have a relationship with her dad. Everything that has happened in the case has been a result of decisions that he has made, not decisions that I have made. He chose not to see Ela for seven months. He was entitled to see her. He was entitled to see her, he was under supervised visitation, at the time, because of the condition in which he left the apartment af-- when he moved out. But supervised visitation was a-- was a-- was a result of the decision that he made, and how he left the apartment. It's the legal system that imposed the-- the-- the-- the visita-- the s-- supervised visitation. I-- I-- I want him to see Ela. In fact, I have accommodated every request he's made. I unilaterally increased the amount of time that he got to spend with her. I changed days when he needed to change days to see her. All I want is for that relationship to be healthy. Everything, all the restrictions that have been placed on him have been based on his decisions, vis-à-vis that relationship with her.
CUOMO: Why did he get supervised visitation?
REBECCA: He was ordered to-- leave the apartment. I-- I left-- and the-- we both filed to have the apartment, and the apartment was awarded to me. And when we moved-- the day that we were moving back in-- there was glass-- shards of glass strewn all over the floor. There were tin can lids all over the-- her-- highchair was covered in food and couldn't be manipulated. It was-- it was unlivable. It was dangerous.
CUOMO: Did it look like something a person had done? Or that your cats had done?
REBECCA: It couldn't have been the cats. I can guarantee you that it was not the cats. And even-- even if he didn't deliberately leave the glass on the floor, he knew about the glass on the floor. And he knew that his 18-month-old daughter was moving in. And that it was July, and she's barefoot. She's barefoot, she's walking, but she's walking barefoot. This was completely dangerous for her. And at the very least, at the very best, he knew, and-- and so I-- I filed with the court, to hold him responsible for what he had done. And the ultimate result was that he got supervised visitation with Ela.
CUOMO: He says you wanted new carpets, and this was your way to get new carpets, was to blame it all on him, and have the court force him to pay for new carpets, even after you two had split.
REBECCA: I'm really sorry that he feels that way.
CUOMO: Joseph says he didn't want this to end. You fell in love with somebody else. You left him for somebody else. Fair?
REBECCA: Not fair. The relationship ended because of us. That's it. There was no affair. There was nobody else. I didn't leave him for anybody else. I left him because of who we were.
CUOMO: Why does he say that?
REBECCA: He's entitled to his opinion.
CUOMO: Is there a basis for it? Or is this feelings, covering feelings?
REBECCA: No, I-- I understand why he feels that way. I'm not-- I don't-- I don't want to parse whether it was a reasonable thing for him to feel. He's entitled to the way that he feels. But I can tell you that there was no affair. I can tell you that I didn't leave him for anybody else. I left him because of who we were.
CUOMO: Well, let's-- let's leave that at that.
CUOMO: So, now you decide it's over.
REBECCA: Uh-huh (AFFIRMATIVE).
CUOMO: You start the process of divorce.
CUOMO: Irreconcilable differences.
REBECCA: That's right.
CUOMO: Everybody says it, but it always means something different.
CUOMO: How would you define your irreconcilable differences?
REBECCA: No-- no bridges between us. No more bridges. No more way of him being him and me being me, and having that turn into something positive.
CUOMO: Can you say that you tried?
CUOMO: Can you say that he tried?
REBECCA: I think he did the best that he could.
CUOMO: So, it wasn't that he just quit on it, you just think it wasn't there for the two of you?
REBECCA: That's right.
CUOMO: Did he accept that?
REBECCA: I don't know.
CUOMO: When you said, "I'm leaving, it's over," did he fight you?
REBECCA: I called him-- to let him know that Ela and I were go-- were gonna go to my parents' house, to let him know exactly where we were intentions were. And he showed up the next day with the Skokie police, saying that I had abducted his daughter. So, I would say that, no, he didn't accept my decision.
CUOMO: That must've been scary, huh? For the police to come.
CUOMO: How'd you deal with that?
REBECCA: We talked. I talked to the police. The reason that Joseph knew where we were is because I had called him to tell him we're gonna go to my parents'. He's been to my parents' countless times, and-- that was the only place I felt safe.
CUOMO: Now, you can choose to address this or not. He has a note from you.
REBECCA: Uh-huh (AFFIRMATIVE).
CUOMO: That he say-- he says, "I was the stable parent, here. I was the good one. She was unstable, she was hurting, look at this note she sent me."
REBECCA: Uh-huh (AFFIRMATIVE). That's what I hear. So, f-- my-- first of all, that was-- we testified about this in court, at that same hearing. He says that I wrote a suicide note. I testified, I was held to be a credible witness, I've never attempted suicide, anything like that. He hurt me in certain ways, and I went to go stay with my parents a couple times, because he was gone, Joseph was gone, and I was really sad. But I would never hurt myself. And-- and I only went to go stay with my parents until I left, before Ela. This was all before Ela. I didn't have any reason to go and stay with them, until it was time to go and stay with them when I had Ela. So, this was all pre-Ela, but there were a couple times in the marriage, before we had Ela, that I was really sad at something he had done. And I just needed to be taken care of for a little while, not because I was falling apart, but because I was really sad and I wanted to be around people who really loved me.
CUOMO: This is a war of words. What kind of anger, what kind of mean was this guy? In those moments?
REBECCA: Words, actions, it's not relevant to whether-- to what's going on right now with Ela. But it-- it was what made the relationship toxic. And I hoped, at the time, that I could love him enough, that we would get through it. I was wrong.
CUOMO: You don't want to trash Joseph. Is that a fair statement?
REBECCA: That's really fair.
CUOMO: Why not?
REBECCA: 'Cause he's Ela's dad. He's my first husband, you know? He's-- still is my husband. I-- I have no vested interest in breaking him down. He's Ela's dad.
CUOMO: It bothers you, the idea that this situation would be about you trying to disrespect him?
REBECCA: This has absolutely nothing to do with who we are, vis-à-vis each other anymore.
CUOMO: So, to what it is about. Did you two have an agreement about what religion would be in your daughter's life?
CUOMO: You had an actual conversation, there was a conclusion to the conversation?
CUOMO: And why am I asking it that way? Because Joseph says there was no discussion. You're not Jewish, really. Maybe you're born Jewish, but you don't really practice it. He didn't know you to go to the synagogue. You never really talked about it, and because neither of you cared that much about religion, you had decided that your daughter will be-- we'll introduce her to everything. Fair?
REBECCA: No. Not any of that is fair.
REBECCA: Being Jewish is a humongous part of who I am. I don't keep kosher, I don't go to synagogue every single weekend. That's not what I was taught to understand as the requirements of Judaism. Judaism is who I am when I wake up in the morning. It's saying the Shimah (PH) every morning and every night before I go to bed. It's lighting Shabbas (PH) candles every Friday and having Shabbas dinner, not in Hebrew, but because the family, the practice of faith in the family. I observe Passover, eight days of Passover, strictly. I observe Rosh Hashanah, I observe Yom Kippur, and I observe Purim, because my daughter has all of these greggors (PH), and we make a lot of noise. And it's thrilling.
CUOMO: I even like Purim.
REBECCA: How could you not? There's a clear good guy and a clear bad guy, it's-- it's-- it's wonderful.
CUOMO: And it was on the table that this is what you would want for your daughter?
REBECCA: We went to synagogue together almost every Friday night. He came with me when we were dating to eight hours of grueling synagogue on the High Holy Days. Three days. Two days of Rosh Hashanah, one day of Yom Kippur. That's not for the weak, I have to tell you.
CUOMO: He converted to Judaism.
REBECCA: He did.
CUOMO: After the marriage.
REBECCA: That's right. After we got-- had a Jewish wedding, and after we named Ela in the synagogue.
CUOMO: So, why'd he do it?
REBECCA: Because he chose to do it.
CUOMO: He says, "Under duress." And now that I know you box.
REBECCA: Yeah, right. And so does he. So does he.
CUOMO: That's true, that's true.
REBECCA: It's a fair fight.
CUOMO: Under duress. What does that mean to you? "I did it under duress."
REBECCA: I know what the words mean, but I can't understand what it means practically. The words mean, "under pressure." But there was no pressure. It was already a Jewish home, that's all I needed. And it's certainly all my parents needed. It had nothing to do with whether he went through the ceremony or not. But h-- it was important to him, so we chose the synagogue, based on where he wanted to convert. When we went to meet with the rabbi, the rabbi said in Jewish tradition, that it's my responsibility to say no. To make sure that you want to do this voluntarily, I'm supposed to send you away three times, and say, "No, you're not allowed to convert," and you have to come back three times. And he said, "I'm not gonna do that," 'cause I'm not Orthodox, we're Reform. "But I am going to make sh-- I'm never going to come after you. I'm never gonna ask if you're doing the reading, I'm never gonna follow up with you. This has to be completely your own thing." And Joseph did the reading, and Joseph met with the rabbi regularly, because that's what he chose to do. And then the rabbi said that there were a few things he had to do for the conversion. He had to have-- he had to go to the mikvah (PH) for a ritual bath. And he had to do the ceremony. But he didn't have to do a ritual circumcision. Joseph decided to do that. That was his decision.
CUOMO: He got circumcised?
CUOMO: Now, that's commitment.
REBECCA: No doubt. That's-- that's a Jew, right there. And th-- so, he chose to do that, because he didn't want there to be any doubt about his commitment. And--
CUOMO: Did you ask him, "Why are you doing this now, by the way? (LAUGH) You know, you coulda done it before we got married. Why now?"
REBECCA: I don't th-- if I did, I don't remember. Because the whole thing was-- was irrelevant. If-- if-- if he woke up in the morning and felt Jewish, so much so that we had a Jewish home, which we did, that's all, that's all.
CUOMO: So, this was no-- there was no contention, this wasn't pushing him to get it done, get it done.
REBECCA: Absolutely not.
CUOMO: He explains the delay as him holding it off, as long as he could.
REBECCA: He could've held it off forever, if it's not what he wanted to do.
CUOMO: What you wanted was the home and the child's life to be Jewish, and your lives to be freely Jewish?
REBECCA: That's it.
CUOMO: So, now the case begins, it's goin' on.
CUOMO: Joseph plays on a very-- potent theme.
CUOMO: Joseph says, "Husbands, fathers get a hard time in family court."
CUOMO: And that he has been-- being pushed back, pushed back. You get the house, he concedes into sole custody. You get a slice of whatever money he makes, so he has to live in his parents' basement. And this was his line in the sand. He says, "This was my line. She got my house, she doesn't let me see my kid as much as I want, she gets a cut of my money, even though she doesn't need it, and now she's telling me what kind of faith I can have. It's my line in the sand, I draw it here." What's your take on that?
REBECCA: Well, my first take is he's absolutely allowed to be Catholic. I'm not telling him anything about the religion that he can practice. I don't get to make that decision, not for him, not for anybody, that's his decision. If he was born Catholic, and he wakes up in the morning, and he's Catholic, then he's allowed to be Catholic. That's great.
CUOMO: Did you ever see him being Catholic?
CUOMO: I know it's an odd way to put it, but-- --in the time when you're together, did he go to church?
REBECCA: We went to church once for his nephew's baptism, because that was the right thing to do. But no, not any other time did I see him go to church.
CUOMO: Did you know him to pray Christian prayers?
REBECCA: No. I-- the only time I've ever seen him pray was in synagogue. And I don't know what he was saying to himself, but we were in synagogue.
CUOMO: And there was never an agreement that the kid would be Jewish and Catholic?
CUOMO: Whatever that means.
REBECCA: No. We were always going to introduce her Catholicism at some point, because his family's Catholic. Undeniably, I respect that completely about them. We used to go open presents on Christmas Day over at their house. We didn't go to church, but it was fine with me to-- to-- that-- that we opened presents somewhere other than-- you know, under the lights of Chanukah. It-- th-- that's fine, I have relatives that are Catholic. I have best friends that are Catholic. The world is not Jewish. We were always going to introduce her to Catholicism. But not until she had the capacity to understand.
CUOMO: And not as her personal faith?
REBECCA: Of cou-- well, if she chose it, ultimately, I will love her.
CUOMO: But not by agreement of the two of you?
REBECCA: Right. We're Jewish. We are Jewish. And we never-- we never had a tree in our home, we never celebrated those holidays but for celebrating with other people in, you know-- s-- in a celebratory way, having dinner as a family-- opening presents at his parents' house. But no, it was-- there was a-- there was a-- a-- a very clear message that we were sending to Ela, "This is a Jewish home."
CUOMO: And before you were married, you were Jewish then too, right?
REBECCA: Yes, I--
CUOMO: You didn't celebrate Easter and Christmas?
REBECCA: No, I have an aunt, my mom's best friend, who I call aunt-- we have a very extensive, inclusive idea of family-- is Catholic. And so, we would have dinner with her on those holidays, because she would have dinner with us on Rosh Hashanah and Passover-- in celebratory way, but not a religious way. We never go to church, there was never any praying. At the s-- at the Seder, there's praying. But w-- never at-- at-- on Christmas or on Easter, this was just an excuse to have a meal. But we never went to church or talked about this being a-- a Christian experience, it's a family experience.
CUOMO: You're Jewish.
REBECCA: I'm Jewish.
CUOMO: You've always been Jewish.
REBECCA: I've always been Jewish.
CUOMO: If we ask your friends, "What's Rebecca?" They'll say, "She's Jewish."
REBECCA: Every single day.
Catholicism vs Judaism and the Temporary Restraining Order
REBECCA: I got an e-mail from Joseph with pictures.
CUOMO: Did he ask you about it before?
CUOMO: He says, "She wouldn't talk to me. That's why I didn't ask her." Fair?
REBECCA: Not fair. He has my phone number. He's-- he's the father of my child. He can call me any time. That doesn't mean that we're gonna agree on everything. But absolutely, he can call me any time.
CUOMO: What would you have said--
REBECCA: And he does.
CUOMO: What would you have said if he said, "I wanna baptize the child."
REBECCA: It woulda been very difficult for me to hear that. And I would have said, "Help me understand why. Help me understand what's going on with you, because that's not the (MIC NOISE) Joseph that I know. So help me understand what's going on."
CUOMO: Why do you think he did it?
REBECCA: (SIGH) On my most cynical moments, in my most cynical moments, why did he do it? Because he knew that it would really hurt me. (CRIES) It really did.
CUOMO: Why did it hurt you?
REBECCA: Because I'm Jewish. Because my daughter's Jewish. Because my husband was Jewish. Because I have an idea of the things that I want her to appreciate as a three-year-old. And this-- this is just really confusing. At best, it's really confusing. And it's gonna make her life a lot harder until she's ready to really understand what's going on. And I never want her to think that she has to choose between her mommy and her daddy. Ever. And this put her in a position, eventually, not today, but eventually, where she's gonna have to make that decision way before she-- she's capable of choosing a religion for herself. Also, in-- it-- it-- it made me worried about what other decisions he was making that were completely apart from things that we agreed about what life should look like for children.
CUOMO: What was your reaction when you got the e-mail and the pictures?
REBECCA: Well, it made me kind of sick. Not-- not that he is Catholic, but that he would do something like that, when I'm the custodial parent-- without talking to me. And so, I filed a motion to-- keep him from exposing her to anything outside the Jewish faith until the court could decide at the trial, which was already scheduled, I think it was, like, 30 days away, or something like that. Till the court t-- could decide whether it's harmful for her to be exposed to something other than Judaism right now.
CUOMO: Before you ran to court, why didn't you just pick up the phone and talk to him about it, and say, "What is this about?"
REBECCA: Because I-- I th-- I understood in that moment that I no longer had any semblance of a partner on the other side. There was nothing to work with. I had been trying to work with him for a very long time. I had been trying to talk to him. I had tried to accommodate him. And the fact that he would do that sent me a very strong message that I didn't have a partner on the other side.
CUOMO: And you had no clue that this was in the works?
REBECCA: I didn't even kn-- know that he would even conceive of doing something like that. No.
CUOMO: So, the TRO (PH) is filed.
CUOMO: Thirty days we wait. And all-- that's what it says, it says don't expose the kid to Judaism-- any other religion other than Judaism, until we have the hearing. That's what it says, right?
REBECCA: That's right.
CUOMO: The idea that taking the kid to church would be perceived as a harm, does that sound far fetched?
REYES: It's hard to swallow, right? I can understand that. So let me-- help you understand.
CUOMO: How is going to church harmful? That's the question.
REBECCA: Any individual time you go to church, there's-- th-- it would just be completely disingenuous of me to say that it's harmful, any single time. But going to church, just like going to synagogue, is indoctrination. It's inseparable from just sitting in the pew. Just like going to synagogue, you-- you don't-- you can't separate the sitting there from the element of indoctrination. You can't separate the-- the-- the Tet (PH) and the Torah, having words in Hebrew. You can't separate having images of Jesus and the intonations of-- of-- pl-- things that have to do with Jesus. I'm sorry that I'm not more articulate about what happens, I-- I really haven't spent any time in church. Judaism is an identity. Judaism isn't what I do on Friday nights and-- and Saturday mornings. Judaism is something that is the core of who I am, and the core of what I understood-- we were doing with Ela. Until she has the ability to make those decisions for herself, about who she is and who she isn't, the message and the consistency of that message is invaluable. Taking her consistently to church undermines the message of who she is, and the consistency of the answers about who she is and who we are. When she's old enough to understand, because she's a self aware enough to understand that there are differences, absolutely. Daddy believes something different than Mommy believes. Daddy's entitled to believe something different that Mommy believes, and here's what those beliefs are. But she's three. She has absolutely no capacity to make these decisions for herself. And so, the constant undermining of who she is, who she was born as, and who we agreed she would be in our home, is really harmful.
CUOMO: Do you think that Catholicism is harmful?
REBECCA: Of course not.
CUOMO: It's just anything other than Judaism?
REBECCA: A different message, an-- a message that is at complete odds with the message that I'm giving, is-- is-- is going to be harmful right now, only right now.
CUOMO: But it's not about Catholicism, per se?
REBECCA: Of course not. What's harmful about Catholicism? There's nothing harmful, there's nothing harmful about Judaism. Certainly, you know, taken to any logical extreme, that's-- you know--
CUOMO: Now, speaking of logical extremes, Joseph says he didn't violate this order, because Judaism is a big umbrella, and Catholicism fits right underneath it. That he didn't violate it, because to him, Catholicism's no different than Judaism. You think he believes that?
REBECCA: I don't know what he believes. I don't want to speak to what he believes.
CUOMO: Does that make sense?
REBECCA: It makes no sense to me. It-- and I'm not a-- I'm not a theologian. I'm not an expert, I'm not a rabbi. I'm just a Jewish person. But I can tell you that a humongous difference, for one, is Jesus. Whether the Messiah has come, or not, is a humongous difference. And I don't think that we need a doctrinal expert th-- to have just a basic, common sense understanding that that just can't be true.
CUOMO: So, he's in law school, he's a smart guy.
REBECCA: He is.
CUOMO: Where's he coming from?
REBECCA: I think he's just justifying his actions.
CUOMO: So, the TRO is up, "Thirty days, we'll handle it." You figure you'll go there, get some sober minds.
CUOMO: Let people cool down.
CUOMO: That doesn't happen?
CUOMO: How do you find out that he decides to violate the order?
REBECCA: I believe I got a phone call that-- Ela was on TV. And that Joseph was-- had the press present for taking Ay-- while he was taking Ela to church.
CUOMO: He says it's a First Amendment issue.
REBECCA: He's entitled to practice Catholicism. This isn't about the First Amendment, this is about parenting.
CUOMO: You know--
REBECCA: He's allowed to be Catholic.
CUOMO: The idea of the position that Joseph put your daughter in frightened you. Why?
REBECCA: Because he decided to violate a court order. And he got Ela embroiled in a media nightmare. Her picture is everywhere, and I have to tell you, I'm not the judge of what-- of excellent parenting. I'm only doing the best that I can do. But I-- I think, objectively, that good parents do not put their children at risk by putting their face all over the media. He did not ask that her picture be pixilated. My lawyers had to call all of the networks and ask that her picture be obscured. Good parents do not exploit their children for their own financial or personal gain. Go to church, Joseph, that's fine. Just-- this is about parenting. This is not about religion. He's allowed to be Catholic, and she's allowed to be Catholic someday, if that's what she chooses, I won't love her any less. She's my daughter. She can make those decisions, and I will love her, it will have absolutely no effect on our relationship if she chooses to be Catholic someday. But he violated a direct court order. I am sitting here, in this chair, because he decided to violate a direct court order, and take Ela to church, and have the media document it, and put her-- she can't make this decision for herself. He put her in this dangerous position.
CUOMO: Now, to be clear, you're a lawyer.
REBECCA: I am.
CUOMO: What upsets you is not that he just violated a court order, it's that he did something, made a judgment with respect to your daughter, that you feel could be dangerous going forward. What else might he do? Fair?
REBECCA: Not only what else might he do, but what are the other things that might result from this? W-- people have been showing up at her nursery school, looking for her. People have been trying to contact me on the Internet. She deserves anonymity. She c-- she-- sh-- sh-- wait until she's old enough to make that decision, where she decides to expose w-- herself to the media. She can do that, that's fine. But she can't make that choice right now. And there are other harms, there are other things out there that he can't control, as a result of her face being all over the media.
CUOMO: And he's using powerful medicine. Using religion, and the righteousness of his religious cause, that's strong medicine to a peery (PH) God fearing country.
REBECCA: He is absolutely entitled to his religion. He's absolutely entitled to practice his religion. This is about parenting. And he had relief available to him. If this was so important to him, he has relief available to him. The court system. He appealed the TRO and it was upheld by the appellate court, and now it's pending with the Illinois Supreme Court. And we have a trial date at the beginning of March. He has remedies. He has remedies. And I will abide by a court decision, if the court does not agree with me that it is harmful, I will abide by that decision. He didn't. What am I supposed to do with that?
CUOMO: The religion issue is secondary to your concern for what he does with the daughter, right?
REBECCA: Of course. Her safety is the most important thing to me.
CUOMO: And you're worried that you don't know where this ends?
REBECCA: I don't. Where does it end? Where does it end? What is this for?
CUOMO: Well, what do you think?
REBECCA: I don't know.
CUOMO: Well, if it's not really about Catholicism being burned to his breast, in terms of importance, what else is there? You, is what there is, right? (SIREN)
REBECCA: (CRIES) Using my daughter to hurt me, maybe. Self promotion. Financial gain. (SIREN) I don't-- I don't know how to answer that question. I would feel a lot better if I did, I have to tell you. If I knew what was going on here, I could address it.
CUOMO: Have you tried talking to him?
REBECCA REYES: I have not.
CUOMO: Why not?
REBECCA: How do you talk to somebody after that?
CUOMO: You do have the child together.
REBECCA: Absolutely. And that's what the court was for. That was the-- for people who cannot make these decisions for themselves, the last result is the court. The-- the last resort. Did I say "result"? I'm sorry. The last resort is the court system.
CUOMO: You don't think--
REBECCA: It's not ideal, it's not ideal for anybody.
CUOMO: But you don't think you can talk to Joseph, and figure things out?
REBECCA: What's-- what is there to figure out now?
CUOMO: "Don't take the kid to church, if you're mad at me, talk to me. Let's deal with it this way. You're gonna wind up losing your daughter this way."
REBECCA: So, I say now, Joseph, please talk to me. If you're angry with me, talk to me. Please don't put Ela in the middle of this. Please don't. If you want to take her to church, let's talk about why you want to do that. Let's talk about what's reasonable for Ela, and let's be her parents.
CUOMO: Now-- Ela's three, right? So, this is about her future and everything going forward. You think she knows what's going on?
REBECCA: I don't know. I-- I think a few days ago, I would've said no, but she's three. So, she's in that-- you don't really know what she's getting, and then she says something. She hasn't said anything about this. I hope, beyond hope, that she does not know what's going on. But she's getting to that age where she's understanding more and more. She hasn't said anything so far, but that's not gonna be a cover for very much longer.
CUOMO: She tell you anything about the baptism?
REBECCA: No. She did not.
CUOMO: She ever talk about church?
REBECCA: No, she doesn't talk about church.
CUOMO: Joseph says he was engaging her intellectual curiosity, that she was interested in church. And because she showed an interest, he decided to engage it. That's what started this.
REBECCA: She's three. She has no idea what those things mean, and she certainly didn't a few months ago. She goes to our synagogue for-- preschool. And if I say to her, "Let's go to synagogue," she's not completely sure what I mean. If I say, "Let's go to school," she understands that.
CUOMO: If you-- the-- the concern for you is not that there's immediate harm here, it's what-- what message are we sending? What is the parenting-- role? What is our agreement? That's what it is.
REBECCA: That-- that very soon, there is going to be harm. The-- the fact that we get to hide--
CUOMO: There'll be confusion.
REBECCA REYES:--right. There-- there will be confusion, there will be an abrogation of her identity. To me, that's harmful. Confusion, at best.
CUOMO: Now, the response to this.
CUOMO: He takes the kid and baptizes it, supposedly on the sneak. You go to court, say, "Hey this is-- "
CUOMO: "--I can't deal with this." He does it again. You now file for contempt.
On Joseph Going to Jail and the Future
REBECCA: Well, first of all, that sounds like a legal decision. I know that, because I'm a lawyer, and it's screaming "legal decision." I am smart enough to know that I do not serve as my own lawyer. That was a legal decision, absolutely ask my lawyer about that, please-- please do. But please understand that there would be no contempt at all, had Joseph not done something. We are in this contempt proceeding at all-- civil, criminal, whatever, as a result of something Joseph did. Joseph made a decision. If he hadn't have made that decision, no contempt. We are here because of what Joseph did. And whatever comes next, it's him taking-- having to take responsibility for what he did. There would've been none of this. We never would've met, you and I, I never would've been sitting here, but for a decision that Joseph made.
CUOMO: No question, he started the cycle. No question. Are you worried that if everything plays to its finality, that he might wind up going to jail?
REBECCA: Yeah, I'm worried about that.
CUOMO: 'Cause, is that what you want, ultimately?
REBECCA: I want him to stop hurting Ela. I want him to understand that there are ramifications for the choices that you make. I want him to have a healthy and thriving relationship with Ela, and-- and to be whatever he wants to be in life.
CUOMO: You want good things for Joseph?
REBECCA: I want great things for Joseph. I want great things for Joseph, because that will mean great things for Ela.
CUOMO: Is it fair for him to say, "Look at the judge, judge is the head of the Jewish Board of Lo-- whatever." The judge was Jewish, had a thing against Catholicism, that's why he called it a harm, because to--
CUOMO: --have a TRO, it has to be perceived as a harm. You think that played out here?
REBECCA: Wow, that's really scary stuff, to me, because that undermines the entire sanctity of the judicial process. That someone, who's a judge, cannot put those kinds of personal things aside, and fairly and disinterestedly adjudicate the person and the issues in front of them. That is the basis of our democracy, that's the basis of our judicial system, that's first of all. Second of all, this is the judge that released Joseph from supervised visitation. There was no bias here.
CUOMO: And it was also upheld on appeal, by a non-Jewish judge. For-- what it's worth.
REBECCA: It's meaningful to me.
CUOMO: Sure-- (UNINTEL) now, here we sit, where March is the-- next date, right?
CUOMO: What's gonna happen here, Rebecca?
REBECCA: I'm gonna get divorced.
CUOMO: This has been a long time. What's taken so long here?
REBECCA: I'm not really sure. I just know that we have a trial date in March, and it's going to be over, and then it's just gonna be the two of us. As parents, with this perfect, amazing little girl, who deserves the very best in both of us. And the relationship is over. And that's what court's for, to-- to-- to legally end the relationship. And now, it's-- we just have our character. That's all that's left. Who are we, as parents? That's what's next.
CUOMO: Why do you think it's taken so long?
REBECCA: It's just been very piecemeal. I'm not sure if that's because that's how the system is set up to-- to function. It's very myopic, so that whatever's in front of the judge is the only thing in front of the judge. The judge doesn't really look at sort of the greater picture. And there's been an unwillingness to settle the case, so we have to go to-- to trial to do that. And that's fine, that's what the process is for. And so, here I am.
CUOMO: In terms of your disposition, even with everything that's happened--
CUOMO: --you don't hate Joseph.
REBECCA :No, I don't.
CUOMO: You don't wanna see him go away, necessarily? You just--
REBECCA: I don't want to see him go away on any level, no, of course not.
CUOMO: You just want him to do the best by your daughter.
REBECCA: That's it.
CUOMO: Do you think he gets that?
REBECCA : I have no idea.
CUOMO: You think when I ask him, "What does Rebecca think of you?" he's gonna say that, or you think he'll say something else?
REBECCA: I think he'll probably say something else.
CUOMO: 'Cause-- 'cause he's confused? Is it because you're different with him than you are with me? What do you think it is?
REBECCA: I'm just this. I'm just this. We don't spend any time together anymore, so I don't know. I don't-- I don't know that he's ever really understood the person that I am. I think that we both had basic-- misunderstandings of what we expected out of life. And that was what made the relationship toxic. But I-- I certainly hope-- I certainly hope that, if nothing else, he can just see me as Ela's mom, 'cause I'm Ela-- I'm Ela's mommy. That he will help me protect her, going forward, from whatever's out there in the world, like parents do. That he will help protect her anonymity even though he's given out her photo, and even though he's allowed himself to be videotaped-- with her. I hope that going forward, he makes better decisions about protecting her. And that they have a thriving and healthy relationship forever.
CUOMO: What has been the hardest thing for you to deal with in all this, emotionally?
REBECCA: Fear of the unknown. Fear of not really understanding the person that shows up at her nursery school, looking for her. (CRIES) The fear of the person that tries to contact me over the Internet about-- raising my child Catholic. 'Cause I really just want to be anonymous. I mean, I know that that's counterintuitive to me coming on television. But it really is to beg for the privacy that she didn't have the opportunity to give up on her own. All I want is-- is her privacy, and for people not to-- to-- to interfere with the person that she is.
CUOMO: And to address confusion that you're on some type of religious campaign.
REBECCA: This is not about religion. This is not about religion. My best friends are Catholic. My aunt is Catholic. Everyone has the right to whatever they believe-- they should be, in the universe, whether that's because of religion or something else. Wake up in the morning, and if you're Catholic, do your best as a Catholic. If you're Jewish, do your best as a Jew. This has nothing to do with that. This is about parenting. This is about making decisions for your child's well being. This is about being selfless, every single day, so that your child can prosper. This is about not putting your child at risk. That's it.
CUOMO: Anything else you want to say?
REBECCA: Thank you for having me.