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Mother Accused of Starving Child Underwent Psychiatric Exam

The Jerusalem mother accused of starving her child underwent a court-ordered psychiatric examination overnight, in order to avoid the media.
By Avraham Zuroff and Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 7/21/2009, 6:07 AM / Last Update: 7/21/2009, 12:07 PM

Israel news photo:(Yitzchok Russek / Topshot)

The Jerusalem mother who is accused of starving her child underwent a court-ordered psychiatric examination overnight and into Tuesday morning. The examination took place at the pre-dawn hour to stay out of the media limelight. The results have not been disclosed.

The mother was examined in the clinic of Dr. Yaakov Weil, and not in the Jerusalem home of Rabbi Avraham Freilich,
The Rebbe of Toldot Aharon, the Hassidic sect to which the mother belongs, persuaded her.
where the exam was originally intended to take place and where she was placed under house arrest since Friday. The mother was accompanied by one of Rabbi Freilich’s daughters.

The mother, a hareidi-religious woman, was arrested after hospital officials saw her remove a feeding tube from her severely underweight three-year-old child on a hidden camera. She claims that she was trying to feed her son solids. Family members accuse Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center of framing the mother to cover-up medical malpractice of a child who has been under their care for the last two years, without his condition improving. Hospital officials responded that the child began gaining weight since the mother’s arrest prevented her from harming her son.

The mother’s subsequent arrest last week prompted violent demonstrations in hareidi-religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The mother was placed under house arrest since Friday on condition that she would agree to undergo psychiatric examinations to rule-out Munchausen on Proxy syndrome, a mental illness in which a person causes harm to a family member in order to gain attention.

Rabbi Tuvia Weiss, who heads the hareidi-religious Eidah Hareidit rabbinical court, originally opposed the woman’s undergoing a psychiatric examination. However, public relations personality Dudi Zilbershlag, who has represented the mother in the media, told Voice of Israel government radio that he persuaded Rabbi Weiss to agree to the testing and to back off demands to transfer the child to another medical facility, since the child is presently receiving proper medical care.

According to the hareidi-religious Katzar website, the Rebbe of Toldot Aharon, the Hassidic sect to which the mother belongs, persuaded her to undergo the psychiatric examination.

Zilbershlag is happy that the court was satisfied with one psychiatric exam, and not a series of exams that prosecutors demanded. "I wouldn't recommend a series of examinations since this woman needs absolute rest," he said.

Dr. Weil, however, said today that he believes further evaluation would be necessary in order to formulate an informed medical opinion.

110 Protesters to be Charged
Public Safety Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch said Sunday night that 40 files have been opened against 110 people suspected of involvement in recent hareidi-religious rioting in Jerusalem. During Knesset discussion of the demonstrations, the minister said 26 police officers and six civilians were injured in clashes.

Aharonovitch said the police would not hesitate to arrest any suspect and would take all steps necessary to maintain law and order.

The rioting began in response to the opening of a municipal parking lot on Shabbat, but picked up ferocity when the story of the hareidi mother prevented from seeing her child hit the public eye. In general, according to Rabbi Eliezer Sheinvald, dean of the Meir Harel yeshiva in Modiin, the hareidi-religious public in Meah Shearim does not trust state institutions at all and fears any such intervention as an attempted assault on the closed hareidi society.

In his radio interview, Dudi Zilbershlag commented on the Jerusalem municipality's reaction to the rioting, saying that collective punishment of hareidi-religious residents by closing welfare clinics in their neighborhoods was unjust. Mayor Nir Barkat closed the clinics after a worker was attacked by demonstrators.

Zilbershlag said that the innocent residents shouldn’t have to “suffer from the actions of criminal elements" within the hareidi-religious world.