Religion as a Weapon

The abducted children were all raised within the Florence Jewish Community. But during her divorce, Marianne Grin, their mother, distanced herself from the community when they did not take her side against her ex-husband.

The community’s reaction was understandable. They took the side of the children, not either parent.

So Grin went looking for a religious group that would take her side against her ex and not question the veracity of anything she said. Her first stop was Chabad-Lubavitch. Her next stop is the Russian Orthodox Church. Read on….

In 2009, Grin left the Florence Jewish Community for a small Lubavitcher group in Florence lead by an American Lubavitcher, Elie Borenstein, who operated out of a small store-front in via dei Pilastri. Chabad-Lubavitch is an ultra-orthodox sect of Judaism (see

The children were not raised in a Hassidic family and had no Hassidic background. But this did not deter the Lubavitch rabbi. He had a past of poor relations with Florence’s Jewish Community. In Grin, he found a weapon of his own.

At Grin’s request, he publicly took her side in the divorce. He helped her use Judiasm to create a rift in the family, instill resentment in the children towards non-Jewish family members, and sowed suspicion that their friends in the Florence Jewish community (an Orthodox community) were “not real Jews” because they did not believe in the Lubavitch “Messiah.”

For the most part, the children were unswayed. Friends are friends, after all. They’d grown up in this community.

This only inflamed Borenstein’s zeal to separate the children from their family and friends. He assisted Grin in taking the children away from their friends and the Synagogue in Florence,  to participate in Lubavitcher services in Venice, three hours away by train. He sent defamatory letters on Chabad stationary calling the father an anti-Semite. Why such vehemence? Because the father had successfully kept the children in the Jewish community in which they had grown up, where they attended the preschool at the Synagogue and took Talmud Torah (lessons in Hebrew and Jewish culture and history).

In fact, the accusation of anti-semitism offended members of the community who had seen the lengths to which the father had gone to ensure continuity in the lives of the children. Subjecting the children to dramatic changes in the type and place of their religion also did not pass the notice of social workers, psychiatrists, and the court-appointed expert, who all commented with dismay on how the children’s lives were being upended.

Child Abductors

In October 2011, the Venice newspaper reported that the same Chabad-Lubavitch group helped Grin abduct the children to Russia.

After being abducted to Russia, Sam, Elliot, Sara and Ezra have spent the last seven months in Chabad-run institutions operated by Lubavitch rabbi’s Pewzner and Tolochinsky. These Lubavitcher rabbi’s have denied the father, family, and the children’s friends any access, without any legal basis. They have refused to lift a finger even to convey birthday greetings from grandparents, ensuring the total isolation of the children while kept in their institutions.

But these institutions have now been exposed in the media in Russia and Italy for what they have done to the children.  See, for example:

Corriere Fiorentino article April 4 2012 copy

So, while requesting decent and moral behavior did not help, there is now the possibility that media attention will cause them to refrain from keeping the children so isolated in the future. This remains to be seen.  Of course, there is also a chance they will say they cannot force Grin or the children to speak with their family or friends, coldly hiding behind the mother or their own indoctrination of the children to avoid responsibility for what they have done.

But let’s assume Chabad-Lubavitch in Russia stops isolating the children.  What then?  Grin has a back up plan. She has already disclosed it in Russian court.

Goodbye Chabad-Lubavitch, hello Russian Orthodox Church!

In a St. Petersburg court, Grin has now produced a letter from the Russian Orthodox church in Florence, Italy claiming her ex-husband had denied the children access to the Church since they arrived in Italy in 1999, and making false accusations against the father. The letter was addressed to the Russian Ombuds for Children, Pavel Astakhov, and demands he help Grin.

This, to put it mildly, is bizarre, considering the above circumstances. But it makes sense if Grin is planning a “move” to the Russian Orthodox Church, or has already joined while her children were being isolated in the Chabad orphanages. And the new religion and institutions will of course help the newcomer at least until they, too, realize they are being scammed and their charity misused.

In fact, when confronted by the family about their letter, woman who signed the letter, the wife of the priest, said she only wrote what Grin had requested. They apparently trusted Grin as they would any other member of their congregation, so they didn’t verify her claims. They were shocked to learn the truth, especially since they were receiving appeals from her again to send money to her in Russia.

They have since written a letter of retraction, after being shown evidence that all of their accusations were false.

They also did not know Grin and the children were Jewish.

Perhaps, soon, they won’t be…

One response to “Religion as a Weapon

  1. All this is horribly reminiscent of the Ken Thompson/Melinda Stratton case. It was a religious group in Amsterdam that harboured Melinda Stratton and the abducted boy.
    It seems likely that they turned a blind eye to the fact that Melinda was acting in defiance of the Australian courts. The “pastor” who found a home for Melinda appears to have known the facts and when the boy was discovered by the police very quickly claimed he was planning to visit Australia and try to arrange a reconciliation. Perhaps the Chabad people should be made aware of the parallels with the Thompson/Stratton case.

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