In Joseph Reyes’ ongoing crusade to turn his ugly divorce battle into a broader cultural war, he and his lawyer are now depicting him as the persecuted dad who (because of his estranged Jewish wife Rebecca Shapiro Reyes) can’t take his daughter to church on Easter, the holiest day on the Christian calendar.
Already, headlines are popping up like this one on ABC7Chicago.com, saying “Judge: Dad can’t take toddler to Easter service.” And it doesn’t help that the judge is named Goldfarb!
I wrote a column about this Chicago divorce battle a few weeks ago: she’s Jewish, he’s Catholic (although he converted to Judaism, allegedly “under duress,” a few years ago), and they’re now feuding over the religious upbringing of 3-year-old daughter, Ela. This fall, after Joseph had Ela, baptized without first consulting Rebecca, Rebecca got a temporary restraining order barring Joseph from taking Ela to church. Joseph flouted the order, with a camera crew in tow, and issued press releases about how he now faces jail time for taking his daughter to church.
He argues they never agreed to raise Ela exclusively Jewish; she argues it’s confusing for Ela, who attends a Jewish nursery school, to be raised in two faiths.
In my column, I raised concerns about Joseph’s seeming attempts to tap into anti-Semitic sentiments, particularly on his Web site. Also, given the charged history of coerced baptism for Jews, I suggested that having Ela baptized was a bit more extreme than simply exposing her to her dad’s Catholicism. The Easter thing raises my hackles even more, perhaps since the holiday has so long been associated with the accusation that the Jews killed Jesus.
Another fascinating thing about this train wreck of a divorce is that in court arguments, Joseph’s (Jewish) lawyer is actually trying to put Rebecca’s Jewishness on trial.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in court yesterday Joel Brodsky (who is best known in Chicago for his defense of Drew Peterson, a man accused of murdering his third and fourth wives) questioned Rebecca’s commitment to Judaism, saying she does not date Jewish men or keep kosher in “her so-called Jewish home.”
“She has a strong Jewish identity in Rebeccaland, but not in the real world,” he said, according to the Times.