Court tosses out custody ruling

The bitter dispute involves the two daughters, now 10 and 14, of Moshe Dulberg and Tali Pikan, both Israeli citizens. Pikan was given custody of the children when the couple divorced in 1991. After the divorce, Pikan became fervently Orthodox and took the girls to Israel, where she remarried.

Dulberg, however, sought to get custody and the Genoa Minors Court last summer removed the girls from their mother, in part because, it said, she belonged to a religious cult. She was allowed only limited contact with them.

The decision outraged Jews. At the appeals trial, Pikan's lawyers claimed that Dulberg had secretly converted to Catholicism and was trying to turn the girls against Judaism.

"We are overjoyed by the Court of Appeals decision to vacate the anguishing Minors Court ruling in the Dulberg custody case," Rabbi Raphael B. Butler, executive director of the Orthodox Union, said in a letter posted on the Orthodox Union's Web site.

"While this is, indeed, a moment of celebration at our united effort, the struggle for an appropriate environment for the Dulberg children continues," he wrote. "At the upcoming custody hearing, we are confident that the health and welfare of the children will be the primary barometer to secure appropriate closure of this case.

"We will continue to urge the Court to show appropriate reverence for Jewish practice, respect for Jewish identity and culture."