Attorney: Israeli widow of Mumbai attack victim faces time limits in US to visit kids in NYC

By Megan K. Scott, AP
Monday, March 22, 2010

Attorney: Mumbai widow’s time in US restricted

NEW YORK — Frumet Teitelbaum lost her husband in the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Now she may not be able to see her kids.

Teitelbaum, 37, was stopped at Kennedy International Airport last month after arriving from Israel, where she lives. She had come to visit her eight children, ages 2 to 14. All are American citizens and live with her late husband’s family in Brooklyn.

Now Teitelbaum, who was cited for overusing her visitor’s visa, cannot extend her visit or apply for permanent residence, said her attorney Michael Wildes. She is in New York and he, along with government and community leaders, are working to make sure she remains here.

“We’re very disappointed she was treated this way,” said Wildes, adding that he faced similar challenges when representing surviving spouses from the 9/11 attacks. “She broke down in tears at the airport.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said he could not discuss her case because of privacy.

Teitelbaum’s husband, Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum, lived in Jerusalem but had citizenship in both the U.S. and Israel. He died in 2008 after gunmen struck the Chabad-Lubavitch movement’s center in Mumbai during a three-day rampage. He was in Mumbai for his work as a supervisor of kosher foods.

Leibish Teitelbaum was a member of Satmar, an ultra-Orthodox sect that does not accept Israel as a Jewish state. He was related to Satmar grand rabbi Moses Teitelbaum, who died in 2006.

Wildes would not say how often Teitelbaum visited her children or for how long, but said she had not applied for permanent residence because she was busy with the children. Under federal immigration laws, surviving spouses of U.S. citizens can self-petition for a green card for themselves and their children. He said Teitelbaum will apply for her green card within the next few weeks.

“I expect the immigration authorities will see the big picture,” Wildes said. “It sounds like an overexuberant examiner who was not up on the law.”

Satmar leaders also are working on Teitelbaum’s behalf, said Isaac Abraham, a community leader who lives in Brooklyn. He said they have been on the phone with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office since last week. The office is doing what it can to help her, said spokeswoman Angie Hu.

“She has suffered enough,” Abraham said. “Let’s try to give her some relief.”

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