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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More on the Fels Family




Trove newspaper indexes, hosted by the National Library of Australia, are a boon for historians.  For example we now know that Frederick Fels real name was Faivel Shoelevitch Fels and reveal that the lawsuit - fought out between Balia (his first wife) and the Public Trustee on behalf of Dora over his deceased estate went right to the Privy Council on appeal.  The novelty of the case seemed to capture the interest of the media because articles appeared in most of the major newspapers in Australia.  For example, the by line of an article in the Cairns Post  25th November 1916 read  "Peculiar Law Suit Over Ante-nuptial Settlement."  

According to newspaper reports, Frederick or Faivel deserted his first wife and children and came to Australia in 1889 where he and Dora lived as man and wife.  Mr Justice Harvey suggested that even though Dora claimed Frederick divorced Balia 28 years prior he was unconvinced that the requisites of a Jewish divorce had taken place. However, His Honour suggested that Balia had failed to prove she had any claim to a property at Springwood left to Dora by the deceased.  Consequently, he awarded Balia costs and the equivalent of 2500 roubles (her dowry on marriage).  Unsatisfied with the result, Balia appealed to the Privy Council however the Sydney Morning Herald reported on 18th July 1918 that her appeal had been dismissed.  
Pamela Smith
References:
A civil divorce is not legal under Jewish law.
Sydney Morning Herald, various articles 1916.
Sydney Morning Herald, 18th July, 1918, p. 7.
Cairns Post, 25th November,1916, p. 5.
The West Australian, 18th July, 1918, p. 4.
The Advertiser, Adelaide, 15th November, 1916, p. 6.

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