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Kidjacked: A Father's Story
An Interview with author Scott Lesnick by Haydn Jensen

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By Haydn Jensen

"What would you do if you woke up one morning and those most precious to you were gone?" A haunting question, but also a reality for Scott Lesnick, an American whose two young children were abducted and taken to Israel by the person he trusted most—his wife. In his memoir, Kidjacked: A Father's Story, he shares what he went through and what he did to get his kids back, not just once, but twice!

Scott met his wife, Liza, on a trip abroad. They fell in love, married, had two children, Jonathan and Ally (Alexandra). They settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After a few years, Liza longed to be back home with her family, and decided to take a trip home to Israel with the children. But, once she got to Israel, she refused to return.

Scott was forced to fight for custody of his children. Since no international laws required Liza to bring them home to the U.S.A., he filed suit and after eighteen months of contentious court battles, a U.S. judge granted Scott primary placement of the children and they returned to the United States. There was an uneasy peace until Liza decided to move back to Israel a second time.

Though Scott and his attorney strongly opposed it, the courts decided that the kids could visit their mother over the summer. When they were scheduled to come back to the U.S, Liza decided once again to keep them in Israel. This time Scott was forced to litigate for his children's custody in Israel.

Remarkably, after two months in Israeli courts, an appellate judge granted Scott custody of the children. After a failed attempt by Liza to take the case to the Israeli Supreme Court, Scott boarded a flight back home with both children.

As a memoir, Kidjacked is what I would call an upfront and personal account. You won't find pages crammed with highbrow artistic prose, but you will find straightforward honesty of not only facts, but emotions and the internal dialogue of questions, thoughts, observations and big decisions. I spoke with Scott about how he could include so many details of in-the-moment emotions and thoughts over what turned out to be an agonizingly long process. Scott credits journalling. Long before the Kidjacked saga began, his Aunt gave him a journal as a present and he got into the habit. He finds writing in his journal to be a great way to release stress and anger. As Scott began to piece his book together, he found re-reading journals to be a great memory trigger for not only facts, but also emotions and reflections associated with particular days and events. So, the book is an interesting read—you'll find links to Scott Lesnick's website at the end of this article.

Scott remarried and has been living happily with his wife Meg for fourteen years. The children are now college grads and live near him and his wife in the Midwestern U.S.

I had a great chat on the phone with Scott. Here's a bit of our conversation.

HJ: In times of great crisis, almost everyone prays to someone. What about you when you were trying to get your kids back?

Scott: I have noticed that for a lot of people I've met, their faith becomes stronger and then waivers depending on what's going on in their lives. While dealing with the kidjacking my faith became stronger, not so much through praying as by spending time with people of faith—priests and rabbis in particular. I wanted to get more of a handle on what I might do, and what causes people to behave this way. I decided to speak to anyone and everyone, hoping for "a nugget". Not being certain where to get the answers, I did not want to prejudge anything or anyone. I needed to be around those people who lived "with their glasses 3/4 full" so I decided to hang out with those kind of people.

HJ: Just to get it out there because our readers will want to know, what is your faith perspective?

Scott: I was raised Jewish, and my wife Meg was raised Catholic—we call ourselves "Catholish" and our house is a blend of both faith traditions. We observe a whole bunch of holidays from Judaism and Christianity and get to spend these with people. I'm not a regular at temple or church, but am active volunteering in the community.

HJ: When you speak and write about your experience, in a nutshell, what would you say is the most valuable lesson you have to offer people?

Scott: That is an easy question to answer—Never give up! I have found that persistence is the main thing that leads to success. This is key to pursuing a goal or a dream. For many, sometimes you are much closer than you realize but give up too soon.

HJ: From reading Kidjacked, it seems to me like you were a methodical, disciplined and determined person as a salesman before all this happened with Liza and the kids. If that is true, what would you say has changed in you as a result of these experiences?

Scott: Yes I was those things, but I didn't realize it at the time. Once you have children and they're taken from you in a way that isn't right, you are faced with two choices—accept that they're gone or fight to change to get them back. I was told that there was no hope of getting the kids back. I chewed on that for about two minutes, and then decided that's not me. It pushed me to a new level. Really, I felt like I was pushed up against a wall with big pointy spikes on it. But, I said, "Forget it! I'm moving forward." Having drive in sales was one thing, and I had that. But, when you are a parent fighting for your kids, that kind of drive where the kids are at stake was like "drive, but on turbo". Still, I share in the book that despite that drive, I was also weak emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

HJ: This may be a prickly question but hopefully you have encountered it already...I know the key to success in the early stages of getting your kids back was to deceive Liza and her family in order to get them back to the U.S. from Israel the first time. Deception and lying was also something you clearly criticized Liza for. So, how do you explain to people that what she did was not OK but what you did was justified?

Scott: I have been asked that question, and I have learned how to better answer it...My answer is this: If you have children you will understand that bond that a parent has with you kids. She took my children away. Yes, I loved her family, but they also let me down. I was faced with a choice to move on as a broken man in the U.S. or fight for my kids. I had to ask myself, "What would the children want, both now and also later as adults? I ended up with two different answers. Liza had brainwashed them with all kinds of wrong ideas, so when they were young they wanted to be with their mother. Now the children are older and Jonathan and Ally on two different occasions have thanked me for doing what I did. There was not a question in my mind about who would do a better job of parenting them. For me it was clear that I needed to fight for the kids and for what would be best for them.

HJ: What do you hope your kids will take from this when perhaps one day they each become parents themselves?

Scott: Really, just one thing—it's their lives, so it's up to them to choose, but, there is one thing they need to realize as a parent. As parents it is always their responsibility to put the children first. That can be about decisions around how many activities the kids are involved in each week (but not at the peril of the parent!). At the same time it can also mean tough love.

You can find out more information about Kidjacked: A Fathers Story at Scott's website:
www.scottlesnick.com