Alive for a mere two years, baby Alta bas Avraham a”h was never given a fighting chance. Embroiled in a battle with international governments, the United Kingdom court system pulled the final curtain closed as a decision was made to end life-support for the baby born with irreversible brain damage after being starved of oxygen for over 25 minutes at birth. In her last moments, Alta heard Sheyela Gluck sing songs of chizuk as she managed to breathe for 90 minutes after support was pulled. Alta never made it out of Manchester’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
At 6:25 p.m. local time, the tragic story of Alta Fixsler came to a tearful conclusion at as she was laid to rest. Led my Misaskim of Manchester, I joined over 700 listeners on Zoom pay final respects to the sacred neshamah that galvanized the Jewish world in prayer since early summer. Speakers at the l’vayah included the spirited Belzer Dayan, Rav Sadya Greenfeld also a noted Rosh Kollel. Next was a Manchester community activist, Reb Yisroel Goldberg, who spends his days supporting families in crisis. He articulated how the Fixslers are the most special parents, who never complained of their plight.
The Fixslers are devoted Belzer chasidim who loved their daughter for who she was and went to every corner of the Earth in an attempt to spare her life. Efforts included US Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, who pleaded on their behalf to the British authorities, even supplying a visa, as well as other urgent requests, even to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself, all to no avail.
The final speech, also delivered in Yiddish, was by Alta’s father, Reb Avraham Fixsler, who delivered a heartbreaking final goodbye to his beloved daughter. He acknowledged the heartfelt words of encouragement received from around the globe and reminded those gathered that the final decision comes directly from Hashem. “To say farewell to a child in this situation that I have done so much for is very difficult.”
Avraham was known to take every leap of faith and go to every means to help his daughter reach another day. “A Jew must do whatever he needs to,” the father said, “but ultimately this was G-d’s will.”
From the heart, Reb Avraham continued to ask his daughter forgiveness as he spoke words that pierced the hearts of listeners. “I do not know how to say goodbye to such a child, but I and all of klal Yisrael have done what we can, and Hashem wanted [something] different.” Reb Avraham concluded, “Whatever a father does is never enough, but I tried my best. Hashem loves us all.”
One family reported that when they were in the same hospital as the Fixslers several months ago, they passed by Avraham in the corridor. Avraham seemingly cared only for others and inquired how he can assist them. These parents explained, “Look how they were going through so much themselves and still managed to reach out to us to see if we needed anything. These are the most special people.”
In the end, it was Britain’s National Health Service that disconnected the ventilator for the beautiful child. The court system denied the request of the parents to move Alta overseas to either Israel or the United States, where they hold dual citizenship. The British adamantly refused to hear of experimental treatments, claiming that the child’s life had no chance of recovery and only palliative care remained.
On a trip to Eretz Yisrael, Reb Avraham met with the Belzer Rebbe for advice. The Rebbe named the baby Alta, meaning long life, and encouraged the family to fight to save her life. The conversation reached the desk of Agudath Israel’s Chayim Aruchim, who also lent a helping hand.
The questions that remain to be answered revolve around Britain’s medical and legal environment, which has stopped a family that does not hold citizenship to their country to be barred from transferring their own child overseas. Maybe they must just admit that their health system is subpar.
Avraham and Chaya Fixsler have a son who is now seven. We must accept that our t’filos had their impact and will be saved for a later time. While many of us continue to believe the policies followed were wrong on various levels, we must understand that our multiple, legally moral, and well-grounded pleas were all unheeded by the authorities.