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Friday, October 11, 2013 

Two rabbis wanted money more than justice for women whose husbands refused divorces

A pair of rabbis were arrested in New Jersey for planning to torture estranged husbands who wouldn't grant their wives divorces, but their demand for money suggests either way that they weren't being altruistic:
In a bizarre plot, unveiled in a criminal complaint filed in the US federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, on Thursday, rabbis Mendel Epstein of Brooklyn and Martin Wolmark of Suffern, New York, and eight associates were charged with conspiracy to kidnap and coerce a person to consent to a divorce.

The plot unravelled in an elaborate sting operation in which an undercover agent sought the assistance of the rabbis in divorcing a man who purportedly lived in South America, had a residence in Florida and was a partner in the real estate business with her brother.

The ruse came crashing down on Wednesday evening as agents arrested the rabbis at their homes and Ariel Potash and a man identified only as Yaakov at a Middlesex County warehouse where the kidnapping victim allegedly was to be taken and beaten.

Agents also made six other arrests and executed search warrants at Yeshiva Shaarei Torah in Suffern and in Brooklyn.

Epstein and Wolmark allegedly charged Jewish women and their families tens of thousands of dollars to obtain religious divorces from their recalcitrant husbands by means of violence, the FBI said.

Under Jewish law, a husband must provide his wife with a document known as a "get" for her to obtain a divorce. If a husband refuses, a wife has the right to sue in rabbinical court. If the husband then fails to respond to the court's order, he may be subjected to various penalties in order to pressure him into consenting to the divorce, the complaint said.

With her pretend marriage and business relationships on the rocks, the female agent and another undercover agent posing as her brother told Wolmark in August that they were desperate for a religious divorce and were willing to pay a large sum of money, the FBI said.
That sum of money includes the following:
...agents sent Epstein a $US20,000 wire transfer as an initial payment.

Meanwhile, the agent posing as the woman's brother had discussed luring the husband to a warehouse where he could be beaten and forced into granting a divorce. The abduction and beating was to take place on Wednesday night, at which time an additional payment of $US30,000 was to be made, the FBI said.

During their initial court appearance, the 10 defendants were ordered detained pending further hearings. A federal prosecutor said the group was responsible for up to 20 kidnappings over the years, and that money, not religion, was the driving force.
And they'd have a good point. I will concur in any event that torture is going too far, and they should be ashamed of themselves. There's a gazillion ways to rework the approach to getting divorces without having to resort to torture. And fleecing the wives and families of so much money just shows they were not really in this for justice, but for extorting even more money off the wives than the husbands might have demanded. It's not excusable.

Update: The New York Daily News has more, and yes, these were Haredi rabbis who were involved in this ugly case. One of the investigators said:
“They didn’t do it out of religious conviction,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Gribko told a judge Thursday in a federal court hearing in Trenton, N.J. “They did it for money.”
You got that right.

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