Bizarre Divorce-for-Hire Plot Yields Arrests

For most couples, the decision to pursue divorce can be mutual — or not. While one party or the other may not want a divorce, the law upholds the right of either partner to file for divorce. For Orthodox Jewish couples the process is decidedly different. Those differences led to a violent plot and the arrests of two Rabbis and eight others in New Jersey in October.

The road to divorce for a Jewish woman requires her to obtain a document known as a get that allows the women to end her marriage. While the process works much of the time, men, for many reasons often do not grant the get, leaving their wives to become an agunah, a Hebrew word for chained woman. For the Ultra-Orthodox, a woman with no get cannot get a divorce.

In October, a female undercover officer agreed to pay 68-year old Rabbi Mendel Epstein and 55-year old Rabbi Martin Wolmark $10,000 to ease the matter through rabbinical court, or beit din, and approximately $50,000 for a kidnap team that would confront her fictitious husband in New Jersey.

Of the plot that led to the arrests, police allege the following:

  • Secretly recorded, Rabbi Epstein discussed strategies including using a cattle prod to convince reluctant husbands to grant the get. Noted Epstein on a recording, “[i]f it can get a bull that weights five tons to move…You put it in certain parts of his body and in one minute the guy will know.”
  • Meeting at a New Jersey warehouse, men implicated in the case were arrested with materials including masks, ropes, scalpels and materials for recording the get — feather quills and ink bottles.

Prosecutors believe dozens of men may have suffered similar torture in recent years.

Religious beliefs and concerns affect the process and outcome of many divorce proceedings. When you need experienced legal advice about divorce in Long Island or throughout New York, speak to the experienced attorneys at our firm.

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