Two Orthodox rabbis and two other men were arrested last night in New York and New Jersey on federal charges (full text of criminal complaint) of plotting to kidnap and torture a man to force him to grant his wife a Jewish divorce (get). AP, the New York Daily News and the Newark Star-Ledger all have stories on the arrest of 68-year old Brooklyn Rabbi Mendel Epstein and Rabbi Martin Wolmark who allegedly charged women tens of thousands of dollars to use violence against their recalcitrant husbands who refuse to grant a Jewish divorce after a civil divorce has been obtained. An Orthodox woman cannot remarry in a religious ceremony without a get.
Police also arrested two other men-- Ariel Potash whose role was to act as the wife's agent to accept the get in the religious divorce ceremony, and a man identified only as "Yaakov" who was apparently one of the "toughs." As many as 6 other people may also be charged in the case which grew out of a similar 2011 case brought against Rabbi David Wax and his wife. (See prior posting.) Wax is now apparently cooperating with authorities. Last night's arrests came after two undercover agents-- one posing as a wife and the other as her brother-- were charged $10,000 for approval by a rabbinical court of a kidnapping and $50,000 to $60,000 to pay those who roughed up the purported husband. A rabbinical court in Monsey, New York, presided over by Rabbi Wolmark, actually approved the kidnapping plan last week by issuing a ruling (psak din) after the purported husband failed to respond to a contempt order (seruv) issued by the religious court. [Thanks to Failed Messiah blog for the link to the complaint.]
Seriously...where to start with this one? How on earth did the rabbis spin this to the wives to make it ok to torture someone? You'd think kidnapping and beating someone would be more aggregious than remarrying in the big picture.