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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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FBI Arrests NY Rabbis for Beating Husbands Who Refuse Divorce

Many Jewish women suffer as “agunah,” unable to re-marry because their husbands refuse them divorces. Four Jews, two of them rabbis, allegedly took the law into their hands and beat husbands until they agreed.

FBI arrests "divorce gang" that kidnapped and beat husbands who refused a religious divorce for their wives.

FBI arrests "divorce gang" that kidnapped and beat husbands who refused a religious divorce for their wives.
Photo Credit: Screenshot

The FBI raided a Monsey yeshiva Wednesday night and arrested four mean, including two rabbis, who allegedly kidnapped and beat recalcitrant husbands who had refused to grant their wives religious divorces and thereby prohibit them from re-marrying under Jewish law.

The “executors” used by the divorce gang included “electric cattle prods, karate, handcuffs and placed plastic bags over the heads of husbands,” the complaint charge stated.

The status of stranded Jewish women is known as “aguna” and is a problem that has received deserved focus in Israel and the Diaspora in recent years.

The FBI investigation and arrests bring to national attention the anguished situation of “aguna” women and perhaps will help put legal pressure on husbands who have separated from their wives but refuse to allow them to re-marry.

The suspects were arrested after a month-long sting operation in which a female FBI agent posed as an Orthodox woman trying to get a religious divorce from her husband. Another undercover agent posed as her brother.

Rabbis Mendel Epstein and Martin Wolmark, along with Ariel Potash and a fourth individual known as Yaakov, appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J. Six others could be charged, according to reports.

The FBI also raided Yeshiva Sha’arei Torah in Monsey and a yeshiva in Lakewood, N.J., Brooklyn and elsewhere.

The rabbis allegedly charged $10,000 to persuade the rabbis on the rabbinical court to approve kidnapping husbands, and another up to $60,000 to pay for others to abduct and beat husbands.

The FBI agents called Rabbi Wolmark in August and said they were “desperate for a religious divorce and were willing to pay a large sum of money to obtain a divorce,” according to the charge sheet.

“There are a couple of ways to do that,” Wolmark allegedly said in a recorded phone conversation. “You have to, we have to, convene a special Bet Din and see if there are grounds to, to, to coerce him on the ‘get’ [divorce decree].”

Wolmark allegedly added, “You need to get him to New York where someone either can harass him or nail him. Plain and simple,” he said, according to the complaint. The rabbi then set up a meeting between the undercover agents and Rabbi Epstein. A recorded conversation revealed that Rabbi Epstein spoke about “kidnapping, beating and torturing husbands in order to force a divorce.’

He allegedly added, “Basically what we are going to be doing is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him and then getting him to give the ‘get.’”

One of the “tough guys,” supposedly Rabbi Epstein’s son, “uses his karate skills” on the victims, court papers said.

The FBI said the “divorce gang” has been operating for 20 years and that Rabbi Epstein said he carries out approximately one kidnapping a year.

Forcing husbands to grant a divorce is permitted under Jewish law, a rabbi told The Jewish Press Thursday. “Jewish law does not always seem humane, but it really is humane because physical force often is the only way to force angry husbands to release their wives from virtual bondage and to allow them to-remarry,” he said.

The rabbi added that rabbis often are blamed for the situation of the agunot but also are criticized for using force, recognized under Jewish law, to solve their dilemma.

He pointed out that force can be used only if a Bet Din [religious court] authorizes it and only if there are substantial reasons to order a divorce.

About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.


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24 Responses to “FBI Arrests NY Rabbis for Beating Husbands Who Refuse Divorce”

  1. Mike Kinghorn says:

    Religion is so awesome! You don't need to sell me on it any longer.all the love and tolerance you can stand.

  2. vintagepa says:

    Look at the agunah list in the Jewish Press.  There are names there for years of husbands who ignore the ruling of different bet dins.  While I don’t condone violence, in this case, it was deserved.

  3. Etta Chaya Brummel says:

    so this is a set-back, letting evil husbands be wimpy and use the only power they have over a woman. They hold back neshamas from being born, they hold back someoen elses happiness

  4. so this is a set-back, letting evil husbands be wimpy and use the only power they have over a woman. They hold back neshamas from being born, they hold back someoen elses happiness

  5. so this is a set-back, letting evil husbands be wimpy and use the only power they have over a woman. They hold back neshamas from being born, they hold back someoen elses happiness

  6. so this is a set-back, letting evil husbands be wimpy and use the only power they have over a woman. They hold back neshamas from being born, they hold back someoen elses happiness

  7. yissteinjd says:

    These “Rabbi” are heroes?? They were about to torture some guy on the say so of his “wife”? They issued a psak din based on testimony from a Goy about a man that didn’t exsist? These are thugs for hire. SHAME ON YOU

  8. yissteinjd says:

    Look at the list in the Jewish Press – how many of the Siruvs issued were signed by Wolmark – I know of a few. As this FBI investigation shows these “Bais Dins” that are issuing Siruvs and psak dinim are frauds and fakes. Its all about the money. Maybe this is why the husbands ignore the bais din.

  9. Dan Silagi says:

    He's as much of "tzaddikl" as the Ayatollah Khomeini.

  10. Let them move to Israel and act like this. They should all be in prison the rest of their life. Irregardless of 'Jewish' law this is kidnapping and torture, not allowed in any circumstance. Hope these idiots spend the rest of their life's behind bars.

  11. Let them spend the rest of their life's behind bars, you can worship them there. But for your average American kidnapping and torture is never allowed. You want to follow the Rambam like that move to Egypt.

  12. I do not defend the men who were kidnapped, but fact is no American deserves to be treated like this. These animals calling themselves Rabbis should go to prison for the rest of their lives. There is no such thing as 'justified kidnapping and torture' in America. If that is what Judaism is about, send these animals to Israel, but I am sure in Israel they would also be sent to prison. Put this mad man behind bars and leave him there till he dies.

  13. These rabbis acted like a bunch of thugs.
    They should have the word rabbi removed from their names.
    I hope they spend the rest of their life in prison and
    should never be able to walk the streets again.
    They are a danger to their community. and can do this
    again if let out.

  14. Alan Kardon says:

    So if I believe that the Rabbis and you are wrong I can beat you till you change your mind? Something tells me your thinking is not what Jewish teachings is about.

  15. Yechiel Baum says:

    It is a simple fix: It is the Rabbi's who declared that only husbands can divorce their wives and if these husbands are so vindictive to their ex-wives and family, then a Rabbi should simply declare the couple divorced and end the misery for the wife and let the families go on with their lives. Vengance is mine sayeth the Lord, not to be used by the husband as he is obviously not on the same level as Hashem. Until then, the husbands should be excumunicated from Judaism which will then free the wives from servitude to their husband

  16. Anonymous says:

    False. The law that the husband writes the get is plainly in the Torah, not made by rabbis.

  17. Vingore says:

    These women should just marry non-orthodox  Jews.

  18. BrianJLG says:

    Don’t like “goisher” standards? Move to Israel or Iran where you can behave like animals, then.

  19. BrianJLG says:

    So Jews really are no different from Muslims. Both will use sadistic violence to force others into religious acts. No wonder Jews have been exiled so many time. They are violent.

  20. Be very careful about using the Beth Din of America for your GET or other religious issue. Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann and Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz both have seruv’s against them. Prior judges on this court have had a multitude of problems. Read more about it at http://www.thebethdin.com. Too many Beth Dins are corrupt and dishonest. As for ORA, it is only a Mamzer factory.

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