In today's completely bizarre and WTF news: Two Orthodox rabbis and eight other men have been arrested in New Jersey. The charge? Plotting to use kidnapping and torture to force divorces from reluctant husbands. Yes. You read that correctly.
I know that by this point in life, having been on the planet for 37 years, nothing should shock me. And yet. I could feel my jaw literally dropping as I read about this. You guys, cattle prods were involved.
The backstory in a nutshell: Apparently, in Orthodox Judaism, a woman must receive something called a "get" from her husband in order to receive a religious divorce. No "get" -- no religious divorce, which is a very serious thing. Rabbi Mendel Epstein and Rabbi Martin Wolmark, along with eight others, are changed with setting up a very UN-orthodox solution to this problem for one woman ... a solution that reportedly involved plans of kidnapping and torture with cattle prods and razor blades. This woman, unfortunately for them, was actually an undercover FBI agent. The U.S. attorney involved in the sting says this exact scheme of husband torturing has been carried out more than once in the past.
There are many things to be shocked about here. Just for starters -- never mind the insane violence -- there's the depravity of a religious leader taking money in order to skirt a religious law or belief. Oh I know it's been going on for probably as long as there's been religion: Medieval Catholics could basically pay their way into "heaven." But that doesn't make it any less stomach-turning. According to the FBI, the going rate is $10,000 to pay off a rabbinical court to approve a kidnapping (WHAT?!) and then another $50,000 to $60,000 to hire the actual gangsters to carry out the violence. And I do type "gangster" deliberately.
But equally outrageous is the idea of needing a "get" in the first place! I admit I don't know a lot about Orthodox Judaism, but the idea that a woman is dependent on her husband to "allow" her a divorce by granting his permission is truly deplorable. This is the year 2013, people. I was horrified to read that Orthodox Jewish women can end up signing away significant property and financial rights to their husbands to get them to agree to a divorce. I don't know the context of this religious tradition, but taking it at face value, I'd say it has no place in a modern, civilized society where women and men are supposed to be valued equally and afforded equal rights.
Are you more shocked by this kidnapping/torture plot or the idea that a woman must get her husband's permission for a divorce?