Religious Leaders Accused of Torturing Husbands to Help Women Seeking Divorce

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?

crime, feminism, in the news, marriage, divorce


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nonmember avatar Tenn

I'm from Brooklyn so I'm not very shocked. The Orthodox community follows its own rules and laws. I'm only shocked that outsiders are so deeply involved. Brooklyn DA's and police follow an unwritten rule of non-interference with them. They are usually treated as though they are above out laws.

Choco... Chocodoxies

Yes, this certainly is stomach CHURNING. I would love to enjoy the heck out of this site, but I find the poor grammar, vocabulary, and general lack of English skills to be either a source of comedy in my mornings, or the thing that makes my head crack against my desk. 

the4m... the4mutts

this is disgusting. These women can get a divorce without religious permission, PERIOD. There is no need to talk the man into it... or torture him out of it. The only reason they need permission is for the divorce to be "allowed" by the church, for their divorce to not be a sin. But that has nothing to do with a legal divorce.

These women are disgusting, these "religious leaders" are disgusting, and they use this excuse to torment men, and shame women for no good reason. Separation of church and state exists for a reason, and this reason is it.

People should not need "god's" permission to get a damned divorce

nonmember avatar Raj

Um Mutts, you are misinformed. These people do not get marriage licenses from the government because they do not believe any secular entity can declare or dissolve a marriage. The issue is about using violent and illegal means to get a spiritual ok to divorce. And now to the author, you are uninformed as well. You know nothing of their religion or religious laws, yet you stand in judgement of their customs and beliefs. That's fine if you don't agree, but believe it or not not everyone has to follow the 21st century's American white girl ideal. I think it's awful that the Orthodox community is allowed to get away with ignoring U.S laws when it comes to violence and sexual assaults, but I'm not going to sit here and act like I have a right to speak broadly on a culture few have inside information about. There is often wrongdoing on both sides, such as the husband's "shaking down" the wives' families before they grant the divorce. It's no excuse for violence but know a bit more before you speak so strongly on an issue. Blogging strictly on sensationalism is immature and pathetic.

the4m... the4mutts

Raj- I know plenty of Jews with legal marriage licenses. While maybe not all of them get one, there are plenty that do.

Also, if there's no legal license in some cases, then there is even LESS reason to "divorce". Just WALK THE FUCK AWAY! There is nothing anyone can do to you if you leave a relationship, especially if its not a legally bound one.

nonmember avatar Raj

You know plenty of Orthodox Jews? Really? Tell me where the Hasidic community in your city is located because I highly doubt you even have one, much less know personally enough for them to divulge such information. Perhaps the issue here is that neither you nor the blogger actually know what group of people the issue concerns. We're talking about an ultra private sect that deals with the outside world on business issues only. Your using of the term "Jews" in such a broad manner lets me know you don't have a clue which group this is about. You cannot just "walk away". Orthodox Jews live, work, socialize, and school strictly amongst themselves. There is no such thing as "walking away" when your religion dictates every aspect of your life, and perception within the community. That's akin to you saying Amish couples live like the rest of us. Hebrew, not English, is the primary language even though so many are born and raised in Brooklyn. You cannot possibly imagine just how little you actually know about the subject. Btw, I grew up exactly one block away from a Hasidic community. Trust me when I tell you, you really don't have a grasp on the situation. Outside of shopping for clothing (all black and clothes), women especially have little interaction with the outside world. Your ideas of 'divorce', 'marriage', and what you think those things mean to Orthodox Jews couldn't be further apart.

the4m... the4mutts

1. Obviously they're not so close and secretive of a community if an FBI agent framed them lmfao

2. The Rabbi's committing the crime may be orthodox or Hasidic, but that does not make every Jewish person one. And it doesnt mean the people PAYING THEM TO TORTURE STUBBORN HUSBANDS are orthodox.

3. They're a piss-poor example of godly men if they torture others for money

4. Amish people DO go live like the rest of us, idiot. Teens get a chance to go out into the world, and live like the worldly people. Its part of their upbringing.

5. You cannot imagine how much I couldnt possibly give a crap about the "secret" workings of a religion where actions like the ones mentioned here are common place

6. Dont bother saying they are NOT common place either. If they weren't, the FBI wouldnt have bothered infiltrating the organization.

7. Anyone can walk away from anything. I dont care if it's your whole life. FLDS bannish kids all the time. Kids who have no idea what the real world is like. There are real life "Escape from Polygamy", and other cult stories. If those women and boys can escape, then I guarantee that frigging jews can too.

the4m... the4mutts

Torturing ANYONE is disgusting. Paying for the torturing people over signing a piece of paper so that you're not "hell bound" in the eyes of religion is even worse. Religious leaders organizing the torture of people, supposedly in the name of a divorce in the name of their god??? That's the lowest of the low.

the4m... the4mutts

Oh, and there is a Hasidic day school for jewish children 2 blocks from me, and a small community of Orthodox jews near-by. I grew up near some of the little Hasidic kids, and interacted with them on a semi-regular basis (real tight knit and secretive of them, eh). The larger community, one which has grown over the years, is towards Los Angeles, about 3 hours from me.

So dont act like just because I think their inter-workings are bullshit, and their religion is a sham, that I have no idea what I am talking about. All religions are crap, and all the "higher-ups" of any religion are nothing better than kool-aid spiking cult leaders.

nonmember avatar RaJ

This case involves Hasidic Jews in my area. So once again, I don't care what you think you know of Jews as a whole. Nowhere did I state that the behavior was excusable, so you should read a bit better before arguing points that have nothing to do with my original, which is that you don't know much of what you speak. Your first two comments of the women "just walking" away from a non licensed marriage exemplified that. You are an idiot for speaking so broadly on a topic you had to Google in the first place. No, I don't believe you lived and interacted enough with Orthodox Jews. Sorry, try again. And the idea that Amish people have a chance to go out in the world doesn't change the fact that they live sepereately amongst their own rural communities. But wait, you live near some West Coast Amish as well?lol You posted a comment ignorant to a culture you obviously know nothing about. You are defensive because you were told about your ignorance. You presented your secularly based opinion on how an insulated religious group handles family matters. The FBI's involvement doesn't change that FACT. I live near the largest Orthodox Jewish community in this country. Unlike yourself, I'm not pulling things out of thin air. And I don't care about your views on religion. That has nothing to do with the conversation. Your inability to focus is why your argument is disorganized and seems ignorant in the true sense of the term.

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