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Divorce Sting: When Religious And Federal Laws Collide

rabbi divorce torture stingIn one of the more bizarre (non do-it-yourself divorce) cases we’ve read about lately, two rabbis and eight other men were recently arrested for kidnapping men and forcing them into unwanted divorces. The sting was conducted in New York and New Jersey and first broke in to the national news this month.


Divorce Is Torture, But This Is Ridiculous

Rabbis Mendel Epstein and Martin Wolmark were said to be the masterminds behind the operation, which would have included using a cattle prod on “certain parts” of a male victim’s body. Apparently, this type of coercion happens often in Jewish culture, with the two rabbis being allegedly responsible for 20 over the last several years.

“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,” Epstein said in a videotaped conversation with undercover investigators.

(A get is a religious divorce.)

Epstein also said that he had conducted one of these coercions “every year to year-and-a-half,” and that it cost $10,000 for a rabbinical court to approve the action and $50,000 to $60,000 for enforcers to carry out the torture.

The arrests were made after undercover agents wired a $20,000 down payment to Epstein.

Federal Vs. Religious

Religious law gives a woman the right to “sue” in a rabbinical court if the husband is unwilling to file for divorce. Authorities stated that the use of violence was authorized at such a proceeding on October 2. While much of these actions stem from religious culture, the perpetrators will not have an easy time avoiding significant jail time as a result of their actions.

When it comes to the division of property, child care, and other important aspects of human rights, religious freedom takes a back seat to the laws of the land.

As a result, all or some of the 10 men arrested could end up facing life in prison for kidnapping and conspiracy to commit violent acts.

Where do you believe the line should be drawn between family law and religious freedom?

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