In a bizarre case from New York, two Jewish rabbis have been charged with kidnapping and torturing recalcitrant spouses who refused to grant their wives a “get”, a religious divorce that supersedes a civil divorce and must be obtained before the women can date or re-marry.
The spiritual mandate for a “get” is found in the Torah in Deuteronomy 24:1 which provides:
“When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.”
The scheme to force husbands to provide a get for their wives was devised by orthodox rabbis Mendel Epstein, age 68, and Martin Wolmark, age 55, who charged a fee of about $10,000 to convene a rabbinical court, called a Beth Din, to obtain authorization to employ violence against the husbands.
The next step was the kidnapping and torture of the hapless spouses, services that commanded a fee of $70,000 to $100,000 per husband and employed thugs hired by the rabbis to “convince” the men to grant the gets.
A FBI sting brought the scandalous scheme to an end when an undercover agent played the role of a wife whose husband refused to grant her the religious divorce. After the arrest of the rabbis and several others, the FBI disclosed that the rabbis had employed their violent tactics for 20 years and conducted an average of one “forced divorce” a year.
Several rabbis commented that the refusal of some husbands to agree to a get is a chronic problem among orthodox jews, a situation that arises out of bitterness and a desire for revenge, or as a way of extracting additional financial concessions from wives.
A striking feature of the get process is that the Beth Din, made up of three rabbis sitting as judges, has the authority to permit physical violence against a husband who refuses to grant a get, despite claims that the process is handled with “sensitivity” as noted on the website “Beth Din of America”:
“The Beth Din of America arranges Jewish divorces through the get (writ of divorce) process. The Beth Din ensures that the get procedure is carried out in a sensitive and caring manner, respects the dignity of all participants in the process and adheres to the highest standards of Jewish law… The Beth Din also takes an active role in resolving cases involving spouses who refuse or are reluctant to deliver or receive a get.”
These rogue rabbis have clearly besmirched the authority and dignity of the Jewish Courts in granting gets.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang