Divorce-Jewish style

In the Orthodox Jewish communities, in order for a woman to get a divorce, she needs to get permission from her husband, something that is called a ‘get’. If the husband refuses, she can go to a rabbinical court and if she gets a favorable ruling they can order him to do so. But it is not unheard of for husbands to ignore such orders, in which case the woman is stuck.

But while some may see this as typical of patriarchal and misogynistic religious systems, two rabbis in New Jersey looked on the bright side and saw this as a business opportunity. For the low, low price of $50,000 they offered to hire men to torture the recalcitrant husband to issue the get, using cattle prods as tools of persuasion. An undercover sting revealed the operation.

The undercover agents videotaped their meeting.

“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,” Rabbi Epstein is quoted as saying during the conversation, according to the complaint.

He added that the “tough guys” would use electric cattle prods and handcuffs and place a plastic bag over the man’s head, according to the complaint.

The FBI said the price was more than $50,000, including $10,000 for a rabbinical court to approve the action. They had wired $20,000 to the accused before the arrests.

“They did it for money,” Assistant US Attorney Joseph Gribko said during a hearing on Thursday.

“They didn’t do it out of religious conviction.”

The rabbis saw an advantage in the Orthodox Jewish community being perceived as weird. The rabbis told the undercover agents that as long as they left no mark on the victims, the police would not bother to investigate, viewing such things as the internal affairs of a crazy religious group.

[Update: Here is more on this case. The news item says that another rabbi also did something similar back in 2011.]


  1. trucreep says

    When I first heard this I immediately thought of the Sopranos. There’s an episode where they essentially do this. Mmmm I think the Rabbis double-cross them or upset them somehow, but they end up letting the guy live, so that’s good :]

  2. Alverant says

    I saw this on cnn and a few people claiming the story was anti-Semitic as if anything bad said about the Jewish community is done out of prejudice (especially if the things said wind up being true). Two wrongs don’t make a right. I don’t feel much sympathy for the husbands, but they are victims. Yes, they are victimizers as well. One does not preclude the other. I can’t see much good coming from this. Now possessive husbands will feel more empowered.

  3. 2up2down2furious says

    I wonder how long until Sharknado80 comes around to accuse everyone of being a Nazi?

  4. left0ver1under says

    He called me a nazi just the other day, in the Iran/China thread.

    Mano Singham is clearly a very patient man. PZ Myers and others have banned people for less than slc’s inanity and obscenity.

  5. colnago80 says

    Well, as bad as this is, the Raping Children Church is worse. Divorce is not recognized at all. In order to remarry in the church, a divorcee must obtain an annulment from the church (Newt Gingrich anyone). AFAIK, neither of these regulations, “gets” or annulments have any legal standing, at least in the US. A divorced Orthodox Jew who has obtained a legal divorce is perfectly free to remarry, just as a divorced Catholic is perfectly free to remarry. They just cant get remarried in their respective religious institutions unless a “get” or an annulment has been granted. Obviously, since there is no civil marriage, and I presume divorce, in Israel, a “get” perhaps has legal standing there. However the divorcee can travel to Cyprus and get remarried in a civil ceremony which the State of Israel is required to recognize by treaty.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    A hypothetical abused Orthodox wife with $50K in loose change could surely obtain a civil divorce, locate a pliable rabbi to reinstate her, and have funds left over for bagels and a few jugs of good kosher wine.

  7. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    In order to remarry in the church, a divorcee must obtain an annulment from the church

    …or be widowed in the church’s eyes…
    Our terms are very reasonable.

    Actually the roman catholics’ rules apply to both men and women, whereas the orthodox jewish rules favour men- they don’t need ex-wives’ permission to remarry.

  8. anat says

    Orthodox Jews do not acknowledge civil divorces, so why would she bother? No Rabbi will let her remarry as long as she hasn’t obtained a ‘get’, and if she has a civil marriage she is considered an adulteress. Any children born from such a marriage are considered ‘mamzerim’ and are forbidden to marry (well, can’t have a Jewish marriage – for generations to come). If she is remarried by your hypothetical pliable rabbi and her past marriage is found out she will be forced to divorce the second husband.

  9. colnago80 says

    Who cares? There are plenty of Reform and Conservative synagogues around that would have no problem. As some one, possible Martin Gardner, once said, there is no ox like the orthodox.

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