Rabbis Accused in Kidnap, Torture Plot to Gain Divorces

FBI says their business forced husbands to agree to Orthodox breakups

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 10, 2013 6:34 PM CDT

(Newser) – It sounds like the premise of a bad movie or a worse joke: A Jewish husband won't agree to a divorce, so a couple of tough rabbis make him an offer he can't refuse. FBI agents arrested two rabbis today and accused them of plotting to kidnap and torture a man in order to force him to agree to a religious divorce, reports NBC New York. Trouble is, their female client was actually an undercover agent. “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" agree to the divorce, one of the men says on tape.

The fee of about $60,000 included the use of electric cattle prods and other techniques that wouldn't leave marks, reports the New York Times. It's not clear whether the men have actually carried out any such kidnappings, though they boasted to their would-be client that they did so about every 18 months. Why would their services be necessary? Because in many Orthodox communities, a divorce can take place only when the husband agrees. In addition to rabbis Martin Wolmark and Mendel Epstein, the AP says at least eight others have been arrested in New York and New Jersey in the sting operation. Wolmark's lawyer calls it a "complex case" and says the use of coercion against reluctant husbands is an "old tradition."

Attorney Jacob Laufer, who represents Ariel Potash, answers questions as he leaves federal court in Trenton, N.J.   (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
FBI agents remove evidence from the Brooklyn residence of Rabbi Mendel Epstein.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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