-Three orthodox rabbis were convicted in a federal Court in Trenton, New Jersey on the charge of conspiring to kidnap recalcitrant husbands who refused to grant their wives Jewish divorce decrees. The three were Rabbi Jay Goldstein, 60, and Rabbi Binyamin Stimler, 39, both from Brooklyn and Rabbi Mendel Epstein, 69, of Lakewood, New Jersey.
The trial took 8 weeks and the jury deliberated for 3 days. The judge could sentence them to life in prison.
Under Jewish law a Get — a religious divorce – must be signed by the husband and handed to the wife in order for a divorce to become final. Unless a married woman receives a Get from her husband she may not remarry, even if she has obtained a civil divorce under the laws of the country in which the woman resides.
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This has led to a problem of women known as an Aguna – a woman who cannot remarry because she has not been given a Get. Unfortunately there is no remedy under Jewish law to help such women. This is why some rabbis, such as those convicted, have taken it upon themselves to use coercive methods to get men to grant their wives a Get.
The rabbis were arrested after an FBI sting. They went to a warehouse in Edison, NJ on Oct. 9, 2013 to force one such recalcitrant husband to grant his wife a Get. But the man was actually an undercover FBI agent.
Federal prosecutors said that the rabbis asked for $60, 000 and were motivated by greed and not religious conviction.
According to Cliffviewpilot.com, the rabbis threatened the men in question with electric shocks from cattle prods.
It reported that recordings of Rabbi Epstein made by the FBI were played in court in which he said, “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.”
He also said, “If it can get a bull that weighs 5 tons to move … you put it in certain parts of his body and in one minute, the guy will know.”