Divorce rabbi gets 10 years

  • Rabbi Mendel Epstein HOME
FBI says the rabbi boasted about using a cattle prod, other tools to pressure recalcitrant husbands to grant gets to agunot, without which they can't remarry
by ANT KATZ | Dec 16, 2015

'Get gang' guilty

A New Jersey rabbi who ran a ring that violently attempted to coerce Jewish men to grant their wives a get (religious divorce) has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Convicted ringleader of a "get gang", Rabbi Mendel Epstein, 70, was sentenced on Tuesday this week in a US federal court in Trenton, New Jersey. Epstein was one of nine people, two of them rabbis, convicted for their roles in the ring.

For a fee, the "Get gang" would kidnap and torture recalcitrant husbands who refused to give their wives a religious divorce.
Rabbi Mendel Epstein

RIGHT: "Get gang" leader Rabbi Mendel Epstein

According to halacha (Jewish law), a Jewish woman cannot remarry without receiving a Jewish divorce, or get, from her husband.

The women who are trapped in such marriages are called agunot, or “chained women”.

Halacha also prescribes that the husband has to give the get of his own will and volition - trapping many Jewish divorcees, who have obtained civil divorces - to a marriage-less life unless their husbands relent.

Invariably the situation ensues when husbands feel the need to punish their wives, and often the husbands relent and grant the get only if they themselves wish to remarry.

Epstein, a prominent rabbi in Lakewood, received the most jail time meted out thus far.

Among the six already sentenced, the longest sentence is four years in prison. On Monday, the other rabbi in the ring, Rabbi Martin Wolmark of Monsey, New York, was sentenced to 38 months.

Rabbi Mendel Epstein PRODDuring the sentencing hearing, prosecutors noted that in conversations recorded by undercover FBI agents,

Epstein boasted about using a cattle prod and other tools to pressure and torture recalcitrant husbands.

LEFT: The NY Daily News dubbed Rabbi Epstein "The Prodfather" after the FBI played taped evidence of him boasting of using a cattle prod

In a 10-minute speech to the judge in mitigation of sentence, Rabbi Epstein said he was “embarrassed and ashamed” at what he said in those conversations.

He insisted that he had not been motivated by the money, but by his compassion for the plight of the agunot.

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