The 14 Words

Friday, 11 October 2013

U.S. Accuses 2 Rabbis of Kidnapping Husbands for a Fee

Agents with the F.B.I. served a search warrant at a house in Kensington, 
Brooklyn, on Thursday in the investigation of Mendel Epstein.

In Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, Mendel Epstein made a name for himself as the rabbi to see for women struggling to divorce their husbands. Among the Orthodox, a divorce requires the husband’s permission, known as a “get,” and tales abound of women whose husbands refuse to consent.

While it’s common for rabbis to take action against defiant husbands, such as barring them from synagogue life, Rabbi Epstein, 68, took matters much further, according to the authorities.

For hefty fees, he orchestrated the kidnapping and torture of reluctant husbands, charging their wives as much as $10,000 for a rabbinical decree permitting violence and $50,000 to hire others to carry out the deed, according to federal charges unsealed on Thursday morning.

Rabbi Epstein, along with another rabbi, Martin Wolmark, who is the head of a yeshiva, as well as several men in what the authorities called the “kidnap team,” appeared in Federal District Court in Trenton after a sting operation in which an undercover federal agent posed as an Orthodox Jewish woman soliciting Rabbi Epstein’s services.


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