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Rabbi Encouraged Use of Beatings and Torture to Compel Divorce

Ten men, including two Orthodox rabbis, have been sentenced for their role in a divorce-coercion ring.

Prosecutors say that, under Jewish law, a woman may not obtain a divorce without her husband’s permission, referred to as a “get.” They acknowledged that it is common practice for a rabbi to employ certain measures to persuade a recalcitrant husband to consent. Such steps may include prohibiting the husband from attendance at synagogue or participation in synagogue life.

The two rabbis who pled guilty, though, had apparently resorted to far more heinous measures to obtain the “get.” Officials say the rabbis had assembled a group of eight men who would kidnap an unwilling husband and torture/beat him until he agreed to a divorce. According to court documents, the two rabbis charged women seeking a divorce a substantial fee to obtain a rabbinical decree authorizing violence—approximately $10,000. An additional fee of $50,000 covered the cost of the kidnapping and torture.

The ten men were arrested in a sting operation orchestrated by the FBI. An agent, posing as a Jewish woman seeking a divorce, contacted one of the rabbis, telling him that she needed help from a “special rabbi” to accomplish her goal. She apparently told the rabbi that her husband was in Argentina and would not agree to the divorce. The rabbi told her that she would need to “get him to New York to harass him or nail him.” The rabbi convened a rabbinical court that ruled that the husband could be coerced and contacted the eight men, who went to a warehouse in Edison, New Jersey, believing they would find the reluctant husband there. Instead, federal officials were waiting to arrest them.

Contact an Experienced New York Divorce and Family Law Attorney

At the law office of Chris Palermo, Esq., we bring more than 13 years of experience to men and women in divorce and family law matters, representing clients across Long Island. To learn more about our practice, see our divorce and family law page. For an appointment, send us an e-mail or call us toll free at 1-800-483-1527. We have offices located in Huntington, Hauppauge, Garden City, Babylon and New York City.