Criminal Justice

2 rabbis among 10 charged in claimed kidnap-and-torture plot to force religious divorces

For years, there have been stories that men in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York City were sometimes kidnapped or beaten to persuade them to provide the required permission for their wives to obtain a religious divorce.

More than a decade ago, a Brooklyn rabbi sued another rabbi, claiming that he had been abducted and tortured for this reason, but the case was dismissed, the New York Times (reg. req.) reports.

Now the feds have lent their weight to such claims. After a sting operation, they have criminally charged 10 individuals, including two rabbis, with participating in an alleged scheme to force reluctant husbands to provide religious divorces to their wives, the Star-Ledger reports.

The claimed torture-for-hire plot involved the use of stun guns, knives and handcuffs.

The criminal case is being pursued in Trenton, N.J., and all 10 defendants were ordered held without bail when then appeared in federal court there on Thursday. The articles don’t include any comment from the defendants or their legal counsel.

The feds say women paid $10,000 for a rabbinical court to provide a decree permitting kidnapping and violence, then $50,000 to $60,000 more to put the so-called “kidnap team” to work.

“We take an electric cattle prod,” a rabbi told one woman in a recorded conversation, the Star-Ledger reports. “If it can get a bull that weighs five tons to move … You put it in certain parts of his body and in one minute the guy will know …”

Without a religious divorce, known as a “get,” an Orthodox Jewish woman is unable to remarry in her religious community, regardless of whether the parties have obtained a civil divorce.

Attorney Janet Pennisi of Millburn, N.J., said some of her clients have given up significant property rights to persuade their husbands to OK a religious divorce.

“For religious people, a get is everything, and there is no real authority to get it sometimes except through back alley approaches,” Pennisi told the Star-Ledger.

See also: “NJ Rabbi and Wife Charged with Kidnapping Man in Effort to Force Religious Divorce”

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