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Crown Heights Rabbi Pleads Guilty in Forced ‘Get’ Case

Rabbi Sholom Shuchat, a Crown Heights father of two young children, has pleaded guilty in Federal court to taking part in a scheme to kidnap an Orthodox Jewish man and force him to give his wife a Get. He faces a maximum of 20 Years in prison.

From APP

Sholom Shuchat pleaded guilty in federal court in Newark on Monday to traveling in interstate commerce to commit an act of violence. The crime carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

He was one of several men, including two rabbis, who were arrested last October. One of those rabbis, Mendel Epstein, and his son, David Epstein, both of Lakewood, were indicted in May for the roles prosecutors say they played in the plot, threatening to use electric cattle prods on the men to force them to grant their wives a get, a religious document needed for an Orthodox Jewish divorce.

The FBI used undercover agents to pose as a woman seeking a religious divorce and her brother who was allegedly willing to pay for the husband to be kidnapped.

Shuchat and the others allegedly drove to Edison where they thought they would encounter the husband, but instead were arrested.

Four other men who were part of the arrests last October — brothers Avrohom, 34, and Moshe Goldstein, 31, along with Simcha Bulmash, 30, and David Hellman, 31, already pleaded guilty to extortion charges.

54 Comments

  • 1. can someone explain according to halacha? wrote:

    what does this mean? is what they did actually wrong or is this part of a bargain to plead guilty in the American court?

    Reply
    • 2. Milhouse wrote:

      What “they” did was clearly wrong, because there were no grounds for kefiyas get. That doesn’t mean R Shuchat knew this. If he was told by someone he trusted that a legitimate beis din had considered the evidence and had decided that the circumstances justified an order to give a get, and that the husband refused to obey this order, then al pi Torah he did the right thing. But we know now that there was no beis din, no evidence, and no consideration, that they decided this without even bothering to talk to the husband and hear his side, for no other reason than because they were being paid. So R Shuchat was, at best, the unwitting gull of a gang of extortionists. He may have meant it leshem shomayim, but in that case he trusted the wrong people.

  • 4. Bar Seichel wrote:

    Bunch of tipshim. Chelm type clowns. Who’d do something as stupid as not verify the ‘kashrus’ of the people requesting such things? I just hope a miracle happens to keep these fools out of prison.

    Reply
    • 5. Milhouse wrote:

      What this shows is that they (i.e. the ringleaders of this so-called “beis din”) didn’t care about the kashrus or the halacha, they just wanted to make money. In fact I’m surprised they actually bothered to force anyone to give a get; since they obviously didn’t really care about the halacha, it would have been simpler to just pretend to have done so, write a get, and tell the wife that they forced the husband to authorize it. Meanwhile the husband could be asleep in bed, and have no idea that any of this had happened. If they’d done that they’d never have been caught.

  • 6. umm wrote:

    We were told in shul that he is completely innocent and was just an innocent by-stander

    what’s the truth?

    Reply
    • 7. Milhouse wrote:

      What you were told is probably true. At least, you have no more reason to disbelieve it now than you ever had. Taking a plea is not even a slight indication that a person is actually guilty of anything.

    • 8. Apparently true wrote:

      He went to write the get not knowing the history behind it all. How would he? It surely never occurs to anyone it’s not on the up & up. Wrong place, wrong time. Hope they give him community service, from what I understand he was just looking for parnassah & isn’t a thug. Very sad.

  • 9. There is a boss wrote:

    Don’t let this story change the positive impression that you have of the rabbi.

    Those who know how the system works will tell you the only way out is a plea deal.

    That is what we have here.

    Reply
  • 10. he had to plea guilty wrote:

    Everyone else did and he would need a million dollars to fight the case

    Look at Rubashkin 5 million was spent and look a plea is always better

    Reply
  • 11. Of course he's innocent wrote:

    Our wonderful American justice system forces people to plead guilty in order to avoid even more severe charges. How sad. Hashem needs to perform a miracle for this family.

    Reply
  • 12. The truth wrote:

    Look at Rubashkin r”l. You can be almost 100% innocent and they can still lock you up forever. Sometimes taking a guilty plea is the lesser of the two evils

    Reply
  • 14. The money is the crime wrote:

    The crime is that they charged crazy money to do so

    Just for hurting someone you don’t go to prison for twenty years

    Reply
  • 15. chelmer rov wrote:

    i am sure you should always distrust the govt and believe what you heard in shul..

    the fact is torture is illegal in the US period..

    Reply
    • 16. Milhouse wrote:

      So what? Sometimes it’s a mitzvah, and in those cases only a sheigetz cares whether it’s illegal.

    • 18. A Friend wrote:

      Millhouse, how can you say these things? There is no way it is a ‘Mitzva’
      (goog deed) to torture someone.

    • 19. Milhouse wrote:

      It’s a clear halacha: כופין אותו עד שיאמר רוצה אני. Nobody has the right to dispute it. But it only applies when an honest beis din has determined that there are genuine grounds for ordering the husband to give a get, and he refuses the order. In a normal case a husband has no obligation to give a get, and no beis din has the right to order him, let alone to force him.

      In this case, of course, there was no real beis din. There was a criminal gang calling itself a beis din, that took money and proceeded directly to the beatings, with no semblance of a hearing, let alone the application of the halachic criteria for kefiyas get. Any get these people extorted was possul, and the women’s lives have been messed up.

  • 20. Curious wrote:

    Does anyone know: Is this Rabbi Sholom Shuchat in any way related to the illustrious Schochet Family?

    Reply
    • 21. Stupid & Curious wrote:

      Didn’t you notice that their family names are spelled differently and pronounced differently? Or are you too dumb to notice such simple matters?

    • 22. Milhouse wrote:

      Spelling means nothing. How to spell Hebrew or Yiddish (or Russian) names in English is arbitrary, and it’s common for different members of the same family to spell their name differently.

      And how should anyone know how the names are pronounced? Not that that’s a guide either, since people tend to pronounce names according to their spelling, so if two brothers spell their names differently their wives and children will often pronounce them differently too.

  • 23. duplicity wrote:

    Can you ever imagine 12 muslims being indicted for conspiring to enforce sharia law and facing 20 years…? Of course not. Let’s just hold the Jews to different standards.

    Reply
    • 24. Milhouse wrote:

      Um, yes, of course I can imagine it, and so can any normal person. It absolutely would happen. You’re an idiot for imagining it wouldn’t.

  • 25. he is an ehrliche guy wrote:

    A good natured fellow.he must of been conned in to it by those other older more savvy money hungry fellows.

    Reply
  • 26. Yossi F wrote:

    If you get paid to issue a Psak like in this case that a Get should be forced, your Psak is Bottul.
    See Shulchan Adh”z YD Chapter 1, Kuntres Achron 7.

    Reply
  • 27. These days wrote:

    What he did was not wrong, only that he did it (writing the get) along with the wrong people who were going to beat up another person. So yes you go to jail! In this country and should be any other normal country! Period.
    You lay your hand in another =jail!

    Reply
    • 28. Milhouse wrote:

      Not so fast. If it were a legitimate beis din, that held a proper hearing with both sides present, and heard evidence that there were genuine grounds for ordering the husband to give a get, and he refused the order, then it would be a mitzvah to beat him and force him to comply with the beis din’s order. And only a sheigetz would care that it’s against the goyishe law.

      In this case, that’s not what happened. But you can’t say it’s always wrong. When the Torah says to do it, it’s right.

  • 29. JUSTICE???? wrote:

    Murderers, child molesters & rapists get less than 20 years. Time for some bona fide character witnesses.

    Reply
  • 31. YMSP wrote:

    Shuchat deserves mercy and this is coming from someone who is against criminals like Epstein with every part of my being.

    Forced gittin, except in those cases clearly defined in Shulchan Aruch (AH 154) are invalid and lead to mamzerus. Organizations like ORA are criminal and have shown not only their contempt for halacha, but also for the women who they supposedly advocate for. They’ve taken cases that were easy to resolve and turned them upside down for their own self-glorification or promotion.
    They’ve taken cases where couples were wavering on divorce and encouraged gittin at all costs. Source after source shows that people who do this have no chelek in Olam Haboh.

    People like Epstein were open about their Torah violation. Anyone wanting to know about these subjects (aside from looking at Shulchan Aruch and nosei keilim), should also look at the work of HRH”G Dovid Eidensohn (not Daniel Eidensohn) on these issues. He has dayonus from Reb Moshe and from Rabbi Elyashiv O”H with a focus on ishus. There are no words for Epstein, who also sold his soul. many times over, for $100K a piece.

    Rabbi Sholom Shuchat is another matter and one needs to put things into perspective

    Epstein sought to undo thousands of years of Torah, is a vicious/murderous person and his evil acts go far beyond posul gittin (which HaRav Elyashiv was clear were not kosher). He’s not alone. People like the OU’s Marketing Director (the OU being an organization that has backed all of the destructive measures leveled against frum people in Eretz Yisroel and has also waged war against frum people in America), who’s now calling himself a rabbi and writing articles full of misquotes and kefirah calling for mesirah R”L in get cases (which for sure invalidates it except for those clear cases outlined in AH 154 – aside from being against kol haTorah kulo, with all the dinim of an ozer lmosrim).

    Rabbi Sholom Shuchat is another story. One has to have a sense of proportion when it comes to these things. He’s a decent human being and while I think that the person who gave him dayanus (and to Yossi Marlow and encourages others who he doesn’t know to receive dayanus from him over the phone) should stop giving dayanus, he certainly doesn’t deserve prison ch”v and to even consider it would be a travesty. It’s also quite possible (although this is just a guess) that he was told little and would have been beaten up himself if he left after finding out more.

    He was wrong. He’s not Mendel Epstein, shem reshoim yirkav, and he deserves the support of the entire community and of anyone who can help him and his family. Again, this isn’t coming from someone who’s naturally inclined to support anyone in such a case, but there are limits.

    Reply
  • 32. A Friend wrote:

    Millhouse, there is no scenario where the actions by these ‘men’ were the “Right Thing”. The reason there are police is to deter people from hurting people because they ‘believe’ it’s the “Right Thing”.

    Reply
    • 33. Milhouse wrote:

      You are wrong. It’s a clear halacha in shulchon oruch, so you have no right to a different opinion. The same G-d who said it’s an aveira to beat people up said that there are times when it’s a mitzvah. Not beating someone when Hashem says to do so is just as bad as beating him when Hashem says not to.

      The police are irrelevant; they don’t determine what is right or wrong. If a mitzvah is illegal, one must do it anyway, and use whatever means are available to hide it. That is what our zeides did in Russia, and that is our proud yerusha.

  • 34. yzee wrote:

    I worked for Rabbi Epstein years ago – and he seemed an upstanding good Jew. And I know he had a soft spot for women abused by cruel husbands. I’m not sure he’s being accurately portrayed in the media

    Reply
    • 35. Milhouse wrote:

      Wrong. He is a corrupt person, מעוות הדין. What possible explanation can you have for this case? He was ready to beat a man up and force him to give a get, without any reason to believe that he was mechuyav to give one. There was no beis din, no hearing, no testimony, no evidence, and no order to the husband which he refused. Epstein took the money and went straight to the beating. There can be no excuse for this.

      Shuchat probably didn’t know any of this. Even if he knew about the beating, he would have been told there had been a proper din torah, and the husband was refusing to obey. But we know that never happened. We know it couldn’t have happened, because there was no husband in the first place. So how could a beis din have questioned him, or decided anything about him, or given him any orders?

    • 36. Peretz wrote:

      Rabbi Epstein was also known to help men whose wives refused to take Gittin which were offered them or refused to show up to Beis Din . In this case, there wasn’t even an actuall husband just an FBI sting with agents posing as wife and brother.

    • 37. Milhouse wrote:

      Epstein would “help” whoever paid him. Whether he thought they were right or wrong, and whether the help he gave them was honest or crooked.

  • 38. Today is not the same wrote:

    I feel bad for these people arrested but all the same they have no right to do what they did. Remember dina hamalchusa dina. If you kidnap someone you will go to jail. There has to be another way to get someone to give a get but kidnapping.

    ’nuff said

    Reply
    • 39. Milhouse wrote:

      You are aan apikores. Today is exactly the same as 100 years ago, and 1000 years ago, and 3300 years ago. לא יחליף הקל ולא ימיר דתו לעולמים לזולתו. The law of the country is irrelevant. This is Hashem’s world, and His Torah is the supreme law of the land.

  • 40. declasse' intellectual wrote:

    The Rambam stated along with other authorities that if the man does not give a Get in in certain situations, you are allowed to throw in jail and lose the keys. Here in this situation, if the Bes Din did rule for a Get and he refused, then the Bes Din should put him in harem and forbade any contact with him including wife and children

    Reply
    • 41. YMSP wrote:

      1) Your post is despicable.

      2) It says no such thing.

      3) Please note the certain circumstances in which kefiyah (not throwing away the key) are allowed.

      4) Please see if Mendel Epstein’s “Beis Din” qualifies as a Bais Din.

      5) Under what circumstances would a beat up gang be allowed to act in vigilantes in a case where they obviously never even spoke with the “husband?” If you answered “none” then maybe you can start to see what this is.

      6) You might want to see some piskei din from this generation that begin to address the situation – http://torahtimes.com.

    • 43. Milhouse wrote:

      What beis din? What ruling? There was no beis din and no hearing, no witnesses and no evidence, no grounds for kefiyas get and no order to give a get. There wasn’t even a husband or a wife! Epstein took the money and proceeded directly to the beating.

  • 44. Anonymous wrote:

    I say bravo to these men. The man who withheld the get is an abuser, psychological and emotional. Bullies get away with such behavior in jewish courts and secular courts. There is only one way to deal with men who emotionally traumatize women and Gd gave us that right. Anybody who has walked even a step in the foot of a woman who has been emotionally traumatized by her husband would understand the viciousness and cruelty that is inflicted on her. There is NO rational way to deal with such a man other than the way Gd gave us the right to do. Gd bless these men and protect them.

    Reply
    • 45. YMSP wrote:

      Um, you’re advocating for murder and beat ups and asking for sympathy at the same time?

      Are you aware of the insane false mesiros, financial abuse and ruination perpetrated in divorces in America, breaking all moral ethics on the most basic level and the most serious Torah prohibitions, 90% of the time not the man?

      Which “g-d” gave you such rights to destroy human beings who were all made in the real G-d Almighty’s image? Not Judaism’s….

      The argument of “abuse” has been used even in cases in which the man wanted to save the marriage. It’s getting old and tiresome, let alone disgraceful. Especially when the one decrying “abuse” is also yelling “blessed be the cattle-prong torturers” in the same breath.

      What a sad state of affairs and anyone who knows anything laments that the leaders of klal Yisroel whose voices we heard up until 20 years ago are no longer heard today. Ad mosai? Ki chol leivov dovai v’chol rosh lacholi.

    • 46. Milhouse wrote:

      The man who withheld the get is an abuser, psychological and emotional.

      No, you are an abuser. I accuse you of beating your husband and children brutally and regularly. How do I know? Exactly the same way you know it about the husband in this case. I’m making it up, just as you did.

      I know for a fact that you have never met the husband or the wife in this case, and you don’t know anything at all about their marriage. So how dare you accuse him of abusing his wife? How do you know? How could you possibly know?

      And if you want to know how I know that you’ve never met this couple, it’s very simple — they don’t exist! You can’t possibly have met a fictional couple, or know anything about their nonexistent marriage. Therefore everything you said is a lie.

      Shame on you.

    • 47. Milhouse wrote:

      Oh, and Gd did not give us the right to beat “men who emotionally traumatize women”. There is no such halacha. Gd gave a beis din the right to beat anyone, man or woman, who refuses to obey its lawful orders. Provided that the beis din is honest, and the order it gives was lawful, a person is obligated to obey it, and if he doesn’t the beis din has the right to force him. It’s got nothing to do with what he has done to his wife.

    • 48. Anon wrote:

      You can’t do whatever you want in a country that has different laws than your own.

    • 49. Milhouse wrote:

      Yes, we can and we must. The law is irrelevant. It’s Hashem’s world, and His will is the supreme law of the land. If you think America’s laws override Hashem’s laws, then you’re an apikores.

  • 50. how sad wrote:

    This guy is a kind, sweet-hearted yungerman. Maybe a bit naive.
    Anyone who knows him personally (not just from yenterai on websites) can attest to that.

    What I wonder is why a ruckus isnt being raised like it was an is with Rubashkin,
    This is a practically newly wed couple with small cute child. My heart bleeds for this young girl thrown into a giagantic mess.

    Reply
    • 51. Milhouse wrote:

      The difference is that Rubashkin was innocent, so there was a decent chance that he would be acquitted. Shuchet was caught red-handed, so there was almost no chance he would be acquitted if he went to trial. Even if he thought it was a mitzvah, that makes him a good person but a goyishe court isn’t going to care about that. Even if it really had been a mitzvah, the court wouldn’t care. The Spinker gabbai sat in jail for refusing to masser; he’s a tzadik for doing it, and he’ll get great gan eden for it, but the judge didn’t care, and aderaba went harder on him because of it. So if Shuchet was offered a plea bargain, he was wise to take it, and hopefully he’ll get a light sentence.

  • 52. awacs wrote:

    “The difference is that Rubashkin was innocent, so there was a decent chance that he would be acquitted.”

    I wouldn’t call him *innocent*, in the sense that the Spinka’s gabbai was innocent, but the government piled on horribly. Also, anyone with eyes in his head (and, Milhouse, sure you’ve seen The Robing Room, at least) would know that it was a really bad idea to opt for a trial in front of Linda Reade, ‘the prosecutor on the bench.’ I certainly hope that she gets what’s coming to her in the next world.

    Reply
    • 53. Milhouse wrote:

      Awacs, I would call him innocent of the charges he was convicted of. What else he may have done isn’t relevant. He didn’t do the things they charged him with. And his lawyers didn’t know at the time about Reade’s malfeasance; they probably thought she’d be strict but fair.

  • 54. What do you know? wrote:

    Clearly none of you have ever had to experience the pain of essentially being held captive by a man who refuses to give you a get. I don’t care if he did this for the money, if he helped women get gittin then it’s 100% kosher in my eyes. If the community as a whole would stand up against men who refuse their wives gets then we wouldn’t need this kind of drastic action. As for hearing the men’s side… I don’t care. You are not allowed to deny a woman a get. That’s why the Torah has a provision for forcing a Get. I promise that if a member of your family (chas ve’shalom) was ever denied a Get your tune would change dramatically. Maybe it’s time to stop ‘judging these men favorably’ and start having rachmanus on their poor wives being held captive to their selfish whims.

    Reply

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