Gett Coercion Ringleader Gets 10 Years in Prison

Rabbi Mendel Epstein was sentenced today, Tuesday, to ten years in Federal prison for his role in leading a ring of rabbis who used beatings, handcuffs  and cattle prods to force recalcitrant Jewish husbands to grant their wives a ‘Gett.’

Nine rabbis involved were arrested by the FBI as part of a sting operation, in which undercover agents posed as an ‘Agunah’ seeking a Gett, her brother and her husband.

The other eight rabbis all received sentences ranging from house arrest to three years in prison.

59 Comments

  • 1. Andrea Schonberger wrote:

    While I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t feel too sorry for the husbands that were victims of the Rabbis I do have one question for them: Wouldn’t it have been easier to give your wives their gittin?

    • 2. Kop Doktar wrote:

      Sure, give the wive the get and agree to never see the kids again and be forced to pay alimony and child support and let her keep the house, furniture and bank accounts…it is so easy just to let her have it all and give her her get too, let her have her cake and eat it too. I guess you were never there so you can’t understand,

    • 3. no one special wrote:

      Unless one knows the details of the situation, one can not know what would have been easier.
      While I don’t condone “withholding” a get, I consider these “husbands” victims of criminal behavior. So do the courts.

    • 4. Milhouse wrote:

      Why should they have given a get? Do you imagine that a person is entitled to a get just because he or she wants it?! That is not how the Torah works. In a normal case divorce can only be by mutual consent. If you want out and your spouse doesn’t, you can either try to persuade him or her, giving them whatever they want, or else STAY MARRIED.

      There are rare exceptions, such as where there is abuse, when the Torah recognises that it’s impossible for a person to stay in a marriage, and authorises a beis din to order the other party to agree to the get. If they don’t comply then the beis din has the right to force them, including if necessary by beating them.

      But Epstein didn’t bother to determine whether his cases fit these unusual circumstances. He was willing to force anyone to give a get, so long as he was paid. And that means the gittin he produced are all POSSUL, the women who paid him for this service are ADULTERERS, and their children MAMZERIM.

      Epstein was also corrupt in non-get-related cases. He had no qualms about forging documents to help his clients win cases in beis din.

    • 5. remeber what halacha says wrote:

      They aren’t victims of criminal activity this is what halacha requirs

    • 6. Milhouse wrote:

      On the contrary, Epstein’s crimes were a greater violation of halacha than of civil law. Ivus hadin is one of the worst sins.

    • 8. no one special wrote:

      Stay anonymous so that no one discovers that you speak without knowledge.

    • 10. Sox fan wrote:

      Not entrapment if he was predisposed to participate. Hard to argue with recordings of his own voice setting the plot up. Just a crook trying to justify criminality with religion. Shameful.

  • 11. CHT wrote:

    Its mind boggling. If they complain about coercion, why do they do coercion? If you believe in rights, why don’t you give the rights?

  • 12. Hey wrote:

    Rabbi Mendel Epstein Shlita is a real Hero.
    He should not be in jail even one day.

    • 14. Milhouse wrote:

      He is a rosho who has corrupted innumerable dinei torah, and caused adultery and mamzerim.

    • 15. B"H wrote:

      B”H Dear Milhouse i agree with your point regarding “In normal circumtances a man has EVERY RIGHT to withhhold a get, and a woman has EVERY RIGHT to refuse a get. There are exceptions,” and that it is possible that he in your option “corrupted innumerable dinei torah” but adultery and mamzerim is to much

    • 16. curious wrote:

      If Rabbi Epstein is such a Tzadik why didn’t he ever help some of the women that couldn’t afford to pay for his services.

      Is it because Rabbi Epstien only cares about $$$

    • 17. Milhouse wrote:

      One shouldn’t expect anyone to take this kind of risk for nothing. I have no objection to an HONEST person charging big money for this service. But Epstein wasn’t doing it honestly. And yes, adultery and mamzerim are the result.

    • 18. B"H wrote:

      Dear Milhouse i do not know about adultery, but about mamzerim i heard we are liniyent and any heter is good, i guess that there is an opinion that it is a good get (maybe rambam), and i heard that diraisa a beis din can annul a marriage since it is kdas moshe visroel so maybe they are not married deorisa and their will not be mamzerim , if i am wrong please reply with sources

  • 19. David B. wrote:

    We shouldn’t assume that the husbands were wrong. All we know is that Mendel Epstein had no right to do what he did either halachically or according to secular law. There is also a question if these Gets are Kosher..What is amazing is that for 20 years or more, Mendel Epstein et al was common knowledge in the Jewish community. He didn’t do what he did to help Agunahs, but to enrich himself

  • 20. DeClasse' Intellectual wrote:

    The great sadness of this part of the story is that marrages do fail and some times they become a living hell especially if children are involved; so instead of following the Torah way out to begin anew, too many of the involved parties out mule even a stubborn mule!!!!

  • 21. A great man and a lost opportunity wrote:

    Any man doing what he did–NO MATTER HOW MUCH HE WAS PAID–knows very well that one day one husband will want to get revenge. This man stuck his neck out for so many women.

    All those feminists and all the (legitimate) complainers about agunos could have a) used this opportunity to point out that here is someone who cared for their plight. (And don’t you go talk about how much he was paid. Who else would do it for even double the amount?) and therefore, in order to avert such things in the future, and in order deal with a real social problem b) PETITION THE LAW MAKERS TO WORK WITH RABBONIM so that courts could have the power to request rabbonim to enforce a get in a manner that is allowed in halacha. Once the court is empowered to put the power back in the hands of a beis din, then halachic concerns of a goy’s coercion would be gone. THEY COULD HAVE BROUGHT THE CASE TO THE FORE, and they simply let this champion of this cause go under the bus.

    What a shame.

    • 22. Milhouse wrote:

      He did not stick his neck out for women, he did it for money. The best proof is what happened here. What evidence did he examine before he decided that this husband should be forced to give a get? NONE. We know he didn’t examine any evidence, because there was none, because the husband didn’t even exist. There was no marriage, therefore there was no abuse, and no other circumstances that could justify kefiyas get. All he knew was that there was a woman who claimed she wanted a get, and was willing to pay to have her husband beaten. He had no reason to believe that she deserved the get. He had no reason to believe that SHE was not abusing her “husband”. He just didn’t care. For money he would “pasken” anything his client asked, and **** the Torah.

  • 23. Ch'er wrote:

    To Anonymous….

    seriously?????????????

    Have you no shame to express yourself like that?

    Why is it, just because some guy has a beard and puts in Teffilin every day, gives him the right to be his own Judge and Jury. its not a Hefker Velt.. you cant do as you please or how you please just because you need money or fame

    I am tired and totally against those that feel they can do this to others especially in the name of righteousness.

    FYI you do the crime you will do the time,,

    what a chillul Hashem

  • 24. in my opinion... wrote:

    actually. I always wondered why these woman did not hire / use these tactics MORE OFTEN! What’s cruel here is the man who refuses to give his wife a ‘get’…sometimes doing whatever it takes… yes…including violence!!…is really thee ONLY way for a taste of freedom for these poor woman. I think if they used these ‘ torture-tactics’ more often, there would be a whole lot of free & happier woman out there who can actually start to slowly rebuild their lives… yes. very very unfortunate…. but sometimes, this is thee only way certain types of men will actually “listen” & “give in”. I wonder just how many woman & children got a ‘second chance’ at freedom & normalcy because of this Rabbi’s brave & bold actions…probably many!

    • 25. Milhouse wrote:

      A man does not have to give a get just because his wife woke up one morning and decided she wants one. Nor does a wife have to accept a get just because her husband woke up one morning and decided he wants one. That’s not how it works. When you marry someone you GIVE UP your freedom, and are committed for life, unless your partner agrees to release you. There are a few exceptions, but in the vast majority of cases the person demanding a get has NO RIGHT to one.

    • 26. MOSHIACH NOW!!! wrote:

      While I don’t totally disagree with your comment, my issue is more with today’s Rabbonim who are not stepping up to the plate and taking initiative and responsibility of their position which often includes difficult situations. Most of today’s Rabbonim won’t do anything that may make them uncomfortable and won’t stand up for what is truly right and just. They outright favor those who have the money and/or the bigger yichus and shirk their responsibilities. It is because of them that individuals, couples, families and communities worldwide are in such trouble. I believe that at the end, most Rabbonim will have a lot of answering to do for themselves:((((

    • 27. MOSHIACH NOW!!! wrote:

      This comment is actually for Millhouse: No woman wakes up in the morning and decides she wants a GETT without first having turned over ever stone and doing everything in her power in an effort to make sure her marriage works! Usually, a GETT is requested when all other avenues have been depleted and spent. Please believe me when I say there are many very sick men who continue abusing and wielding their control over their wives by withholding the GETT… for no other reason than they will never forgive their wives for openly finally opposing them and wishing to move on with whatever is left of their broken lives. (Of course there are cases where it is the wife who is controlling and abusive, but by far and large, it is the male species abusing the women.)

    • 28. Milhouse wrote:

      No woman wakes up in the morning and decides she wants a GETT without first having turned over ever stone and doing everything in her power in an effort to make sure her marriage works!

      Garbage. Your statement deserves much stronger language than that, but this is a family forum so I’ll have to make do with that. Women are no better and no worse than men. On average they do not have better characters, they are no less violent, there is nothing “noble” about them or “debased” about men. Like anyone else some are good and some are bad, but they average out the same.

      (Of course there are cases where it is the wife who is controlling and abusive, but by far and large, it is the male species abusing the women.)

      Again, this is a blatant falsehood. Every study of domestic violence and abuse for the past 40 years has found that it’s 50-50, exactly as one would expect if one is not a female chauvenist sow.

  • 29. Anonymous wrote:

    Its not entrapment its called a sting they didn’t plant evidence they just play a fake story and he followed what would do to anyone else.
    So if you feel what he did is right then call it mesiras nefesh for a mitzva if not what gives him permission to do what he did.

  • 30. Mendel w. wrote:

    They should change the rule and allow women the power to write a get and initiate a divorce.that would be fair and balanced.

    • 31. Milhouse wrote:

      Hashem made the law, and nobody has the right to change it. And since whatever Hashem says is by definition fair and just, it proves that your proposal would be unfair and unjust.

    • 32. Ezra wrote:

      Who’s “they”? The Torah states וכתב לה ספר כריתות – a get is initiated by the husband – and no power in the world, neither Jewish nor secular, has the authority or ability to change that. And if they do, all they’ve accomplished is to cause a tragedy to the next generation, since if a get is written contrary to Torah law, it is invalid and the woman’s children from any subsequent marriage are mamzerim.

    • 33. @ Milhouse wrote:

      He didn’t make the law. Be honest for once in your life. No such thing as holy ink. Cut it out.

    • 34. Milhouse wrote:

      You seem to be at the wrong site. This is a Jewish site, and all Jews believe that the Torah is literally Hashem’s words. If you don’t believe that, you have no business here.

    • 35. @Milhouse wrote:

      Literally? Speak for yourself. I assume you never met a person who pretends to believe what you believe just to make you comfortable, but behind close doors… well you know the rest.
      I assume this is the same Milhouse who comments on Shmarya Rosenberg website. Oh the irony.

  • 36. Anonymous wrote:

    he is going to to jail for freeing so many woman from their abusing husband.yes it is pure abuse to withhold a Get from a woman.

    • 37. Milhouse wrote:

      No, it is NOT abuse at all. In normal circumtances a man has EVERY RIGHT to withhhold a get, and a woman has EVERY RIGHT to refuse a get. There are exceptions, but Epstein did not bother to find out whether his clients fell into those exceptions; the only thing that concerned him was that the check cleared.

  • 38. Chaim g wrote:

    What you all don’t get is that he did absolutely no investigating on whether or not the wife was right or wrong. He just assumed that the wife was correct and went to meet the husband when meanwhile there was no husband so there was no way for him to investigate because the whole thing was a set up which goes to show where he was coming from

    • 39. Milhouse wrote:

      Exactly. This is what must be emphasized over and over: If Epstein had been a yerei shomayim, doing this because the Torah says it’s the right thing to do, then he would have investigated each case with an open mind, and only taken on those cases where he honestly determined that it was justified al pi din.

      And if he’d done that he would never have got in trouble, because he would have quickly found out that this case was made up. He would have called his client back and told her that he couldn’t take her case because he was unable to determine that kefiyas get was warranted, and that would have been the end of it.

  • 40. Anonymous wrote:

    I think we should make a law the man should give the Hebrew get and only the woman could give the civil divorce English divorce and they have doing both simultaneously or no one gets anything or both get everything

    • 41. Milhouse wrote:

      Civil divorces are not given by the husband or by the wife, they’re given by the court. It’s an entirely different model. In civil law, which derives from Xian law, a man and woman do not marry each other or divorce each other; they are married by a clergyman, judge, etc., and divorced by a court.

      In halacha, a rabbi does not perform a marriage and a beis din does not perform a divorce. Both marriage and divorce are actions that a man performs on a woman, with her consent. The man marries the woman; the woman consents to be married by the man. She does not marry him, and nobody else marries both of them. All the rabbi does is make sure that he is doing it properly.

      And the same is true of divorce: it is something that a husband does to his wife. She does not divorce him, she consents for him to divorce her. The beis din does not divorce them, it just makes sure that he is doing it properly. It’s not that nobody but her husband is *allowed* to divorce a woman, it’s that by definition nobody else *can* divorce her.

  • 42. ANONYMOUS wrote:

    Millhouse… while I agree with many of your comments on different occasions, on different sites, regarding a variety of topics… and I think you are intelligent and well versed in many things….I may also agree with you regarding the rabbis’ tactics, but you don’t seem to have much if any experience with women who are suffering in their marriages and must get out! Unfortunately, but more often than not, this is the case! It is rare and unusual for a woman… as you put it…. to get up in the morning and request a GETT. By the time she finally is asking for one, SHE MUST GET OUT for more reasons than she can ever describe! I know too many women in that position… and no women ever said she didn’t make mistakes or that she was perfect…. so please stop bashing from your seat of inexperience.

    • 43. Milhouse wrote:

      This is sexist garbage. Listen to your own words, with the pronouns changed: “It is rare and unusual for a man to get up in the morning and request a GETT. By the time he finally is asking for one, HE MUST GET OUT for more reasons than he can ever describe!” Would you accept this? Or do you think it’s only women who find themselves in bad marriages and have to get out? Do you think women are wonderful and noble people and men are animals?

      The fact is that it is neither rare nor unusual for a wife to break up her marriage, and in fact the statistics show that MOST marriages are broken up by the wife, not the husband. And it’s not because they have no choice. Some people do have no choice but to leave their spouses, but this is equally likely to happen to men and women, because men and women are equally likely to abuse their spouses, whether mentally or physically.

  • 44. Anonymous wrote:

    milhouse please identify yourself everything you say is correct al pi torah and to the point, also what you highlight about r’ epstein, it just would be appreciated if you would identify yourself

    • 45. ANONYMOUS wrote:

      Millhouse… I agree with you that men and women are equal however, statistically, more men abuse their wives and it is rarely that the woman is the one who continues abusing the husband by refusing the gett. Among the 10s of women in abusive marriages, I only know one man who was abused by his wife and I felt very sorry for him!

  • 46. To Millhouse wrote:

    Rabbonim try to find a way to say that someone is not a mamzer, such as a case whrre the parents did not have an orthodox wedding and their child was declared not. Are you a Rav that you can pasken that people given a gett by Rabbi Epstein are committing a terrible aveira and their off spring are not legitimate?HOW DARE YOU!!

    • 47. Milhouse wrote:

      A compelled get is possul. This is a very well-known halocho, and needs no expertise to pasken. Even when a kosher beis din has ordered a man to give a get, after having determined that the case matches one of the very limited set of circumstances listed in the gemoro, he still can’t be directly forced to give the get. What he can be forced to do is obey the beis din. But now that we know Epstein’s “beis din” was not kosher, nobody ever had an obligation to obey it, so all the kefiyos it did were possul. So yes, that means these women and their second “husbands” are adulterers and their children are mamzerim.

  • 48. Thanks Mlhs for being patient wrote:

    Milhouse, you make good points and are very patient.

    I want to add a new perspective.

    When a man refuses to give his wife a GETT – then I believe it is not her time to feel free or to re-marry.

    The problem is the children. When there are small children involved – and their mother begins to date, and to bring men to meet them. It is disturbing. Now that adults are being more outspoken about child abuse – we often hear that it was a step father who is the predator.

    I believe that marriage is Beshert. And if it is a mother’s time to re-marry, then Hashem will take care of the situation, the woman will be free, and the re-marriage will take place. How could it not? It is Beshert.

    In the meantime, Hashem is protecting the woman from the unnecessary emotional roller coaster of dating. She has more time and more emotional balance to give to her children.

    A woman who has tried all decent ways to attain a GETT and has failed in attaining one – can choose to take it as a sign that now is not her time to feel free and re-marry. Now is the time for her to care for her children and work on her own good character traits.

    Aliza

  • 49. the torah is right wrote:

    the torah is right for putting the power to give a get in the man’s hands because women are feeble minded and are susceptible to random emotional outbursts and act like little children in diapers when they dont get their way.

    can you imagine a husband coming home from a hard days work and his wife is at the door yelling she wants a divorce because he bought the wrong color napkins and now their dinner is ruined. now there will be kids who have to grow up without two parents.

    • 50. picaboo shimon wrote:

      I agree. if women had the power to initiate divorces the divorce rate would be 100% because women cant ever make up their minds

    • 51. Milhouse wrote:

      Come on, you know that’s not true. There are enough men who also behave like children, while most women behave like adults because they have no choice. That’s why Rabbenu Gershom decreed that the wife’s consent is needed for a get, thus making men and women EQUAL.

    • 52. Ezra wrote:

      And actually, R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch points out that Rabbeinu Gershom’s takkanah doesn’t indicate an advancement of society (greater equality), but the reverse: originally the Torah was able to entrust men with the power to divorce their wives unilaterally knowing that they wouldn’t abuse that power (by doing so without good grounds), but sadly Jewish life deteriorated to the point where that assumption no longer held true.

  • 53. Miriam S. wrote:

    it would be funny if milhouse was really rabbi schwei playing around online hahahahahaha

    • 55. what does the Torah Say wrote:

      The Torah that a Judge has to listen carefully to both sides (Husbands & Wife’s) of the story with equal consideration.

  • 56. Let's be fair wrote:

    I would agree with what Rabbi Epstein did. Only if he listened to the husbands side of the story also.

    What if the wife had a better lawyer who made sure the husband would never see his children again. And he said I’ll only give you a get if you ask your lawyer to give me permission to see the children 2 days every week.

    • 57. Milhouse wrote:

      What husband? In this case there wasn’t even a husband, and Epstein never knew because he never bothered to investigate. The only evidence he cared about was that the check cleared.

    • 58. reply to 54. Milhouse wrote:

      I agree I feel 10 years is to short. I think Rabbi Epstein should be locked up in jail for 25 years minimum.

      I would only agree if this Rabbi Epstein investigated each case very carefully after listening to the husbands side of the story.

  • 59. Jewish dude wrote:

    I will say this if the marriage was KOSHER then the actions of the rabbi were null and void. The marriage is still legal no get was given. If the marriage was not kosher then Rabbi Epstein can dissolve the marriage. To give Rabbi Epstein ten years in prison is Gilul Hashem. And totally not Kosher all actions against Rabbi Epstein should have been done by a BETH DIN.

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