One of the two Orthodox rabbis arrested in New York last week for allegedly accepting money from women whose husbands will not give them a Jewish divorce and then kidnapping and beating those husbands to force them to change their minds was involved in case against a Silver Spring man who has refused to grant his former wife a get for the past five years.
Rabbis Mendel Epstein and Martin Wolmark, as well as several others, were arrested following a monthlong FBI sting in which an agent posed as a women trying to obtain a Jewish divorce.
Wolmark, who heads the yeshiva Shaarei Torah in Monsey, N.Y., is one of five rabbis who signed a Declaration of Contempt against Aharon Friedman from the Jewish Court of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada.
Friedman, who married Tamar Epstein in April 2006, claims to have been beaten up in August of 2012 as he returned his daughter to her mother’s home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. A Lower Merion police department spokesman said at the time that a report had been filed and the matter was under investigation.
Epstein’s attorney, Fredric Goldfein, gave an emphatic “no” when asked if Epstein had hired anyone to beat Friedman, adding he wasn’t even sure Friedman’s allegations “amounted to anything.”
Goldfein also said that he didn’t request any specific rabbis during the contempt hearing.
Rabbi Jeremy Stern, director of Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, condemned the alleged violence that the rabbis are charged with.
“ORA works entirely within the realm of Jewish law and civil law,” he said from his office in New York. “It’s not something that we do,” he said of the beatings.
Stern is familiar with both rabbis, caling them “very involved in the arena of Jewish divorce.” He also said he was not surprised by the arrests, explaining that Epstein was filmed in a documentary talking about the use of violence to convince a man to give his wife a Jewish divorce.
Friedman and Epstein had a daughter in November of 2007. The couple separated in March 2008 and received a civil divorce in April 2010. Epstein currently lives in the Philadelphia suburbs.