The headline says it all:
U.S. Accuses 2 Rabbis of Kidnapping Husbands for a Fee
Wha? Rabbis? For those unfamiliar with Jewish criminality, there have been some great ones. If you want a picture of tough Jewish street gangs, then The Amboy Dukes is the novel for you. But, generally, we no longer expect violent crime from the relatively wealthy Jewish population, charges against Bernanke and Greenspan for economic malfeasance notwithstanding.
We have spoken before of Orthodox (and Ultra-Orthodox) Jews, with a gritty admiration for their ability to maintain group cohesion in the modern environment, and their fecundity and eventual ability to replace the more liberal, ungodly, Reform Jews. As we wrote:
Beta men can win women of higher SMV by banding together to exclude interlopers who might try to game the sexual marketplace so as to monopolize a young woman’s most attractive years between 18 and 24. Each beta man does so in the knowledge that enforcement of community norms means that he, also, will gain access to the great bounty that is feminine youthful beauty. …
The religious community must maintain a strong community life apart from the mainstream society, so strong that threatening to be expelled from that society constrains the behavior of women and men. Orthodox Judaism permits secular divorce, but, like Catholicism, holds back one stricture: a divorced spouse does not have to grant a “get,” (similar to a Catholic annulment) permitting the other spouse to marry again in the Orthodox faith.Sometimes, this “get” is the only leverage a Jewish man will have to get a better deal in secular family courts. Since the government has not yet decided to tell religions who they can and cannot excommunicate, a strong, self-identified community is the only route to enforcing such things.
Now, in a society of no-fault divorce, civilly, the only thing that prevents it is a stronger, countervailing force. The “get” holds together the Orthodox community, as norms do not permit women to engage in extra-marital sex and the “get” prevents them from divorcing and re-marrying. (How I wish Papism were strong enough that extramarital sex was simply not considered for religious reasons, and that the lack of an annulment prevented people from getting “re-“married.) In other words, it’s probably the chief mechanism by which Orthodox, who are poorer than their Reform co-religionists, maintain community and high social capital. So screwing around with this feature of the religion can lead to dire consequences.
The New York Times reports:
In Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, Mendel Epstein made a name for himself as the rabbi to see for women struggling to divorce their husbands. … While it’s common for rabbis to take action against defiant husbands, such as barring them from synagogue life, Rabbi Epstein, 68, took matters much further, according to the authorities. For hefty fees, he orchestrated the kidnapping and torture of reluctant husbands, charging their wives as much as $10,000 for a rabbinical decree permitting violence and $50,000 to hire others to carry out the deed, according to federal charges unsealed on Thursday morning.
Well, you have a great way to prevent frivorce there: charge $60K in exit fees, up front, to the divorcing wife. Still, it seems, a lot of them had the resources to pay.
In court, the lead prosecutor in the case, R. Joseph Gribko, explained how the abductions were carried out. “They beat them up, tied them up, shocked them with Tasers and stun guns until they got what they want,” Mr. Gribko, an assistant United States attorney, said.
Mr. Gribko said the defendants had been motivated by money, not faith. While the case might surprise some New Yorkers, accounts of such kidnappings have percolated through the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn for years. In 1996, for instance, a rabbinic council in Williamsburg issued a statement denouncing the rogue men who subjected husbands to such beatings, according to a news report. (emphasis added)
Well, there you have it. When you let money intrude on an area where economics ought not show its head, you get disastrous results. Now, there were probably a few Orthodox men who should have lost the privilege of being married, and a wise council might have counseled them so. But turning the sanctity of marriage into a transaction like this will destroy the essence of community.
There is one final irony: the Federal Government, whose laws have done so much to undermine marriage and children, was the organization that stepped in to arrest (heh!) this deplorable practice. Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.