U.S. Rabbi Pleads Guilty to Kidnapping in Jewish Divorce Case

Rabbi admits to being paid $100,000 to compel the man Yisrael Briskman to grant his wife a religious writ of divorce, known as a get.

JTA
JTA
A couple uses a hammer to smash their wedding ring at a 'divorce ceremony.'
A couple uses a hammer to smash their wedding ring at a 'divorce ceremony.'Credit: Reuters
JTA
JTA

New Jersey Rabbi David Wax pleaded guilty to kidnapping charges as part of a scheme to force an Israeli man to give his wife a get.

The rabbi admitted to being paid $100,000 to compel the man — identified by the Associated Press as Yisrael Briskman — to grant his wife a religious writ of divorce, known as a get. The money came from Briskman’s estranged wife.

Wax lured Briskman to his house on Oct. 17, 2010, had him beaten by a group of thugs and threatened to bury him alive in the Pocono Mountains unless he agreed to give the get, according to court papers cited by the N.Y. Daily News.

Under Orthodox law, women whose husbands refuse to grant them religious writs of divorce may not remarry; they are known as agunahs, or chained women.

A native of the heavily haredi Orthodox township of Lakewood, N.J., Wax and eight others were arrested in July 2011 following an FBI investigation into thugs-for-hire who used violence to coerce recalcitrant husbands into granting religious divorces to their wives.

On Tuesday, Wax pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit kidnapping and faces life in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is to be sentenced Aug. 19.

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