New York Divorce Coercion Gang

A criminal gang or Orthodox Jews, who used kidnapping and violence to force men to sign their divorce papers

Religion: Judaism
Denomination: Orthodox Judaism
Founded: 1980s
Ended: 2013 (arrest of key members)
Location: New York, United States
Other Names: Orthodox Jewish Divorce Gang, Get Gang

The New York Divorce Coercion Gang was a criminal group that operated within the Haredi Jewish community, primarily targeting men who refused to grant their wives a get, a document required for a Jewish divorce. Without a get, women are unable to remarry within the faith, which created a desperate situation for those trapped in unwanted marriages. This gang, led by rabbis including Mendel Epstein and Martin Wolmark, resorted to kidnapping, violence, and threats to coerce these men into compliance.

The group’s activities spanned from at least the 1980s until their apprehension in 2013. They employed extreme methods, such as kidnapping, assault, and torture, including the use of stun guns, beatings, and threats of grave bodily harm, to force compliance from their victims. One notorious incident involved Israel Markowitz, who in 2009 was lured under false pretenses to New Jersey, where he was then violently coerced into granting his wife a get. Similarly, in 2010, Yisrael Bryskman was promised a job, only to be assaulted and threatened with death unless he complied. These actions were not isolated, with several other reported cases of violence and coercion leading up to the group’s eventual downfall.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) intervened in 2013, launching a sting operation that uncovered the extent of the gang’s criminal activities. This operation involved undercover agents posing as a woman seeking a get from her uncooperative husband. The gang’s leaders negotiated their fees for coercion and discussed their violent methods openly with the agents, believing them to be clients. This operation led to the arrest of Wolmark, Epstein, and several accomplices at a warehouse in Edison, New Jersey, where they were preparing to carry out another kidnapping.

The subsequent trials revealed the group’s motivations and methods. While some members claimed religious justification for their actions, authorities and the courts saw these acts as criminal, motivated by profit rather than religious conviction. Mendel Epstein and other key members were convicted of charges including conspiracy to commit kidnapping, with sentences ranging from time served to 10 years in prison.

The gang’s activities and the subsequent legal proceedings sparked significant discussion within the Jewish community about the use of violence in securing gets and the broader issue of get refusal. Critics within the community condemned the gang’s actions as coercive and unrepresentative of Jewish law, which strictly prohibits such violence. The case highlighted the ongoing issue of get refusal and the lengths to which some are willing to go to resolve these disputes​​​​​​.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *