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New York rabbi gets 3 years for illegal divorce ring

Back in March, we discussed the difference between family law and religious practices with regards to family life. The First Amendment keeps the two firmly separated, yet in many people’s lives, their faith and their rights are deeply intertwined.

For instance, as we said in our earlier post, for Orthodox Jews getting divorced is not just a matter of dividing up property, arranging for child custody and visitation, and all the other things we usually talk about in this blog. Besides the legal divorce, many Jews must obtain a “get,” or a religious divorce document, if they want to be considered divorced within their religion. Otherwise, they would not be able to remarry in a Jewish ceremony.

Under Orthodox law, it is up to the husband to grant a get. If they refuse to do so, their wives can remain in marital limbo. This has given rise to criminal activity such as what a New York rabbi was recently sentenced to more than three years in prison for.

The rabbi had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion. He and nine other men were accused by the FBI of using kidnapping and torture to “persuade” Orthodox men to grant their wives a religious divorce. The ring’s tactics involved handcuffs and cattle prods, according to ABC News.

Of course, the actions committed by this man are not common practice in any form of Judaism. What religious traditions and rituals you follow when you get divorced, if any, generally not related to the legal divorce process. The latter requires the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney.

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