ultra orthodox jews
Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray along the Yarkon River in Ramat Gan near Tel AvivAFP

Three Orthodox rabbis were convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping in New Jersey on 21 April. According to Reuters, the men were involved in a scheme to force men to grant their unhappy wives divorce.

Two of the religious leaders, 60-year-old Jay Goldstein and 38-year-old Binyamin Stimler, were also convicted of attempted kidnapping, Goldstein's lawyers office said. The third rabbi, 68-year-old Mendel Epstein, was convicted only of conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

The case, which was tried by US District Judge Freda Wolfson, contained testimony of an undercover FBI agent who posed as an Orthodox Jewish wife seeking a divorce from her husband, Reuters reported.

Prosecutors stated the men ran an operation that kidnapped or attempted to kidnap men and tortured them until they agreed to divorce their wives. According to Reuters, Epstein's 39-year-old son David was charged but found not guilty of conspiracy and kidnapping.

Threats and beatings

According to Jewish law, a husband has to grant his wife a divorce - or "get" - in order for her to remarry. Some decline to do so out of spite, leaving their former partners as "Agunot", or chained.

This is not the first case involving Jewish rabbis kidnapping and torturing men into granting their wives Jewish divorces.

According to the New York Daily News, New Jersey rabbi David Wax admitted in May 2014 that he was paid $100,000 (£67,020) to kidnap and force a husband to agree to a divorce. The 51-year-old rabbi pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a kidnapping and threatening to bury his Israeli victim alive.

Wax allegedly received $100,000 from Yisrael Briskman's wife, lured Briskman from Brooklyn to his home in New Jersey and then had him beaten for several hours. After Briskman agreed the get and to give up custody of his children, he was forced to call his family to reimburse his wife's family the $100,000. Briskman's father recorded the call, which led to Wax's arrest.