A New Jersey couple has been sentenced for their involvement in a scheme to force a Jewish man to divorce his wife — that is, forcing him by means of kidnapping him.
According to ABC News, 53-year-old Lakewood resident David Wax was given a seven-year prison sentence on Tues., Jan. 12 and his wife, 51-year-old Judy Wax, was given a two-year probation sentence.
The couple, both avid members of the Orthodox Jewish faith, were the last two individuals out of nearly a dozen who participated in an elaborate plan to force the rabbi into a religious divorce.
The scheme was reportedly “concocted by a respected rabbi,” according to NJ.com, and it involved kidnapping and beating married men in the community “until they agreed to give their estranged wives the religious divorce decrees they needed to get on with their lives.”
The entire case was one of the most bizarre divorce-related incidents of the year, as several news stories noted during the ongoing trial reporting. However, many Americans outside of the Orthodox Jewish community don’t realize that a religious divorce is different from the legal divorce process — which can also vary between states — and these religious divorces are still very much stigmatized in conservative communities.
“Most couples don’t take such extreme steps to get divorced, even if one spouse does not want it,”said Greg Enos, Divorce Attorney at The Enos Law Firm in Galveston, Texas. “It does take the consent of two people to decide to get married in our state, but to end a marriage, it takes only one person who wants a divorce. A spouse who does not want to be divorced can slow down the process but there is no way to stop a divorce in ‘no fault’ divorce states.”
Both Waxes pleaded guilty back in 2014 for their participation in a scheme of Rabbi Mendel Epstein. David Wax was found guilty of kidnapping and beating one of the husbands (and could have spent life in prison for the offense), while Judy Wax pleaded guilty to conspiracy of hiding a felony.
David Wax reportedly testified for nearly four days during the 2015 trial of Epstein, which involved the kidnapping and beating of Yisrael Bryskman, an Israeli national living in Brooklyn who had refused to give his wife a religious divorce.
Bryskman told the court that he had been lured to Wax’s home in Lakewood when he was told that Wax was publishing Talmudic books and needed some writers. Once Bryskman arrived, he said that he was blindfolded, cuffed at the wrists and ankles, and was subsequently beaten by several men.
Possibly the most important detail in the whole incident was the fact that David Wax was reportedly wearing a white cowboy hat throughout the attack.
Wax later tried to extort money from Bryskman “to replace the bedroom carpet bloodied by Bryskman’s attack.”
Judy Wax admitted to the court that she wasn’t directly involved in the attack, but she “drove Bryskman back to Brooklyn after offering him a breakfast of bagels or muffins from a bagel shop along the way.”