Last Friday in a secret meeting at Vancouver Police headquarters orders were given to get the Pizza Squad back on the streets and re-execute ‘Operation Hot Pie’. Police commanders were looking for two constables to lead the team who were authoritarian, rude, and had few people skills. They had to make-do with only one. In…
“For at least three decades, Epstein has been the most feared divorce lawyer in the so-called black-hat community of New York and New Jersey—a loose collection of Hasidic sects and Orthodox congregations that spills across Brooklyn and low-lying Lakewood and the rural reaches of Kiryas Joel, up near Poughkeepsie. And yet he’s never gone to law school; he’s not licensed to practice law in New York State or New Jersey or anywhere else.
He is a to’ein—an advocate in the three-man rabbinical court known as a beit din, or “house of justice.” In Orthodox society, which can be so insular it employs its own unofficial police force, the beit din is both small-claims court and counseling service. Have trouble collecting an outstanding debt from your tightfisted neighbor? Visit a beit din. Need advice on how to bury your mother? See the beit din. Want out of a marriage? Sign a get at your local beit din for ratification.
The hitch comes when a husband refuses to participate in the process. Suddenly his wife, who may have been pressed into an arranged marriage and now has a handful of screaming kids on her hands and very little money of her own—to say nothing of education or the means to make a living, which in ultra-Orthodox circles, where men are always the breadwinners, is pretty much out of the question, anyway—is officially an agunah, chained to a marriage that is functionally dead.
Situations like this are Epstein’s specialty. His reputation was founded on extricating trapped women from marriage; by his own count, he has personally supervised 2,000 divorce cases. Success, Epstein has bragged, is merely a matter of finding “the right buttons to push to aggravate the husband so that he wants out of his self-imposed predicament.” Depending on how much you’re willing to spend, those buttons might include harassment (in his book, Epstein recalls once following a husband into a dance club and remaining there until that meshuggener, pink-faced and utterly ashamed, put pen to paper) or, perhaps, alternate measures. To his enemies, he’s a menace and a bully. To his admirers, though, he’s a hero—a liberator.”