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Lawyer: Client's husband was attacked after accused rabbi's congregations got $60,000


TRENTON, New Jersey — The congregations of a rabbi who allegedly used brutal tactics to force unwilling Jewish husbands to divorce their wives received $60,000 before one man was attacked, a lawyer testified Monday.

Attorney Fredric Goldfein, who was representing a woman who wanted a divorce, said Rabbi Mendel Epstein instructed him to wire the money to two congregations that he led, ( reported.

A few days after the money was moved, the husband of Goldfein's client was attacked by three men in Pennsylvania, he said.

Goldfein, who also is a rabbi, testified for the federal government in exchange for immunity.

He said he was surprised when he heard about the attack and called another rabbi to try to learn more details. Goldfein said he thought the money was going to the husband as part of his agreement to grant his wife a religious divorce, so she could remarry in the Orthodox Jewish community.

When prosecutors asked Goldfein what he thought Epstein could do to help obtain the religious divorce, known as a get, Goldfein said he thought "they would annoy (the husband) or holler at him to get him to take the deal."

On cross-examination, Goldfein said Epstein never spoke to him about using physical force to obtain the divorce. He said the husband was the subject of widespread publicity in Jewish publications for his refusal to give his wife a divorce, noting there also had been rallies outside the husband's job and at his house and his parents' house.

Epstein faces charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and attempted kidnapping with his son and two other orthodox rabbis. His attorney does not dispute the acts were committed, but has said they do not rise to federal kidnapping.

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