A Second Look at Rabbi Wolmark

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By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Divorce wars can be very bitter battles.

Unfortunately, divorces between observant Jews are often no exception.  Indeed, often they can even be more difficult than their secular counterpart by virtue of the fact that the observant Jewish man has a weapon at his disposal that no other man has:

He can withhold the means for  his wife to every marry or even date again.  He can refuse to give her a Get.  If the husband is vindictive he can transform his wife into what is called an “Agunah” – a chained woman who can never date or re-marry again.  She is consigned to the fate of loneliness – a solitary isolated existence without opportunity for love and future marriage.

It is the ultimate cruelty.

Why this gross imbalance exists is beyond the purview of this article.  The fact is that it does exist.

The fate of the Agunah is something that the world bemoans, yet does little about.  Very few have dared to try to help these women.  If the allegations are in fact true, Rabbi Wolmark is one of those who have tried.

From a legal perspective, consider the following: There are, at times, conflicts between the imperatives of three legal systems:  federal law, state law and local law do not always conform to each other.  For observant Jews there is also a fourth imperative – the ideals of Jewish law.

And the ideals of Jewish law conform quite well with American law, although more in form than in substance.  The imperative of Jewish law is to champion the plight of the weak, the destitute – those that have no voice in a cruel world.

And Rabbi Wolmark did just that.  He felt that these women with no recourse, must not be given that horrible choice that vindictive husbands offer them:

“Either abandon your adherence to your religion or be consigned to a life of solitary loneliness forever!!”

The mere sound of this devil’s offer causes a person to shudder – but this is the reality that these women face, notwithstanding the view of the secular press that these barriers exist only in the woman’s mind.  No, the Faustian choice these women face is both real and heartbreaking.

Jewish law does provide instructions to a Jewish court of law as to how to proceed in such cases:  The Mishna (the first century repository of Jewish law in Israel) instructed the once autonomous Jewish system of Jurisprudence to force the husband to give the Get.  This “forcing” was codified in the Shulchan Aruch – the fourth legal system.

And so the question to Rabbi Wolmark remained what to do.  Does he stand idly by and allow these women to suffer a veritable hell on earth?  Or does he threaten to, and perhaps sometimes embark upon violating one of the four systems of law?

The situation is somewhat reminiscent of a horrific situation in which a cardiologist friend of mine found himself in – a number of years ago.  It was during Passover at a Sharmel Caterer’s retreat in the state of Pennsylvania.  An elderly gentleman had suffered a heart attack on the golf course.  The New York cardiologist knew exactly what was wrong, but was not licensed in the state of Pennsylvania.  The local paramedic who had just arrived on the scene told the doctor that if he so much as touched him, he would call law enforcement to haul him away.  It was against the law to save him.

Rabbi Wolmark is a selfless man who has championed the rights of women for decades.  I know of several cases where he spent days attempting to advise and assist women in peril.  Whether they were cancer victims who he helped find the right course of treatment or others facing the most difficult challenges of their lives, Rabbi Wolmark has always exemplified the highest ideals of lovingkindness and chivalry.

One may legitimately debate his alleged methods and quibble about the ultimate disposition of how halacha views a forced Get.  This author has, in fact, done that (http://5tjt.com/the-cattle-prod-get-a-halachic-analysis/) .  But there is no question that this is an altruistic man who was dedicated to assisting women trapped in the no man’s land between two systems of law.

As a community, we should look to help him in whatever manner that we can.  And we should do what we can to convince the prosecutor and the judge to take these factors into strong consideration.  May we all not know from more pain – neither the wives nor the husbands.  Amain.

The author may be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com


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20 thoughts on “A Second Look at Rabbi Wolmark

  • November 8, 2013 at 8:08 am

    If this is altruism in practice, it’s time to consider in depth the evils connected with altruism.

  • November 8, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    R’ Hoffman – I have a lot to say about this, but one thing will suffice for now: the cardiologist was not, by way of his actions and repercussions, dragging God’s Name through the mud. Nor was he creating future possibilities of untold trauma by creating potential mamzeirim. Nor was he taking punishingly high amounts of $$$ to do the deed – he saved the patient in an act of pure altruism (one assumes that he didn’t send a bill).

    This article has all the hallmarks of that rather infamous “Madoff had guts, Sully was just doing his job” article that was published by an otherwise reputable and intelligent author some years ago. Yes, you know the one.

    You know the saying. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Rather apt, in this case.

  • November 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Since when dies altruism cost the oppressed victim 60-70K to have her life saved?
    I can theoretically get behind beating a get out of a guy, but how does one claim the moral high ground while pocketing a nice chunk of change?

  • November 9, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    Rabbi Hoffman you hit the nail on the head. Rabbi Walmark has helped and continues to help hundreds of people and that’s what his plan was here as well. I don’t wish on anyone in the Jewish world to be held hostage by a get for there is no way around it and the husband will get whatever he wants. The Torah never had this in mind when it said a man should give a get.
    Let the defense put up as witnesses all the women that Rabbi Walmark helped free from these chains and the world will see what a special man he is

    • November 10, 2013 at 12:38 am

      Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. How does this help his defense?

      Just wait until more information gets out, & the public will see just how “special” he was!!!

    • November 14, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Oye, the sad tales of poor R. Wolmark. What a whitewash. He is a fraud, an instigator, and stirs up the pot, in what ever he does and NOW he got caught. He has tried to turn over the applecart is so many areas.
      1.He tried to be the big shot in a Vaad of kashrut, overstepping his authority and got booted and went to a competitor Vaad.
      2. He went to go become a sofer(scribe) so he could write, mezuzahs, Torahs, and GETS. Then he goes and tells women of a community their GETS are invalid and HE has to rewrite them, charging $$. Who knows how well he did and writing Torahs or other Jewish documents.
      3. He doesn’t like the davening(prayer services) at two locations so he creats his OWN synagogue and then tries to steal members from the other two locations to have a minyan(quorum of 10 men) at his synagogue in the middle of the day. Very dishonest.
      4. In strong language he claims women are not modest in dress, when wearing long sleeve sweatshirts and long dresses and speed WALKING very early in the morning in an orthodox Jewish community. He’s very critical of these women trying to get exercise violate laws of modesty. Then this HYPOCRITE , I see, standing in the middle of the street talking to someone in a car only wearing an undershirt(like a boxer type) and tzitzit ,exposing his upper body!!!
      5. He violates speed limits by rocketing down a narrow children filled street in a Jewish neighborhood and drives recklessly. I feared for the safety of the children in the neighborhood and even told his wife to tell him to follow the speed limits or the next time I see this I would report him to the police.

      There are many people that he has hurt very deeply.
      I have no sympathy for him. True, the agunah situation is a horrible thing. But, beating up or threatening physical or financial harm or hurting someone’s property is also a crime.

  • November 10, 2013 at 12:18 am

    “Why this gross imbalance exists is beyond the purview of this article. The fact is that it does exist.”

    I don’t know how you can call yourself a “Rabbi.” You are a Kofair! And what an ego you have!

    When Hashem finally decides to send Moshiach, he should confer with you first, to insure that YOU agree that the time is right!

  • November 10, 2013 at 12:22 am

    You don’t know or understand a darned thing about this subject matter!

    As the saying goes, “A little knowledge is dangerous!”

  • November 10, 2013 at 12:30 am

    “Why this gross imbalance exists is beyond the purview of this article. The fact is that it does exist.”

    How do you call your self a Rabbi?? Shame on you!

    Should Hashem consult with you before he sends Moshiach, in order to insure that it is the proper time?

  • November 10, 2013 at 12:45 am

    Rabbi Hoffman you dont know what you are talking about. This man did it for the money! 1)check online when one of the newscasters of channel 12 was interviewing a neighbor of Wolmark and this neighbor stated that one of Wolmarks secretaries was going thru a bitter divorce, yet he didnt help her! perhaps she didnt have the big bucks to give to him!
    2) we are not the Taliban where in this country we can enforce the laws as we see fit! 3)The undercover sting operation was no more than 4 months. This means that this supposed undercover agent Aguna was only an Aguna for 4 months. So how did Wolmark supposedly render her an Aguna for waiting 4 months for a GET? His investigative work was flawed. 4) You apparently didnt read how he was caught. The undercover agent aguna was summoned to attend a “special bais din ” convened to allow the kidnapping of her husband. This special Bais din comprised of Wolmark, Epstein and Goldstein! The very scoundrels who accepted the money to do the job. This is what you call a balanced bais Din? These are not rabbis but criminal thugs looking for a buck to make! Rabbi Hoffman, it is your twisted mind that conforms to other rabbis I know that raise monies to help accused pedophiles escape imprisonment. Please save your energies to support much worthier causes such as assisting the poor and marrying off the orphans!

  • November 10, 2013 at 12:56 am

    Besides the money he got for “helping” these women, he was selling them a pasul get. The Shulchan aruch permits beating in very specific cases. How could he permit beating without a bet din that did their proper research? They didn’t even realize that there was no husband!

  • November 10, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Rabbi Hoffman:

    I have a lot to say about your article, but I’m not writing to convince you. I’m merely sharing my experience.
    I withheld a get for over a year “merely” to have joint LEGAL custody. I should have held out for equal time with my two kids, but I could no longer afford the legal bills and the mental drain 3 years of arguing produced.

    I think that much of this “problem” would work itself out if a simple rule were followed: absent evidence of neglect or abuse of the children there should be 50/50 sharing of custody.

    The so-called Aguna problem does not really exist in cases where there are no children of the marriage. I have never heard of a case (in the US at least) where a husband wasn’t fighting for some sort of parental fairness. It is a red herring to point to a judge and say “he made his judgment with respect to custody.” The reality remains that there is a palpable and real bias against fathers in family courts, particularly in the State of NY. The Get is the only leverage a frum man has to equalize the injustice.

    I’m afraid, however, that the issues of paternal parity will remain ancillary to the jewish community’s portrayal of “oppressed and innocent” women. To be sure, they exist, and I would rally in their endeavor. However, I believe that if the community addressed head on the issue of marginalized fathers the issue of withholding a Get would become de minimis.

    Don’t ignore the plight of aggrieved fathers, and they won’t ignore the plight of aggrieved mothers.

    Jewish law has an element of basic fairness, no?

  • November 10, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Wolmark organized a Bias Din and issued a psak to beat a man that didn’t exsist. Wolmark did not conduct even the slightest investigation into the “agunas” claim. How can anyone in their right mind defend this man who made a mockery of our Bais Din process and all of Halacha. He has created untold number of Mamzarim because of his kangaroo court. This article is a complete disgrace. Shame on you Rabbi Hoffman.

  • November 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Is the 5tJt employed by the legal defense team?
    Yes, this crew was really altruistic, they saved that poor federal agent from an oppressive husband that didn’t exist, whom they never investigated to even make sure he existed, let alone get his side of the story. Yeah, the woman is always right and men must be electrocuted on their genitals. That’s true altruism. Kangaroo court altruism that receives thousands of dollars for their services. And Rabbi Hoffmann claims that this behavior was upholding the Shulchan Aruch? What a disgusting calumny against the Shulchan Aruch and Jewish law!

  • November 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    I personally know a few women that Rabbi Wolmark helped set free from their gut -wrenching Agunah status…literally giving them a new lease on life without ever having charged them a dime! All cases i know of were accomplished through social or job related pressure!! Some of these cases took days out of the Rabbi’s busy schedule as he tried to reason with evil, manipulative and controlling husbands. (Anyone who’s met up with one of those know they CANNOT be reasoned with. Psychopaths do not operate rationally!). I hope these women will be able to have the opportunity to vouch for Rabbi Wolmark on the stand and have a strong impact on the judge and jury as essentially we all know that these women would still be chained (some go back even 15 years ago with their story) if not for Rabbi Wolmark’s courageous efforts!

    • November 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      So he charged some 60-100k, to subsidize the freebies?

      I hope the gadolim can work out a solution to this crisis. Because if all the gets given out during this time are pasul, think of the mamzor problem we will have!

      We have to live our lives so that we can be on the cover of a newspaper with nothing to hide. Where there is no chillul hashem. In this situation they have failed in that, the have broken the law, they have made a huge chillul hashem and potentially caused a lot of mamzors.

  • November 13, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    I am responding to “O”. You justify withholding a Get for custody purposes. There is absolutely NO justification for ever withholding a Get. Then you go on to say that Gets are only withheld when there are custody issues involved. How dare you make such an ignorant statement! I was an Agunah and my ex-husband didn’t even want to see his children, all he wanted was money. As soon as he received the money he gave me the Get and guess what– over 20 years later he still does not see his children, nor does he want to see them. Oh, and by the way, this withholder of a Get never paid child support either, yet he owns 2 homes! Please do not make blanket statements and defend those who do not give Gets. Your justification of your actions so you can live with yourself only serves to encourage others to do the same.

  • November 14, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    isn’t it time to change things around a bit? Are men worthier than women? Do men own women? Why should a woman be at the mercy of a man?

    If we are to live by biblical standards then let’s stone every man that fornicates and let’s gouge eye for eye.

    Somehow our Rabbis were able to find Halachic solutions to those but men’s dominance over and possession of women eludes the Rabbis.

    Is it because they are men themselves and are afraid to relinquish power? If that’s the case then the Rabbis cannot be impartial on this subject. Let klal Israel decide (including the 52% women in our midst)

  • November 16, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Rabbi Hoffman, while it seems ur intention was to present Rabbi Wolmark in a good light, you need to know the facts. Rabbi Wolmark helped thousands of women navigate the bais din system, without taking money for the thousands of hours of his time. Contrary to what u assume and wrote- he did NOT engage in violence. A psak of kviah means that pressure can be applied it does not mean violence will take place as a matter of course. And given that wolmark has a long history of legitimately helping people- did it not cross anyone’s mind that the facts of this case may not be as they have been presented to the public?! The whole thing just makes no sense. The fbi could just as easily have called anyone in brooklyn and they would have directed this woman to epstein. And just because other people took money doesn’t mean wolmark did. And in defense of the others and all the rabbis and batei din who charge for their services- do u know any lawyer, judge or fbi agent who works for free?!

    • November 19, 2013 at 11:26 am

      You are blabbering without knowledge. Woolmark was involved in many beatings, as can be proven from the heter the woman received for marriage. He took money, as will be proven in court. And he ripped off these women, not for a regular income. This isn’t out of the goodness of his heart, otherwise he would have done two very important things. He would have checked out the facts to ensure that the kviah is permitted, and he wouldn’t rip her off. Even applying pressure is only permitted in very specific cases.

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