By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
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The beth din was held at the Yeshiva Torah Vodaas in Ditmas Park. Among the several men present, according to Amsel, were Rabbi Israel Belsky, who taught a class at the yeshiva; Rabbi Martin Wolmark, a respected educator from upstate; and Mendel Epstein.
Belsky told Amsel that Rubin had already missed a hearing in December. Because Rubin again failed to show up, Amsel recalled Belsky saying, he'd be tried in absentia and the judges would authorize the use of force to secure a get. "We'll physically give him beatings," Belsky said in Yiddish, according to Amsel.
The October 1996 assault left Rubin bruised and bloodied. A passing motorist saw him and took him to the police station, where officers removed his handcuffs and transported him to a hospital. As he recuperated, Rubin set out to compile evidence against the men he suspected were behind the attack.
He had an associate make phone calls to some of the men involved, posing as a rabbi claiming that Rubin had contacted him to try to have the get reversed. The caller made it clear that he had no qualms with the kidnapping, and that he was simply hoping to confirm that the get was valid. Rubin's friend Barry Markowitz later filed an affidavit stating that he set up a voice-recording system and listened in on the calls.
On November 16 and December 10, 1996, a "Rabbi Wieder" made calls to Belsky. In a transcript of the conversations, translated from Yiddish to English and later filed in court, Belsky describes what he knew about Rubin: "We heard this person is such a rotten animal that there is no equal on this earth." Belsky goes on to explain that he and other rabbis held a tribunal and "the verdict was that there should be compulsion." He stresses that he was not present at the beating but says, "I was in agreement, after many weeks and weeks of consideration and discussing the compulsion itself."
"If he deserves the beatings, then he deserves it," the man masquerading as Wieder responds. "You felt that he deserves it, then good."
"Yes, it's very hard on my heart," Belsky replies. "I don't keep a record, but it was the first time which I have agreed to such a thing." (Belsky, who denied in court having participated in the attack, did not respond to interview requests from the Voice. Neither did his lawyer, Robert Rimberg.)
On December 28, 1996, and January 1, 1997, "Rabbi Rosen" phoned Yaakov Goldstein, the scribe tasked with transcribing Rubin's get. According to the transcript, Rosen asks whether Rubin was "clear of mind the whole time"; otherwise the get would be invalid. Goldstein replies in the affirmative. In response to a series of questions about the abduction, Goldstein is more than forthcoming.
"You have to watch the man, what his habits are, where he goes, how and where you can grab him," Goldstein offers. "If you have a plan, then you call the people who do the kidnapping."
Goldstein volunteers that Wolmark was in charge of the get proceedings, and that the physical abuse was handled by "two people from Epstein — that's his work." He knew Epstein from previous get-related kidnapping attempts, both of them "unsuccessful," Goldstein says. There was a man in Baltimore 10 years back, and a man upstate in Monsey "several months ago."
By Goldstein's reckoning, the Rubin get went smoothly. He tells Rosen that he waited outside the van while Wolmark and two others secured the oath.
Rosen asks how the coercion worked.
"There is such a thing called a stun gun," Goldstein explains. "And they put such a tape or something so that it shouldn't leave a mark on the surface. They administer electric shocks and it's not a dangerous thing. It's not a thing that can damage or kill."
But from outside the van, Goldstein says, he knew when the men were employing the stun gun. "It makes a noise," he says. "I heard him screaming."
Goldstein goes on to tell Rosen that after releasing Rubin, he and his cohorts met with Chaya Mund at the home of a relative of Wolmark in Flatbush. With the get in hand, they performed a ceremony to make the divorce official.
"We . . . went into someone's basement and we said, 'Don't ever talk to anyone about this,'" Goldstein says. "I don't even know whether [Wolmark's family members] knew what was going on in there."
On January 4, 1997, Rubin went to the home of a friend, Rabbi Shiah Director, with a box of cassette tapes. As Director would later explain in a statement filed in court, Rubin told him that when he'd given copies to the police department, an officer had advised that he not keep the originals at his own home. Director agreed to store them in his study.
Six days later, a fire broke out in Director's house. No one was home at the time, and the tapes were not damaged.
When Rubin filed a civil suit seeking to hold Belsky, Epstein, Wolmark, and others responsible for his kidnapping, court documents show that he did not submit any statements from witnesses on his behalf. The defendants filed a motion denying the accusations. "Mr. Rubin cannot state with any personal knowledge or certainty" who was present during his attack, defense attorney Robert Rimberg contended. "Mr. Rubin was blindfolded." After Rubin countered with a motion simply restating the charges in the complaint, a Kings County Supreme Court judge dismissed the case.