In a new twist in a bitterly contested get case, Helen Chayie Sieger has charged in court papers that four Orthodox rabbis received a total of $500,000 in bribes five years ago from her husband to allow him to remarry without a divorce.
In January 1998, Chaim Sieger deposited $500,000 in the account of a congregation headed by his longtime friend, Rabbi Yakov Yisrael Meisels of Israel, son-in-law of the late Bobover Rebbe of Brooklyn, according to a motion filed earlier this month in the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court.
Within a few days, the documents assert, Rabbi Meisels deposited $215,000 in his personal account, and Rabbi Solomon Herbst of Brooklyn received an equal amount that week. Rabbis Hersh Meir Ginsberg and Aryeh Ralbag of Brooklyn received $40,000 and $30,000, respectively, that week, the motion charges.
It asserts the three Brooklyn rabbis issued the heter — a document signed by three rabbis allowing a husband to marry another woman without a civil or religious divorce — and that Rabbi Meisels expedited the transaction. The Siegers were active in the Bobov community.
The case has gone on for years, revolving around whether a husband can find grounds to remarry without a get, and whether a civil court can decide on such religious matters. One key point of contention is whether Helen Sieger was willing to accept a get, and whether it was offered, and when.
Sieger has charged from the outset that the heter was fraudulent and carried out by the rabbis in return for money, but the $500,000 figure is 10 times more than the sum of the alleged bribe described in previous court documents. She is suing the rabbis for millions of dollars.
Sieger described her version of the money trail, based on subpoenaed bank documents, to The Jewish Week on Tuesday.
The papers indicate the rabbis each invested the funds in Independence Savings Bank, which was then making an initial public offering.
She asserted that “the heter was used as an extortion tool” and said she “will not stop until the heter is nullified, my name is cleared, and I make sure this never happens to anyone again.”
Nathan Lewin, the Washington attorney representing Rabbis Ginsberg and Ralbag, and two other rabbis involved, flatly denied the motion’s charges as “a total falsehood.”
Lewin insisted that the heter was legitimate — prompted by Sieger’s refusal to accept a get, he said — and had been issued two months before the alleged financial transactions took place.
“Why bribe someone after the case?” he asked.
Lewin called Sieger “the Tawana Brawley of the Orthodox community,”
referring to the highly charged racial case in which a black teenage girl falsely accused several white men of molesting her.
“The real story here is how Mrs. Sieger has bamboozled many people in the community into sympathizing with her” when her allegations have proven to be untrue, Lewin said.
Sieger’s case against the rabbis has been delayed frequently, with both sides blaming the other for the postponements.