Chief Israeli Rabbi cedes power

Chief Israeli Rabbi cedes power
Sun Jun 23, 2013 18:05:22

Buckled under pressure, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger is said to have suspended his major activities.

Metzger who has been grilled on charges of bribery, fraud, money-laundering and breach of trust is under house arrest and is not allowed to contact his aids or going to his office until completion of police investigation.

He suspended his activities on Sunday including participating on the Rabbinical High Court, the Chief Rabbinical Council and the Appointments committee for rabbinical judges.

Israeli police raided home and offices of Metzger on Thursday, and questioned him for hours but he was released to five days of house arrest on Thursday night, following some ten hours of questioning.

Metzger and three other men are suspected of being involved in the pilfering of hundreds of thousands of shekels from a number of charities.

Following an undercover investigation, officers went public on Thursday, arresting the three suspects and seizing documents, computers and other materials from Metzger’s home and office they believed may be linked to the allegations.

The suspects include Haim Nissan Eisenshtat, who worked for years as Metzger’s driver and personal assistant.

Eisenshtat is accused of taking bribes, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering.

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extended his remand for eight days.

Israel has two chief rabbis, the Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, whose responsibilities include the country's rabbinic courts and regulating the food supervision industry.

Metzger was voted into the position in 2003 with support of the senior ultra-Orthodox rabbinic authority at the time.

In 2005 he was questioned on suspicion of receiving benefits from a hotel in al-Quds (Jerusalem) in return for favors, and police recommended that he be tried for fraud and breach of trust.

But then-attorney general Menachem Mazuz, fearing an unsuccessful prosecution, in 2006 decided against serving an indictment.

Instead he wrote a scathing report about the rabbi, accusing Metzger of lying to police and recommending that he resign immediately.

Metzger's term is due to end shortly, with elections for new chief rabbis due no later than July 24.

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