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May 22, 2015 / 4 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Chief Rabbinate’

Rabbi Metzger to be Indicted for Bribery

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger will be indicted for allegedly stuffing into his pockets nearly $2 million from bribes, he was told Tuesday by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

Rabbi Metzger denies all charges.

Police investigations concluded with several charges for bribery, fraud, breach of public trust, money laundering and cheating on taxes while he was serving as the leading light for the Jewish people.

In Israel, not everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but the country is chock full of apparently airtight cases against public officials who eventually are not convicted, often because the police are even more guilty for sloppy work.

A public official, especially a rabbi, must be above suspicion. Barring the possibility, not to be dismissed,  that Rabbi Metzger is squeaky clean and the police have been on another witch hunt, the case is a black stain on the Chief Rabbinate.

The rabbi allegedly helped himself to princely sums of money to help convert people  to Judaism. Rabbi Metzger is from the Haredi community that frowns on conversions of national religious rabbis, who so far have a record of being among the cleanest of public officials.

The indictments cite several examples of Rabbi Metzger’s alleged contributions to his bank account under the guise of increasing the ranks of Jews. One case involved a wealthy Russian businessman who allegedly paid Rabbi Metzger $360,000 to convert his son and daughter.

Supposedly, he taught them the basic laws of the Torah, such as the prohibitions against stealing and not to place an obstacle in the path of the blind, the basis for prohibitions against being a con artist.

The Israeli public never was thrilled with the appointment of Rabbi Metzger as Chief Rabbi from the day he was suggested for the post.

His appointment as Chief Rabbi was rare if not unprecedented because he never had served as a religious judge.

His predecessor was Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, arguably the most popular Chief Rabbi in generations, one who managed to draw praise and respect from all sectors of Israel, including secular and Sephardi Jews.

His shoes were impossible to fill, but Rabbi Metzger was not even a midget compared to Rabbi Lau.

Rabbi Metzger was only 50 years old when appointed in 2003. He had a national religious background but clearly was in the Haredi court.

To Rabbi Metzger’s credit, he initiated a prayer for Jonathan Pollard, one which has been adopted by thousands of synagogues.

During his tenure, he was very active in approving relations between Jews and other religions.

He also announced his disapproval of attempts to separate men and women on buses.

If Rabbi Metzger is acquitted, he will have moral grounds to sue the police and the government for incredible recklessness.

If he is pronounced guilty, whatever punishment he will serve will not correct the loss of faith of Jews in rabbis.

Proposed Conversion Bill, Change in Local Rabbinate Power Nixed by Netanyahu

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

A bill that would allow any chief rabbi of any city to create his own religious court for conversion has finally stopped at the prime minister’s desk.

The bill would effectively neutralize the authority of the nation’s Chief Rabbinate over the conversion process in Israel.

It is one that has been fought bitterly by observant Jewish parties across the spectrum.

And now the proposed Conversion Bill advanced by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party has gotten the axe by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

According to a report Monday by Channel 2 investigative journalist Amit Segal, the prime minister announced that he supports the hareidi position regarding conversions.

Netanyahu made the statement following months of skirmishes behind the scenes and quiet wrangling by both chief rabbis and hareidi political parties as well as members of the more moderate Bayit Yehudi party.

The prime minister allegedly also told heads of coalition factions that he will make sure the bill does not pass if it comes up for a vote, even if it is privately sponsored.

Because Livni’s credibility as a party chief may ride on this issue, however, the issue may be a deal breaker for her presence in the coalition.

Israeli Chief Rabbinate Working to Lower Kashrut Costs

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is hoping to lower the cost of kashrut by approving more foreign kashrut certification organizations. The initiative comes in context of a general move by the Finance Ministry to lower the cost of living in the Jewish State.

In addition, it was announced Tuesday that the Chief Rabbinate will create a committee to explore new ways to supervise the kashrut and quality foreign dairies. The agency said itis hoping to use enhanced technology to reduce the price of dairy imports while improving competition in the field.

Data presented at a ministerial meeting on Tuesday indicated a wide disparity between the price of imported dairy products and those produced in Israel.

Chief Rabbinate Tests Female Kashrut Supervisors

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel today (Wednesday) administered the first official certification exam for women who wish to become kashrut supervisors (mashgichot).

The test, which took place at the International Convention Center (Binyanei Ha’Uma) in Jerusalem, was administered only to those who had first passed a special course approved by the Chief Rabbinate.

In the Gush Etzion city of Efrat, located barely ten minutes away from Jerusalem, female kashrut supervisors have already been employed in some establishments for some time.

The women taking the test on Wednesday have studied materials and undergone a training program that was designed to meet the standards of supervision by the Chief Rabbinate.

Israel Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Landau said at the time the course was designed that he saw no reason why women could not serve as kashrut supervisors.

Those women who pass the test on Wednesday will be awarded a certificate enabling them to seek employment as kashrut supervisors.

Conversion Reform Bill Advances in Knesset

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

A bill that would allow more rabbis to conduct conversions in Israel advanced in the Knesset.

The coalition government-backed bill passed its first reading by a vote of 28 to 16 in the Knesset plenum on Monday night.

Under the measure, as many as 30 courts made up of municipal rabbis would be allowed for the purpose of conversion. Currently there are four state rabbinic courts with the authority to conduct conversions.

The Chief Rabbinate, which would see its power reduced under the measure, said it will stop cooperating with the Knesset if the bill is approved, the Times of Israel reported Monday. The Rabbinate, which reportedly is working on a compromise bill, is concerned the measure will lead to a deterioration of conversion standards.

Sponsored by lawmaker Elazar Stern of the Hatnua party, an observant Jew, the bill passed the Knesset Law Committee earlier on Monday.

Police Want Rabbi Metzger on Trial for Bribery Charges

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Police from Israel’s Major Crime Unit have recommended that former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger be put on trial for charges of bribery, money laundering and breach of public trust.

The recommendation revealed more details of alleged criminal violations, including the rabbi’s allegedly pocketing money for his participation in a ceremony in Poland marking 70 years since the Warsaw Ghetto Rebellion and for speeding up conversions.

As previously reported, the rabbi also is accused of putting in his personal pocket half of funds that were raised for charities, including seminaries and a yeshiva.

Knesset Bill to Cut Number of Chief Rabbis by 50%

Monday, January 20th, 2014

The Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted Sunday to approve the legislation to create one chief rabbi’s position instead of the current two, proposed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of the Hatnua Party, and co-sponsored by Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and lawmaker Eli Ben-Dahan of the Jewish Home Party.

The bill must be approved by the Cabinet and then pass three readings in the Knesset in order to pass. It would take effect after the ten-year terms of the current chief rabbis, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, expire.

That’s ten years from now. Ten years of double the expenses, double the needless waste.

The fact is, Israel has no need for a chief rabbi—check that, it has no use for a chief rabbi.

Imagine if you will, that someone in the U.S. were to appoint a chief rabbi. Who would listen to him? Not the non-Orthodox, because they either have their own take on halacha-Jewish law, or follow no halacha at all. Presuming the American chief rabbi would be Orthodox, that would eliminate half the Jews in America. Then come the secular Jews, and they would have no need at all for a chief rabbi, because there’s nothing he could say or do that touches on the reality of their lives.

Out of the Orthodox, all the Haredim, both Chassidim and Litwacks, would sneer at the idea that anyone would presume to replace the authority of their rebbe or rosh yeshiva.

So who’s left? Probably the RCA crowd, your everyday frumies, the Jewish Press readers. But the chief rabbi would be—because that’s how these things roll—a Haredi, and the moderate-to-liberal Orthodox won’t have much use for him either.

And that’s the situation in Israel. The chief rabbinate is a goiter on the neck of Israeli Jews, a remnant from a time when the Ottoman Empire, followed by the British Empire, appointed a religious chief over every ethnic group in Palestine. Even back in the 1920s that position bore little more than a symbolic value, depending on the chief rabbi. Today the situation is that Israelis are serving the chief rabbinate rather than the other way around.

Besides being entirely alien to the spiritual needs of the vast majority of Israelis, the chief rabbinate actually stifles the organic growth of religious communities. Siphoning off much needed budgets from social services to the needy, in a country where half the population is poor or near-poor, why spend money on an elaborate service nobody needs?

Local Jewish communities have always been very good at keeping records of marriages and burials. The burial societies, the “Chevra Kadisha,” don’t need a chief rabbi to monitor them – the state comptroller should be very good at that. Concentrating control over the Jewish life cycle in Israel in the hands of Haredi chief rabbis and judges with little or no relationship with the people under their domain is tyranny. Expensive tyranny at that.

So why wait ten years to cut this silliness in half? Cut it now, both halves. Give power back to the local Jewish communities. Let local rabbis decide halacha for their followers wherever they are, just as they’ve been doing in America, or, before the war, in Poland. Wherever we’ve had a thriving, magnificent Jewish community, we didn’t need a chief rabbi. Those were more likely to be state appointed than part of the people they were supposed to serve.

Just like in today’s Israel.

“In a state where there is only one president, one Supreme Court president, one prime minister and one chief of general staff, there is no way to justify the doubling of the position of chief rabbi,” Tzipi Livni said. “We have to rid ourselves of the old-fashioned division of ancestral congregations and start bringing the country together.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/knesset-bill-to-cut-number-of-chief-rabbis-by-50/2014/01/20/

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