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.