Itongadol.- Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger on Sunday voluntarily suspended himself from a number of major duties, including participating on the Rabbinical High Court, the Chief Rabbinical Council and the Appointments Committee for Rabbinical Judges.
Due to fraud probe, Chief Rabbi Metzger suspends himself from major duties
Metzger\’s lawyers announced the self-initiated suspensions in a letter to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Metzger\’s announcement also indicated that he continues to maintain his innocence regarding recent allegations regarding money-laundering, bribery and fraud, but that until the investigation is concluded, suspending himself from some of his duties was the right thing to do for the State.
As matters currently stand, Metzger is already under house arrest and prohibited from going to his office or interacting with his aids pending completion of the police investigation into the allegations against him.
Livni replied quickly to Metzger\’s letter, stating that Metzger\’s self-suspension was fitting and proper in light of the circumstances.
Police from the National Fraud Squad had raided the home and offices of Metzger on Thursday, and questioned him under caution for hours, as part of a bribery, fraud, money-laundering and breach-of-trust case. Metzger was released to five days 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 believe 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.
The court also extended the remand of Simcha Karkovsky – manager of the Beit Hatavshil charity in Bnei Brak – for six days, and that of Nissan Ben-Zion Zioni – manager of a beit midrash study hall and rabbinical school in Tel Aviv – for seven days. Both men stand accused of money laundering and bribery.
Previously, Meretz Chief Zehava Gal-On on Friday, had called on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Minister of Religious Affairs Naftali Bennett to remove Metzger from his position on the committee to elect judges to the Rabbinical Court. Gal-On also called on the officials to remove Metzger from his position as a judge of the Rabbinical Court.
"It is inconceivable that a man being investigated criminally should continue to serve in an important judicial capacity," Gal-On said.
Eliezer Shraga, the head of the NGO the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, also called on Weinstein to order that Metzger leave his post during the corruption investigation, Israel Radio reported on Friday.
Shraga said that Metzger cannot stay in his post during the investigation because there would be a risk that he would try to hide and tamper with evidence but also because the Chief Rabbinate was a symbol and a person under criminal investigation was not appropriate for the position, Israel Radio reported.
In 2005, a bribery, fraud, and breach of trust case was opened against Metzger, but then-attorney-general Menahem Mazuz decided to close the case in April 2006. At the time, Mazuz said he was disturbed by revelations about how Metzger behaved during the investigation and called for the rabbi to resign.