Photo: Motti Kimchi
Rabbi Yona Metzger. Abuse of power?
Photo: Motti Kimchi

Former Chief Rabbi Metzger charged in multimillion bribe scandal

After talks for plea bargain fall through, attorney general files serious indictment against Metzger, including counts of fraud, theft, breach of trust, money laundering and tax offenses.

A serious indictment against former Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who is suspected of abusing his position and accepting NIS 7 million (about $1.8 million) in bribes, was filed Tuesday by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein after talks between the State Prosecutor's Office and the rabbi's attorneys fell through.



The Jerusalem District Court charged Metzger with fraud, breach of trust, receiving a bribe, theft, conspiring to commit a crime, money laundering and tax offenses. The offenses were allegedly committed during his term as Israel's Ashkenazi chief rabbi.


According to the State Prosecutor's Office, during and as a result of the offenses Metzger accepted an estimated amount of NIS 10 million in bribes, of which he pocketed about NIS 7 million.


Talks for a plea bargain between Metzger and the State Prosecutor's Office ended without any agreements, following the testimony of his former driver, who turned state's evidence, who allegedly served as his messenger and received the funds on his behalf. Due to their close relationship the associate's part in the offenses, Rabbi Metzger allegedly divided the money between himself and his driver.


Metzger. Suspected of pocekting donation to different associations (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Metzger. Suspected of pocekting donation to different associations (Photo: Yaron Brener)


According to the draft indictment, Metzger allegedly received benefits from a rabbi residing abroad after referring wealthy foreign residents interested in conversion processes to the rabbi. For every such referral, Metzger received half of the sum the rabbi received from the foreign resident.


In some cases, Metzger allegedly received the funds while ensuring that his name would not be registered as a beneficiary, in a bid to hide the source of the funds, their location and the people who have a right to them. In one case, in 2011, Metzger referred a businessman who immigrated from Russia to the rabbi in order to convert the man's son and daughter. After the conversion, the rabbi received a total sum of $360,000, half of which he handed over to Metzger.


The indictment describes Metzger's method for receiving a cut from funds allotted for donation. Along with his driver, he worked to recruit donors to different associations whose workers agreed to give the rabbi a share from the donations they would receive following his mediation.


In one case, the two raised funds for a yeshiva operating in Metzger's synagogue. According to suspicions, the driver received a $28,000 donation, handed it over to Metzger, and it was divided between the two of them without being transferred to the yeshiva. Another donation of NIS 72,000 was given by an Israeli businessman to an association providing food to the needy. After receiving the funds, the association's director allegedly gave Metzger 30 percent of the donation, about NIS 22,500, without informing the donor. According to the indictment, this was repeated many times.


During Metzger's term as chief rabbi from 2003 to 2013, he allegedly received financial benefits from private people for activities related to his position. These benefits were received on many opportunities, both during private events and as a payment for the rabbi's participation in events held by the people who provided the benefits.


One incident took place when Metzger's son got married in July 2010. In a conversation between the driver and two of the wedding guests, the two agreed to give the rabbi a valuable benefit as a "wedding gift." Following the agreement, the rabbi received NIS 500,000 in 10 cash transactions.


Metzger is also suspected of receiving NIS 70,000 in exchange for crowning the associate of a rich Jew from Moscow as the Caucasian community's rabbi in Israel and of omitting profits from his annual income tax reports. In addition, he allegedly asked his driver to provide a false version of the events and promised to "continue to watch out for him" during the investigation.


פרסום ראשון: 10.14.15, 12:21
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