Israeli Rabbinical Scandals
by Stephen Lendman
Wrongdoing is commonplace. Crimes in high places happen often. Politicians commit them. So do corporate CEOs and top officials.
Wall Street crooks transformed America into an unprecedented money making racket. They make it the old fashioned way. They steal it.
They do it through fraud, grand theft, market manipulation, front-running, scamming investors, pumping and dumping, bribing politicians, writing legislation, securing top administrations posts, and getting bailed out when needed.
Rabbis have their own schemes. Apparently they believe God helps those who help themselves and then some. The idea is don’t get caught.
Yona Metzger is Israel’s former chief Ashkenazi rabbi. His counterpart was chief Sephardi rabbi Shlomo Amar. In early September, rabbi Yitzhak Yosef replaced him.
Metzger’s 2003 appointment was considered controversial. He’s not a Talmudic authority. He never served as a religious judge.
Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbis alternate as presidents of Israel’s Rabbinical Supreme Court. They serve for five years. Each then switches to head the Chief Rabbinate Council.
Metzger’s troubles began years earlier. At the same time, allegations never stuck. In February 2005, Israeli police investigated him on suspicion of fraud and bribery. Then Attorney General Menahem Mazuz decided not to prosecute.
He claimed insufficient evidence. He urged Metzger to take responsibility for his actions. He recommended he be removed from his post. In February 2008, the Rabbinical Court Judge Selection Committee chose not to so.
Earlier reports suggested Metzger sexually harassed other men. Then Attorney General Elyakim Rubenstein ducked the issue.
In 2003, documents surfaced relating to suspicions of misconduct. At the time, Metzger was chief Tel Aviv rabbi. It was in the late 1990s.
He was suspected of forgery, extortion, threatening rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky not to compete with him for chief Tel Aviv rabbi, sexual harassment, and more.
Obeying religious and civil law isn’t his long suit. On November 18, Haaretz headlined “Israel’s former chief rabbi arrested on suspicion of accepting millions in bribes.”
Monday morning he was arrested. An earlier imposed gag order was lifted. He’s suspected of bribery, extortion, money laundering, fraud, obstructing justice, and more. According to Haaretz:
“Police suspect that Metzger had accepted bribes of money and goods from the heads of various nonprofit associations in return for advancing their interests.”
Amounts reportedly totaled millions of shekels. Israeli national fraud police began investigating Metzger months earlier.
Strong evidence warranted his arrest. Other suspects were detained for questioning. The latest suspicions surfaced in June. At the time, he was questioned and placed under house arrest for five days.
In 2005, he was investigated on allegations of receiving tens of thousands of shekels from Jerusalem hotels.
They accommodated him and his family during the high holidays. They did it despite his nearby state-financed luxury apartment.
Previous allegations against Metzger didn’t stick. Will this time be different? A previous article discussed whitewashing crime in Israel.
Absolving it in high places doesn’t surprise. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s acquittal on serious charges is the latest example.
He’s a right wing extremist. He’s a serial felon. Serious accusations forced his resignation. He remained a Knesset member.
Clear evidence showed him guilty of bribery, embezzlement, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and breach of trust.
Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein dropped major charges. Fraud and breach of trust remained.
On November 6, a three-judge panel acquitted him unanimously. On November 10, he was reinstated as foreign minister. He was sworn in the next day. He’s arguably the worst FM in Israeli history.
He belongs in prison, not high office. He’s not the only one. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced serious corruption charges.
On January 5, 2012, he and 17 others were indicted for allegedly giving and/or receiving bribes related to various real estate deals.
He was Jerusalem mayor at the time. Haaretz called the so-called Holyland case “an extravagant memorial to municipal corruption, riches to entrepreneurs, fringe benefits to elected officials, and kickbacks to go-betweens.”
It reflected business as usual for crooked profiteers and complicit politicians. Bribes, kickbacks and cronyism persist. Olmert was up to his ears in it.
He was implicated in earlier financial crimes. In 1988, he was involved in forging Likud party campaign donation receipts. Others were convicted. He got off scot-free.
In July, he was acquitted of major charges. He was convicted only of one minor breach of trust accusation. It was for failing to disqualify himself from oversight from various transactions.
He still faces other charges. Odds favor exoneration. Crime in high places pays. Metzger may avoid prosecution. If indicted, he’ll likely get off like Lieberman and Olmert.
Earlier chief rabbis had their own scandals. Metzger’s predecessor, Yisrael Meir Lau, was accused of sexual harassment.
Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron was chief Sephardi rabbi from 1993 – 2004. He was prosecuted for issuing fake rabbinic ordination certificates. He did it to let security guards get pay raises.
Rabbi Shmuel Pappeheim called Metzger’s alleged crimes unsurprising. At the same time, he said:
“When there’s a desecration of God’s name like this, it’s a disgrace.” Allegations against Metzger, Lau and others “pushed the rabbinate down to a nadir.”
Rabbi Yoram Abergel reflects it. On November 10, he was arrested on suspicion of extorting rival rabbi Ya’akov Yisrael Ifergan. Both men have large followings in Netivot. It’s in southern Israel.
At issue were October 22 elections. Abergel supported Mayor Yehiel Mesika’s reelection. He won. Ifergan supported his challenger.
Police suspect he used crime boss Shalom Domrani’s organization to influence the election’s outcome through threats and extortion.
Exceptions prove the rule. Rabbi Mordechai Elon was charged with two counts of indecent assault against a minor.
Last August, he was convicted on one count. Potentially he faces seven years in prison.
His lawyer expressed disappointment with the decision. He said it’s only “the first battle.” The campaign to dismiss charges continues.
Elianna Yolkut is a New York-based freelance rabbi, teacher, speaker and blogger. In January, she headlined “Rabbis misbehaving: Lessons from sex abuse scandals in the Jewish community.”
“Rabbis have the responsibility to stand up for what is right when no one else does,” she said.
“In a world where it is easy to claim we are innocent bystanders, to skate by fulfilling our minimum obligations, we are required by our tradition to rise up and be the voice of humanity.”
Often it’s not the case. Scandals involving sexual and physical abuse make headlines. So do other disturbing issues involving members of the clergy and other so-called respected societal member.
Yolkut cited an incident involving at least two rabbis and teachers. Boys accused them of “inappropriate behavior.”
In the 1970s and 80s, improper sexual activity charges against a staff member occurred at Manhattan-based Yeshiva University high school.
Nearly two dozen boys were abused. Then president/now chancellor Norman Lamm didn’t notify enforcement officials. He quietly dismissed the offender.
What happened was shocking, said Yolkut. Equally disturbing was that “no rabbi or authority figure thought reporting it was necessary.”
“Children claim abuse at a religious institution and no one thinks to alert authorities to the possibility that there might be a repeat offender. Who was standing up for these children? Who was protecting them?”
These type incidents aren’t isolated. In May 2012, The New York Times headlined “Ultra-Orthodox Shun Their own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse.”
A disabled teenager was molested at a Brooklyn Jewish ritual bathhouse. Other incidents occurred. Orthodox Jews reporting them “encounter intense intimidation from” neighbors and rabbinical authorities. They’re pressured to drop their charges.
Abuse victims and families are expelled from religious schools and synagogues. They’re shunned by other Orthodox Jews.
Sixty-four-year-old Pearl Engelman said;
“There is no nice way of saying it. Our community protects molesters.”
Catholic church pedophilia is commonplace. In 2004, John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s (JJCCJ) Professor Karen Terry and others published a report based on Catholic diocese surveys.
They covered the period 1950 – 2002. They showed under age 18 molestation occurs in:
“more than 95% of dioceses and approximately 60% of religious communities.”
“Of the 195 dioceses and eparchies that participated in the study, all but seven have reported” at least one offending priest.
“Of the 140 religious communities” surveyed, “only 30 reported” no abuses. Doing so doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Given the reluctance of victims to come forward, it’s virtually certain many other incidences took place.
Thousands of children were harmed. Most were 11 – 17-aged boys. Hundreds of priests were involved.
The problem is global. It’s much more than a Catholic or Orthodox Jewish issue. Coverup is commonplace. Abuse is routinely swept under the rug.
Pedophilia is a crime against humanity. Young children are defenseless against strong-willed adults. Even less so against members of the clergy.
The Vatican has centuries of skeletons in its closet. Other religions have their own.
A previous article quoted from Michael Parenti’s “God and His Demons.” He confronted Old and New Testaments, saying:’
“The god of the Holy Bible – so much adored in the United States and elsewhere – is ferociously vindictive, neurotically jealous, intolerant, vainglorious, punitive, wrathful, sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sadistic and homicidal.”
“As they say, it’s all in the Bible. Beware of those who act in the name of such a god.”
“Were we to encounter these vicious traits in an ordinary man, we would judge him to be in need of lifelong incarceration at a maximum-security facility.”
“At the very least, we would not prattle on about how he works his wonders in mysterious ways.”
The Bible deals with sexuality in broad terms. Incest, adultery, homosexuality and rape are addressed. Children are most vulnerable.
Crimes in high places are commonplace. They occur in many forms. Prosecutions rarely follow. Convictions are few and far in between. Longterm sentences are almost unheard of.
Most often, influential felons remain free to sexually abuse, extort, embezzle, and otherwise enrich themselves lawlessly.
At times, they even get away with murder. It’s part of the system. It works for them at the expense of most others.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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