Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, has suspended himself from some of his duties following his arrest on corruption charges.
Rabbi Metzger said Sunday that he will suspend himself from the presidency of the Chief Rabbinate Council and will not attend its meetings, as well as his position as a Rabbinical High Court judge.
The suspensions are for the duration of the investigation, he said in his announcement from his lawyers to Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett.
“The rabbi understands that suspending himself is the right thing to do from a public perspective,” his attorneys said while emphasizing that Metzger maintains his innocence.
Investigators from the National Fraud Squad raided Rabbi Metzger’s home and offices last week as part of a bribery, fraud, money-laundering and breach-of-trust case. Police suspect Rabbi Metzger pocketed donations, which he denies.
Rabbi Metzger is forbidden to make contact with either of the other suspects in the case — Haim Nissan Eisenshtat, who worked for years as Rabbi Metzger’s driver and personal assistant, and Simcha Karkovsky, the manager of the Beit Hatavshil charity in Bnei Brak.
Following a months-long undercover investigation, officers went public on June 20, arresting the three suspects and seizing documents, computers and other materials from Metzger’s home and office.
Rabbi Metzger was released to five days of house arrest after being questioned for 10 hours. His term as Ashekenazi chief rabbi ends in the coming months.
According to Israeli reports, and Israeli Police confiscated documents and property. Rabbi Metzger was brought to the National Fraud Unit for questioning on accepting bribes, fraud and money laundering, Ynet reported. He was later released but ordered to remain in his home for the next five days. He is also forbidden from contacting other suspects in the case, the Jerusalem Post reported.
One day after the allegations were raised, four men told Ma’ariv they were touched inappropriately by the rabbi. Two of them underwent a polygraph at the request of the newspaper and passed, Maariv reported. The rabbi was quoted as denying the allegation and claiming there is a smear campaign against him.
Three associates of Metzger — two heads of NGOs and a Chief Rabbinate employee — also were arrested.
An investigation of Metzger reportedly was opened months ago after information implicating him in illicit activity reached police.
Metzger’s 10-year term as chief rabbi is set to expire this year. Elections to replace him will take place next month.