Fraud charges could topple Ashkenazi chief rabbi at January 3 meeting
The Rabbinical Court of Appeals will convene January 3 for a meeting that may decide whether Rabbi Yona Metzger resigns as Israel's Ashkenazi chief rabbi, sources close to the situation told Haaretz yesterday.
The court will discuss removing Metzger in wake of a recommendation by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann that the chief rabbi be impeached for alleged breach of trust and fraud.
Though the court is not authorized to impeach Metzger itself, legal experts believe the chief rabbi will resign if the court rules against him.
Metzger is suspected of staying at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem for a minimal fee during the Jewish holidays of Pesach, Sukkot and Shavuot in 2003 and 2004. According to the police, he also enjoyed similar discounts at other hotels.
In April 2006, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided not to open a criminal investigation against Metzger over the suspected discounts, but he recommended that the chief rabbi resign.
In response, Metzger filed a petition against Mazuz at the High Court of Justice, arguing that the recommendation he resign was invalid because Mazuz was not authorized to make it. High Court President Dorit Beinisch sided with Metzger, saying that "it appears that the attorney general has placed the cart before the horses."
Mazuz then retracted his recommendation that Metzger resign and handed his report to Friedmann to decide on the matter.
The police probe against Metzger began in 2004 after a TV report claimed he had received discounted lodging at the David Citadel Hotel. Metzger's room was paid by the Chief Rabbinate, while the room where his three children stayed was paid by a religious charity.
The second incident related to the discounts the family was given for its stays at the hotel on four occasions between October 2003 and October 2004. Participants in the affair dubbed the discount for the chief rabbi "the Metzger tariff." Critics chided Metzger for staying at the hotel because he had a state-funded apartment in Jerusalem.
Ahead of the January hearing, the chief rabbi's lawyers relinquished their client's right to a preliminary hearing with Friedmann and announced they would address the Rabbinical Court directly.
In addition, Metzger has told the High Court that he will not sit as a Rabbinical Court member during his own hearing. The chief rabbi's pledge came after the Omets human rights group petitioned to bar Metzger, citing a conflict of interest.
Metzger's lawyers are expected to argue that the court is not authorized to discuss the removal of chief rabbis because it does not appoint them. In addition, they will claim that Mazuz's decision not to open a criminal investigation into the affair proves that Metzger need not resign.