Molestation Allegations Made Against Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Date Back to 1980s

Four men claim to have been groped by Rabbi Yona Metzger in cases stretching back to the '80s, according to a report in Israeli newspaper Maariv.

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Allegations of sexual abuse against Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger were reported in the Israeli media on Friday, just one day after he was questioned in connection with suspicions of bribery, fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, and breach of trust.

Four men of varying ages and from different sectors of society came forward, and told their stories to the newspaper Maariv, alleging that they had been groped by Metzger in incidents dating as far back as the '80s. According to the report, two of the complainants were examined by polygraph test at the newspaper's request, and passed the test.

Rabbi Metzger denied the allegations and stated that it was an attempt to sully his reputation.

Maariv received the first account three weeks ago. David, a secular Jew, alleged that in the late 1980s at a wedding where Metzger officiated, the rabbi touched his chest and his arms. David also alleged that Metzger placed his hand under his shirt during a conversation between the two of them. At the beginning of April, a religious Jewish man told the newspaper that in the recent past he met with the rabbi for a halakhic consultation and at the meeting the possibility of his professional advancement was discussed.

The complainant alleged that at the rabbi's request, he removed his shirt and the rabbi groped his chest and arms. Maariv's research for the story led to another man who told of a similar event that occurred between him and the rabbi. According to the Maariv report, the incident with the third man was brought to the attention of Israel's then Sephardi Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron in 1998, when Rabbi Metzger was a candidate for the position of Tel Aviv chief rabbi. Rabbi Bakshi-Doron was the head of a disciplinary committee that was established to discuss allegations of marital contracts (called ketubot in Hebrew) forged by Rabbi Metzger. However, the committee decided not to publicize the complaint.

Rabbi Bakshi-Doron confirmed that the complainant told him that Rabbi Metzger touched the complainant without the latter's consent.

According to a report published by Haaretz on Friday morning, despite the active opposition of Rabbi Bakshi-Doron to Metzger's appointment as Tel Aviv chief rabbi in 1998, Bakshi-Doron gave an unintended hand in covering up the allegations against at Metzger at that time. Various documents received by Haaretz describe the tough struggle waged by Bakshi-Doron and other rabbis against Metzger's promotion to Tel Aviv chief rabbi, but among these documents appears the cover-up document that retroactively cleared Metzger's election as chief rabbi of Israel.

In 1998, Metzger's certification to serve as chief rabbi of a large city was suspended following many allegations of violations of Jewish law and Israeli law that had piled up against him. At the end of a long, drawn-out, process, three senior Israeli rabbis were appointed by the Council of the Chief Rabbinate to determine whether Metzger's certification should be returned to him. The three were Rabbi Bakshi-Doron, Chief Rabbi of Haifa Rabbi She'ar Yashuv Cohen and the chief rabbi of Rehovot, Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook.

At the disciplinary hearing the complaints were discussed. The complaint at the heart of the hearing was made by Metzger's driver who claimed that his boss had signed his name as a witness to dozens of marital contracts without his knowledge so that Metzger would be able to officiate over more weddings per night. For every wedding ceremony he officiated, Metzger would receive between $500 and $1,000.

The chief rabbinate hired a graphologist, Shaul Hilleli, to examine the claim. Hilleli said the forgery allegation had substance. During the hearing, Metzger evaded Rabbi Bakshi-Doron's questions regarding additional allegations – including those regarding immodest behavior. By the end, the sides reached an agreement that Metzger would not become Tel Aviv's chief rabbi. In exchange, Metzger would be given back his certification and Rabbi Bakshi Doron and his colleagues would not complete their inquiry and let the matter drop.

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger attends the rededication of Budapest's oldest synagogue after 50 years.Credit: Reuters



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