AG: Chief Rabbi Metzger Should Quit or Be Removed

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger should resign, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said yesterday. If he does not, Mazuz will recommend that the justice minister begin proceedings to remove him from his post. Mazuz's decision followed his investigation into Metzger's alleged receipt of perks in the form of Jerusalem hotel accommodation, and other affairs in which Metzger was involved. Mazuz called Metzger's behavior "unsuitable" for a chief rabbi.

However Mazuz decided not to pursue criminal charges against Metzger for allegedly staying at Jerusalem hotels for free, at very low rates or, in one case, at the state's expense, when Metzger already had an official state-funded residence at his disposal in the capital. Sources at the Justice Ministry hope it will not be necessary to instigate dismissal proceedings against the chief rabbi, by means of the Rabbinic Court Judges Appointment Committee, and that Metzger will resign.

However, Metzger does not seem poised to resign at this time.

Mazuz is to give Metzger two to three weeks to make a decision before he initiates dismissal proceedings by approaching the new justice minister on the matter.

Mazuz wrote in his decision that Metzger should resign as chief rabbi and rabbinic judge "in the face of the deficiencies in his conduct."

Mazuz also wrote that Metzger's continuation in office might "seriously harm the standing of the chief rabbinate and the High Rabbinic Court." While conceding that dismissing a chief rabbi was "no easy matter," Mazuz said, "in light of all the details, there is no choice but to deal with the matter of suitability for office."

In December 2004, the police opened an investigation of Metzger following a report on Channel 2 that Metzger had stayed for free at the David's Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem over Passover two years ago. In the course of the investigation, two more cases were uncovered of Metzger allegedly accepting perks.

The police determined enough evidence existed to try the chief rabbi, but State Prosecutor Eran Shendar, on the recommendation of the Jerusalem Prosecutor's Office, closed the case for lack of sufficient evidence. Mazuz's statement yesterday, and his report of his decision to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, president of the High Rabbinic Court Shlomo Amar, and Metzger's attorneys reflects Shendar's intention to take administrative steps against Metzger.

The police investigation of Metzger involved three matters: One was a stay by the chief rabbi and his wife at the Prima Kings Hotel in the capital in June 2003, which was paid for by the chief rabbinate. The Yeshurun Synagogue paid for the room where three of their children stayed.

The second case involved David's Citadel Hotel, where the Metzger family stayed over four holidays between October 2003 and October 2004, although he had an official residence, funded by the government, in Jerusalem.

The third case involved stays at the capital's Renaissance Hotel, paid for by the