Ex-chief Rabbi Suspected of Defrauding State by Falsifying Rabbinical Ordinations

Prosecution suspects Bakshi-Doron instructed the Chief Rabbinate's ordination department to grant certificates to some 1,500 police and army officers.

The prosecution has tentatively decided to indict former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron on charges of ordering the Rabbinate to issue ordination certificates to state employees who lacked the necessary qualifications, in order to enable them to receive raises that cost the state hundreds of millions of shekels.

State Prosecutor Moshe Lador announced the decision on Thursday. Bakshi-Doron will now be given a hearing at which he can try to change Lador's mind.

Civil servants are entitled to substantial raises if they obtain an academic degree, and Rabbinical ordination, which normally requires a rigorous course of study, is considered a degree for this purpose. But the prosecution suspects that Bakshi-Doron instructed the Chief Rabbinate's ordination department to grant certificates to some 1,500 police and army officers who did not meet the criteria for ordination. This entitled them to raises of NIS 2,000 to NIS 4,000 a month, depending on their rank, as well as higher pensions.

He allegedly did so to maintain the support of several key rabbis, especially but not exclusively those serving on the Chief Rabbinical Council, who were affiliated with the institutes at which the police and army officers studied to obtain their certificates. Several such institutes catering to members of the security forces were set up in 1999-2003, usually headed by well-known rabbis.

The institutes allegedly prepared false documents certifying the students as fit for ordination, which were then given to the Rabbinate and the security forces - often without the students' knowledge.

Ten people were originally indicted in this case, of whom three were convicted in plea bargains while the rest went to trial. But while Bakshi-Doron was initially a suspect, the prosecution eventually decided there were no grounds for indicting him.

In March 2010, however, Bakshi-Doron testified as a prosecution witness in the trial, and his testimony, which contradicted his earlier testimony to the police, led the police to reopen their probe of him.

This new probe led the prosecution to conclude that far from being ignorant of what was going on, Bakshi-Doron had in fact instructed the Rabbinate's ordination department to overlook the students' lack of qualifications and issue them certificates anyway.