Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Convicted of Bribery, Faces 3.5 Years in Prison

Yona Metzger also ordered to pay $1.32 million as part of plea bargain.

Former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger.
Tomer Appelbaum

Former Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was convicted by plea bargain Monday of bribery, after reaching a plea bargain. As part of the deal, he would be sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

As part of the plea bargain, charges against Metzger were reduced and he was required to pay 5 million shekels ($1.32 million), including confiscation of an apartment he owns in Jerusalem, a fine and back taxes.

Sources close to Metzger said he agreed to the plea bargain when he understood his case would likely end in conviction.

A witness, whose name is under gag order, turned state’s evidence to testify against Metzger.

Prosecutor Daniel Witman said the state had demanded a lengthy prison term and heavy fine because Metzger had served in “such a senior position, and was to have served as an example to many,” but instead had “used his position and high status to put money into his own pocket.”

Metzger was charged with numerous counts of bribery and tax evasion. He was convicted of receiving about 5 million shekels in bribes, of which he took 3 million and gave his driver, who was his messenger, 2 million.

Metzger was convicted of taking bribes from wealthy foreigners who wanted to convert to Judaism or confirm their Jewish status. He was also convicted, along with his driver, of referring donors to various NGOs in exchange for a commission on any money they contributed. He was further convicted of taking bribes to perform or attend religious ceremonies, of failing to pay taxes on his illicit income and of obstructing justice.