Israel's Former Chief Rabbi Released After 22 Months in Prison for Bribery

Citing good behavior, the parole board granted the former chief Ashkenazi rabbi early release on a three-and-a-half-year sentence for bribery and fraud

Former Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger on his release from prison.
Moti Milrod

Former Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was released from prison by the parole board after serving a year and 10 months of a three-and-a-half-year sentence for bribery and fraud involving millions of shekels.

The former Ashkenazi chief rabbi was set free from Ma'asiyahu Prison in Ramle after the board granted his request for early release a day before.

In granting his request, the parole board noted Metzger’s good behavior behind bars, the positive reports from the prison service, his attendance at prison workshops and his work in the prison laundry. His term was reduced further due to a change in the law that took effect two months ago, in part to address prison overcrowding. It cut the sentences of prisoners serving terms of less than four years.

The prosecution did not object to Metzger’s release. An associate of the former chief rabbi said he had expressed remorse at his parole hearing.

In a departure from fairly common practice, the parole board did not condition the former chief rabbi’s release on nighttime house arrest. He is being required, however, to take part in group therapy for criminals convicted of fraud.

In 2015, Metzger, who served as chief rabbi from 2003 to 2013, was indicted on a number of charges relating to that period, including allegations of bribery, fraud, money-laundering, breach of trust, tax evasion and witness tampering. The police alleged that as chief rabbi, Metzger received payments of money for helping foreign residents convert to Judaism and in cases in which individuals whose Jewish background was in question.

He was also accused of skimming off donations made to non-profit organizations and charging significant amounts for services that he should have dispensed at no charge as chief rabbi.

Metzger pleaded guilty to reduced charges of bribery and fraud as part of a plea agreement and was ordered to pay 5 million shekels ($1.4 million) in fines and taxes and the forfeiture of an apartment that he owned.