Rabbi Saul Kassin (C), the chief rabbi of a synagogue in Brooklyn, N.Y., exits federal court after being one of the more than 40 people to be arrested in a federal investigation of public corruption and international money laundering, in Newark, N.J., July 23, 2009. .
(photo credit: CHIP EAST / REUTERS)
Four rabbis were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of fraud, breach of trust, falsifying documents, and impersonation, in connection to unlawful practices they allegedly employed in applying for municipal chief rabbi positions.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that the rabbis ran or are running for the chief rabbi jobs in the cities of Nesher, Pardess Hanna, Lod and Beit Shemesh. The police have not released the names of the rabbis who were arrested.
According to the police, the rabbis were arrested on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining qualification certificates that would enable them to stand for municipal chief rabbi positions.
Only rabbis who have passed ordination exams on a higher level and more exacting than the standard ordination tests are able to serve as municipal chief rabbis.
The police stated that the four rabbis in question are each suspected of one or some of the following offenses: obtaining an ordination certificate fraudulently, without having taken the exams; falsifying the registration of test scores; sending someone else to take the exams for them; making contact with the exam marker to try to persuade him to mark their papers more leniently.
Police personnel from the Lahav 433 National Crime Unit arrested the four men Tuesday morning and conducted searches of their homes for documents tying them to their alleged crimes.
The police emphasized that the Chief Rabbinate had cooperated throughout the investigation, and only the suspects themselves were under investigation.
If the allegations turn out to be true, it will not be the first time that Chief Rabbinate qualifications have been fraudulently obtained for the purposes of career advancement.
A scheme that took place between 1999 and 2003 involved helping hundreds of IDF, police and Prisons Service officers fraudulently obtain certificates from the Chief Rabbinate regarding the completion of advanced religious studies, entitling them to monthly salary bonuses of between NIS 2,000 and NIS 4,000 each, while the coordinators themselves received millions of shekels for their part in the scam.
Former chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, along with at least six other rabbinate officials, including two senior figures, were convicted in the affair.
The Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah religious- Zionist lobbying group, which several years ago led a successful legal challenge to the way municipal chief rabbis are elected, said that the allegations raised the suspicion that such elections have become “fertile ground” for people who are unsuited for such honorable positions.
“The status of municipal chief rabbis has been at a nadir for many years, in part because they serve without term limits and are unaccountable to the local community,” the group said in response to the arrests.
The group called on Religious Services Minister David Azoulay to halt all municipal rabbi elections currently being conducted and to establish a public committee to reexamine how such rabbis are elected.