(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
The Jerusalem District Court convicted Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron on Monday for his role in what became known as “the rabbis scandal” in which officials in the Chief Rabbinate issued false certificates of rabbinical ordination to security-services personnel entitling them to higher salaries.
Bakshi-Doron was convicted of fraudulent acceptance of a benefit under aggravated circumstances, issuing false certificates and breach of trust.
The scheme, which took place between 1999 and 2003, involved helping hundreds of IDF, police and prison 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 to NIS 4,000 each, while the coordinators themselves received millions of shekels for their part in the scam.
Obtaining the certificate legally requires graduating from a five-year program in a yeshiva licensed to ordain rabbis, but security services personnel who were given the certificates completed only a fraction of the required courses.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court rejected the appeals of six former rabbinate officials who were convicted in 2014 of aggravated fraud, use of forged documents, money laundering and bribery in relation to this crime.
The court on Monday convicted the former chief rabbi for having ordered and approved the systematic issuance of false ordination certificates.
More than 1,000 ordination certificates were falsely issued by officials in the Chief Rabbinate.
The court ruled that Bakshi- Doron was party to crimes of forgery and fraud, causing the state more than NIS 300 million in illegitimately obtained salary bonuses.
According to the conviction issued by the court, Bakshi- Doron did indeed instruct the head of the examinations department of the Chief Rabbinate, Rabbi Yitzhak Ohana, to issue the false certificates of ordination, even though he knew that the students in question did not meet the criteria for ordination and that the purpose of issuing the certificates was to receive the salary increases.
“The accused knew that in so doing he was materially assisting institutions and study frameworks operated by senior officials in the rabbinical world and in the Chief Rabbinate, who in return for the tuition fees collected from the security services students granted the [ordination] certificates which give entitlement to a higher salary,” reads the conviction.
“The accused did this also due to his desire to refrain from conflict with central officials in the Council of the Chief Rabbinate and in the rabbinical world in general, who are the ones who operated and gave their patronage to the [rabbinical school academies.”
Attorneys for Bakshi-Doron declined to comment on the conviction.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this article.