'Metzger rumors ruin morale at work'

Chief Rabbinate workers say rumors about Metzger's sexual persuasion affect morale even if they're false.

Metzger 248.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Metzger 248.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Rabbis and employees within the Chief Rabbinate said Sunday that the latest allegations published in the local news media against Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger have dealt a serious blow to worker motivation. "I ran into someone over the weekend who asked me if I am still working in the rabbinate. I was embarrassed to tell him that I am," said a senior rabbi who preferred to remain anonymous. The rabbi said he and his colleagues are cynical about Metzger, who - they feel - does not provide a positive role model for religious leadership. Adding that Metzger's negative press coverage, whether true or not, has had adverse effects on the overall morale of the organization. "People lack the motivation they once had with previous chief rabbis," he said. Another rabbi, who said he was not convinced of the allegations directed at Metzger since the chief rabbi has many enemies, nevertheless admitted that the image of the Chief Rabbinate had been hurt. "Rabbi Metzger is also having difficulty convincing rabbinate employees to carry out his decisions," he said. In the latest flurry of rumors surrounding the chief rabbi, the daily Ma'ariv published testimony by an anonymous 23-year-old French photographer who claimed that Metzger sexually propositioned him. According to the off-the-record claims, Metzger met the photographer during an interfaith conference in Seville, Spain, in 2006. Amir Dan, Metzger's PR representative, called the allegations "an evil conspiracy." "The mendacious comments attributed to Rabbi Metzger were never uttered," said Dan. "Ma'ariv published this article and they're planning to publish another disparaging article this coming weekend. The timing of this story now, two weeks before an important Supreme Court case involving the chief rabbi, is not coincidental. "Rather, it serves interests that want to hurt Rabbi Metzger in any way possible. The rabbi will not give in to the denigration campaign being waged against him just as he has not capitulated in the past." In 2003, Ma'ariv published a story claiming that Metzger had sexually harassed four men. Three years later, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz ruled not to indict Metzger on charges that the chief rabbi allegedly received illegal free stays at various Jerusalem hotels. But the attorney general also issued a damning report of Metzger in which he recommended that the chief rabbi resign. Mazuz said that if he did not do so willingly, Metzger should be forced out of his post. Metzger later won a High Court case in which he petitioned to annul Mazuz's recommendations. The rabbi suspended himself from serving as a rabbinical judge while he defended the charges for free hotel stays. After he won in court, annulling Mazuz's recommendation, Metzger requested to be reinstated as a rabbinical judge. The council for the appointment of judges granted his request. Ometz, a legal watchdog organization, is now contesting his reinstatement. In two weeks, the High Court is due to hear the group's petition against Metzger.