Haifa chief rabbi to be indicted for bribery, fraud

She’ar Yishuv Cohen suspected of involvement in corruption ring in which thousands recieved wage increases based on falsified documents certifying them as rabbis.

She’ar Yishuv Cohen 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
She’ar Yishuv Cohen 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Chief Rabbi of Haifa Rabbi She’ar Yishuv Cohen was called in on Thursday for a hearing by the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office, before the probable filing of an indictment against him on charges of bribery and false registration of corporate documents.
Cohen is suspected of involvement in a corruption ring, in which thousands of police, Prisons Service and IDF allegedly received wage increases based on falsified documents that certified them as rabbis.
Charges against Cohen were dropped a year and a half ago, despite the prosecution’s assertion that it had sufficient evidence to indict him, after Cohen said he would remove himself from his post and no longer hold public positions.
“Upon learning that Rabbi She’ar Yishuv Cohen continues to serve as the chief rabbi of the city and continues to serve in public positions despite his commitment not to, the District Attorney’s Office decided to file an indictment,” the Justice Ministry said.
Cohen was first called in for a hearing with the prosecution in 2008, at the height of the investigation into claims that rabbis approved certificates stating that students had attended five years of yeshiva study, when in fact they only spent a few hours a week, during two years, in unrecognized colleges. Those certificates, once approved by the Chief Rabbinate, earned their bearers monthly wage increases of up to NIS 4,000 for nearly half a decade, robbing the state of hundreds of millions of shekels.
According to the Justice Ministry, suspicions against Cohen dealt with a secondary case having to do with goings on that took place at the Ariel Institute, which Cohen directed. The prosecution has filed indictments against several dozen police officers and other security personnel.
A special committee was set up in the IDF to recover the money from the fake rabbis.
Cohen’s lawyer, Yaron Kostelitz, said there are no grounds for a criminal indictment of his client. “It is a shame that the prosecution is once again calling him in for a hearing, after having closed the file over a year ago,” he said.
Cohen, 83, fought and was captured by the Jordanians during the War of Independence.
Following his release he served for seven years as an officer in the IDF.
He has been chief rabbi of Haifa since 1975 and was a candidate for chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel in 1983 and 1993.