State indicts former chief rabbi Bakshi-Doron

Indictment alleges the rabbi issued fraudulent rabbinical certifications to IDF officers so they could receive pay raises.

Former chief Sephardic rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron 370 (R) (photo credit: reuters)
Former chief Sephardic rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron 370 (R)
(photo credit: reuters)
The Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office filed an indictment against former Sephardi chief rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi- Doron on Monday, for allegedly fraudulently ordaining IDF and police officers while he held the chief rabbi post.
The IDF and police officers who were fraudulently ordained went on to receive unlawful pay increases totaling hundreds of millions of shekels, the indictment said.
Head state prosecutor Moshe Lador decided to indict Bakshi-Doron after consulting with Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein, and after rejecting arguments that the former chief rabbi’s attorneys made at a special pre-indictment hearing.
Bakshi-Doron was indicted for receiving payment of various sorts under aggravated circumstances for his alleged central role in the affair, according to the indictment.
Attorneys Aviad Hacohen, Yaakov Weinroth and Yaron Kostalitz, who are representing Bakshi-Doron, said they were “certain that the truth will come out and that it will become clear that the indictment is completely unfounded and without any factual or legal basis whatsoever.”
The attorneys’ statement accused the State Attorney’s Office of wasting resources on investigating Bakshi-Doron, who “according to the State Attorney’s Office did not receive any personal benefit.”
The statement also pointed out that the original investigation opened into the former chief rabbi’s involvement was closed without charging him.
Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, a national-religious lobbying organization, said the case once again proves the necessity of separating the rabbinate from the political establishment.
“The system is broken,” said Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah chairman Shmuel Shetah.
“The connections that exist between the political establishment and the rabbinate are at the root of the problem.”
In November 2007, 10 indictments were handed down over the incident, in which more than 1,000 members of the IDF and police force received false certificates of rabbinic ordination entitling them to an extra NIS 2,000 to NIS 4,000 a month in wages.
Those indicted included the head of the rabbinate’s division for administering exams as well as teachers running specially established educational facilities, set up at the time to train security personnel as rabbis.
Students at these schools were ordained by the Chief Rabbinate, making them eligible for the salary benefits.
The seminaries where the studies took place received registration fees for the classes, and the security personnel studied for five to 10 hours a week for a period of one to two-and-a-half years at most, but received certification that they had taken a five-year yeshiva program, enabling them to receive the pay bonus.
The earlier case is still ongoing.
Initially it was decided that there was insufficient evidence against Bakshi-Doron, and he even appeared in the other case as a witness.
However, during the course of Bakshi-Doron’s testimony, the indictment alleges that he contradicted his earlier account to police on the events surrounding the case.
According to the indictment, Bakshi-Doron admitted in his testimony that he had directed administrative officials to “look the other way” and issue ordinations even if the candidates did not meet the standard criterion.
This testimony led to Bakshi- Doron being repeatedly re-questioned regarding his involvement in the affair.
The indictment states that he later disavowed his court testimony, returning to the original story he had told police.
It also says he knew about the specific forged and altered text being used in the fraudulently issued ordinations.
Next, Bakshi-Doron’s new round of questioning revealed he knew that official statements about the level of knowledge attained by those being ordained were fraudulent, said the indictment.
The allegations against Bakshi-Doron relate to his activities during his tenure as Sephardi chief rabbi from 1998 to 2003.
The indictment says that Bakshi-Doron ended up taking a central role in the scheme, in an attempt to stay in good stead with other parts of the rabbinate who supported the programs, issuing the ordinations through his right-hand man Rabbi Yitzhak Ohana.
Besides the above cases, a statement from the Justice Ministry also indicated that dozens of police officers who were involved in the program as students are under internal criminal investigation for having knowingly participated in the fraud.