Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Another Religious Jew Embarrasses Us

Former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger (TOI)
It is an understatement to say that it is a Chilul HaShem. And yet there is no other way to say it.  Yona Metzger, the immediate past Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel is one of the most corrupt individuals to hold any public office in Israel’s recent history. Hard to believe that this man was in charge of religious life in Israel for almost 10 years. The accusations are breathtaking. From the Times of Israel: 
Metzger will plead guilty to fraud, breach of trust and tax offenses…
 Last year, the Jerusalem District Court charged Metzger with accepting some NIS 10 million ($2.58 million) in bribes. He is accused of keeping NIS 7 million ($1.8 million) for himself.
(A)lleged scams linked to Metzger involve(ed) millions of shekels of funds purportedly siphoned into his accounts...
Police said Metzger had stashed about $200,000 with his sister in Haifa, and a search of his home turned up NIS 40,000 (over $11,300 at the time) in cash hidden in various books. At the time, Metzger contended that the money in Haifa came from an inheritance, but the investigation found this claim to be untrue.
According to the indictment, various nonprofit organizations connected with the rabbi during his term in office received millions of shekels in donations, some of which Metzger allegedly took for his personal use.
In addition to profiting from donations to charitable causes, he was also accused of taking bribes meant to sway his opinion on matters he attended to as chief rabbi. 
I don’t even know where to begin. But I do have a few thoughts that come immediately to mind. First - as noted a few weeks ago by Rabbi NatanSlifkin - there is the fact that he was backed by the Charedi leadership – even though there were rumors about Mtezger’s honesty along these lines. But they backed him anyway because as Chief Rabbi he promised to follow the Charedi leadership in all of their Halachic pronouncements.

When their leadership was asked about it at the time, they said that until it is proven, it is all rumor and innuendo (which it is forbidden to pay any attention to). In the meantime the fact that he would follow Charedi Psak overrode any such reservations in any case.

In my view the Charedi leadership should have been more suspicious of Metzger. Perhaps conducting an investigation of their own. Because now that those rumors have proven to be an understatement of his actual corruption, I cannot imagine the embarrassment they must now feel. But it seems they are not embarrassed at all. In fact, as Rafi Goldmeier notes on his blog, they are angry at anyone that criticizes him even now that he has admitted guilt in a plea bargain that will put him in jail for 3 and a half years and fined $1.3 million. (That’s dollars! Not shekels).

Here is what Benny Rabinovitch, a Charedi journalist said when MK Naftai Bennett called Metzger’s behavior as Chief Rabbi a Chilul HaShem: 
He called Bennett a Rasha - evil, wicked, person - for this. He said it is obvious that he has hatred for anybody who seems to be Haredi.  Well, I guess I am a Rasha too because I agree with Bennett on this. And so is anyone else that thinks what Metzger admitted to is a Chilul HaShem. 
I am not necessarily casting aspersions on the Charedi leadership for making this mistake at the outset. Rumors are not proof of guilt. And their desire to see the Rabbinate follow Halacha the way they interpret it is understandably very important to them. I can forgive them for supporting someone who as Chief Rabbi promised to follow their Psak – even if they ignored the rumors about him.

Because the truth is that they are right about not paying attention to rumors since that is nothing more than Lashon Hara. I say this even though I believe that they should have gone Lifnim Meshuras Hadin  to go the extra mile as a precaution to prevent the kind of Chilul  HaShem that has resulted.

It is not that different than how they used to view reports about sex abusers. They used to say that it is forbidden to report them to the police. But at the same time it was prudent to keep your children away from them.  

This should have been their attitude here. If they didn’t want to report him to the police, that’s one thing. But to put him in a position of power where he could do so much harm is another and is tantamount to putting the aforementioned accused child abuser in a classroom as a teacher. I am not comparing the Metzger’s deeds to those of a child molester. Only the approach to placing people who have been suspected of wrongdoing in a position to do damage.  

But it seems that they still don’t understand this if a Charedi journalist represents their thinking. Is it any wonder that so many good people (…in many cases even religious people) have issues with the Chief Rabbinate and the Charedi establishment? I think a bit of introspection on their part - just about now - might be wise.