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Israel: Major Chilul Hashem in Fictitious Smicha Scam

Criminal indictments were handed down against ten defendants on Sunday for allegedly bestowing academic degrees on some 1,500 policemen and IDF career personnel, who as a result benefited from higher salaries as a result of their academic achievement.

Among the defendants are the Bureau Chief of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, Bureau Chief of former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the deputy of Israel Police Chief Rabbi Aaron Gudsteiner and others. Charges include breech of trust, accepting bribes, fraud, money laundering and more. Needless to say the case is a major chilul Hashem, providing the secular media with yet more anti-religious ammunition.

Over 1,500 suspects and witnesses were interviewed in the investigation which has been ongoing for over four years, involving Israel Police and military police. Over 1,400 soldiers, officers, prison authority guards, and police personnel were among those questioned along with dozens of rabbis, and principals of institutions.

According to the charges, institutions of higher learning were  established from 1999-2003, in which members of security forces studied torah subject matter for 8-10 hours a week for one or two years. That accompanied by fictitious classes and lectures, the students were given smicha, ordained as rabbonim for their five years of comprehensive studies. As a result of their academic accomplishments,  the recipients earned an additional NIS 2,000-4,000 a month in their salaries.

Meir Rosenthal, one of the chief suspects, was Rav Metzger’s bureau chief up until about one year ago. He resigned as a result of the investigation. According to the prosecution, he made off with NIS millions by brokering deals between students and the programs.

Another chief suspect is Yitzchak Ochana, who in the past was in charge of the testing process for the Chief Rabbinate of Israel Smicha Ordination Program. Today, he serves as a senior staff member to Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. He allegedly printed the fictitious smicha certificates.

Prosecution officials and police investigators plan to hand down dozens of other indictments against students in the programs, including IDF career officers and members of Israel Police.  In addition, at least 100 disciplinary cases will be opened against recipients of the programs who received salary increases as a result.

(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)

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