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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Suspected in Phony Ordinations

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Former Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doron may have been part of a phony rabbinical ordination scandal, say prosecutors.Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron is being considered for possible indictment for having a role in the “rabbis’ file” scandal, wherein hundreds of security forces officers were ordained as rabbis so that they could qualify for a raise in salary.

According to an indictment from 2007, the improper activities comprising the scandal occurred from 1999 through 2003, and they involved the ordaining of approximately 1,500 students in private tutoring classes. These ordinations were conferred even though many of those who attended the classes did not complete the required five years of study, and thus did not have the proper qualifications for the position. As a result, hundreds of millions of shekels in public funds were given out to cover the pay increase given to those “graduates” who became officially recognized as officiating army, police and prison service rabbis.

In response to a request submitted by several of the students, Rabbi Bakshi-Doron, who was chief rabbi at that time, directed the Chief Rabbi’s testing and ordaining division to award the program’s graduates with a higher education religious studies diploma, which confers on its recipients a pay raise equivalent to an academic degree. Moreover, the State Prosecutor’s Office charges that Bakshi-Doron did so even though he was hesitant to grant the diploma to those he knew lacked the qualifications for it, and he knew that the officers’ motivation in obtaining it was essentially financial. The SPO renewed its investigation into Bakshi-Doron’s actions in the affair after recent court testimony where he contradicted what he had told police previously.  
During his interrogation by police, Rabbi Bakshi-Doron stated that he had nothing to do with the affair, and that his close aide Rabbi Yitzhak Ohana had ordered the rabbinical certificates. However, in his court testimony, the former Chief Rabbi said that he had directed Ohana to put together a list of institutes attended by the security forces officers so that they could receive the certificates. When an attorney for the prosecution pointed out that Bakshi-Doron had specified which institutes should be included on the list, the rabbi replied, “I didn’t know the numbers. I told Rabbi Ohana to seal the deal. I only thought it was a matter of another 100 students and not the extent I later learned about.”

The investigators suspect that Rabbi Bakshi-Doron additionally told Ohana to disregard the guidelines for issuing the higher religious education certificates. They also believe that the former Chief Rabbi approved the illegal operation for the purpose of avoiding a confrontation with the sponsors and managers of the religious institutes attended by the security staff.

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