May 21, 2005

Chief Rabbinate Under Cloud As Police Question a 2nd Rabbi


May 13, 2005

JERUSALEM In a devastating blow to the credibility of Israel's state rabbinic establishment, the nation's Sephardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, was interrogated this week by the police on suspicion of complicity in the abduction and beating of a 17-year-old youth who was dating his daughter.

Amar is not known to be suspected of direct involvement in the assault, but he is believed to have been present in his home while the youth was being beaten. His wife, a son and several associates were being detained this week on suspicion of direct involvement.

The case, embarrassing in itself, is particularly damaging to the rabbinate because it comes just two months after police questioned Israel's other chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, in an unrelated case. Metzger was the first chief rabbi in Israeli history to undergo criminal interrogation.

Metzger is under investigation on suspicion of receiving unlawful benefits from a Jerusalem hotel. The charges are the latest in a string of suspicions, including sexual abuse and extortion, that have dogged him for years, beginning long before he was named Ashkenazic chief rabbi in 2003.

With the Metzger probe still open, the eruption of the Amar affair has touched off anguished talk in some Orthodox circles that the very institution of the Chief Rabbinate is threatened.

"The chief rabbis were once like a lighthouse of righteousness, the moral compasses of the nation," said Rabbi Yehuda Gilad, a former Knesset member who heads the respected Ma'ale Gilboa yeshiva. "Today, the way things are going, I won't mourn the passing of the institution."

Posted by kshaw at May 21, 2005 08:56 AM