Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger is suspending himself from his position as a judge in the Rabbinical High Court and as president of Israel's Chief Rabbinate Council following a police investigation launched against him.
Metzger said he understood that self-suspension was the right thing to do at the moment.
Metzger's lawyers, Attorneys David Libai and Elad Rath, informed Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday morning that until the completion of the investigation, he would not attend Chief Rabbinate Council meetings as well as discussions of the committee for the appointment of religious judges.
The lawyers stressed, however, that Metzger had denied – and still denies – the suspicions against him and believes in his innocence, and that he hopes the investigation will be completed soon.
Justice Minister Livni said upon receiving the lawyers' letter that "Rabbi Metzger's suspension is the proper and right thing to do in light of the circumstances." she added that she respected the rabbi's decision and that "even if there is a short time left before the end of his term – this is very important in order to maintain the institution of religious judges."
On Thursday, officers from Israel Police's National Fraud Unit raided the home and office of Rabbi Metzger, who is suspected of accepting bribes, fraud and money laundering.
The raid was the culmination of months-long undercover investigation. In the course of the investigation, Rabbi Metzger was brought Thursday morning for a police interrogation under warning.
Suspected of pocketing thousands of shekels
Metzger was released to five days house arrest after being interrogated under warning for some 10 hours.
He reportedly cooperated with his interrogators and answered all of their questions. The rabbi is banned from leaving the country or contacting three other suspects who were arrested as part of the investigation.
The investigation revealed that Metzger was suspected of pocketing hundreds of thousands of shekels he had raised for different NGOs. It is suspected that the money had made its way from the donors into the pockets of Metzger and his associates.
The Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court remanded an additional three suspects in the affair. Chaim Eisenshtat, the rabbi's driver and personal assistant, who is suspected of accepting bribes, was remanded by seven days.
Simcha Krakowsky, the director of a charitable organization, who is suspected of bribery, was remanded by five days. Nissan Ben-Zion Zioni, a director of another non-profit organization, who is also suspected of bribery, was remanded by six days.