Thursday, 27 December 2012

A police force of fake rabbis

Former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron faces charges for complicity in granting about 1,000 fictitious rabbinical ordination certificates to members of the security services so that they could receive significantly higher wages. The prosecution estimates that the scam cost the state hundreds of millions of shekels.

When an army cadet cheats in navigation, he is immediately kicked out. But most of the policemen and career soldiers who took part in the rabbinical fraud linked to former chief rabbi Bakshi Doron were not dismissed.

The custom of ikuv kriya ‏(delaying the reading of the Torah‏) developed among Jewish communities in the Diaspora when there were prolonged periods of want, distress and atrophy. Its meaning: To prevent desecration of God's name, or to protest an outrageous injustice that everyone was ignoring, it was permitted to stop reading the Torah ‏(the pinnacle of holy worship‏) and to shout out against the injustice and desecration of God's name.

In Israel, this custom has almost been forgotten. This week, however, when an indictment was served against former chief rabbi Eliahu Bakshi Doron, rabbis and activists initiated a plan to simultaneously hold an ikuv kriya in many synagogues. The outrageous injustice in this case was the nerve of the secular state prosecution to indict so great a sage, one who had been chief rabbi, because it was clearly a false accusation.

 A few years ago, it was discovered ‏(and proven in court‏) that a number of policemen and army personnel had falsely acquired documents saying that they were rabbis. The title of rabbi gained them a salary of an academic with at least a master's degree. Many of these "rabbis" ‏(some of them secularists‏) admitted their guilt when they were exposed. It transpired, however, that the Chief Rabbinate, which is supposed to be the most honest of authorities, was the most contemptible since it issued the false certificates ‏(according to media reports, there were between 1,000 and 1,500‏).

It behooves the present chief rabbis, the council of the Chief Rabbinate, the rabbis of the cities and neighborhoods and the heads of the yeshivas, as well as the hundreds of thousands of citizens who pray daily in the synagogues, to hold an ikuv kriya − but for the opposite reason.

It is their duty to cause the entire country to be shocked by the fact that the rabbis of the Chief Rabbinate, whose signatures after all appear on these fictitious documents, reached such a nadir that this sort of despicable act took place in Israel. The media pointed out that by the time the fraud was discovered, it had cost the country hundreds of millions of shekels. Few, however, were very upset that the deceit took place within the walls of the institute that is supposed to be the holy of holies of Jewish morality, the chief rabbinate of Israel. That is because the public's generalization − one that in some cases, unfortunately, is correct − holds that wherever the rabbinate is, bribery is there, too ‏(including sexual bribery‏), as well as corruption, and endless delay, and discrimination against women. In its despair, the public has learned to live with hundreds or even more fictitious positions for rabbis, kashrut supervisors and other holy functionaries who together cost this country immeasurably more than all the fictitious cabinet ministers and deputy ministers and their "ministries."

When an army cadet leaves his post or cheats in navigation, he is immediately kicked out of the course. But to the best of my knowledge, most of the policemen and career soldiers who took part in the rabbinical fraud were not dismissed. The army and police brass' sensitivities, like those of the rabbinical establishment, have become blunted. Even these institutions' legal advisers, who are supposed to watch over their integrity, didn't protest. Neither, apparently, is there anything wrong in their eyes when a police or military officer goes on serving the public even after committing fraud and then embezzling funds for many years.

It is almost certain that not even a failing like this will cause the rabbinate to take stock and cleanse itself. But the other institutions, especially the Israel Defense Forces, whose ethos is built − and not just for show − on values, top-to-bottom morality and personal example, have to put their houses in order. And those who shut their eyes to the forgery and fraud, not just those who committed these acts, must be held accountable.
The continued employment of these swindlers and pretenders in the Israel Police and IDF requires the intervention of NGOs dealing with integrity in the public sector. It certainly calls for an in-depth investigation by the State Comptroller.

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