Haifa Bay
Haifa Bay Israel news photo: Flash 90

Haifa prosecutors have informed the city's Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Chelouche that he is likely to be indicted by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's office for a series of alleged infractions. The recommendation to indict was made by the Haifa office.

In a letter to the rabbi, prosecutors wrote that he was likely to be indicted on charges stemming from three incidents.

In one incident, Rabbi Checlouche is accused of involvement in a conflict of interest in his role as the approval authority for kashrut matters in Haifa. Between 2000 and 2011, the letter said, Rabbi Chelouche signed off on kashrut certificates for a company called Vitamed. On several occasions, the letter said, the Rabbi solicited contributions from the company for a charitable organization he headed. During the period, Vitamed reportedly transferred NIS 165,000 to the organization. This, the attorneys said, was a conflict of interest.

A similar incident was cited in the Rabbi's relationship with chicken packing company Milu-off. Here, too, Rabbi Chelouche granted kashrut certificates to the plant and solicited donations. Between 2006 and 2008, Milu-off donated NIS 80,000 to Rabbi Chelouche's organization. In addition, the Rabbi is accused of “arranging” for a job for a family member at Milu-off, after he was fired from a previous job with the Haifa Religious Council.

In a third incident, Rabbi Chelouche is accused of removing the kashrut certificate from a catering hall in the city. The certificate was removed, the letter said, not because of supervision issues, but as a tactic by Rabbi Chelouche to pressure the catering hall to rehire his personal secretary who had been fired as the kashrut supervisor for the hall.

Justice Minister Tzippy Livni said she would try to suspend Rabbi Chelouche from his positions as Chief Rabbi and Dayan (religious court judge), another position he holds. Under Israeli lawyer, dayan judges fall under the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry, as they are considered judges with the same pay structure and work conditions as secular judges.

Livni said that “a dayan accused of such serious infractions cannot remain in the judge's chair and decide cases. I will seek his suspension, at least until he is cleared of criminal charges,” she said.