The Chief Rabbinate
The Chief RabbinateFlash90

The Civil Service Commission has recently opened an investigation into the Chief Rabbinate for allegedly illegally including rabbinical courts overseas in the list of approved conversion courts.

According to a report in Israel Hayom, the commission investigated senior rabbinate officials, including the CEO, Yehuda Cohen, on suspicion they used their positions to assist a friend of a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council. The members allegedly added the friend's rabbinical court to the list of approved conversion courts in violation of protocol.

For the State of Israel to recognize the conversion of a convert from overseas, the Chief Rabbinate must approve the court that converted them. For that to happen the court must be approved by a scrupulous Chief Rabbinate committee and pass highly strict testing.

According to the report two courts from abroad: one from Dnipro, Ukraine, and the other from Queens, New York, requested to join. The latter court is led by Rabbi Shlomo Yishai Ruben, the son-in-law of rabbinate council member Rabbi Yehuda Deri, brother of Shas chairman Arye Deri.

The investigation found that at the end of 2021, the rabbinate committee convened to discuss the two courts, but a protocol from the meetings was not signed. In January 2022, the interim legal advisor to the rabbinate at the time wrote a letter to all involved emphasizing that no decision should be made regarding the two courts until they pass the rabbinate's strict testing.

According to a source familiar with the investigation, the interim advisor told the investigators that "I understood that political figures were applying pressure to help the court and were trying to take advantage of the fact that I was only an interim legal advisor."

In February 2022, in the absence of an opinion of the legal advisor regarding the courts, a rabbinate employee, who is known to the Civil Service Commission, added them to the list of approved conversion courts. Only in August of that year did the rabbinate committee convene and officially approve the courts.

After a permanent legal advisor was appointed, he was informed of what occurred and ordered the CEO of the rabbinate, Yehuda Cohen, to remove the two courts, but Cohen did not do so.

The Civil Service Commission commented on the report: "An investigation was opened into the CEO of the Chief Rabbinate, in which the investigations department of the Civil Service Commission carried out many investigative actions. Among other things, testimony was taken and suspects, among them the CEO, were investigated. At the end of the investigation, the findings were sent to be examined by the discipline department of the Civil Service Commission."

The Chief Rabbinate commented: "The actions of the overseas conversion courts recognition committee were carried out lawfully, and meet all required standards. The petition that was submitted is baseless and its emptiness speaks for itself. The Chief Rabbi (Yitzhak Yosef) is not a member of the recognition committee and he has no special connection with the approved courts beyond a basic acquaintance due to the nature of his position." In contrast to the Civil Service Commission's statement, the rabbinate stated: "The CEO was not investigated, but was just called to give testimony."