Rabbi 'dug up graves for profit'

The former head of the London Beth Din, Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, is to chair an extraordinary hearing against the chief rabbi of Turkey, who has been accused of desecrating ancient Jewish graves in Istanbul.

The allegations against Rabbi Yitzhak Haleva and his son, Rabbi Naftali Haleva of the Ortakoy congregation, have been made in a complaint to the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) by Israeli journalist Shaul Schiff.

He claimed the “destruction and desecration” of three Jewish cemeteries was ordered by “those craving wealth and profit”.

Mr Schiff, who has spent several years surveying the state of European cemeteries, claimed that the rabbis ordered ancient remains to be removed in order to re-sell the plots to members of the community wishing to be buried in the centrally located cemeteries.

He also claimed that during a trip in 2007 by delegates sent by the CER to an Istanbul cemetery, dug-up graves were discovered but that Rabbi Haleva “feigned shock and horror” at the sight.

Rabbi Yitzhak Haleva has denied the accusations and said: “It is not true. It is all lies. We are building near the cemetery, not on the cemetery. I have invited the Conference to come to the cemeteries to see for themselves.”

    Last updated: 5:44pm, October 29 2009