Morocco, the only Muslim governed country to recognize Jewish rabbinic authority, has appointed Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto as the Kingdom’s Rabbinic Judge and Kosher Ruler.
Rabbi Pinto was sworn in the Casablanca Grand Synagogue during an official ceremony on Saturday evening, in front of hundreds of people, including members of the Moroccan government. In his new role, endorsed by the king of Morocco, Yoshiyahu Pinto will also officiate as head of the kashrut of the country.
At the ceremony, he promised the Moroccan Jewish community that they would “follow a new path” under his leadership. He also thanked King Mohammed VI for his support.
In his speech, the rabbi spoke briefly about his one-year prison sentence in Israel: “It’s God put me to the test.”
This Rabbi Kabbalist who enjoys international notoriety amongst celebrities and other businesspeople settled in Morocco in early 2017, after his release from prison.
Convicted in 2014 for bribing a police official, Rabbi Pinto had agreed – As part of a sentence negotiation – to testify against Menashe Arviv, the former head of the police’s anti-corruption unit, suspected of having accepted benefits from associated businesspeople to the rabbi.
At the head of several charities and institutions specializing in the study of Torah in the coastal city of Ashdod and the United States, he has also been the subject of several investigations by the FBI.
The rabbi – whose supporters include Jay Schottenstein, the president of American Eagle Outfitters clothing brand and Israeli real estate mogul Jacky Ben-Zaken – was suspected of embezzling funds from one of his charities, but no charge has ever been filed against him.
In April 2014, federal prosecutors filed a petition against Republican Michael Grimm, a US Congressman, for receiving contributions from Pinto supporters. Grimm acknowledged receiving $250,000 to $300,000 from the rabbi’s followers.