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Rabbi to Repay Synagogue Funds

May 24, 2002

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SEATTLE (AP) _ The former senior rabbi of Seattle’s largest Jewish congregation diverted synagogue funds for personal use for two decades, temple officials said.

Rabbi Earl Starr, who retired last year from Temple De Hirsch Sinai, agreed to repay the money within about 2 1/2 years, said Jon Rosen, president of the temple’s board of trustees. No criminal charges will be sought.

Both the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Seattle Times reported Friday that some congregation members said they were told Starr diverted at least $300,000. Temple officials would not confirm the figure, saying only that the amount was substantial.

``He has acknowledged exercising some poor judgments and wants to make amends,″ Rosen said. ``The congregation is very appreciative of his acceptance of his responsibility.″

Art Siegal, past president of the temple, said temple officials believed that Starr had been diverting the funds for 20 to 25 years.

Rosen said he was told Starr doesn’t remember how he spent all the money, but it was ``for a variety of purposes, some of a more personal nature.″

Members of the temple were informed of the situation in a letter sent May 16 and at a meeting Sunday. About 1,400 families belong to Temple De Hirsch Sinai, the largest Reform congregation in the Pacific Northwest.

Rosen said the money had been given to the synagogue by a local foundation for scholarships and ecumenical programs.

Synagogue leaders first suspected something was amiss in January, when more foundation checks arrived than the finance director was used to seeing, Rosen said. The checks had been coming every year, he said.

Starr could not be reached for comment. His telephone number is unpublished, and Rosen declined to provide it.

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