Synagogue Without Exec After $500K Theft

February 12, 2014
BY Suzanne Pollak
Adas Israel investigates following disclosure from new hire from California

After little more than a month of work, the new executive director for Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., was let go after admitting to stealing close to half a million dollars from a synagogue in California when he was its executive director.

Eric S. Levine “will no longer be serving as executive director for Adas Israel Congregation due to alleged, serious financial irregularities in his previous synagogue position in California,” read a letter sent to congregants and signed by synagogue president Arnie Podgorsky.

Levine admitted on Tuesday that he took between $400,000 and $500,000 over a five-year period from Congregation Beth El in La Jolla, Calif., according to a source close to the D.C. synagogue. His admission to the Adas Israel leadership followed one made to Beth El’s leadership, the source said.

Adas Israel officials immediately conducted an audit of its funds and found no irregularities at all, the source added. The synagogue is not contemplating charges as it experienced no harm.

Calls and emails to rabbinical and staff leadership at Congregation Beth El were not returned.

“We are persuaded that these alleged wrongdoings were unknown to Eric’s previous synagogue when we verified his performance and integrity prior to his being employed,” Podgorsky noted in his statement. “Obviously this news comes as a tremendous shock to both congregations.”

Adas Israel already has begun the process of finding a new executive director.

Levine started working at Adas Israel last month; he had been executive director at Congregation Beth El from July 2007 until December 2013, according to his LinkedIn page. On that page, he listed his experience as having “successfully navigated [an] organization’s finances through one of the worst economic disasters in U.S. history with six years of balanced budgets and modest surpluses each year.”

He also claimed to have “raised over $6 million for [a] congregation’s endowment with an additional 60-plus future legacy commitments.”

Prior to working at the California synagogue, Levine was associate director/director of planning and allocations at the Jewish Federation of San Diego County from April 2005 to July 2007.

Levine is married with young children.

“Our hearts go out to Eric’s family during this difficult time,” wrote Podgorsky. “We appreciate the immensely difficult circumstances that his wife and young children are experiencing. As a Jewish and holy community, we have an obligation to respect their privacy and be supportive.”

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