(JTA) – A 30-year-old man from suburban Boston was indicted on charges of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from a leading Boston-area Conservative rabbi.
Rabbi Barry Starr resigned a year ago from Temple Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Sharon, Mass., after allegedly paying nearly half a million dollars – taken from synagogue funds and borrowed from his congregants – to hide his two-year affair with a 16-year-old male. Much of the money came from the rabbi’s discretionary fund including checks that the rabbi altered. He also borrowed thousands of dollars from an elderly congregant, a Holocaust survivor.
Nicholas Zemeitus, who claimed to be the older brother of the teen, who was 18 when the affair ended, had threatened to expose the affair unless Starr paid him. He was arrested and charged on Monday with eight counts of larceny, two counts of receiving stolen property and one count of extortion, the Boston Globe reported.
Zemeitus said he met the rabbi on Craigslist, according to the newspaper, citing court documents. He met Starr at his home after an exchange of emails. It is still unclear if Zemeitus is related to the teen, though he claimed to have copies of emails exchanged between the rabbi and the teen, as well as photographs of them together. The affair started three years ago and ended about a year ago.
Starr, a married father of two, is credited with expanding the congregation he served for 28 years to over 600 families. He has served on the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Theological Seminary and as president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, as well as the region’s Rabbinical Assembly.