A prominent American rabbi has resigned from the congregation he headed for the past 28 years, confessing to "marital infidelity and other serious personal conduct," the Boston Globe has reported.
Barry Starr, rabbi of Temple Israel, in Sharon, Massachusetts, is a former president of both the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis and the region’s Rabbinical Assembly, the umbrella group for Conservative rabbis. He is also a former member of the chancellor’s rabbinic cabinet of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, one of the academic and spiritual centers of Conservative Judaism.
“I write this letter with a very heavy heart and a sense of shame and remorse that makes this the most difficult thing I have done in my life,” Starr told his congregants in an e-mail last week. “As you know, sometimes people who try to be good people do things that are wrong, hurtful, and shameful.
“It is with great remorse and deep regret that I acknowledge I have engaged in marital infidelity and other serious personal conduct which require me to resign,” wrote the father of two.
Neither Starr nor congregation officials provided additional information about his decision to resign.
The nature of the "other personal conduct" that Starr referred to may have been indicated in a separate e-mail sent to congregants by Temple Israel executive director Benjamin Maron, who said that checks made payable to the rabbi’s discretionary fund over the past month may have been “compromised.”
“If the cheque [sic] has not cleared, we urge you to put a stop payment on that cheque and to notify the Temple Israel office,” he wrote.
Starr has apparently not been arrested and police and prosecutors declined to confirm that an investigation was underway. However, Temple Israel president Arnie Freedman confirmed in a telephone interview with the Boston Globe, that an investigation had been opened.
“This is the most tragic thing that has happened in the life of this community,” said Freedman. “He’s always been the heart and soul of our community. We’re just grieving. We’re all very sad. We don’t know what’s going on.”
In the email to his congregants, Starr requested that they "do not call, write, or come to visit. At present, I cannot face you, even though I care about you deeply. It is too painful, and I need time to work through the issues I face.”