A former aide to the top professional at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism filed charges Monday of financial improprieties against her former boss, saying she was fired after reporting his actions.
Valerie Coburn, who for four years served as an administrative assistant to Rabbi Jerome Epstein, CEO and executive vice president of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, filed her complaint with the Bet Din of America. She also filed suit against Rabbi Epstein and United Synagogue in Manhattan Supreme Court alleging age discrimination and violation of labor laws.
The filing came just two days before Rabbi Epstein was to retire after nearly 30 years. Both he and his lawyer, Lois Traub, declined comment.
A spokesman for United Synagogue, Steven Rabinowitz, dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous and “an attempt to embarrass Jerry” shortly before his retirement.
“There was an exhaustive investigation [of the charges] – a forensic accounting and a separate exhaustive legal investigation – and the claims were found to be without merit.”
Rabinowitz also rejected the charges of age discrimination, pointing out that half of the United Synagogue staff is older than she is. And he refuted her claim that she is a whistleblower, saying that “she can’t be a whistleblower because her charges aren’t true.”
In the complaint filed with the Bet Din of America by her lawyer, H. P. Sean Dweck of Manhattan, Coburn, 53, said that on various occasions she witnessed Rabbi Epstein carry out “illegal and/or improper activities.”
She alleged that Rabbi Epstein improperly submitted duplicate requests for reimbursement for expenses or for items that were not reimbursable.