Unauthorized expenditures lead to shakeup at Beth Sholom

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A series of recent letters from Congregation Beth Sholom president Scott Horwitz to members of the San Francisco synagogue have confirmed the discovery of multiple “unauthorized expenditures” drawing on synagogue funds, resulting in several layoffs and the resignation of the temple’s executive director.

The amount of misappropriated funds has not been disclosed, nor has the manner in which they were accessed.

Angel Alvarez-Mapp

Horwitz first wrote to members of the Beth Sholom community in a Jan. 15 email, describing the problem as one that is “significant and warrants community-wide communication.” Because the extent of the breach was not then clear, Horwitz said Beth Sholom had begun seeking “independent legal, forensic and financial expertise” to uncover all the facts.

In a Jan. 25 follow-up, Horwitz wrote that the Conservative synagogue had been forced to put some staffers on “administrative leave” and that remaining staff and clergy would be doubling up on various roles for now, and that congregational leaders had accepted an offer of assistance from the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.

A third communiqué on Feb. 1 announced that the Beth Sholom board of directors had accepted the resignation of executive director Angel Alvarez-Mapp. The announcement also noted that music for services would no longer be provided by full-time staff and that three front-office staffers had been laid off.

“We recognize that our community wants to know the details of what happened,” the email said. “We are working with attorneys, accountants, and other specialists to ensure that we understand the full scope of the situation before we make additional announcements. Our intention is to convene a town hall meeting, hopefully within the next month, where we can come together to answer questions and discuss the steps we are taking to safeguard against a situation like this in the future.”

Congregation Beth Sholom on 14th Avenue in San Francisco

The announcement continued: “We do not believe that the viability of Congregation Beth Sholom is threatened at this time. However, because these unauthorized expenditures have resulted in considerable shortfalls to our synagogue budget, it has become clear that we will need to operate with a leaner staff by consolidating certain roles and responsibilities.”

In a post on his Facebook page, Alvarez-Mapp announced his resignation and wrote, “The mismanagement occurred on my watch and I should have had more oversight.”

Alvarez-Mapp began his tenure at Beth Sholom in November 2013. A seasoned nonprofit professional, he was profiled in a J. article last year (www.jweekly.com/article/full/73572). He remains on the Bay Area regional council of Bend the Arc, a Jewish social justice organization.

In the Feb. 1 letter to congregants, Horwitz said the federation had brought in Larry Schlenoff to help the synagogue. In a statement to J., the federation described Schlenoff as “a former federation employee [acting] as a short-term consultant. He is a past CEO of the North Peninsula Jewish Campus and past chairman of the board of Kehillah Jewish High School [in Palo Alto]. [Beth Sholom] is a vital community asset and partner, and many community members have stepped up to share skills and expertise to help soften the transition during

this challenging moment.”

Horwitz concluded his letter affirming that the synagogue’s “core mission — to  celebrate the dynamic nature of the Jewish people,  to constantly evolve, and to support every member through our work — is unchanged.”

According to the synagogue’s website, Beth Sholom was founded in 1904 and was led by progressive Rabbi Saul E. White for 48 years, from 1935 to 1983. Rabbi Alan Lew was the synagogue’s spiritual leader from 1991 through 2005, four years before his death. Rabbi Aubrey Glazer is the current rabbi, having been in that role since July 2014.

The synagogue underwent a major renovation and redesign last decade, and moved into its new home in 2008. The bold design by San Francisco architect Stanley Saitowitz won an Unbuilt Design honor from the San Francisco chapter of the America Institute of Architects even before it was built; after it was completed, that same body in 2009 named Beth Sholom’s new edifice the best new building in San Francisco.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.