An official with an educational program for Jewish high school students has resigned after allegedly using the Internet to seek out liaisons with underage boys and to transmit naked pictures of himself.
Rabbi David Kaye resigned from the Washington-based Panim: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values on October 31, several days before being shown on “Dateline NBC” seeking a sexual encounter with an underage boy in a chat room.
“He told me he was going to be on a program on national television that would identify him engaging in inappropriate behavior,” said Rabbi Sid Schwarz, founder and president of Panim.
Officials at Panim and congregations where Kaye was previously employed said they never received a complaint against him.
NBC News conducted a sting in August, working with a group called Perverted Justice. Posing as underage boys and girls, members of the group entered Internet chat rooms and waited for adults to engage them in conversation.
Kaye and others allegedly spoke to the presumed children about sex, and suggested meeting them. Kaye allegedly sent one individual naked pictures of himself and arranged a meeting at the Northern Virginia home where the “boy” said he lived, which NBC had equipped with hidden cameras.
When he arrived he was confronted by NBC reporter Chris Hansen, who asked what he was doing at the home.
“Not something good,” Kaye said. “This isn’t good.”
Kaye admitted to being a rabbi, and he became agitated when Hansen revealed himself as a journalist and the cameras emerged.
When reached November 2, Kaye refused to comment on his resignation or on any of the accusations against him.
Perverted Justice sent the chat transcripts and information about Kaye and others to Fairfax County, Va., police, Hansen said. A police spokesman said the department does not confirm the names of anyone under investigation until the person is charged with a crime.
Panim is largely known for a high school program, Panim el Panim, which brings thousands of Jewish students from around the country to Washington each year for religious and political education. As vice president of programming, Kaye mostly oversaw faculty, Schwarz said.
“We do a fairly rigorous set of reference checks for people we hire,” Schwarz said. “But there are always opportunities for abuse of authority.”
Since the story surfaced, Schwarz said, he and others have been reflecting on incidents that were seen as inconsequential at the time, wondering if they should have seen a pattern.
“I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been thinking about it and wondering about it,” he said. “But they were so insignificant as not to suggest a pattern of behavior.”
Schwarz originally said he did not expect an investigation into Kaye’s work at Panim, but Panim has taken Kaye’s computer hard drive for inspection.
Abbe Lowell, a prominent Washington attorney retained by Panim, said in a statement that the organization is “taking every step to ensure that there has been no breach of this policy by Rabbi Kaye or anyone else at any time.”
Kaye joined Panim after serving as a rabbi and confirmation instructor at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, Md., for 15 years, until 2001.
“The membership has been responding with lots of questions and concerns,” said Rabbi David Rose of Har Shalom.
Rose said that though there is nothing to indicate wrongdoing during Kaye’s tenure at Har Shalom, many people are nevertheless worried.
“I think everybody will be a little less trusting and a little more wary of people in positions of authority,” Rose said. “It’s going to take some time for all of us in the rabbinate to earn people’s trust.”
Kaye also served as a rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in San Antonio, Texas, in 2001. “We are very confident there was no issue while he was here,” said Jo Halfant, the congregation’s executive director.
The Reconstructionist movement ordained Kaye, but he is now a member of the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinical arm of the Conservative movement. Rabbi Joel Meyers, the R.A.’s executive vice president, was out of the country and unavailable for comment.