By Rabbi Mark Dratch
David Kaye, rabbi and educator, was exposed on the television news magazine “Dateline NBC” as a pedophile and sexual predator.
Rabbi David Kaye is the newest member of a notorious group of rabbis, cantors and teachers who have violated the principles of their faith, exploited the confidence of their students and betrayed trust of their communities. David Kaye, rabbi and educator, was exposed on the television news magazine "Dateline NBC" as a pedophile and sexual predator. The program recently aired a videotape it made of Kaye as he attempted to rendezvous with who he thought was a thirteen year old young boy that he had solicited on the internet. In fact, it was a setup, orchestrated by Perverted-Justice.com, a civilian watchdog group which maintains a website dedicated to exposing predators in internet chatrooms.
The limelight of his television debut as a sexual predator once again shines a spotlight on the need for the Jewish community, and all communities for that matter, to confront a seedy and sordid reality. We must actively and vigilantly carry out its responsibility to care for and protect its most vulnerable. The sad reality is that while most members and leaders of our community are decent, ethical and trustworthy, some of them are not. But none of them wears a sign around his neck that proclaims, "I'm an abuser" or "Watch Out. I'm a Predator� Unfortunately, a cursory glance at the headlines of Jewish papers during the past few years reveals that ostensible piety, seeming scholarship and perceived compassion are not safeguards against indecency and impropriety. Too often they are used as masks to fool, trick and entrap. And all too often they enable unscrupulous individuals to manipulate the vulnerable and to devastate the innocent.
Ego, arrogance, sexual urges and dysfunction, poor impulse control, rationalization, power and control, personal issues and interests and a host of other factors, psychological and theological, may contribute to the type of antisocial predatory behavior that we are witnessing. But as far as innocent victims are concerned, all of that is irrelevant.
As distasteful and disillusioning as it is, Kaye's case reminds us that we must be a bit guarded in all of our relationships. The rabbinic bon mot, chabdeihu vechashdeihu, respect yet suspect, must be the policy of the day. We no longer have the luxury of always being dan lekaf zechut, judging favorably and giving the benefit of a doubt, no matter who the person is.
I don't know if in Kaye's case there were any red flags, any warning signs that former congregants, employers or students could have picked up. And with no prior police record, a background check would have come up with nothing. But with some of the others, there were such red flags and background checks and appropriate hiring policies may have been helpful. Education and awareness programs for all of the members of our community, especially for our children, that educate and empower them in dealing with such issues as sexual predators, internet hazards, child abuse, boundary issues and the like will go a long way in making our community a safer place.
Unfortunately, the Torah that Kaye preached was not the Torah that he practiced. And while no matter how educated and vigilant we are, we may never be able to guarantee a safe Torah, but we have a religious and moral obligation to give our community a safer Torah � one that does all that it can to protect all of its members, even from its own.
Don't forget to read about The Awareness Center's Call to Action on this case