Thursday, November 17, 2005

Once a rabbi, always a rabbi Kaye quits rabbinic assn.; retains title

by Eric Fingerhut, Staff Writer
Washington Jewish Week - November 17, 2005

Rabbi David Kaye has resigned from Conservative Judaism's rabbinical association, but the title of "rabbi" cannot be taken away from him. 

Such a designation is earned when one graduates from rabbinical school, according to leaders in the Conservative and Reconstructionist movement. 

Kaye submitted his resignation to the Rabbinical Assembly a few days before the airing of the Nov. 4 Dateline NBC hidden camera investigation of sexual predators on the Internet in which he was ensnared. 

A former rabbi at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, Kaye also resigned his position with the teen educational group Panim: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values due to the Dateline program. 

Rabbi Joel Meyers, the R.A.'s executive vice president, said that giving up membership in the organization essentially means that Kaye is "no longer a member of the Conservative rabbinate" and "can't function as a Conservative rabbi." 

The Awareness Center, an organization advocating for the rights of sexual abuse victims in the Jewish community, has been urging its supporters to ask that Kaye's s'micha, or rabbinic ordination, be revoked. But Meyers said that "we can't take his s'micha away" because he "earned his degrees," and "unless fraud was found in achieving the degree, he has the degree." 

Kaye was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College two decades ago before joining the Conservative movement's rabbinical association after he was hired at the Conservative Har Shalom. The president of the RRC, Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz, said revoking one's ordination "is not something we ever do, nor do I think it's doable." 

"You can't take away the fact that he successfully fulfilled the requirements for graduation," said Ehrenkrantz. 

He noted that rabbinical groups like the R.A. act as licensing-type organizations, and losing membership in such a group effectively tells the public that a rabbi has not conducted himself properly. 

He compared the situation to a doctor who engages in misconduct the physician does not lose the title doctor, but can lose his or her license. 

Kaye, however, would still, for example, be able to officiate at a wedding if a couple desired. 

The rabbi also has left his teaching position at B'nai Israel Congregation's Hebrew high school, according to the Rockville Conservative synagogue's Rabbi Jonathan Schnitzer. 

Kaye had been teaching a Tuesday evening class for the post-confirmation class of 11th- and 12th-graders and had led the Shabbat teen minyan since the beginning of the school year. He resigned those posts three days before the Dateline program aired, Schnitzer said this week. 

Schnitzer said that the teen sessions were "always in a group" and that the shul had not received any complaints about his conduct. 

Criminal charges are still not expected against Kaye. A Montgomery County Police Department spokesperon said that it has not received any criminal complaints or been provided with other information that would trigger an investigation of the rabbi, although an inquiry could be opened in the future if such facts did arise. 

The Fairfax County Police Department said once again this week that it still does not anticipate filing charges because of both jurisdictional issues and reservations about the methods of Perverted Justice, the group that partnered with Dateline in the investigation. The group's volunteers pose as children on the Internet in order to expose potential predators. 

Fairfax County police have noted that even though the alleged predators were lured to a house in Virginia, the Perverted Justice volunteer chatters were based in Michigan and Kaye and many of the other alleged predators lived in Maryland. With the alleged crimes crossing state lines, it is unclear if the FBI could get involved in the case. 

A spokesperson for the FBI's Baltimore field office could not say at this point whether it would be investigated.

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