West Orange-based man accused of using his rabbinic persona to prey on women who put their faith in him.
Two weeks ago, Rebecca Pastor, a 46-year-old woman from Essex County, N.J., found out that the man she alleges raped her in Baltimore on Christmas Day, 1990, was not in jail, as she had long believed, but was living in nearby West Orange. And that he was passing himself off as a righteous rabbi amid concern he may be seeking vulnerable young women.
Since then, with the help of several Orthodox rabbis and a handful of congregants in West Orange, she has found information that strongly suggests David (Yeshaya Dovid) Kaye has a long history of complaints against him. The information portrays him as psychologically and religiously manipulating naïve and trusting women, seeking to use their deep faith in him to engage in sexual relations.
While the other women who claim to have been preyed on by Kaye have requested anonymity, Pastor, who said therapy has given her strength, plans to travel to Baltimore soon to meet with sex crime officials in hopes of seeing Kaye prosecuted.
Maryland has no statute of limitations for rape.
“I’m a survivor, not a victim,” she said, “and I believe in the motto that you can choose courage or comfort, but you can’t have both.”
Meanwhile, a 28-year-old New York woman who says Kaye convinced her in the past year that he had a nevua (religious prophecy) that she would suffer a tragic death if she did not “cleanse” her “neshama” [soul] by submitting to him, which she did for several months, is weighing legal action. She said she contacted members of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’ office earlier this year but they were unresponsive.
Several rabbis actively seeking to alert people to Kaye’s background and behavior told The Jewish Week they were particularly repulsed by allegations that his modus operandi was to convince women that his actions were based on serving God when it appeared he was focused on serving himself.
The attention on Kaye came about in recent days when Rabbi Yosef Blau, who has long been an advocate for victims of abuse and knew of allegations against Kaye for years, notified Rabbis Eliezer Zwickler and Mark Spivak, who lead two Orthodox congregations in West Orange, that Kaye was believed to have recently moved back to West Orange, his hometown. After appointing a small committee of congregational leaders to look into the allegations, the rabbis sent out an advisory to their congregants on Sept. 18. It warned of “the presence of a potential perpetrator in order that” members “may protect themselves and their families.” It said that due to “serious allegations,” they had advised Kaye, whom they named, not to attend their shuls “for the foreseeable future.”
They learned that Kaye, who is 50, married with five children between the ages of 6 and 18, and claiming to be a rabbi, had a series of stints in various capacities over the years. He was, among other posts, an Air Force chaplain overseas, nursing home chaplain in New Hyde Park, Jewish day school teacher in Long Island, and most recently pulpit rabbi in upstate Liberty. Those appear to have been short-lived and ended abruptly amid allegations of inappropriate behavior with young women. Kaye is currently unemployed and believed to be living at his parents’ home.
While emphasizing that no legal proceedings had been initiated and praising Kaye’s parents as “respected and beloved members of this community for decades,” the statement noted that allegations concerning Kaye related to his “allegedly exploiting his title as rabbi to enable him to take or to attempt to take liberties with various females in past years.” It cites reports from Israel, Germany, South Africa and the U.S. The statement added that “a number of women involved have submitted to very reputable and prominent rabbis written statements recording the occurrences. If found to be true, the facts recounted have potential serious implications.”
Two weeks after the Sept. 18 advisory, the Newark Star-Ledger ran a full-page ad signed by Kaye’s attorneys responding to the rabbis’ advisory. The ad said the advisory’s “lack of specificity reveals the serious legal and ethical issues flowing from this type of ‘message’ … and has placed Rabbi Kaye in a false light and has caused irreparable damage.” The ad said that while Kaye “takes full responsibility for his failings,” he “vehemently denies” sexual predation and “questions why core Halachic procedures and due process values were not respected.”
The Jewish Week contacted Kaye’s attorneys, John Kemenczy and Mitchell Liebowitz of West Caldwell, N.J., in an attempt to interview their client. The attorneys said they were authorized to speak on his behalf and declined an interview with him at this time. They expressed appreciation for being contacted, and asserted that there have been no civil suits or criminal filings against Kaye despite various complaints over the years.
Asked if Kaye was, indeed, an ordained rabbi, as he claims, and if so, where he received his ordination, the attorneys said he was, but were checking with him on details. They did not respond further as of press time.
Kaye’s attorneys did issue this brief statement: “We are sensitive to the competing interests involved here — respect for the women’s privacy and Rabbi Kaye’s ability to have a full and fair airing of the matter.
“We suggest that responsible members of the Jewish community engage in a dialogue with us about ways to reconcile these interests in an amicable way.”
Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive director of the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest membership organization of Orthodox rabbis in the U.S., said his group “fully stands behind” the West Orange rabbis’ actions. And after meeting with Pastor, along with Rabbis Zwickler and Spivak, and hearing her story last week, as did Rabbi Blau, he said he and the other rabbis found her to be “very credible.” Rabbi Dratch said he had sent copies of the West Orange rabbis’ advisory to the full membership of the RCA.
Responding to the statement from Kaye’s attorneys, Rabbi Dratch said that “criminal matters should be resolved by the criminal justice system. And as to women in our communities, Kaye has a longstanding track record of abusing his rabbinic person in ways that raise great concern.”
‘A Deer Caught In The Headlights’
In an interview with The Jewish Week, Rebecca Pastor recalled her nightmarish encounter with Kaye 23 years ago when she was strictly Orthodox, and living in Baltimore. The mother of a 2-year-old, she was seeking rabbinic help in obtaining a get [Jewish divorce] from her husband, a Ner Israel kollel [rabbinical school] student. She said Kaye, contacted by a friend of Pastor’s, immediately drove down to Baltimore from New York, and in their one meeting persuaded her that he had a vision that her son would soon die.
“He knew my son’s name and said he had a nevua [or, prophetic vision] of my son in a casket, that he would die before he was 3,” Pastor said. “I felt like a deer caught in the headlights.”
She said Kaye sat close to her, a shy young kollel wife, on the sofa in her apartment — no one else was home — began muttering Hebrew incantations, and soon put his hand over her mouth and forced himself on her. After the sexual act, she said, he began to sob and apologize. Later, when she insisted he leave, he threatened that she would never receive a get or remarry or have children if she ever told anyone.
Traumatized and fearful of Kaye’s warning, she did not go to the authorities. Instead, she says now with bitterness, she “went the rabbinic route,” which led nowhere. She turned to her family for comfort and to the friend, then a Yeshiva University rabbinical student, Moshe Rothchild, who had known and recommended Kaye to help her get a Jewish divorce.
Rothchild, later a pulpit rabbi in Florida and Australia and now a tour guide living in Israel, says he and Pastor were friends and that when she had asked for help to extricate her from her marriage, he thought of David Kaye. He had known him since childhood in West Orange, the son of a popular local pediatrician and his wife, “both pillars” of the Orthodox community.
As a young man, David Kaye was considered a paragon of Torah learning, Rothchild said. Dressed in the traditional black haredi garb, bearded, long frock and a homburg hat, he had an austere air of authority, “a holier-than-thou” attitude.
Rothchild had recommended Kaye to Pastor because he had heard he was involved in helping agunot.
When Pastor contacted Rothchild to tell him what had happened that fateful Christmas day, Rothchild set out to get advice from his rebbe. After speaking with a local district attorney, the rebbe advised Pastor, through Rothchild, to try and get an admission of guilt from Kaye on tape.
Which she did, both Pastor and Rothchild told The Jewish Week separately. She bought a tape recorder, and some weeks later, though shaking with fear, placed a call to Kaye.
“The most dramatic moment,” said Rothchild, “was when she said, ‘You raped me and I’m pregnant,’ and he [Kaye] immediately responded, ‘You have to get an abortion, I’ll pay for it.’”
She was not pregnant but she had come up with the plan to tell Kaye she was as a means of proving, from his response, that her narrative of that Christmas day was correct.
Both Pastor and Rothchild said that Kaye wired her $300 or $400.
The two made copies of the tapes, one of which Rothchild has kept at home and is now looking for. Pastor said that several years ago, while packing to move into a new house, she decided to make a new start and threw away her copy of the tape, in part because she believed that Kaye was in jail for sex crimes.
In fact, though, in an odd coincidence, it was another Rabbi David Kaye who was convicted and jailed in Maryland in 2006 for trying to solicit a minor over the Internet.
It was only a couple of weeks ago, when a friend told her of the warning sent out to the two West Orange congregations to beware of Kaye, that Pastor went on the website adkanenough.com, which posts alerts about Orthodox figures believed to be sex offenders. When she saw her alleged assailant’s photo she was stunned, and since then has been determined to bring him to justice.
Debbie Teller, the name used by the woman who launched ad kan (Hebrew for “enough is enough”), told The Jewish Week that the update on Kaye received more than 80 responses, several of which were from anonymous people claiming to be, or know of, victims of Kaye.
The two West Orange rabbis and their committee emphasize that the complaints about Kaye span more than two decades and are consistent in his presenting himself as coming to the aid of women in distress and then making advances on them, based on their perception of him as a rabbinic authority to be trusted. An affidavit from the late Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Cyril Harris, attests to several young women in 1989 saying Kaye was emotionally manipulative in trying to seduce them. A document from an Air Force colonel speaks of Kaye, in 1996-’97 in West Germany, attempting intimacy with her when she sought advice about converting to Judaism. A young American woman studying at a seminary in Jerusalem in 2010 described Kaye’s attempts to be alone with her, including telling her they knew each other in a previous life.
The most recent, and perhaps most bizarre, episode concerns a 28-year-old ba’alat teshuva (newly Orthodox woman), Chana (not her real name) from New York who came to know Kaye last year when he was in Liberty, and went out of his way to be helpful to her and her fiancée.
Last November, she told The Jewish Week, she received an e-mail from someone claiming to be an 80-year-old mekubal (a rabbi blessed with the powers of prophecy) in Jerusalem who said he had met her near the Kotel several years before. His message was that “I was in grave danger and needed to immediately contact a rabbi with whom I was close.” She said the content “was very frightening,” and she began receiving daily, persistent messages from him with increasing urgency about seeking help. Chana told Kaye about it. He said he could help her avert “this ‘grave danger’,” she recalled, and she came to believe him when he soon told her he had had dreams about her even before they’d met and that their destinies were intertwined — that she had saved his life in a past life and that he was now her protector in this life.
Kaye told her she was destined to die in childbirth and that the only way to avert this tragedy was to do teshuva (repent) by submitting to him physically, which she did over a period of weeks. She said she was “horrified” by the experience, but fearful that if she stopped she would be subject to the sad fate Kaye had predicted.
During that time, Chana says Kaye “admitted that he had basically raped” a woman seeking a get, or Jewish divorce.
(Chana, who learned of Kaye’s re-emergence last week through the Adkanenough website, was put in touch with Rebecca Pastor; they shared with each other by phone their frightening encounters with Kaye. Pastor says that Chana told her during the call that Kaye admitted to her that he had “raped an agunah in Baltimore,” and is certain the reference was to her.)
In the end, Chana discovered that the e-mails from the mekubal and Kaye were coming from the same IP address. When she confronted him, she says he tearfully admitted he had written virtually all of them, still insisting that the first one had come from the mekubal himself who then had a stroke.
Chana’s research found that there was a rabbi with the name Kaye used for him but that he was very old, infirm in a nursing home in Jerusalem, never had an e-mail account and, she insisted, “has no idea of the atrocities Kaye has committed — and may currently still be committing” — in the man’s name.
Now married to her understanding fiancée, Chana said she was naïve, trusting and psychologically manipulated by Kaye, whom she describes as “brilliant, and an absolute monster with no shame.”
She expresses gratitude that loved ones believed her, and that she went through therapy to get over the recent trauma. But she acknowledged that the experience “could have destroyed me” and that her faith in rabbinic authority has been damaged. One of the most “painful aspects” for her was discovering that Kaye’s colleagues and former employers “were well aware of his history and failed to warn subsequent employers and the public.
“If the leaders of the Jewish world do not take a firm and proactive stance on the issue of sexual predators, how many more lives will be destroyed? What are they waiting for?”
Rebecca Pastor says much of her faith was “shattered” not only from Kaye’s alleged sexual attack but from the unwillingness or inability of prominent rabbis at the time to express sympathy, help her in any positive way or act to protect future victims.
A part of her, she said, still “deeply misses the community,” and she is gratified by the response of the rabbis she has been working with in recent days. But she wonders how and why David Kaye could, under the cloak of religion, “deceive and hurt people” for three decades.
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