NEW YORK (JTA) — The FBI is alleging that a Jewish day school rabbi tricked a 14-year-old boy into sending him sexually explicit photos of himself.
Rabbi Jonathan Skolnick was arrested Friday night on several charges, including the production and possession of child pornography and child enticement. He was an assistant principal at the middle school of SAR Academy, a prestigious Modern Orthodox school in the Bronx. He also had taught for six years at the Yeshivah of Flatbush, an Orthodox school in Brooklyn.
SAR’s principal, Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, wrote in an email to parents on Tuesday that the school had reason to believe that students there may have been targeted by Skolnick.
Skolnick was fired by SAR, formally the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy, when it learned of the arrest. He had worked there for 14 months.
A complaint submitted by the FBI Saturday and made available Tuesday detailed Skolnick’s alleged crimes. He is accused of posing as a number of teenage girls online in an effort to lure a 14-year-old boy into emailing him nude photographs of himself. Skolnick also told the FBI that he had requested explicit photos from 20 to 25 people, most of them children, according to the complaint. The aliases he used were “Molly Dejmal,” “Tina Warner” and “Anna Freed.”
The boy sent Skolnick approximately six photos before he stopped, according to the complaint. Skolnick, using the same aliases, then began to send the boy threatening text messages from a fake phone number.
The FBI says Skolnick admitted that he sent the messages in question.
“As an associate principal of a Bronx private school, one of Jonathan Skolnick’s primary responsibilities was the well-being and education of students,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. “Instead, Skolnick allegedly preyed on his underage victims in a heinous plot to fool them into sending him nude photos of themselves.”
Skolnick is charged with one count each of production of child pornography, receipt of child pornography, possession of child pornography, child enticement and making extortionate communications.
Both SAR and the Yeshivah of Flatbush have acknowledged that Skolnick was on their faculty.
Krauss said in his email that SAR will make therapists available to students and parents, and also will host an open question-and-answer session with himself and an FBI representative.
Raymond Harari, the head of school at Flatbush, and Jeffrey Rothman, its executive director, wrote in an email Monday to their school community that they are “not aware of any inappropriate behavior” on Skolnick’s part while he was at the Brooklyn school.
Krauss did not respond to an email request for comment. Flatbush administrators declined to comment.