Though he has been charged with molestation, police may never apprehend a former Hebrew school teacher who has likely fled to Central America. Lydia Katz was charged with two counts of third-degree child molestation by the King County Prosecutor’s Office on Nov. 15 following Katz’s alleged contact with a 14-year-old girl whom he taught at the Temple De Hirsch Sinai Religion School.
According to the charges, “the defendant used his position of trust as a religious instructor to gain access to his young victim, to exploit his position of authority and to secure the trust of her family.”
The prosecutor’s office believes Katz left Seattle after the victim’s parent notified the synagogue and may now be in Guatemala. Katz was employed for a year as an 8th-grade teacher and worked with the 6th-grade class at Temple De Hirsch Sinai and, according to the charging papers, another synagogue that was not identified.
TDHS fired Katz after the victim’s mother forwarded messages she had discovered from Katz in her daughter’s email account that appeared to confirm a relationship.
Daniel Weiner, Temple De Hirsch Sinai’s senior rabbi, told JTNews that the temple could not comment on anything that may “impede or jeopardize or cause any obstruction in the investigation” of Katz, and that “our chief concern is for the student and the family as well as for all our temple students and families.”
Weiner did note, however, that “we do assiduous, law-enforcement–based background checks of all employees of the synagogue.” Katz’s background check did not raise any red flags.
In addition to teaching, Katz led some children’s programs at Camp Kesher, an annual Labor Day-weekend family camp sponsored by all of the area’s Reform synagogues.
Ken Kranseler, Kesher’s co-director, told JTNews that because the camp is largely volunteer run, “we rely heavily on the local synagogues…for support and recommendations” of its program staff.
The camp and congregational rabbis notified families who had attended this year’s Kesher program about the charges against Katz, and noted he was not under investigation for inappropriate behavior at the camp.
While the charging papers stated that police had no further evidence of relationships with other students, they did note that “there is information that Katz spoke to several 14-year-olds about sexual subjects.”