From Rising Jewish Ed Star To Kiddie Porn Perp 

by Julie Wiener (The Jewish Week)
May 4, 2012

How do you tell your kid his or her teacher has been busted for possessing child porn?

That's the unpleasant task parents, teachers and administrators at Yeshivat Noam, a Modern Orthodox day school in Paramus, N.J., have had to take on this week.

Evan Zauder, a sixth grade teacher at Noam was arrested late Monday night in his Manhattan apartment. His computer, seized by the FBI, apparently contained hundreds of downloaded-from-the-Internet videos and images of young boys engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

An unknown, for now — but obviously a concern for administrators and parents at Noam, and other places where he's worked with children — is whether Zauder, 26, ever behaved inappropriately with children in his care, or if his crimes are limited to illegal porn consumption. (Pornographic images of children are illegal because, as FBI Assistant Director in Charge Janice Fedarcyk said in a statement: "The market for child pornography creates demand for production of images, and every photo and video is a record of abuse.")

According to an e-mail Noam's headmaster sent out to parents (which explains how the school is handling the situation and has suggestions for parents) Zauder "is not being accused of doing anything illegal at Yeshivat Noam and we have no reason to believe that any of our students are involved or affected in any way."

The bust is sure to be the hot topic around Shabbat tables and in rabbis' sermons this weekend. In fact, it seems tailor-made for this week's Torah portion: Parshat Kedoshim, the chapters from Leviticus commanding Jews to "be holy" and detailing numerous do's and don'ts of behavior, many of them sexual. Among them: "Do not degrade your daughter and make her a harlot," as well as the line about lying with another man (one that many liberal Jews have re-interpreted in recent years) long interpreted as the basis for prohibiting homosexuality.

The whole case is depressing, not just because it shines a light on the child porn industry (which, hopefully, can be curtailed by busts like this), but also because Zauder otherwise looked like such a poster boy for Jewish education, having worked in some of Modern Orthodoxy's most storied institutions: not just Yeshivat Noam, but Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Camp Stone, Bnei Akiva.

Until Monday night, he was on the cusp of earning both rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University (where he got his BA with honors in 2009) and a master's in education and Judaic studies from New York University, where he was one of a handful of Jim Joseph Foundation fellows. A day school grad (Toronto's CHAT), he also studied at Yeshivat Hakotel in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Somewhat eerily, his Facebook page remains up, featuring a photo of him, in happier times, decked out for what appears to be a Purim spiel: in sunglasses, a backward baseball cap and what appears to be Mardi Gras beads.

It is hard not to look at one of his "favorite quotations" now without wincing: "A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove... but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."