A Dupont Circle neighbor said he seemed "more like a nerd than a spy."

The rabbi of the South Bend, Ind., temple where he was bar mitzvahed described him as an "outstanding scholar and your prototype all-American boy."

A former professor at Stanford University, where he received an undergraduate degree in political science, remembered him as a good student, with conservative political leanings and a particular interest in Israel and the Mideast.

According to the FBI, that interest was more than academic. Agents arrested 31-year-old Jonathan Jay Pollard Thursday morning outside the Israeli Embassy in upper Northwest Washington and charged him with providing national defense secrets to a foreign government, which sources identified as Israel.

Pollard worked as a civilian counterintelligence analyst for the Naval Investigative Service, specializing in sifting through information about terrorist activities, Navy officials said.

Born in Galveston, Tex., he grew up in an upper-middle-class neighborhood of South Bend, Ind.

His father, Morris Pollard, a noted microbiologist, heads the Lobund Laboratory at Notre Dame, which specializes in cancer research.

A neighbor recalled his mother, Molly Pollard, as a protective parent who pampered her three children and regularly drove Jonathan, the youngest, to and from school even though it was only six blocks away.

At Riley High School, according to the 1972 yearbook, the "Hoosier Poet," Jay -- as he was called -- played cello in the school orchestra, was a member of the National Honor Society, and made the pages of the South Bend Tribune when he won the National Council of Teachers of English Award during his senior year.

He left home to attend Stanford, where, according to a member of the political science department, he earned slightly above-average grades and took courses concentrating on international relations and arms control.

Franklin Weinstein, his faculty adviser, said Pollard was a "very bright, extremely articulate" student who "had a tendency to be overly aggressive and sometimes antagonize or alienate students in seminar discussions."

Weinstein, who now runs a computer distribution company in the San Jose, Calif., area, said Pollard "tended to overdo things. If you gave him an assignment to write a paper, it would come in elegantly but much longer" than required.

Pollard received his Stanford degree in 1976. In the fall of 1977, he enrolled in graduate school at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University near Boston. He left in 1979 without receiving a degree, according to the school registrar, although his Navy biographical sheet lists him as having a "provisional" degree.

Pollard's resume also states that he worked from September 1978 to September 1979 at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis in Cambridge, Mass., a nonpartisan think tank. But institute President Robert Psaltzgraff, a professor at the Fletcher School who said he knew Pollard slightly as a student there, said there is no record of such employment in the institute's personnel files.

"Why he listed it, I have no idea," Psaltzgraff said.

According to the resume, Pollard has a fair speaking, reading and writing knowledge of French, German and Afrikaans, and he worked from August 1975 to January 1976 at the Atlantic Institute for International Affairs in Paris.

Pollard joined the Navy as a civilian intelligence analyst in Sep- tember 1979, after leaving the Fletcher school. He worked first for the Naval Operations Intelligence Center in Suitland, studying surface ship systems of noncommunist nations. In May 1980, he was transferred to the Naval Intelligence Support Center, and in June 1984 he joined the Naval Investigative Service as an analyst.

Officials said his current salary is between $31,000 and $41,000 a year.

James Gruver, a retired Army colonel who is a neighbor of the Pollard family in South Bend, said Morris Pollard seemed proud of his son's achievements.

"He mentioned he and Molly had been visting their son in Washington and that he was with the Navy in a very sensitive department," Gruver said.

Stephen Figliozzi, a neighbor of Pollard's at 1733 20th St. NW, described him as "really an average guy" whose bookshelves were filled with volumes of military history and who discussed topics ranging from the rock band The Police to Reagan administration policies.

Pollard's mother, Molly, said yesterday morning that the first she knew of the charges against her son was when a television reporter called Thursday night for reaction.

"This is a terrible tragedy," she said.