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Mikvah-peeping rabbi sentenced to 6.5 years

  • Rabbi Freundel HOME
Washington’s once-senior Orthodox rabbi, Barry Freundel was sentenced last Friday to six and a half years in prison after admitting he had taken videos of dozens of nude women at a mikvah over an extended period of time. He was also engaged in extramarital sexual encounters with several women which he had taped.
by ANT KATZ | May 17, 2015

“You repeatedly and secretly violated the trust your victims had in you, and you abused your power,” Senior Judge Geoffrey Alprin of DC Superior Court said at the sentencing, according to the Washington Post.

Ostroff - Cape TimesThe former spiritual leader of a prominent Washington Orthodox Shul pleaded guilty in February to 52 counts of misdemeanour voyeurism. The prosecution wanted to throw the book at him, the defence asked for community service.


RIGHT: Rabbi Freundel leaving court in February


In the end, the Judge gave Freundel 45 days for each of the 52 counts. He will serve the sentences successively, amounting to nearly six and a half years. Older tapes of over a hundrerd other women were found going back to 2009.

The rabbi, now 64, was arrested last October and charged with six counts of voyeurism after investigators found hidden cameras in the National Capital Mikvah’s shower room and in his home. He was fired from Kesher Israel, the congregation he had led for 25 years, and which abuts the mikvah (ritual bath) soon after his arrest.

Rabbi pleads guilty to 52 "Peeping Tom" charges was originally posted on Jewish Report Online in February and extremely well-read.

In addition to the 52 women he filmed while they were completely naked between 4 March 4 2012 and 19 September 2014, Freundel had recorded another 100 women who were not part of the criminal complaint, as well as some of his extramarital sexual exploits.

Earlier this month prosecutors revealed that the mikvah-peeping rabbi had also engaged in extramarital sexual encounters with several women.

That was one of several new details about rabbi Freundel which emerge from two documents filed in the Washington Superior Court on 8 May — one each by the prosecution and defence — ahead of Freundel’s sentencing last Friday, 15 May. The documents, which attempt to sway the judge’s sentencing, shed new light on Freundel’s behaviour and offer some particulars about the rabbi’s life since his arrest on 14 October 2014 — including that he has resumed some rabbinic teaching.

The mikvah is situated adjacent to Kesher Israel, the prominent Washington Orthodox Shul Freundel led for some 25 years.


Rabbi Freundel with lawyer


LEFT: Rabbi Barry Freundel, left, with his lawyer, Jeffrey Harris, outside the court in February after he pled guilty to 52 charges of spying on women at his Shul’s mikvah

He used between one and three cameras at a time, hiding the devices in a digital clock radio, a tissue box holder and a small table-top fan, and aiming them at the toilet and shower in the mikvah dressing room, according to the prosecution’s memo.

In Freundel’s plea, he admitted having filmed 52 women while they were completely naked. Prosecutors noted that Freundel had recorded an additional 100 women between April 2009 and March 2012, but that the statute of limitations (prescription in SA legal parlance) did not allow them to lay criminal complaints in those cases.

In addition to his crimes, Freundel videotaped himself engaged in “sexual situations” with “several women” who were not his wife, according to the memo. Many of the women may not have consented to being taped or were not aware that they were being recorded. A spokesman for the court contacted declined to elaborate on what the “sexual situations” constituted.

Rabbi Freundel on News


RIGHT: The Washington rabbi's exploits have made quite a media storm in the US

Freundel edited the mikvah dressing room videos to delete footage when the room was empty, and meticulously labelled and stored each video segment. It is believed that he removed the recording devices from the mikvah dressing room at the end of each day he used them, the prosecutor’s memo said.

When Freundel was arrested, investigators seized materials from his home including five desktop computers, seven laptops, six external hard drives, 20 memory cards, 11 flash drives and an instruction manual for a recording device that was disguised as a fan. Additional equipment was seized from Freundel’s office at Towson University in Maryland, where he taught ethics and religion.

Throw the book at him -Prosecution

Prosecutors asked for the maximum 17-year prison sentence for Freundel.

In addition to occupying a prominent pulpit at a Shul frequented by such figures as former US Senator Joseph Lieberman, and writer and cultural critic Leon Wieseltier, Freundel had been a prolific author and scholar of Jewish law and led Washington’s Orthodox conversion court. As a conversion supervisor and mentor, Freundel instructed many women to engage in “practice dunks” at the mikvah – an unheard-of practice in Orthodox Judaism but one that provided him with ample opportunities to record them undressing.

“As many victims note, it was difficult if not impossible to say no to the rabbi in charge of their conversions,” the prosecution’s memo says. “Many of the victims now feel isolated from their faith entirely, including other religious leaders, as a result of the defendants’ actions.”

The prosecution memo notes that in Freundel had also surreptitiously video-taped a domestic violence abuse victim in the bathroom and bedroom of a safe-house that he had established for her so she could escape her husband’s violence. “I thought I saw a holy man of G-d, a man whom I could trust to protect me from outside evils, but I have come to see the blackness which hid beneath the garments,” the victim said in a court document.

Be lenient, he’s teaching again -Defence

In its memo, the defence argued that Freundel’s public humiliation has been punishment enough for a first-time nonviolent offender.

In arguing for a more lenient sentence, the defence memo to the judge pointed out that six of Freundel’s victims had written unsolicited letters of support, and that Freundel has resumed some rabbinic teaching – leading classes by phone on Sundays and Tuesdays, and convening a small Torah-study group on Shabbat.

Freundel had also sought medical counselling to ensure that he never again engages in such conduct, according to the defence memo.

The defence also noted that Freundel never disseminated or sought to distribute the videos, and that women were not filmed immersing in the mikvah itself.

Its memo also devotes considerable attention to Freundel’s accomplishments as a scholar, including a citation of a positive review by author Herman Wouk of one of Freundel’s books on Jewish prayer.

“There is no need for the Court to incarcerate rabbi Freundel in order to punish him,” the defence memo said. “He has been publicly humiliated, forced to leave his office as a rabbi, and is now a convicted man.”

5 Comments

  1. 5 Hilary Denis 18 May
    I suppose that this is a form of voyeurism ; thus the harsh sentence .
    It is similar to being a peeping Tom !
    Hence the not lenient sentence .
  2. 4 Jonni 20 May
    Rabbis are flesh and blood like everyone else and we shouldn't be surprised if they act contra bonos mores.
    As the Yiddish saying goes " Ten Shoemakers constitute a Minyan, nine rabbonim Do NOT "

    We should also remember the saying " The Rebbe Meg "
  3. 3 harold 21 May
    " Hence the not lenient sentence " is grammatically incorrect !!
  4. 2 David 22 May
    Can a Rabbi be 'defrocked'  ?  If not, it would be a great pity -- the congregation should ensure that he never be allowed near female congregants in the future.
     The man has no shame and was teaching 'Ethics, of all subjects, when he was illegally instructing  'Practice Dunks' - He should never be in this position again
  5. 1 Shimon Z. Klein 31 May
    He can be defined as an "Orthococks" Rabbi.

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