“He Violated the Laws Up in the Heavens and Down”: Leading Washington Rabbi Charged As Peeping Tom In Ritual Mikva Baths

Freundel-e1413317892667The Washington Jewish community has been rocked by allegations against leading Rabbi Barry Freundel of the Kesher Israel Congregation in Georgetown. Freundel is accused of using a secret camera to film Jewish woman engaged in the ritual bath known as a Mikva.


Freundel (shown above from a YouTube clip), is now criminally charged. He is viewed as one of the leading experts on Jewish law and ethics and “an intellectual giant” in the Jewish intellectual circles. Freundel heads the conversion committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and is vice president of the region’s Vaad, overseeing kosher dietary laws at Jewish institutions. He has a law degree and a doctorate and is affiliated with several area universities, including Georgetown University’s law school, the University of Maryland and Towson University, north of the Baltimore.

Ironically, the synagogue is part of Judaism’s modern Orthodox movement that has tried to accommodate the rise of women in leadership. His wife, Sharon Freundel is the leader of Kesher’s monthly women’s study and prayer group as well as the director of Hebrew and Judaic studies at the Jewish Primary Day School. She was in the courtroom with one of their three children for the arraignment.

220px-joe_lieberman_official_portrait_2His congregation includes U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and longtime U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman.

One alleged victim, Emma Shulevitz, 27, said that she was warned by Freundel not to move the digital clock setting on a sink — a curious concern but she said that Freundel was worried that it would be moved in any way. She said that Freundel said that Shulevitz should not hesitate to “take as many practice dunks as I needed.” However, a convert to Judaism, Shulevitz was not concerned until she read that congregants had accused Shulevitz of having a hidden camera in the clock.

The Mikva requires women to be naked and fully submerge under the water while reciting a blessing: “…asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu al hatevilah, ….who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us on immersion.” Only one attending woman can be present who by Jewish law is charged with making sure that the woman is totally submerged.

Prosecutors say that a witness contacted police when Freundel was seen plugging in the clock in the shower area of the ritual bath. The witness said that Freundel said it was for ventilation. They identify the clock radio as the “Dream Machine” with a motion activated camera as well as a storage component. It is described as a “self-contained surveillance device.”

Freundel is charged with six counts of voyeurism and faces up to six years in prison. My guess is that we will see a superseding indictment with more charges to try to force a plea deal, which would seem likely. The greatest risk for his defense is that the prosecutors are still looking into whether some of the pictures showed girls. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon Marcus Kurn stressed that “He violated the laws up in the heavens and down.”

The synagogue posted the following statement:

This is a painful moment for Kesher Israel Congregation and the entire Jewish community. At this challenging time, we draw strength from our faith, our tradition, and our fellow congregants.

Upon receiving information regarding potentially inappropriate activity, the Board of Directors quickly alerted the appropriate officials.

Throughout the investigation, we cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so.

After today’s arrest of Rabbi Dr. Barry Freundel, the Board of Directors suspended him without pay. As always, Kesher Israel will remain open as a place of learning, prayer, and community, including throughout the remainder of the Sukkot holiday.

This is a very difficult time for all of us. We respectfully request that our community be granted privacy. Any further questions should be directed to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Source: Washington Post

404 thoughts on ““He Violated the Laws Up in the Heavens and Down”: Leading Washington Rabbi Charged As Peeping Tom In Ritual Mikva Baths”

  1. Forgot to add, the fundamentalist atheist is in the same boat as the fundamentalist muslim, each courses the quran and picks the verses that suggest violence, one to poke an eye out with it, and the other to cut a head off with it.

  2. mespo727272
    Po:

    I see: if the plain meaning of scores of passages disputes your easily refutable point, it’s out of context. If you can find a solitary passage to support your position in the face of scores of others that is the only one to be believed. It’s the classic, “I understand but you can’t possibly do so fallacy.” In other words, my interpretation is better than yours because it’s mine
    ————————————————————————————
    Come on, mespo, what am saying is quite clear to the intellectually honest! There is no difference between my saying “mespo, i’ll kick you bums whenever i find you”, and 1- ” if you don’t stop making fun of me mespo”, 2- i’ll kick you bums whenever i find you”, 3- “unless you apologize and stop making fun of me”?
    One is an independent threat unattached to any circumstances or preceding actions, no causality whatsoever, the other is preceded by a causality sentence, “if” and followed by an alternative to the action to be taken.
    “If they do not let you practice your religion in peace and do not stop killing you simply for believing, then fight/kill them wherever you find them, until they stop oppressing you.” Quite clear!
    Now, if you quote either one of those parts without the others, you are being intellectually dishonest. It is as if the law said, you have the right to shoot anyone on your property, and did not add if they threaten you. Without the qualifying part, the sentence is out of context.

  3. Too many comments spoil the bath. Or is it “condiments” spoiling the
    “broth”?

    Far left wacko is a left handed pitcher for the Cardinals named Wacko.

  4. DBQ, Maybe we have Mrs. Norm Crosby in our midst? Or, Professor Irwin Corey’s daughter. In real life, Corey was a far left wacko.

  5. Whoa, looks like another installment of “Mean Girls” is about to commence, see ya later. Good luck Linda.

  6. I did read the last one and I chose my word carefully. No I meant insidious, in this meaning:

    stealthily treacherous or deceitful:
    an insidious enemy.

  7. @DustBunnyQueen

    That was a very good link! After reviewing all the above comments in this thread, I wonder if there is another heretofore undiscovered brain chemical, called dope-amine?

  8. Penelope,

    You made an insidious remark when I inquired in good faith what was awful. Now, I have no intentions of reading what you wrote, therefore I will be unable to respond to you. But thank you for your comment. I am almost certain someone will find it useful.

  9. Docmadison,

    I didn’t put that out there but I was considering that, but it’s really not beneficial to 95% of the American Public. What I find statisticall interning is the highly educated people and people with family money tend to be democratic and also see a reason to take care of those less fortunate.

    My family was hurt economically by Ronald Regean tax reform. The reason being is that all income from government invested bonds was tax free. Today it’s limited, over 42k we have to pay income taxes.

  10. @LindaL

    Numbers can be deceiving. Housing prices (not values) are going up because investors are buying them up to turn around and rent to the people who used to own them. The DOW index is up, but that number is flaky, too. Because the FED is pumping liquidity into the market, the rich folks are using the cheap, low interest money to buy stocks on the margin. As long as somebody will pay more for the stocks than the gambler did, everything is semi-OK, but any sort of larger scale volume of selling exposes the inherent weakness, and then here comes the negative feedback loop, in a big way.

    The unemployment number is a complete joke. There are less people working today than in 2008, and yet the number everybody quotes is down to less than 6%. In the 80’s, when Reagan was President, a lot of S and L executives pulled the same fraudulent stuff as the guys in 2008. I read somewhere over 1000 of them were convicted and went to jail. However, I think not a single banker or crap peddler has gone to jail for the latest round of fraud. In fact, Obama put the same people who caused a lot of this (Geithner, Summers, etc,) right back in charge of the economy.

    In short, there is more income inequality now, then when Obama came into office. As a result the retail businesses are suffering. If the FED slows down the pumping, the whole mess of an economy is going to come tumbling down. Which will probably be a good thing in the long run.

  11. Wonderfully ironic.

    One argument that could damage Linda’s argument is the growth of terrible inequality

    The conservatives don’t want to touch that.

  12. Just because you don’t like him, does not mean you cannot think the way you do. But facts are facts, and wishes, well you know where they get you.

  13. Prove me wrong! Any thing I stated is provable.

    Are housing values increasing?

    Is the stock market better than when Obama took office?

    Did holder go after any banker?

    Are more people not employed?

    1. Linda – we know the amount of real unemployed is still very high. The unemployment rate of black teens is about 25%. This is known as seasonal hiring, so I would not take much stock in it long term. Come Jan 1 they are going to be on the street again. Also a lot of hiring is underemployment. The real unemployment rate is probably around 20%. And there will be an “opps” course correction in the employment figures after the election.

      Prices on homes are dropping here again. They could be going up in your area but they are really soft here. Makes it tough to sell a house. Or buy a house because the owner wants more than it is really worth on today’s market. As someone above has said, most of the home sales in this area are for rentals not for home owners.

      The stock market moves with the wind. It reacted to the Ebola scare.

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