“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. I don’t under trooperyork, it seems to me the economy is doing much better. Housing prices are increasing in value, Wall Street is in much better shape, holder didn’t go after the bankers and people are employed. Except for the bankers, is Obama really that awful?

    p.s. I didn’t vote, So I really didn’t care.

  2. What is awful? As an adjective:

    1.extremely bad; unpleasant; ugly: (awful paintings; an awful job.)
    2.inspiring fear; dreadful; terrible: (an awful noise.)
    3.solemnly impressive; inspiring awe: (the awful majesty of alpine peaks.)
    4.full of awe; (reverential.)
    5.extremely dangerous, risky, injurious, etc.:(That was an awful fall she had.)

  3. Censoring is not basic. It is subjective and subject to contradictions and hypocrisy and injustice.

    One man’s incivility is another man’s self-defense.

  4. Nick is our own Nate Silver with the stats.

    What stats, you ask?


    Just don’t ask him for the studies. There are none.

  5. Deleting a comment for a civility violation is not the same as censoring a comment because you find someone’s political views offensive. Pretty basic stuff here.

  6. I am not sure I do agree with your statement about comments not being censored. The first or second day here, I recall someone saying they deleted numerous comments in violation of the civility rule. If that is in fact true, your statement is without merit and factually untrue.

    But thank you for your suggestion. I will keep that in mind for future postings.

  7. I think this is the statement and I think it’s on topic:

    on 1, October 17, 2014 at 2:16 pmdavidm2575
    mespo wrote: “The real issue is how those dogmatically repressed sexual feelings manifest themselves in real life.”
    Oh boy, here comes the homosexual agenda spin again about repressed sexual feelings. Prove this to be true please. You are simply repeating homosexual propaganda.
    If the allegations are proven true, then the real psychological issue is the constant bombardment of a hedonistic culture upon a man trying to live a disciplined life. Sexual immorality now has the imprimatur of government, so expect more men like him to have moral failings, not because they are sexually repressed, but because they are constantly bombarded by a message that is contrary to sexual morality.

  8. Linda, I think David would be just fine if you ignored everything he said. It does not surprise me you want to censor a person’s comment. This is as strong a First Amendment blog you will find. However, there are plenty of blogs that love to censor comments. This is not one of that ilk.

  9. Then that just shows a lack of ability to fully grasp what one has stated. Then the inflammatory statement should be removed.

    There’s no correlation between mules and asp. However, if you try and state that a mule is promoting the asp agenda, I think someone should back that up with facts. I suppose one could realize that they cannot back up such an absurd statement then they should be able to admit they were wrong.

    I think this is true especially since they state that they have a profound faith. This says to me that I should ignore anything else they state, as fact and reality for some are often allusive.

    1. Linda – which conversation are you referring to? And weren’t you the one complaining about being off topic?

  10. Linda, This is the USA. No one is required to answer any question. There are people here who ask me questions all the time which I ignore.

Comments are closed.