We have been following the bizarre case of the once leading national Orthodox rabbi and powerful local figure, Barry Freundel. Freundel (shown above from a YouTube clip), is now criminally charged with using a secret camera to film Jewish women engaged in the ritual bath known as a Mikva. There is now another front in the battles for Freudel’s future. He has refused to move out of a house owned by his former synagogue and will face proceedings in a jewish court or beth din.
He is viewed as one of the leading experts on Jewish law and ethics and “an intellectual giant” in the Jewish intellectual circles. Freundel headed 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. He was part of a power couple within the Jewish community with 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. Sharon Freundel was in the courtroom with one of their three children for his arraignment but has since filed for divorce.
Freundel appears more helpful on divorce than on eviction. He has reportedly agreed to give his wife a “get” to allow her to divorce him under the Orthodox tradition. We have previously discussed how Orthodox men will sometimes refuse a get and keep their wives involuntarily in marriage. His wife certainly has good reason to seek a divorce, but the divorce could create another battle. The alleged victims could ask for restitution and a divorce can be used to try to shelter money in the estate from restitution orders. With a divorce filed, Sharon Freundel could claim that half of the estate is hers by priority claim while the victims could argue that they are given such a priority claim. Indeed, they could argue that the divorce is an effort to deny access to estate money for restitution or damages.
Kesher Israel synagogue members and their president, Elanit Jakabovics appear in a standoff. The synagogue includes many powerful Washington figures like Senate Joe Lieberman. Freundel was told to get out by January 1st but he has refused. The Kesher side told the Washington Post that they tried to reason with Freundel but that “they made unreasonable demands, and we walked away.” This could itself lead to some interesting litigation if Freundel tries to use the pro-tenant laws of the city rather than submit to the beth din. That creates a contractual question that could end up in secular court. Such cases often appear curious but they are not secular courts enforcing religious law as much as enforcing a contract.
Source: Washington Post