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 new details in the case and they are shocking even in this notorious case. Freundel is now accused of photographing more than 150 women in the ritual bath.
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. Some members of the Kesher Israel synagogue called Freundel intimidating and dismissive as a Rabbi.
The prosecutors proceeded on the basis of six women but indicated that they believed that there were more alleged victims. It appears that there might be a lot more. The question is whether the Kesher Israel synagogue might be liable to such a large number of women given the complaints about Freundel in the past though those complaints appear to be more about his treatment of people at Kesher generally. If there were an action against the synagogue, it could be devastating in terms of damages and restitution claims. Torts claims could be based not only as respondent superior (which would be challenged on the basis that this is a crime, concealed from the congregation, and outside the scope of his duties) but also on the failure to supervise their employee and secure the area for the ritual bathing.