Georgetown Rabbi Barry Freundel Charged with Voyeurism

UPDATED 12:15 p.m., Oct. 22.

Rabbi Barry Freundel of Kesher Israel Congregation was arrested at his O Street home in the early hours of Tuesday, Oct. 14 and charged with six charges of misdemeanor voyeurism by the Metropolitan Police Department.

Prosecutors say that video retrieved from Freundel’s computer and hard drive substantiates the voyeurism allegations.

According to prosecutors, Freundel used a camera hidden in a clock radio he placed in the women’s bathroom near the synagogue’s mikvah – an Orthodox-required ritual bath used for conversion – to spy on female congregants bathing themselves. Victim Leah Sugarman of Silver Spring told the Washington Post that Freundel, who acted as a rabbi-guide for her conversion, pressured her to bath more frequently in the mikvah to speed up the process. Other young female converts complained to Kesher’s leadership that Freundel was commenting on their looks in an inappropriate way.

Kesher Israel’s board of directors, which immediately suspended Freundel, issued this statement: “This is a painful moment for Kesher Israel Congregation and the entire Jewish community . . . 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.” The synagogue removed information about its rabbi soon after Freundel’s arrest.

On Oct. 20, the Rabbinical Council of America said it had received similar complaints, and some that were more salacious (one detailed that Freundel co-signed a checking account with a woman who was not his wife), that went back to 2012. He was involved in the council, leading its group on protocol for conversions. While the council reprimanded him, he was not removed from the position and “made assurances these behaviors would discontinue.”

Freundel was the leader of Kesher Israel, a modern Orthodox synagogue, at 2801 N St. NW, five blocks from his home. Since 1987, Freundel has been with the synagogue, which counts among its members former Sen. Joe Lieberman and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

Neighbors of Freundel on O Street like Carol Joynt reported on social media that the arrest took place. “Interesting goings on across the street,” wrote Joynt. “Neighbor hauled off in cuffs. Detectives swarming, hauling out hard drives. Police cars here and there. Ah, Georgetown.”

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