Beliefs

Synagogue: ‘Peeping Tom’ rabbi refuses to leave synagogue residence

Rabbi Barry Freundel during morning prayers at Kesher Israel in Washington D.C., on Sept. 10, 2014. Photo by Lloyd Wolf
Rabbi Barry Freundel during morning prayers at Kesher Israel in Washington D.C., on Sept. 10, 2014. Photo by Lloyd Wolf

Rabbi Barry Freundel during morning prayers at Kesher Israel in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 10, 2014. Photo by Lloyd Wolf

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Georgetown rabbi charged with videotaping naked women as they used his synagogue’s ritual bath is refusing to leave the rabbi’s residence, according to an email sent from the synagogue to congregants Thursday (Jan. 29).

The board of Kesher Israel, where Barry Freundel was rabbi for 25 years, informed him in late November that his contract was terminated and that he had to leave the synagogue’s rabbinic residence by Jan. 1, the email said.

“Unfortunately, that has not happened,” wrote Elanit Jakabovics, president of Kesher Israel’s board. She also wrote that she hoped the matter could be resolved before it came before a board of rabbis. Kesher Israel formally opened a case on the residency matter in rabbinical court Wednesday.

“We were informed in late December that Rabbi Freundel did not have plans to leave the house,” the email continued. “So, we began informal conversations to resolve this issue with Rabbi Freundel and his attorney, but to no avail.”  The rabbi’s residence sits near the synagogue in the city’s Georgetown neighborhood.

Freundel has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Freundel’s October arrest rocked Washington’s Jewish world, where he enjoyed a reputation as a brilliant scholar and an advocate for converts. Kesher Israel is a landmark synagogue attended by Washington luminaries such as Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.

Because Freundel’s contract had required that disputes would be resolved at a rabbinical court, or beit din, Kesher Israel brought the matter to the Beit Din of America, Jakabovics wrote. It is the main rabbinical court of the modern Orthodox movement to which Kesher Israel belongs.

The synagogue is asking for compensation for what it deems Freundel’s illegal occupancy and the costs of arbitration. Freundel’s wife, Sharon, moved out weeks ago.

YS/MG END MARKOE

This story is available for republication.

About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)

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