Voyeur Rabbi Case May End In $14M Settlement With Jewish Groups

Posted August 30th, 2018.

As It Appeared On
Townson Patch

Victims of Rabbi Barry Freundel are seeking a multi-million-dollar settlement.

By Elizabeth Janney, Patch Staff

WASHINGTON, DC — The victims of Rabbi Barry Freundel — the former Towson University professor in prison for recording women in a sacred bath in Washington, D.C. — have reportedly reached a $14.25 million settlement. Prosecutors alleged there were at least 150 victims, including former students from both Towson and Georgetown, where Freundel also taught.

When Freundel was convicted of 52 counts of voyeurism and sentenced in May 2016 to serve six-and-a-half years in prison, the law firm representing the victims announced it was seeking $100 million from the religious organizations that employed Freundel, claiming they did not intervene despite warning signs.

The new arrangement of $14.25 million is set to go before a judge on Sept. 7, The Washington Post reported.

In addition to Freundel, the complaint filed by the victims named the following defendants in the case:

  • National Capital Mikvah — Jewish ritual bath where Freundel recorded his victims; the organization is accused of endorsing the rabbi’s ruse of so-called “practice dunks,” something not found in Orthodox Judaism as part of conversion that he used as an excuse to record women students in the nude.
  • Kesher Israel — Georgetown synagogue that employed Freundel for 25 years, where personnel allegedly knew of and discouraged reports about his inappropriate behavior with female congregants.
  • Rabbinical Council of America — organization that gave Freundel power to direct Orthodox practices nationwide regarding religious conversion; the council and Beth Din allegedly knew of inappropriate comments to women and suspected extramarital affairs yet did not investigate them.
  • Beth Din of America — religious court that authorized Freundel to oversee Orthodox conversions; the lawsuit alleges that the court did not correct Freundel’s practice of encouraging women to take “practice dunks” in the bath, which is not Jewish tradition, and did not investigate allegations of misconduct.

The $14.25 million settlement is part of a class action lawsuit for the victims. The organizations would make payments to the victims through an insurance company, according to The Washington Post.

Each woman who had been confirmed to have been videotaped would receive $25,000 as part of the class action settlement, while those who had used the ritual bath, or “mikvah,” between 2005 and 2014, would be eligible for $2,500 each, according to The Washington Post.

Freundel led Kesher Israel synagogue in Georgetown and taught at Georgetown and Towson universities. Inside the National Capital Mikvah, he hid cameras that recorded women in the mikvah, or sacred bath.

Freundel was sentenced in 2015 to six and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to placing a hidden camera in a mikvah, a bath used by Jews for things like conversions, and filming 52 women without their knowledge.

After being charged, he was fired from Kesher Israel, which he had led since 1989.

In addition to working at the synagogue, Freundel taught at Georgetown and Towson universities. He was a professor in the department of philosophy and religious studies at Towson, where university officials reported they were “concerned” once the investigation began. He had taught at Towson as a tenured professor since 2009, according to the Baltimore Jewish Times.

Each university began an independent investigation once Freundel was arrested on charges that he videotaped six women, using a hidden camera in a clock radio, while he was at Kesher Israel Congregation in Georgetown.

When authorities searched Freundel’s office at Towson, they found a backpack containing multiple cameras, according to WJZ. Recording devices were hidden inside items such as a keychain and tissue box, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Lawyers in court Thursday alleged that Freundel used three separate devices to see the women from multiple vantage points in the sacred bath, according to WJLA. Then he saved their images, naming the files after the victims, the news station reported.

Additional reporting by Patch editor Dan Taylor

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