All he wanted was to see women naked. Lots of men are like that. Hence the tsunami of internet porn. The difference is, he was a Rabbi, and instead of watching anonymous women who enjoy showing off their bodies, he was secretly taping his married congregants, candidates for conversion, and young college students as they showered and purified themselves in his synagogue’s ritual bath, many doing so at his demand as their religious mentor as they struggled to complete their conversion.
Much has been written and much said about the Barry Freundel scandal. Freundel, who was rabbi of Kesher Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C. from 1989 until 2014, a member of the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America handed the responsibility for conversion guidelines nationwide, and a professor of comparative religion, pleaded guilty to 53 counts of voyeurism in a Federal Court last year. Another hundred victims were outside the statute of limitations.
He didn’t dispute putting cameras in a tissue box and in a radio clock in his synagogue’s mikveh. He didn’t dispute making and keeping tapes of women he knew as they prepared themselves for immersion–which anyone who has ever been to a mikveh knows involves very intimates cleansing rituals. He didn’t deny that he encouraged converts to take long showers and practice “dunks”, a ritual he invented which was convenient for the pursuit of his perversion. He also didn’t admit sorrow or remorse at doing any of these things either until today, the very day he was sentenced. The judge sentenced him to 6.5 years, or about 45 days per victim. What? Forty-five days for ruining a woman’s life, her peace of mind, her religious practice!!
I find that sentence outrageous in its leniency, and so should every other woman and lover of justice.
What punishment would be fair and proportionate to the crimes committed by a man who betrayed all that is holy, sacred, important to his faith, his congregants, the entire spectrum of people with whom he interacted for years?
According to his lawyers, a little community service. After all, they claim, he’s suffered enough already. I mean, the humiliation. Being fired. Being revealed as a major scum bag, isn’t that enough? Besides, as his lawyers point out, he is a FIRST TIME OFFENDER.
Let’s ponder that statement, shall we? The man was caught after YEARS of taping women, which he kept on labeled tapes (how many times did he watch them? Was each time a new violation?) He admits to taping 53 women, with another HUNDRED tapings outside the statute of limitations. What, the earlier crimes just get erased? So, isn’t that 153 crimes? Does a person who commits hundreds of crimes before being caught get to cry “first time offender?” Should he get credit for getting caught and not being able to continue? Should he get a wholesale discount on his punishment because there are so many, many victims?
Let’s talk about Barry Freundel’s alleged “suffering.” He was outed. He taped one woman too many. They took away his cameras, and his tapes. As for his job, his unearned respect, his abused positions of power in the religious world, those he threw away himself with both hands when he filmed unknowing women, including extramarital partners. As for the embarrassment of being in front of television cameras, in shackles at his hearing and arrest, every criminal alive can claim the same. So maybe we should open up the prison doors? They’ve all “suffered enough.”
Prosecuting attorneys asked the judge for 17 years behind bars for Freundel.
Some thought that excessive. But was it?
How much time behind bars does a person deserve for secretly videotaping a strange woman in the shower and watching it without her permission? Now let’s say the woman was known to the taper, and was only in the shower because he demanded it and was in a position to harm her if she refused. Does a year in jail sound excessive to you? A year, for all the pain and suffering caused the victim which will be with her for entire life. For her pain, humiliation, violation, disgust, betrayal of trust, victimization. Does a year sound harsh? Sounds like a slap on the wrist to me.
So let’s multiply that by the number of women Freundel betrayed. Let’s work this out together as reasonable people, shall we? One hundred and fifty-three victims. Let’s be charitable and say he watched the tapes only twice. So that’s already over 300 crimes.
Seventeen years is a joke. Six and half years is an insult.
I have my own suggestion to Washington D.A.’s office about appealing Freundel’s sentence. As an Orthodox Jewish woman who used the mikveh for over thirty years, I think I have a more balanced perspective than either Freundel’s judge, or the prosecuting attorneys, who, for all their admirable desire to see justice done, just don’t get it.
What Freundel did is not the same as your average voyeur. He was a RABBI! It’s like a doctor asking you to undress and then putting your naked photos on his computer. It’s like a therapist who listens to your therapy sessions for a turn-on. It’s like your husband secretly setting up cameras all over the bedroom and then sharing the pictures on Facebook. It is perfidy, betrayal by one close to you, a person you are supposed to be able to trust. Freundel gave his victims, who were dependent on him, especially the potential converts, INSTRUCTIONS on what to do, making believe it was for holy religious reasons, when it was really to heighten his sexual pleasure.
In a just world, before being put away for life with other criminals, Barry Freundel would be forced to face his victims, one by one. I’d like to see him walk through a line of them on either side. They’d be allowed to say anything they want to him, or throw a tomato, or a rock, at his head. Then he’d have to pass through a line of his entire congregation, his rabbinical colleagues, university administrators and fellow teachers, students. They too would get their chance to express themselves.
And then he would be carted away, leaving behind a vast, disgusting stain on the Jewish people and the Jewish religion. And he wouldn’t be serving four years (a third off for good behavior), he’d be serving seventy years, so that he’d get out “for good behavior” just when his victims were finished with using the mikveh forever, because from now on instead of a holy ritual of purification, it will be forever tainted as the pervert’s playground for countless victims.
If you agree, send your request to the District Attorney’s office urging them to appeal the leniency of Freundel’s sentence. Add your own reasons for your disgust at this unfair sentence. The e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.