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Protest The Outrageous Leniency of the Barry Freundel Verdict

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:

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6 comments on “Protest The Outrageous Leniency of the Barry Freundel Verdict”

  1. Scott Sobel

    Emailed this evening:

    To the U.S. Attorney handling the matter of Barry Freundel:

    I write as an Orthodox Jew, as a trial attorney, a former federally certified law enforcement officer (Nat’l Park Service), and a former criminal prosecuter (State of Alaska). [CV attached] From these perspectives, I choose my words as follow carefully:

    According to my reading and understanding, Rabbi Freundel was charged with only 53 misdemeanors – 1 for each victim identified within the statute of limitations. However, hundreds of women he video taped were outside the statute of limitations, and many who were taped within the statute were not positively identified. Nonetheless, they were all victims – whose identities are unknown because many women did not wish to be identified due to the stigma, shame, embarassment, fear of irrational reactions/retribution by spouses and/or community. This number of victims, 53, is merely ‘a drop in the bucket’ in comparison to the full number of his victims.

    Many, many of his victims were video taped more than once – possibly dozens of times. Yet in charging, multiple charges were not made as to any victim.

    Rabbi Freundel was not charged with the crime of trespass for any of the hundreds or thousands of times he trespassed against the property of his employers – entering the premises for unlawful purposes.

    Rabbi Freundel was not charged with criminal fraud, with which he undoubtedly could have been charged.

    All of the foregoing served to minimalize the extent of his crimes as charged. There were not 53 crimes, nor 53 victims: There were thousands of crimes committed against hundreds, if not thousands of victims, over an extended period of years.

    Finally, Rabbi Freundel used his position of a CONFIDENTIAL RELATIONSHIP as a trusted member of the clergy over hundreds of women, and his POSITION OF POWER as the supervisory Rabbi over the conversions of hundreds of other women, with the POWER TO DELAY THE PROCESS and/or DENY THE RIGHT of conversion, to manipulate women to expose themselves in front of his hidden video cameras for his perverted voyeuristic pleasure. SUCH USE OF CONFIDENTIAL RELATIONSHIP and SUPERVISORY POWER SHOULD SUPPORT ENHANCEMENT OF ANY SENTENCES for the crimes charged.

    6.5 years seems a paltry punishment for one who used his power and influence to voyeristically ‘rape’ hundreds of women thousands of times.

    Yours very sincerely,

    G. Scott Sobel, Esq.

  2. Victor

    I agree the sentence does not fit the crime and we can argue over whether it should be be 6.5 years or 65 years. My personal opinion is that although he did not take his victims lives physically. Their lives were in effect destroyed and forever harmed. Therefore, the only adequate punishment would life without parole. However, the unspoken of and very real part of this horror and blemish on our people is the doing of evil in G-d’s name. For this he shall answer to G-d not man. May G-d’s will be done.


      The goal of the criminal justice system is not to incarcirate. Incarceration is only for criminals that should not be in public do to a danger to themselves or others. While his crimes are horrendous incarceration should only be used if he still posed a danger. What would the Torah punishment be? I don’t believe incarceration is warranted in this case. I just don’t see the benefit as his life is over. I highly doubt he would ever be in a position to do this again. What does the Torah say not the rabbis, but gd? That is what matters. Beside as a jew you now have a mitzvah of pidyon shvium. So you should be arguing against incarceration not for.

      • Scott Sobel

        To ckblades: Incaceration has always served multiple purposes. Protection of society is one primary purpose, but punishment/retribution is also a primary purpose of incarceration.

      • Mary Jane

        To ckblades – according to your logic, no Jew should ever go to jail for any crime but should be immediately let go because of “pidyon shvuim”, a category which applies to innocent people taken away to slavery, not to lowlifes who commit real crimes. As for what rabbinical courts would sentence Freundel to, experience shows that they wouldn’t punish him at all but instead cover up the crimes and punish the victims, especially if the complainants are all women. I say lock the pervert up and throw away the key.

      • Victor

        We have a fundamental difference of opinion regarding the criminal justice system. In my view the system’s primary goals are to remove criminals from society who are a danger and mete out punishment. Rehabilitation is an important but secondary goal. Actions must have real and sometimes uncomfortable consequences. Actual punishment does serve as a deterrent. By punishment I don’t mean cruel or sadistic but as humane as possible under the circumstances. Remember this was not a “spur of the moment” one time crime. A loss of position, prestige and communal disgrace is hardly sufficient consequence for the betrayal and hurt inflicted upon the victims. The principle of “pidyon shvium” does not apply as this is not a case of unjust imprisonment. As a Jew and out of concern and love for my fellow man I hope he may eventually earn his victims forgiveness. But, as for society and G-d that is not my call.

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