BARRY  FREUNDEL
BARRY
FREUNDEL

Rabbi Barry Freundel, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi for the Georgetown neighborhood’s Kesher Israel congregation who taught at the Georgetown University Law Center and other local universities, was arrested on charges of voyeurism Tuesday.

Freundel allegedly installed a recording device in the women’s mikvah, a private ritual bath, at the Kesher Israel Orthodox synagogue, located at 2801 N St. He pled not guilty to six counts of voyeurism in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday.

Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said the case is still under investigation.

According to GULC spokesperson Elissa Free, Freundel has served as an adjunct law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center since the early 1990s, teaching a seminar on Jewish law, but is not teaching this semester. Free did not specify when Freundel last taught at the university.

According to the MPD police report, a 35-year-old female observed Freundel installing the recording device Sept. 28, which was in the form of a black radio clock called a Dream Machine. Freundel stated that he was using the clock radio for ventilation in the shower. The Washington Post reported that police found recordings of six women on two separate dates in 2014.

Freundel, 62, has been suspended without pay from the synagogue and from his position as the Rav Hamachshir, overseer of the mikvah.

“This is a painful moment for Kesher Israel Congregation and the entire Jewish community. At this challenging time, we draw strength from our faith, our tradition, and our fellow congregants,” the synagogue’s board of directors said in a statement. “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.”

Gabi Rubin (COL ’15), former president and current social chair of the Jewish Students Association, described the mikvah as a private, reflective spiritual experience for both Jewish men and women. Mikvahs are often used by Orthodox Jewish women each month after their menstrual cycles, as well as by converts and by brides and grooms before the wedding.

“It’s a time to look into yourself and to better understand yourself and reflect on your relationship with God,” Rubin said. “It’s a place for ritual reflection and renewal.”

She said that the mikvah is about purity, and that it should never be sexualized.

“It’s a very personal, very individual, entirely non-sexual experience when you are with yourself and looking at yourself as you are. You’re naked, in the way that you would when you bathe, but it’s more of a nakedness of spirit and of body,” she said.

In addition to his role as rabbi and past position as a Georgetown professor, Freundel is also vice president of the Vaad, a council of rabbis, in Washington, D.C., and formerly led the Rabbinical Council of America, a national organization of Orthodox rabbis, in addition to serving as a consultant on ethics to the National Institutes of Health.

The judge ordered that he be released from custody until his hearing Nov. 12.

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