Peeping Rabbi Won’t Leave
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Peeping Rabbi Won’t Leave

Washington D.C. synagogue opens case against Rabbi Barry Freundel after he refuses to vacate synagogue-owned residence.

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers abuses of power in non-profit and religious settings. She heads up the Investigative Journalism Fund, an initiative to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

Rabbi Barry Freundel, accused of peeping at congregants attending the mikvah, is refusing to leave his synagogue-owned rabbinical residence, the Washington Post reports.

Freundel, arrested in October and fired by the synagogue board in late November, had been told he must vacate the property by the synagogue’s board of directors on Nov. 24. He was given until Jan. 1 to vacate the property.

“Kesher’s position is clear: Rabbi Freundel’s contract with Kesher has been terminated, for cause, and he must vacate the residence and return all shul property immediately,” wrote synagogue President Elanit Jakabovics that was sent to Kesher Israel’s members Thursday.

In response to Freundel's refusal to leave, Kesher Israel formally opened a case with the Beit Din of America in New York against Freundel on Wednesday. The Beit Din of America declined to comment.

Freundel's attorney, Jeffrey Harris, responded to a request for comment on Monday. In a brief statement he wrote, "Kesher’s President is only telling you half of the story."

According to Harris, Freundel informed Kesher’s lawyers that the Jan. 1 date was impossible to meet and said he could vacate by March and that he would waive his claim for unpaid salary in return for such an extension. Kesher agreed to March, but wanted Freundel to sign a general release which would include giving up his right to the almost $100,000 in pension funds. Freundel was unwilling to sign the release.

Harris wrote that the "complete" story casts a " decidedly different light on the situation."

The synagogue also is asking for monetary compensation “for his illegal occupancy of the house since January 1 and compensation to cover the costs of this unnecessary arbitration.”

Kesher Israel is holding a town hall meeting Feb. 2 to discuss this and other synagogue matters.

The Washington, D.C. rabbi pled not guilty to criminal charges of voyeurism after videotapes of women showering and changing in the ritual bathing house attached to his synagogue, Kesher Israel, were found in his possession in Oct. 2014.

hannah@jewishweek.org

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