When the District of Columbia Department of Corrections mistakenly sent out emails last week alerting the public that convicted voyeur Rabbi Barry Freundel would be released on August 21, many in the Washington Jewish community were forced to face an uncomfortable reality.
The day is not far off when his victims must face the reality of their assailant being a free man in a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community, said Elanit Jakabovics, president of Kesher Israel, the Georgetown synagogue that Freundel led until his arrest in 2015.
“There are questions in people’s minds of where is he going to go,” she said. “Is he going to go to shul? If he stays in the area will be people have to worry about bumping into him at a kosher restaurant or a Nationals game? We’re going to have to face it.”
The Department of Corrections followed its incorrect email the next day with a second email day with the correct release date — Aug. 21, 2020.
Department of Corrections Director Quincy Booth apologized for the error in a statement and said it occurred because of a miscalculation of the release date.
“This error compromised that trust and we offer our most sincere apologies to the victims,” he wrote. “The Department is initiating a full review of its internal records management processes to determine how this error occurred and prevent it from happening again.”
Freundel’s release, however, could be earlier than 2020, because of “good time” credits he has been receiving for good behavior in jail. His original sentence of 6.5 years has already been shortened to five for this reason, said his attorney. Jeffrey Harris.
Harris said in January he received an email stating Freundel’s release would be in November 2020. In subsequent emails, the release date was moved up to October 2020 and then September 2020.
Jakabovics said members of her congregation were “shocked and surprised” during last week’s debacle. She said she recognized that others may not have moved on yet.
“Everyone reacts in their own way, and I would assume those who were victims reacted in a stronger way, because they had assumed they did not have to think about him for a few years,” she said.
Kesher Israel, Jakabovics said, has largely moved on from Freundel, having welcomed their new rabbi, Hyim Shafner, last year. She said she does not know how the congregation will handle Freundel’s release.
“We have a new rabbi, and a growing community and a growing shul,” she said. “When the time comes for him to be released we’ll be more entrenched in this new reality.”