Synagogue, mikvah sued; Freundel fired



Updated Dec. 2 at 5 p.m.

Kesher Israel Congregation’s board of directors announced Nov. 30 that it  terminated Rabbi Barry Freundel’s contract and asked him to move out of his synagogue-owned home by Jan. 1, 2015. In a related matter, the first of what could be many civil lawsuits was filed Tuesday by a Georgetown University law student against the synagogue, National Capital Mikvah and Georgetown University for negligence in the hiring and supervision of Rabbi Freundel.

. Since his arrest for voyeurism, Freundel had been suspended without pay by the Georgetown synagogue. Freundel was arrested Oct. 14 and charged with allegedly filming women as they dressed and undressed to use the National Capital Mikvah. His next court date, a status hearing, is Jan. 16, in D.C. Superior Court.

When announcing the firing, the board called Freundel’s alleged acts “a gross violation of privacy, halakha, and trust. They breached the high moral and ethical standards we set for ourselves and for our leadership. Our collective heart breaks for the consequences, both seen and unseen, of these alleged acts to all the potential victims and our entire community.”

Now that Freundel has been fired, “his relationship with Kesher Israel has permanently ended,” according to a press release.

In a similar announcement, the board of directors of the National Capital Mikvah fired Freundel as its supervising rabbi. He had been suspended since his arrest. A D.C. Superior Court order mandates that he stay away from anyone whose conversion to Judaism Freundel participated in, the synagogue and the mikvah.

In a press release, the National Capital Mikvah board announced, “We strongly condemn Rabbi Freundel’s alleged actions. They breached not only the sanctity of our holy space, but also the trust placed in him by the NCM Board and our community.”

In the civil lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court, a third-year law student who was in a Jewish studies class taught by Freundel alleges that Freundel encouraged her to write her research paper on the mikvah and coerced her to take two practice dunks.

According to one of her attorneys, Steve Kelly, Freundel “assigned her this as part of her official class assignment. She received a grade from Georgetown and she actually got an award from Georgetown for the paper that she ended up writing on the mikvah, which made it all the more tragic.”

The plaintiff, who is listed as Jane Doe in the complaint to protect her privacy,  is seeking unspecified compensatory damages for “humiliation, shame, embarrassment” and other emotional  injuries, as well as lost earnings.

Dmitriy Shapiro contributed to this report.

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