By Suzanne Pollak and Dmitriy Shapiro
No evidence was presented during a brief hearing Jan. 16 for Rabbi Barry Freundel, the former spiritual leader at Kesher Israel Congregation in Georgetown who is charged with six counts of misdemeanor voyeurism for allegedly videotaping women as they undressed in preparation to use the mikvah at The National Capital Mikvah.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office requested and was granted an additional month to review the photographs and other information it has gathered from Freundel’s home, synagogue and Towson University office.
Freundel’s next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 19.
The government has begun contacting the women who submitted their photographs believing they may have been recorded by a camera Freundel allegedly hid in a clock radio. Jan. 31 is the deadline for possible victims to send in their photographs, along with dates when they used the mikvah, if that is known. The photographs should be sent to [email protected]
At last week’s hearing in Superior Court of the District of Columbia, about 10 people carried signs that read #NoPleaDeal and #SafeMikvah.
“I’m standing in solidarity with the victims and with anyone pursuing conversion who’s being exploited,” said group organizer Carly Pildis. She said she was not disappointed that the court took no action Friday. “It’s very likely that there are victims that do not know this has happened and need to be informed. We can’t proceed until we know how many victims are out there, how many charges and what exactly happened.”
Fellow protestor Elisheva, who refused to give her last name, said she had done a practice dunk while Freundel guided her during her conversion studies. Since learning of Freundel’s arrest, she has been searching for “the right rabbi” to continue the process.
“[T]here were hundreds of women affected by this and I just … I mean, it was just shocking,” she said, adding that she believes Freundel should be charged in more than just six instances. ■
Suzanne Pollak is a senior writer and Dmitriy Shapiro is political writer at WJW.