Elite US rabbi 'had mikveh peep camera'


Jewish Washington DC was in shock last week as news spread about the arrest of Rabbi Barry Freundel.

On October 14, the 62-year-old leader of Washington DC's "power shul" - so known because it is the place where Orthodox Jewish lawmakers and powerbrokers daven - was handcuffed and led away from his home where he lives with his wife and children.

Police took computers to investigate him on charges of voyeurism - specifically of placing cameras in the changing room of the synagogue's mikveh.

The rabbi's synagogue, Kesher Israel, is barely four miles from Capitol Hill and has close links to the US political establishment. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew and former senator Joe Lieberman are both known to attend the shul when they are in Washington DC for shabbat or yomtov.

According to police reports, a 35-year-old woman caught Mr Freundel adjusting a camera hidden in a clock radio on September 28. He reportedly claimed he had been in the changing room to fix the ventilation.

The clock was removed but reappeared on October 12, at which point the woman "grew suspicious and removed it".

An affidavit submitted to the court states that she found "what appeared to be a video camera" inside the clock, with a data storage card, at which point she called the police.

The charges levelled at Mr Freundel - who has been rabbi of Kesher Israel for 25 years - refer not only to this woman, but to recordings of six others found on the device.

The Washington Post reported that police had discovered that the device had more than "100 deleted files dating back to February. Some of the files were labelled with women's first names."

Kesher Israel and the Rabbinical Council of America - the professional body for Orthodox rabbis - both suspended him on October 15, despite his plea of not guilty. Mr Freundel had been head of the RCA's conversion committee and was deeply involved in the conversion classes at his synagogue. Since he was intimately acquainted with their mikveh schedules, women involved in those classes are likely to be among those who were allegedly filmed.

Kesher Israel's president Elanit Jakabovics said: "There are no words to describe the shock, devastation and heartbreak we are feeling."

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