‘Peeping Tom’ rabbi pleads guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism
WASHINGTON — The Georgetown rabbi charged with videotaping naked women as they used his synagogue’s ritual bath pleaded guilty Thursday (Feb. 19) to 52 counts of voyeurism.
The counts correspond to the 52 women who prosecutors said had been spied on by Freundel with a hidden camera during the three years for which the statute of limitations applies.
The rabbi’s sentencing hearing in D.C. Superior Court is scheduled for May 15.
“As we seek to move forward and heal as a community, we await the judge’s decision on sentencing,” the board of Kesher Israel, where Freundel had been rabbi for 25 years, said in a statement after his plea. “The scope and duration of these horrible crimes are still hard to completely comprehend.”
Freundel’s arrest in October rocked Washington’s Jewish community, where he enjoyed a reputation as a respected scholar and an advocate for converts. His former synagogue, Kesher Israel, is a Washington landmark attended by Washington luminaries such as Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.
Observant Jews use a ritual bath, called a mikvah, for conversions and sometimes before the High Holy Days or Sabbath. But it is most often used by married Jewish women, seven days after the end of the menstrual period, to mark a transition to a state of purity, where conception is more likely.
Kesher Israel staff alerted police after finding a camera hidden in a clock radio in the area where women would prepare to enter the mikvah.
The board of the synagogue informed Freundel in late November that his contract was terminated.
“Despite this great betrayal by Rabbi Freundel and our communal pain, we have seen a community that has come together and whose members have leaned on one another for support,” the synagogue board’s Thursday statement read.