Barry Freundel’s former DC synagogue trying to move past mikvah trauma


By Uriel Heilman
December 28, 2015

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Though it’s been more than a year since Rabbi Barry Freundel was hauled away in handcuffs for installing secret cameras at his synagogue’s mikvah, his crime still casts a shadow over his longtime Orthodox congregation, Kesher Israel.

Three civil lawsuits are pending against Kesher by women who presumably used the ritual bath adjacent to his Washington synagogue and were filmed by the rabbi while undressing (the women are identified as Jane Does in the lawsuits). The congregation, which is struggling financially, has yet to begin a search for Freundel’s permanent replacement. And many congregants are still grappling with a range of complicated feelings related to the betrayal by their rabbinic leader.

“It’s like the person you put on a pedestal urinated on you,” said one longtime congregant who asked not to be named. “I don’t think the effects are done. These effects go through the generations.”

Despite Kesher’s challenges, many community members and leaders say the congregation turned a corner with Freundel’s sentencing in May to 6 1/2 years in prison – 45 days for each of the 52 voyeurism counts.

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