Israeli rabbinate won’t invalidate Washington rabbi’s conversions

Uncertainty over converts to Judaism dispelled amid charges of voyeurism against Barry Freundel

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Rabbi Barry Freundel, former spiritual leader of Kesher Israel (YouTube/Kesher Israel, screen capture)
Rabbi Barry Freundel, former spiritual leader of Kesher Israel (YouTube/Kesher Israel, screen capture)

The Israeli Chief Rabbinate declared on Tuesday that it will not question past conversions to Judaism performed by arrested US rabbi Barry Freundel and that it is satisfied they are valid, a view already adopted by US rabbinical leaders.

However, the rabbinate warned that it will not recognize any future conversions to Judaism that are done under the auspices of Freundel, who was detained last week on charges of voyeurism.

“The Chief Rabbinate of Israel clarifies that the matter of Rabbi Freundel has no bearing on the policy of recognizing conversions that he has done in the past,” a rabbinate statement said. “The rabbinate notifies that from now on it will immediately stop recognizing future conversions carried out by Rabbi Freundel until further notice.”

Freundel, rabbi of Washington’s prominent Kesher Israel Congregation, was arrested last Tuesday at his home.

He was charged with voyeurism after a witness allegedly saw him installing a clock radio with a hidden camera in the women’s showers of the congregation’s mikvah, a ritual bathing pool.

On Monday, the Rabbinical Council of America announced that all of Freundel’s conversions were to be considered valid. The same day, the Israeli rabbinate raised concerns when it indicated it was reviewing the matter.

“I’m pleased to see that the rabbinate clarified the matter and acted relatively quickly in order to alleviate any further suffering on the part of Rabbi Freundel’s victims,” said Rabbi Seth Farber, director of the ITIM Jewish Life Advocacy Center, which lobbied the Israeli rabbinate to recognize the conversions.

JTA contributed to this report.

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