Mikvah-peeping Rabbi Barry Freundel’s jail sentence cut for good behavior

DC Modern Orthodox rabbi has over a year reduced from term; mix-up indicated he’d go free in 4 months, but release date is actually in August 2020

Rabbi Barry Freundel exiting the courthouse after entering his guilty plea, February 19, 2015. (JTA/Dmitriy Shapiro/Washington Jewish Week)
Rabbi Barry Freundel exiting the courthouse after entering his guilty plea, February 19, 2015. (JTA/Dmitriy Shapiro/Washington Jewish Week)

JTA — The jail sentence of Rabbi Barry Freundel, a once-prominent Modern Orthodox rabbi in Washington, D.C. who secretly filmed women in his synagogue’s mikvah, has been shortened by over a year due to good behavior, his lawyer said.

Freundel’s 6 1/2-year sentence also was reduced because he participated as an instructor in a program to educate other inmates, the attorney, Jeffrey Harris, told JTA on Thursday.

A day earlier, the D.C. Department of Corrections had sent an email to Freundel’s victims saying the rabbi would be released on Aug. 21. On Thursday, however, the department sent another email saying that Freundel will be released on Aug. 21, 2020. Director Quincy Booth told JTA in a statement that the original email was sent in error.

“In the case of Mr. Freundal [sic], the email incorrectly calculated his scheduled release date and sent the email to Mr. Freundal’s victims who signed up for the VINE service,” Booth said, referring to the department’s automated notification system. “DOC has corrected the error that caused the incorrect release calculation and email notification.”

Booth said the department offered “our most sincere apologies to the victims” for the mistake and, in response, it was conducting a review of its record management process.

Bethany Mandel, one of the women Freundel had filmed, said the ordeal had been “pretty frustrating.”

“The whole thing just threw us into an upheaval, making us prematurely consider the possibility of seeing him around and having him be an actual person that we might see in a restaurant,” she told JTA on the phone. “I don’t think any of us really put any thought of it until this week, for better or for worse now it’s something to consider. 2020 isn’t that far away.”

Another victim, Lauren Landau, posted a screenshot of the first automated email.

“Barry Freundel was supposed to get out in 2021. … So anyway, how’s your Wednesday going,” she tweeted.

She also tweeted: “The nice thing about knowing your abuser is in jail, is every time you *think* you see him, you can shake it off. That peace of mind ends when his sentence does.”

Freundel, 66, who began serving his sentence in May 2015, was sentenced to jail after pleading guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism, a charge that carries up to a year’s incarceration. The sentencing judge ordered Freundel to serve 45 days on each count, with the sentences to be served consecutively.

Prior to his arrest in 2014, Freundel was the longtime rabbi of Kesher Israel in the Georgetown section of Washington and an active member of the Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox rabbinic group.

Freundel is believed to have violated the privacy of at least 150 women, whom he filmed while they undressed and showered at the mikvah, or ritual bath, including members of his synagogue, candidates for conversion to Judaism and students at Towson University in Maryland, where Freundel taught classes on religion and ethics.

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