D.C. Student Sues Synagogue for Turning Blind Eye to Alleged Peeping Rabbi

An unnamed Georgetown Law student is suing Rabbi Barry Freundel, his Washington synagogue, the adjacent mikvah and her own law school for the rabbi's mikvah voyeurism.

JTA
JTA
 Rabbi Barry Freundel.
Rabbi Barry Freundel.Credit: Towson University / JTA
JTA
JTA

A third-year student at Georgetown University’s law school is suing Rabbi Barry Freundel, his Washington synagogue, the adjacent mikvah and her own law school for allowing Freundel’s alleged misdeeds to go unchecked.

The unidentified student’s suit was filed Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court by attorney Steven Silverman of Baltimore. She said she was lured to the mikvah by Freundel, who was arrested Oct. 14 on voyeurism charges for allegedly installing a secret camera in the ritual bath.

"This case involves an unfathomable breach of trust by a Georgetown professor and religious leader and defendants’ utter failure to prevent and/or stop it," the lawsuit says, according to The Washington Post. "Defendants turned a blind eye to obvious signs of Freundel’s increasingly bizarre behavior, ignoring the bright red flags that Freundel was acting inappropriately with women subjected to his authority."

The student, who is Jewish, said she visited the mikvah twice while researching a paper for a class at the law school taught by Freundel and believes the rabbi watched her disrobe at the ritual bath.

The paper, "The Mikvah: Expanding the Ritual for Jewish Women," received an A grade from Freundel, the lawsuit says. The rabbi co-taught a law seminar at Georgetown as recently as this spring, according to the university.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status and does not identify the plaintiff by name, according to the Post.

On Sunday, Kesher Israel, the synagogue led by Freundel, announced that it had fired the rabbi, who had been on unpaid suspension since his arrest.

The lawsuit charges that Kesher Israel was aware of inappropriate behavior by the rabbi, including his treatment of women, but did nothing about it other than convey concerns to the Rabbinical Council of America. Similarly, the lawsuit accused Georgetown of "willful blindness" because it "undertook no investigation into Freundel’s background prior to hiring him," according to the report in the Post.

Also named in the suit was the National Capital Mikvah, where the alleged peeping took place.

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