'Peeping Rabbi' Barry Freundel Appeals 6.5-year Jail Sentence

The D.C. rabbi was found guilty of secretly filming women in his synagogue's mikvah.

Dmitriy Shapiro/JTA

An attorney for Rabbi Barry Freundel argued in a Washington, D.C., appeals court that the rabbi’s prison term for secretly videotaping women in his synagogue’s mikvah was too long.

The attorney argued Tuesday that the six-and-a-half-year sentence handed down last year was illegal, The Associated Press reported. Freundel, a once-prominent modern Orthodox rabbi in Washington, had pleaded guilty.

According to the AP, the court “seemed likely to reject” the attorney’s argument that the sentence should have been limited to one year in prison. The website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia said it “will likely take several weeks to several months after the argument for the Court of Appeals to issue its decision.”

Freundel, 64, began serving his sentence in a Washington jail in May 2015. However, at his request the following month, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia recommended that he be transferred to a federal correctional facility either in Otisville, New York, or Miami.

Before 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 he filmed while they undressed and showered at the mikvah, or ritual bath, including members of his Orthodox synagogue, candidates for conversion to Judaism and students at Towson University in Maryland, where Freundel taught classes on religion and ethics. The rabbi also secretly filmed a domestic violence abuse victim in a safe house he had set up for her.

In September, shortly before the High Holidays, he issued a letter of apology.

“My preference would be to apologize individually to each person I have hurt,” Freundel wrote in his letter, which was first published in the Washington Jewish Week. “However, I recognize that reaching out to convey my regret could cause further harm to some and that such contact would be unwelcome. Therefore, I thought that the only solution would be to apologize publicly.”