Prosecutors push for 17-year sentence for mikvah-peeping rabbi


(JTA) — Prosecutors asked a Superior Court judge in Washington to sentence Rabbi Barry Freundel to 17 years in prison for videotaping dozens of nude women at a ritual bath.

Freundel, the former spiritual leader of a prominent Washington Orthodox synagogue, pleaded guilty in February to 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism. He is due to be sentenced on May 15.

In addition to prison time, Freundel could be ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

The rabbi, now 64, was arrested last October and charged with six counts of voyeurism after investigators found hidden cameras in the National Capital Mikvah’s shower room and in his home. He was fired from Kesher Israel, the congregation he had led for 25 years and which abuts the ritual bath, or mikvah, soon after his arrest.

Bethany Mandel, who converted to Judaism under Freundel and has been outspoken about problems with Orthodox conversion oversight, told the Washington Post that the rabbi’s prison sentence should send a message to other would-be offenders.

“If Mr. Freundel is given a lenient sentence despite the overwhelming amount of evidence presented here, it sends the message to Jewish victims of other sex crimes that it’s not worth coming forward in the future,” Mandel said.

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