Until last year the highest-ranking rabbi in the country on the question of who can be considered an Orthodox Jew in America, Freundel maintained a set of practices with converts that sources alternately described as “creepy,” “weird,” “inappropriate,” and, in the words of one rabbi, “treating his candidates for conversion like personal servants” and “an enormous ethical violation” in the words of another. One convert accused Freundel of an attempt at “extortion.”
Above: Rabbi Barry Freundel
Writing in the Daily Beast, The Jewish Channel's Steven I. Weiss reports that Rabbi Barry Freundel took a cross country trip in a private sleeper car with a woman who was in the process of converting to Judaism and who is not his wife.
Freundel headed the Rabbinical Council of America's committee of conversion standards and practices – the committee that rewrote those standards to make them tougher to accommodate demands from the haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
As you already know, Freundel was arrested Tuesday on voyeurism charges. He allegedly placed hidden cameras in Washington, DC's women's mikvah and recorded naked women preparing to immerse in the mikvah. Some of those women were apparently immersing as a part of their conversion.
But as Weiss reported on the Jewish Channel's website as part of a long investigation into Freundel, Freundel was an old hand at recording naked women immersing:
The rabbi arrested Tuesday on charges of voyeurism was recording women in the ritual bath of his synagogue going back to at least 2012, according to a woman who spoke with law enforcement Wednesday — in a practice that appears to be widespread and particularly focused on candidates for conversion. In a multi-part investigation conducted over more than a year by The Jewish Channel, at least six women told TJC of the process they underwent for conversion training with Rabbi Barry Freundel, pointing to several anomalies in his training methods — including an effort to get them alone in the ritual bath prior to conversion, in a practice they referred to as “practice dunking.”
Until last year the highest-ranking rabbi in the country on the question of who can be considered an Orthodox Jew in America, Freundel maintained a set of practices with converts that sources alternately described as “creepy,” “weird,” “inappropriate,” and, in the words of one rabbi, “treating his candidates for conversion like personal servants” and “an enormous ethical violation” in the words of another. One convert accused Freundel of an attempt at “extortion.”…
Emma Shulevitz shared her story with detectives and prosecutors Wednesday morning after realizing that details of her practice dunking were relevant to the criminal investigation. While she was undergoing Freundel’s conversion training in October of 2012, Shulevitz told TJC in a phone call, “Freundel had called me the night before, this was after five months of being in the conversion process with him…he called to say, ‘can you do a practice dunk in the mikvah tomorrow.” Shulevitz described the process that followed, in which when she actually undressed and entered the ritual bath, Freundel “waited in the waiting rooms,” where she thought he could not see her. But prior to that time, while she was dressed, “he went into the bathroom with me.” In the bathroom, Shulevitz saw an alarm clock and “I thought it was a little bit weird to have an alarm clock in the mikvah.” It has been widely reported that law enforcement alleges Freundel used a special alarm clock with a hidden camera to capture images of nude women preparing to enter the ritual bath.
“I put my water bottle for drinking on the counter in front of that clock, and he said, ‘oh, don’t do that, don’t put that on the counter,” Shulevitz said. Having never been to a mikvah before, Shulevitz didn’t know if Freundel’s requests were regular practice. Since then, however, “I’ve been to other mikvahs and no one tells you what you can put where.”
At least five other women have told The Jewish Channel that they were similarly asked to do a practice dunk in the years between 2008 and 2012, and that they complied.…
And on top of all this, the Washington City Paper reports that Freundel had over 100 files that were erased from the hidden camera's memory card, and some of those files had been labeled with women's names:
…In a newly released affidavit and search warrant for the synagogue and Freundel's home, the Metropolitan Police Department says it found that the recording device had more than 100 deleted files in it dating back to February. Some of the files are labeled under the first names of the women. In the preliminary investigation, "numerous" other women, according to the affidavit, told officials they believe they were also recorded changing in the shower area or mikveh room itself.
The acts of voyeurism were likely not limited to the mikveh area, and police say in the documents that evidence shows Freundel has been engaging in the activity with "several devices and over a period of time." Police seized a similar recording device from Freundel's home and found a manual for another hidden camera disguised as a fan.
At his house, police also seized 20 memory cards, seven laptops, six external hard drives, 11 flash drives, three cameras, and five desktop computers.…