"…Freundel has been in solitary confinement for the past 3 months and has our sympathy. We also have sympathy towards the others who are held in solitary confinement. My wife and I are not jumping for joy, nor do we believe that the he is receiving a “a taste of his own medicine.” We must show compassion and widen that circle of compassion. Currently we have united with other Animal Rights activist organizations in our struggle to end solitary confinement in prison systems - for Freundel- and others. We are advocating that Freundel be moved to a facility that will enable him to repent for his crimes without losing his mind. We are hoping that iafter the remaining 6 years and 3 months Freundel leaves jail as a new man- a man who has repented for his crimes- without having lost his mind.…"
Above: Rabbi Barry Freundel
Jeffrey Shulevitz, husband of Emma Shulevitz, a victim of mikvah voyeur Rabbi Barry Freundel, writes:
Opinion: Move Rabbi Barry Freundel Out Of Solitary Confinement And Into Federal Prison
Jeffrey Shulevitz • Special to FailedMessiah.com
Tuesday, October 14, 2014 is a day my wife and I will never forget. On that day, my wife, Emma, discovered that she was a victim of voyeurism by the now-infamous D.C. Rabbi Barry Freundel. A few days prior to this discovery, Emma in the late stages of our pregnancy received a notice from her former employer that she was being terminated from her job. With nowhere to report to work, Emma’s burden became greater. We wanted to bring a child into the world and provide the joy of shalom bayit. Now a respected rabbi we relied on proved he was not worthy of trust. The world became less safe. This unfolding of events occurred during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, a festival accompanied with the obligation of happiness for the observant. I have taken many drama classes throughout the years, but no training could have prepared me for the inner strength required to smile through this series of events. I had to play my part in this stage of uncertainty.
My wife Emma's saga began back in 2012 when she was attending a D.C synagogue on a regular basis. The rabbi at the synagogue was very impressed with Emma. He wanted to convert Emma but regretfully was powerless as there was only 1 to go man- Fruendel- so he recommended Emma to seek him then Rabbi Barry Freundel.
Shortly after the recommendation Emma contacted Freundel. She was quite impressed by him as he had many credentials. Rabbi Freundel immensely popular in the D.C. area held much power and served in many prestigious positions. He was the Rabbi of Kesher in the posh neighborhood of Georgetown. Moreover, Dr. Freundel donned the title of professor at Towson University and the prestigious Georgetown Law. He was the Vice President of the Vaad of Greater Washington, and as such was issuing verdicts on Jewish law matters for Washington D.C and its suburbs. He was the Chairman of the Rabbinical Council of America's conversion committee. Many prominent politicians sought his advice, including former Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman. With Freundel wearing so many hats as a scholar and pulpit speaker, when his day in court arrived, countless souls were shocked to the core. It was through the Jewish conversion process my wife, Emma, was introduced to Rabbi Freundel. Through the trauma of the taping of the mikvah, Jewish ritual immersion, my wife and others are in a position to forgive the unforgivable. These women may heroically let go of their collective hurt and instead of taking offense, they may release the anger, the pain of victimization, and embrace a new chapter in our shared history. Freundel said "jump" and the answer expected was "how high". The conversion canidates were vulnerable. I as someone who grew up orthodox am behooved at the amount of power this "animal" had. I grew up Jewish - have the Jewish nose- no one ever questioned my Jewishness.
Freundel may have handpicked individuals he wanted to serve in his empire. As with a dictator, those whom he perceived as a threat were summarily dismissed. There is one well known story of a Rabbi in the D.C area - I am unable to mention his name - as he is in shock of what took place by the hands of Freundel. The rabbi who lost his job and livelihood due to Freundel. Subsequently, the rabbi moved away from the D.C area. If Freundel was able to destroy the lives of a powerful, well loved rabbi, how much more so was he able to disrupt the lives of ordinary individuals such as my wife and the other victims and their families. On October 14, 2014 the world crumbled for my wife and me.
The media covering Freundel’s voyeurism case cannot overlook his crimes toward the men and women sincere in their journey through the Jewish conversion process. Judaism historically welcomes converts although the road is not always paved with gold.
To revisit a previously told story, a 25 year-old Venezuelan man expressed interest in becoming Jewish. His story resembles the epic tale of Abraham who was told to “Go forth” into the land of Canaan. Here in the United States, the Promised Land, upon successful completion of law school, the young man from Venezuela chose to relocate to Washington, D.C. to convert to Judaism. His parents had observed many Jewish traditions at home, and speculated that they were of Sephardic ancestry and thus Jewish. However, they were unable to authenticate their heritage and therefore he was required to undergo the conversion process. After exhaustive research, he determined that Rabbi Freundel was his first choice. After attending Shacharit services at Kesher, he discussed his intentions of become a Jew with Rabbi Freundel. During their initial meeting, the rabbi advised him to study from a required reading list. This law school graduate did exactly as instructed. Whenever Freundel saw him, the rabbi asked, “Do I know you?” Dejected, the young man understood the custom is to reject the conversion candidate several times. So the difficulty with acceptance seemed to line up with the norm. “But after months of doing that, I saw that something was wrong,” the young J.D. confided in me. In the interim, he realized that if he was going to follow through with his goal to convert, he would have to work with Freundel or find another Bet Din. All of a sudden he had an idea to research Yeshivot. He researched Yeshivot capable of preparing students for Jewish conversion, including sponsorship from a rabbi, a member of a Bet Din. He found the Yeshiva that met all his criteria. He applied and was accepted with the condition that a local rabbi in his city would sponsor him. He returned to D.C and excitedly made an appointment to discuss this matter with Rabbi Freundel. After rejoicing in his Yeshiva-acceptance and requesting Freundel to sponsor him, Freundel’s response was heart-wrenching. The only necessity was for Freundel to call the Yeshiva administrator and discuss the young man’s knowledge of Judaism. Freundel jaw-droppingly replied, “I'm not going to convert you and I don't work with illegals.” The young man stood up and said, “Thank you Rabbi.” At that moment, the conversion candidate could not withhold his tears. He walked away from Kesher with his head down and shoulders slumped as tears poured out of his eyes.
On May 15th, 2015, Freundel was sentenced to 6.5 years in jail. Emma and I were happy with the judge’s decision. We sat in the courtroom during the sentencing and witnessed this once powerful man being shackled, then taken to jail. I never fully understood the saying, "The harder they come, the harder they fall," until I sat in the courtroom that day. Firsthand, I marveled at Freundel — himself a former judge — judged and sent to jail.
Freundel is currently serving his prison sentence in solitary confinement, supposedly for his own protection. My wife and I learned about the rabbi’s deteriorated state through the media. Freundel committed 52 counts of voyeurism, a misdemeanor. Being guilty of multiple misdemeanors does not qualify one for time in a federal prison since it is not categorized as a felony. At a federal prison, the inmates would be safer eliminating the need for solitary confinement. I am lobbying for Freundel to not serve 6.5 years in jail in solitary confinement, because of the dangers and harmful consequences of such harsh, cruel, inhumane treatment.
The following saga I never spoke publicly about. The episode happened at a time that was supposed to be the happiest time of our lives -our wedding day- a day that should be filed with only happiness. My wife did not end up converting with Freundel after all the games he attempted in playing with her -the "practice dunk" and thinking of her as just a body. He was a rabbi and should have valued her "beautiful soul". The planned wedding was for a sunday April 6th, 2014. There was a beautiful Auf Ruf for the shabbat in Maryland. This is a Jewish custom on the Shabbat prior to the wedding. On Friday afternoon I received a phone call informing me that we had a issue with our wedding plans. The chassidic conversion was not done by a rabbi that the RCA respected so the wedding day was in danger of not happening. We drove down to New York City immediately. I did not have a Auf Ruf ceremony. I did not get an aliyah to the Torah that Shabbat. We had no where to stay as we arrived in NYC an hour before Shabbat. We slept in a car as we did not have time to check into a hotel. Our wedding plans were in limbo for that entire Shabbat. Was not the most joyous Shabbbat. Until 15 minutes before the wedding our plans were in limbo. I now felt how it was to be a conversion candidate and took an oath that I would be an advocate for those who converted to Judaism.
With all that happened how can I be advocating for Freundel to be released from solitary confinement? Emma and I are members of the Vegan community. As vegans, we do not believe in cruelty to any being: human or non-human animal. Freundel actions were monstrous, but he himself is not a monster; he is a living being. Humans are social creatures. Without the benefit of other people to interact with, the mind decays; without anything to do, the brain atrophies. Isolation and loss of control breeds anger, anxiety, and hopelessness. Indeed, psychologist Terry Kupers says that solitary confinement "destroys people as human beings." Anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, paranoia, psychosis and self-harm are the effects of solitary confinement. To re-emphasize, humans, like animals, are social creatures. As someone who supports animal rights, I see Freundel as I would see a lone elephant in a zoo: all alone, suffering in a cage. Freundel committed horrible crimes. I know, as my wife was victimized by this man. But, the reason we supported the judge’s decision for Freundel to serve jail time was for Freundel’s rehabilitation. Solitary confinement offers no benefits, not even the hope of rehabilitation. Whereas once I asked the country to justly sentence this man, I now ask that we unite to rid our country of this torture. We should not unjustly imprison human beings in solitary confinement or confine innocent animals to cages, when no crime was possibly committed. Freundel deserves fair treatment and an opportunity to learn from his mistakes in an environment that supports his transformation, along with the betterment of all souls suffering as a result of their wrongdoing.
I began researching the effects of Solitary confinement. According to the the psychological journals solitary confinement causes irreversible psychological effects in as little as 15 days. What's emerged from the reports and testimonies read like a mix of medieval cruelty and sci-fi dystopia. For 23 hours or more per day, in what's euphemistically called "administrative segregation" or "special housing," prisoners are kept in bathroom-sized cells — 6' X 10' — under fluorescent lights that never shut off. Video surveillance is constant. Social contact is restricted to rare glimpses of other prisoners, encounters with guards, and brief video conferences with friends or family. For stimulation, prisoners might have a few books. Often they don't have television or even a radio. I interviewed two individuals that were in solitary. They said that in the beginning they slept 20 hours a day, but that after a while they could not even sleep anymore. They told me that the only thing to do there is go crazy. As a policy, enforced solitude can last for years, even decades. In Freundel’s case, this equals another six years and three months.
Freundel has been in solitary confinement for the past 3 months and has our sympathy. We also have sympathy towards the others who are held in solitary confinement. My wife and I are not jumping for joy, nor do we believe that the he is receiving a “a taste of his own medicine.” We must show compassion and widen that circle of compassion. Currently we have united with other Animal Rights activist organizations in our struggle to end solitary confinement in prison systems - for Freundel- and others. We are advocating that Freundel be moved to a facility that will enable him to repent for his crimes without losing his mind. We are hoping that iafter the remaining 6 years and 3 months Freundel leaves jail as a new man- a man who has repented for his crimes- without having lost his mind.
Freundel pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism. An individual misdemeanor warrants a sentence up to 1 year. Theoretically, he could have gone to jail for 52 years. For fewer criminal counts, he would of been out of jail in less time. No advocacy would be needed to address this situation. Currently, 6 years and 3 months of his prison sentence remain. Emma and I have been forced to address this situation. A few weeks ago Emma and I were at the Animal Rights conference. We met many groups that prior to the conference I thought were militant- interestingly they are the kindest souls I have ever met. They refrain from the pleasure of eating meat - not because it is the law said from G-d, but because they do not want to harm another living creature. When the Nazi's murdered my grandparents and others during the holocaust at the concentration camps they would undress them and have them naked like animals. They thought of the victims as animals. This is how they were able to kill so many. If the German population in Nazi Germany was like minded like the Animal Rights people I met at the convention I strongly believe that Hitler would not have had a reservoir of Nazi's to slaughter millions of people who were different.
The prospect of Freundel held in solitary confinement for another 6 years and 3 months is unconscionable. This would scar an already wounded individual. Let the punishment fit the crime, but do not do more harm than good.
Since he is serving time for multiple misdemeanors and not a felony, he does not qualify for inclusion in a federal prison. At a federal prison, the crowd would be safer and he would not have to be in solitary confinement. I am not saying that he should not be punished for his crimes. He did horrible things that greatly impacted my wife and many other victims. We just would like to relocate Freundel to a more suitable environment where he can make teshuvah.
A lot of research has gone into the effects of solitary confinement. After interviewing two aforementioned individuals who were in solitary, I discovered solitary confinement is "hell on earth." One former inmate spent nearly 3 months in solitary confinement. He said that he could not imagine being inside solitary for 6 and a half years. He assured me that he would prefer the death penalty than to be in Freundel's shoes.
There are many readers who will not understand our views- for Freundel's well-being after all the pain and suffering he has caused us?
The punishment of solitary confinement has no constructive purpose. The Quakers who created solitary confinement intended it as an opportunity for the inmate to contemplate their crime and repent. Originally called “The Penitence House," solitary confinement is better defined as torture for those who study the subject.
According to DSM-5, diagnostic code 302.82, voyeurism is considered a psychological disorder. Peer-reviewed, scientific journals reveal treatment options are available. Acceptable forms of therapy include, "psychotherapy, marital therapy, group therapy, family therapy, cognitive therapy, psychoanalysis and pharmacotherapy..." Absent on this list is solitary confinement.
In Judaism, the goal is for "repentance." In the book of Yechezkel (33:23), it says "Do I take any pleasure from the death of the wicked?" Furthermore, the Midrash discusses that G-d was asked, "What should be the punishment for the sinner?" The response was 'let the sinner repent and he will find atonement.' There are many sources for this concept. Rosh Hashanah is approaching. One saying from Christianity is, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone (John 8:7).” It is said that a wise man learns from all. A source from Ethics of our Father, asks the question: who is a wise man? Ben (the son of) Zoma said: Who is wise? He who learns from all people, as it is said: 'From all those who taught me, I gained understanding' (Psalms 119:99).
My wife told me that she once asked Freundel about what should be the punishment for Lance Armstrong for his wrong doings? Freundel and Armstrong were both powerful men- Freundel replied, that Armstrong does not need to go to jail because he already lost his power. I believe Freundel always feared losing his power and that is why he was acting the way he did . Freundel undoubtedly lost all his power and his wife of many years. Hell is not a generic term. To each person there is something that we fear. I fear rats and I am sure that we all have different fears. The fears being realized is our "personal hell." Freundel stated his to my wife.
If G-d seeks repentance, then we should honor His wish and not push people beyond reasonable limits. After all we are all flesh and blood.
Freundel is in solitary because he asked to be placed there. He claimed to have received unspecified threats from other inmates (threats the DC jail wasn't apparently able to confirm).
Freundel's sentencing judge asked the Bureau of prisons to put Freundel in Otisville or another federal prison with a large Orthodox Jewish population. But a judge's request is merely that – a request. Only the BOP decides where an inmate serves his time, and so far the BOP hasn't moved Freundel.
Teshuva – something Shulevitz makes much of – has to come from the sinner. The sinner – in this case, Freundel – has to repent. Along with a public acknowledgement of his wrongdoing, Freundel also has to acknowledge his sins to each of his victims, apologize to each one of them, and ask each victim for forgiveness. Freundel hasn't done this and a move to a federal prison isn't likely to cause him to do so.
As for the Nazis, many Nazis were animal rights supporters and some were vegetarians. This didn't stop them from slaughtering Jews like cattle or torturing them.
There is much to said in support of prison reform and no inmate should have to fear violence or abuse from fellow inmates or his guards.
But following Shulevitz's logic, many other inmates in the DC Jail and in jails and state prisons across the country should be transferred to a federal prison or released, not because they're innocent, not because they have repented, but only because they face prison violence. (Following Shulevitz's argument, every pedophile should be transferred or released. Think of the danger to children that would cause.)
Working for prison reform and sentencing reform is the right thing, the noble thing, to do, and people who do so should be commended and supported.
Transferring an unrepentant Freundel, giving him special treatment, simply because he's a Jew and can make "teshuva" isn't.
Other Freundel victims I'm aware of oppose Shulevitz for this (and for related reasons). They want Freundel to sit in jail or federal prison for every moment of his 6-1/2-year sentence, don't oppose transfer to Otisville but don't believe Freundel deserves any special treatment because of his status as a rabbi, and the more Shulevitz makes his teshuva argument and his vegan/Nazi argument and his Freundel is a sick man who needs help argument, the less inclined many of them are to push for Freundel's transfer to federal prison – something Shulevitz should think carefully about before he makes these counterproductive arguments again.