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Barry Freundel, former rabbi at Kesher Israel Congregation, secretly filmed women for years in synagogue’s bath
A prominent US rabbi charged with secretly filming dozens of women during ritual baths pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism on Thursday.
Rabbi Barry Freundel, 63, was accused of installing video cameras to spy on women in the bathing area for his Orthodox synagogue, Kesher Israel Congregation, in Washington’s upmarket Georgetown neighbourhood.
Prosecutors said Freundel recorded the women between early 2009 and October 2014 using devices installed in two changing rooms for the bath, National Capital Mikvah, which is next to the synagogue.
The mikvah, or ritual bath, is used as purification by people converting to Judaism and by Jewish women seven days after the end of their menstrual cycle.
Police began investigating Freundel, who headed the synagogue for 25 years, when a woman found a camera in a clock radio in the bathing area and turned it over to officers.
Investigators found six video files of nude women, with one showing Freundel’s face as he set up the camera, prosecutors said.
Police searched his home and office at Maryland’s Towson University, where he was an associate professor, and seized computers, electronic devices, remote controls, hard drives and cameras hidden in a fan and a tissue box.
Prosecutors said at least 52 women were recorded nude or partially nude on 25 dates from March 2012 to September 2014.
Investigators also found that Freundel secretly recorded about 100 more women between 2009 and September 2014 in a bathroom at the National Capital Mikvah.
Voyeurism charges have a three-year statute of limitation. Each of the 52 counts carries a penalty of a year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000 (£650), or $2,500 for those committed after June 2013.
One of the victims, Stephanie Doucette, said in a statement: “I continue to be profoundly shocked and upset by Rabbi Freundel’s outrageous conduct, which violated the security, trust and beliefs of so many women.”
Freundel, who also is facing civil lawsuits, is scheduled to be sentenced on 15 May.
Kesher Israel fired Freundel in December. His congregation has included the treasury secretary, Jack Lew, and the former Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman.