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Complaint Reveals Disturbing Details in Georgetown Law School Suit
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Barry Freundel has been accused of secretly recording women naked during a Jewish ritual.

Summary: The complaint filed against Georgetown University and a local synagogue reveal that a professor, also a leader of the Jewish community, sexually exploited many women.

Just last week, JDJournal reported that a student sued both Georgetown University and a local synagogue for recording her naked as she participated in a Jewish ritual.


JDJournal has obtained a copy of the complaint that was filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on December 2. The defendants are listed as Georgetown University, the Georgetown Synagogue—Kesher Israel Congregation, and the National Capital Mikvah, Inc.

The complaint alleges that Rabbi Bernard “Barry” Freundel sexually exploited women in a synagogue, using a Jewish ritual to record the women naked. Bernard was also a professor at Georgetown University Law School.

The complaint explains that an “unfathomable breach of trust” occurred and that the Defendants failed to prevent it and/or stop it. The suit describes how Freundel “lured his students, congregants, and others into the sacred religious cleansing ritual of ‘mikvah’ to sexually exploit the women by capturing their naked images using concealed cameras and recording devices without their knowledge or consent.”

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The mikvah is a pool of water used by Jews to immerse themselves to cleanse the soul. In fact, the complaint explains that many survivors of sexual assault have used the ritual to help them overcome attacks they have suffered. The pool of water in the present case was next to a changing room. In that changing room was a clock radio with a secret camera.

The complaint, filed on behalf of a female third-year law student at Georgetown, accuses the defendants of turning a “blind eye” to Freundel’s “increasingly bizarre behavior,” and that “bright red flags” regarding Freundel’s behavior were ignored. This included the fact that Freundel invited non-Jews and unmarried women to participate in the mikvah, individuals that are typically not welcome in the ritual.

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According to the complaint, the plaintiff was excited to take a “Jewish Law Seminar” course that was co-taught by Freundel. Freundel suggested that the student write the mandatory research paper on the mikvah ritual, and then required her to complete the ritual at the mikvah built by Kesher Israel. Freundel directed the plaintiff to the the changing room and told her where she should put her clothing, how she should shower, and which products she should use. The plaintiff participated in the mikvah on two separate occasions.

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An employee finally discovered the camera in the clock radio, and Freundel was arrested. The student eventually realized that she had been sexually exploited, which “cut [her] to [her] core—shattering her trust in religious and educational institutions that have failed to live up to their reputations for excellence.”

As far as the claims against Georgetown, the suit states that it failed to use due diligence in hiring and supervising Freundel and in investigating the Kesher Israel Mikvah. The complaint also alleges that Georgetown is liable for Freundel’s acts since he is an employee of the school.

The suit claims that Kesher Israel also failed to investigate Freundel before hiring him and that no “meaningful action” was taken to prevent the harm he caused. The suit is filed on behalf of all women that Freundel allegedly exploited. Freundel was openly called “creepy” by female members of the community, and many had complained that Freundel had told them not to dress “so modestly.” One employee even said that Freundel “treated that mikvah like a car wash. Every Sunday, six students at a time.”

Freundel was in a position of power in Washington’s Jewish community, and had been the leader of Kesher Israel since 1987. He was a leader in the Rabbinical Council of America, a national non-profit which seeks “to advance the cause and voice of the Torah and the rabbinic tradition by promoting the welfare, interests, and professionalism of Orthodox rabbis all around the world.” Because Freundel had such power over the community, including serving as an “ultimate arbiter” for those seeking to convert to Judaism, he was in a prime position to sexually exploit women. Particularly, his “converts” were often young, attractive women, and many in the community commented on this fact.

Further, Freundel created “practice dunks,” which encouraged conversion candidates to return to the Kesher Israel Mikvah more than once, which is completely against what the conversion process and Orthodox Judaism require.

The complaint alleges that Freundel’s behavior was brought to the attention of the defendants, who ignored the red flags, even though formal complaints had been brought against Freundel in the past.

The defendants will now have an opportunity to answer the complaint and respond to the lawsuit. The complaint alleges that the Plaintiff and the potential class members have suffered both economic and non-economic damages, including psychological distress, current and future costs of medical care, and lost earnings, among other damages.

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