- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2014

The rabbi arrested last week for spying on women at a Georgetown synagogue had a history of inappropriate behavior, according to a statement from the Rabbinical Council of America.

On Monday the council released a statement detailing several instances in the past two years in which complaints ranging from coerciveness to co-signing on a checking account were recorded against Rabbi Barry Freundel during his time as chairman of the RCA’s Geirus Protocol and Standards conversion system from 2006-2013.

“Some conversion candidates expressed that they felt coerced to perform clerical work for him in his home office … and to contribute financially to the running of the beit din,” the statement said. “Furthermore, it was discovered that he was a co-signer on a checking account with a conversion candidate.”

The council said the co-signing was investigated and Rabbi Freundel “made assurances that these behaviors would discontinue,” the council stated.

“A committee of rabbis and lay leaders determined that while Rabbi Freundel’s actions were inappropriate (and were a violation of his position) they did not rise to a level that required him to be suspended from the RCA or to be removed from his work with converts, as long as they did not continue.”

Rabbi Freundel, 62, last week pleaded not guilty to charges that he used what looked like a digital clock to film a private ritual bathing area at Kesher Israel in Georgetown.

Police said they found footage of six women in a state of undress on two dates this year, and investigators said there could many more victims, including children, on the tape.

According to reports, Rabbi Freundel offered conversion candidates the option of a “practice immersion” in the bath. The council said it had not been made aware of these “immersions” but if it had, a more severe response to the charges would have been launched.

Rabbi Freundel was suspended from his positions with the RCA. Kesher’s board of directors suspended him without pay.

The RCA determined that despite the charges against Rabbi Freundel, the conversions he oversaw are considered legitimate and “halachically valid.”

The organization also announced it would be appointing a woman to serve as ombudsman to the Geirus Protocol and Standards conversion system “to receive any concerns of female candidates to conversion.”

The RCA also plans to establish a commission to review the conversion process and report its findings next year.

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