Published On: Mon, Oct 20th, 2014

RCA Validates ‘Peeping Tom Rabbi’ Conversions, But Israeli Rabbinate Still ‘Reviewing’

Rabbi Barry Freundel

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel is reviewing the validity of conversions performed by Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel, who has been charged with videotaping women in a mikvah near his synagogue, Haaretz reported.

“We are appalled by the accusations against Rabbi Barry Freundel and wish to stress that the acts attributed to him are atrocious and strictly against Jewish law, ” a spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate told Haaretz, adding:

“We offer our deepest sympathy to any victims. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel is drafting a policy regarding conversions performed by Rabbi Freundel that will attempt to strike a balance between what is permitted according to Jewish law, on the one hand, and the rights and welfare of the converts, on the other.”

Freundel headed the Washington D.C.-area rabbinical court conducting dozens of conversions. According to Haaretz, At least four women he converted have moved to Israel in the past year to marry Jewish husbands.

The Rabbinate’s hesitation may not be merely the result of their prudish attitude regarding infractions of a sexual nature, but rather specifically related to the matter of conversions. The dipping in the mikvah is one of the two key components of the conversion process for women: the female convert accepts the yoke of the sages and cleanses herself in the mikvah. There are, in fact, no other major requirements.

The fact that Rabbi Freundel, in a sense, defiled one of these two components, brings to question his judgment regarding the other component as well, namely, could he be an adequate representative of the sages, whose yoke the convert was accepting.

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the central organization of Modern Orthodox congregations in the US, announced that all the conversions ever performed by Freundel were valid.

Its statement read:

“Today the RCA is able to announce that the Beth Din of America – under the leadership of Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz – has concluded as a matter of Jewish law that conversions performed by Rabbi Freundel prior to his arrest on October 14, 2014 remain halakhically valid and prior converts remain Jewish in all respects. This ruling follows a review of the charges contained in the court documents that have been released to date (including the criminal complaint, search and arrest warrants, and accompanying affidavits) and applicable Jewish law with respect to the status of prior conversions.”

Unfortunately, should the Israeli Rabbinate decide to fault Freundel’s conversions, it could introduce untold suffering to countless individual converts and their families, whose entire sin was to be in the wrong place with the wrong rabbi.

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