Four Jewish organizations have reached a $14.5 million settlement with victims of the prominent Orthodox rabbi who spied for years on women in the Mikvah (ritual bath) in Washington, D.C., rabbi’s former synagogue announced Tuesday.
The class action lawsuit arises from a deplorable betrayal of trust by disgraced Rabbi Bernard Freundel, a once prominent rabbi who for years illicitly filmed women as they undressed in a Jewish ritual bath facility he oversaw, called the National Capital Mikvah.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office ultimately confirmed that he filmed over 150 women, and Freundel was convicted of numerous counts of voyeurism. Women victimized by Freundel filed a class action lawsuit against him and four religious institutions that he was affiliated with – The Georgetown Synagogue-Kesher Israel Congregation, the National Capital Mikvah, Inc., The Rabbinical Council of America, Inc., and the Beth Din of the United States of America. These organizations are the settling defendants in the class action settlement.
The settlement is a compromise of disputed claims and was reached only after nearly two years of negotiations with the settling defendants. The settling defendants did not admit any liability as part of the settlement and specifically denied any wrongdoing. The $14.25 million payment will be made by the liability insurer for several of the settling defendants.
“This settlement will help the many women traumatized by Freundel avoid the ordeal of protracted litigation – including its burdens, risks, costs, and uncertainties,” said David Sanford, founder of Sanford Heisler Sharp and Lead Interim Class Counsel for the proposed class. “This settlement provides an excellent recovery for class members in a complex and highly sensitive matter.”
The class action settlement covers a proposed class of females who were videotaped by Freundel or otherwise used the National Capital Mikvah. According to the Settlement, class members who complete minimal paperwork will receive $25,000 if they were confirmed as videotaped by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and those who used the Mikvah but were not confirmed as videotaped will receive $2,500 if they attest that they experienced emotional distress after learning about Freundel’s videotaping. In addition, these class members will have the opportunity to recover even larger total payments if they complete a more detailed Claim Form. To make the Claim Form as easy to answer as possible, the Claim Form provides class members with checkboxes to indicate the harms they suffered and does not require class members to provide any further narrative. The paperwork that class members must complete in order to obtain payments will be kept strictly confidential and not provided to the public, Freundel, or any of the other Defendants.