Chief Rabbinate declares validity of conversions by DC rabbi charged with voyeurism

Rabbinate says any converts who converted under auspices of US Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel remain valid.

Rabbi Barry Freundel (photo credit: screenshot)
Rabbi Barry Freundel
(photo credit: screenshot)
The Chief Rabbinate has declared on Tuesday that anyone who converted under the auspices of US modern-Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel, who was arrested earlier this week and charged with voyeurism, remain entirely valid.
The decision comes following a report on Monday that the rabbinate was reviewing the status of such converts because of the revelations about Freundel, but this has been denied.
The rabbi is accused of clandestinely filming women showering in the synagogue’s mikve.
According to the allegations, Freundel spied on women since at least 2012, according to documents filed in Washington Superior Court. He allegedly hid a camera in a clock radio and installed it in the shower area of the mikve.
Freundel denies the charges and has pleaded not guilty.
Under certain conditions in Jewish law, if a rabbi on a conversion court is deemed to be unobservant of halacha then his conversions may be invalid.
But on Tuesday, the Chief Rabbinate said categorically that there was no question over Freundel’s converts.
“After thoroughly reviewing the various aspects of Jewish law on the issue, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel now announces that past conversions of Rabbi Freundel will not be affected by recent events,” said the Chief Rabbinate’s spokesman Ziv Maor.
Maor emphasized that “anyone who goes to a local rabbinate in Israel with a conversion certificate signed by Freundel is not expected to face any special problems whatsoever.”
It was Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef who made the decision.
Maor said, however, that any conversions conducted by Freundel in the future would not be acknowledged by the Chief Rabbinate.
On Monday, the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest modern-Orthodox rabbinical association in the US of which Freundel was a member and part of its executive committee, ruled that his conversions were valid and that those who converted with him “remain Jewish in all respects.”
Rabbi Seth Farber, director of the ITIM religious services advisory and lobbying group, welcomed the decision having previously held concerns that the Chief Rabbinate would not follow the RCA’s lead.
“I am gratified that the Chief Rabbinate has learned from its past mistakes and has reassured those who converted that their status is assured,” said Farber.
“I hope that the rabbinate will use this as an opportunity to review other conversions which they have in the recent past dismissed.”
JTA contributed to this report.