Statement by the Kesher Israel Board of Directors
(November 30, 2014)
Last week, the Kesher Israel Board of Directors terminated the contract of Rabbi Dr. Barry Freundel. Since the day of his arrest, Rabbi Freundel had been suspended from Kesher Israel without pay. Based on last week's action by the Board of Directors, his relationship with Kesher Israel has permanently ended. As he is required to do under his contract, Rabbi Freundel has been asked to vacate the rabbinic residence by January 1, 2015.
The decision by the Board of Directors was made under extraordinarily difficult and unfortunate circumstances. The alleged acts leading to this step were a gross violation of law, privacy, halakha, and trust. They breached the high moral and ethical standards we set for ourselves and for our leadership. Our collective heart breaks for the consequences, both seen and unseen, of these alleged acts to all the potential victims and our entire community.
This step is an important moment for our community. As we move beyond the events of last month, our community continues to come together and heal. This incident has demonstrated that the Kesher Israel community remains larger than any single individual, and we have emerged stronger than we were before. We are an engaged and hopeful community -- united by common faith, beliefs, and communal bond. We will remain strong and resilient.
We take great pride that our shul has continued to operate without interruption since the arrest, including through the chagim, during recent smachot, and through family losses. We are deeply grateful for the volunteers and community members who have stepped-up during this challenging time and have worked tirelessly on behalf of the Kesher community. We are also thankful to Rabbi Kenneth Brander and Nechama Price for their continued short-term halakhic support. We are committed to finding more long term solutions to our religious needs very soon.
As Kesher continues to move forward, the Board of Directors is committed to listening to the needs of the entire congregation. We encourage members of our community to reach out to the shul's leadership to voice any concerns, provide input, or even just to talk. Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts.
We look forward to continuing to build a vibrant future for Kesher Israel, and to ensuring our community remains a warm, welcoming, and safe place to gather, worship, and learn.
Statement by the National Capital Mikvah Board of Directors
Last week, the National Capital Mikvah (NCM) terminated Rabbi Barry Freundel as the Rav Hamachshir (Supervising Rabbi) of our mikvah. This termination follows the NCM's initial suspension of Rabbi Freundel immediately after his arrest on voyeurism charges.
The NCM was constructed nearly ten years ago with the goal of providing the downtown Washington, D.C. community a warm, welcoming mikvah under Orthodox supervision. Members of the NCM Board, together with our volunteer shomrot (attendants), worked hard over the years to create a sacred, private, beautiful space where women could fulfill the mitzvah of mikvah in a positive environment.
We strongly condemn Rabbi Freundel's alleged actions. They breached not only the sanctity of our holy space, but also the trust placed in him by the NCM Board and our community. From the police reports, it appears that Rabbi Freundel exploited the access to our mikvah afforded by his religious position to violate the privacy of women who trusted him.
The Board of the NCM is deeply saddened by the consequences of Rabbi Freundel's alleged conduct. We remain concerned about the impact on his victims and will continue to do all we can to assist and support those who are suffering.
We are determined to come together as a community, to move forward, to heal, and to re-claim and re-dedicate our sacred space. In furtherance of that goal, the mikvah retained a technical surveillance counter-measures firm that performed a complete search of the mikvah and found no surveillance devices. We also consulted with Rabbi Gershon Grossbaum, an internationally renowned mikvah expert, who supervised the construction of our mikvah. Rabbi Grossbaum visited the NCM last week and confirmed the continuing kashrut of our facility.
The NCM Board is deeply grateful to all the volunteers - including our board members, trustees, and shomrot - who have continued to work tirelessly these past weeks to meet the needs of our community during these trying times. We are confident that together we will ensure that our mikvah remains a warm, welcoming, positive environment for married women to fulfill the mitzvah (commandment) of taharat hamishpacha (family purity law). We look forward to a vibrant future serving the women of Washington, D.C.