Community and Mikvah Updates

Information on Sentencing in the Criminal Case
April 21, 2015

Sentencing in the criminal case is scheduled for Friday, May 15, at 1pm. As part of the sentencing process, the law provides an opportunity for individuals who were identified as victims of the crime to submit a written victim impact statement and make an oral victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing. In addition, each community affected by the criminal conduct can provide a community impact statement.

The Assistant US Attorney’s Office has been in touch with identified victims whose recordings were included in the plea deal with information on how to write and submit a victim impact statement. Identified victims outside the statute of limitations may have the opportunity to submit a relevant conduct letter.

If you would like to submit a victim impact statement or relevant conduct letter, please be in touch with the AUSA’s office via email and someone will be in touch with you. All letters are due to the AUSA by April 27, 2015. The AUSA’s office is standing by ready to assist anyone who would like to submit a statement. The Board of the National Capital Mikavh is planning on submitting a community impact statement on behalf of the Mikvah.

 Statement of the Board of the National Capital Mikvah

February 19, 2015

This afternoon, Rabbi Freundel pled guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism.  As we work to heal as a community, the Board of the National Capital Mikvah receives this news with mixed emotions. We are grateful that we were able to detect and stop such despicable illegal activity. We are saddened to see a Torah scholar cause his own downfall. We are also relieved and hopeful that this will mark the first step on the path to closure for the victims, for us and for our community.

We thank the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their tireless dedication to this case, their thorough review of the evidence, and their sensitivity to the victims and to the members of our community.

With God’s help, the National Capital Mikvah has and will continue to fulfill its purpose of being a safe and sacred place for women to perform their mitzvah of immersion for family purity.

We deeply appreciate all those who have and continue to ensure the existence of our small organization by volunteering their time or contributing financial and emotional support.

To read a statement from the Board of Directors of Kesher Israel, click here.

National Capital Mikvah Programming Update

On Sunday, November 23rd, the National Capital Mikvah hosted a Rosh Chodesh Kislev stress-busting yoga class for women of all levels. Ayelet Krieger, an experienced yoga teacher, led the class and helped participants take some time out of their busy schedules to experience mindfulness, relax, and connect their physical and spiritual sides.

National Capital Mikvah extends its thanks to all who attended the shiur given by Rabbanit Chana Henkin on Sunday, November 9th, and to all who showed their support for the Mikvah over the past few weeks. Rabbanit Chana Henkin, the founder and dean of NISHMAT, met with members of the community and gave a fascinating, interactive shiur on the development of women’s roles in Jewish religious life through history into the present and making connections with how women can participate in making the conversion process more transparent and comfortable.

Statements from Kesher Israel Board of Directors and National Capital Mikvah Board of Directors

November 2014

Statement of the Kesher Israel Board of Directors

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 of 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.


 Mikvah News

 Internationally-renowned mikvah expert Rabbi Gershon Grossbaum visited the National Capital Mikvah on November 18, 2014 and confirmed the continuing kashrut of our facility. His visit verified the positions of two other renowned Orthodox rabbis, rendered in the last 6 weeks. Rabbi Grossbaum, a Chabad shaliach in St. Paul, MN, jokingly calls himself “one of the Frozen Chosen.” He has built many mikvaot around the world and was involved in the construction of the National Capital Mikvah before its opening in 2005.
Rabbi Grossbaum praised the upkeep of our mikvah, saying that it did not look ten years old, and that the volunteers who run the mikvah have done an excellent job maintaining the facility and that we are clearly “treating it with respect.” It was a pleasure to have the Rabbi’s input, and we look forward to our ongoing relationship with him to ensure the strictest kashrut of our mikvah.

Security Update

In addition to the earlier police search of the mikvah premises, the Mikvah Board hired an expert technical surveillance firm, ComSec, to perform a search of the mikvah and preparation rooms to ensure no surveillance devices were present. In addition to the mikvah, at the direction of Kesher Israel, ComSec searched the restrooms located on the premises of the synagogue on Tuesday October 28, 2014. ComSec found no objects of concern in either location.

The Mikvah Board also changed the lock code on the entrance to the Mikvah and updated its policies to control and limit access to the code.

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