“No matter how many times I attempt to apologize, it will never be enough,” Freundel wrote in his Sept. 8 letter of apology, which was at the Washington Jewish Week’s Web site. “I am sorry, beyond measure, for my heinous behavior and the perverse mindset that provoked my actions.”
In May, Freundel who had pleaded guilty to secretly videotaping 52 women, was sentenced to 6 1 /2 years in prison. He had been arrested in October 2014 on charges that he videotaped nude women at Kesher Israel synagogue in Georgetown as the women prepared for the bath known as a mikvah, used as part of a purification ritual.
Freundel’s case rippled throughout the global Orthodox community, where Freundel had been revered as one of the most authoritative and powerful Orthodox American rabbis in the area of conversion.
One of the victims, Bethany Mandel, 29, who had sought out Freundel to help her convert because he was so highly regarded as an authority, said she was “torn on the apology.”
“I would like to believe it, but the rational part of me doesn’t really want to,” she said. “I don’t think we would be seeing this had he not been caught.”
Mandel said she doesn’t know whether she’s recovered from Freundel’s actions, since he keeps coming back in the news since his sentencing. Freundel has requested an appeal on his sentence.
“It’s hard to take it seriously when he’s making the apology after the fact,” Mandel said.
Freundel had recorded about 100 additional women, prosecutors have said, but those alleged crimes occurred outside the three-year statute of limitations. The videotaping occurred between 2009 and 2014.
Before he was sentenced in May in front of several of his victims, Freundel read a statement apologizing to his victims and saying he was seeing a psychiatrist to understand the “source” of his behavior. In his letter published Wednesday, Freundel said that listening to the victims’ impact statements during his sentencing “felt like a blade entering my gut.”
“How could I have been so incredibly blind, so unaware of my impact on others? I ask myself that question every day,” Freundel wrote in his apology letter. “I became a rabbi precisely because I wanted to help people, as well as being drawn to the depth and the scholarship of Judaism, and I have tainted that miserably.”
Freundel’s case prompted debate regionally, nationally and internationally about the treatment of converts and about women’s leadership in Orthodox Judaism. In Orthodox Judaism, rabbis must be men.
He asked for forgiveness from other rabbis and Orthodox scholars, who he said would have to “fight harder than normal” to uphold Jewish standards for observance. “There is no excuse for what I’ve done,” he wrote.
Freundel’s letter comes just before the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a period when Jews are told to focus on repentance and granting forgiveness as the new Jewish year approaches.