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Judge Approves $14.25 Million Settlement for Voyeur Rabbi’s Victims



A lawsuit settlement against a DC rabbi who was convicted of voyeurism has been approved by a judge, in a decision taken only after nearly two years of negotiations with the settling defendants.

The former Towson University professor, Rabbi Bernard Freundel was convicted of secretly recording about fifty-two women naked. The Orthodox rabbi in Georgetown carried out the act between 2004 and 2014, secretly videotaping women as they undressed to immerse in the Jewish ritual bath, mikvah.

The women victimized by Freundel, filed a class action lawsuit against him and 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— the four religious institutions that he was affiliated with.

The victims will now get $25,000 eachas a settlement has been reached between the parties involved, while a number of others who had stripped but were not confirmed to have been videotaped may equally receive $2,500 each.

According to the modern Orthodox synagogue, Kesher Israel—where Fruendel, who was convicted of the same crime in 2015, served as rabbi—the total amount of in settlement is $14.25 million. Already, Freundel was sentenced and is currently serving six and a half years in prison, after pleading guilty.

Apart from Freundel and Kesher Israel, the National Capital Mikvah, the Rabbinical Council of America and the Beth Din of America, a court of Jewish law, were also named in the settlement. A class-action lawsuit, which included more than 150 women who were confirmed to have been capture naked on camera, had sought a $100 million settlement.

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A press notice released on Sept. 3, indicated that the Jewish organizations sought to exonerate themselves from the cases, arguing that they were not at fault because they had “no prior knowledge of Freundel’s illegal actions.” Soon afterwards, the victims then entered into settlement discussions

“Although Kesher is confident that it would have been found without fault if the case were litigated to final judgment, Kesher believes that resolving the case at this time is in its best interests, as well as the best interests of the community and the victims,” said Kesher Israel President, Andrew Cooper in a report.

“The settlement would enable the parties to avoid the further burdens of litigation and would allow Kesher to continue its focus on serving the needs of the Jewish community in Washington, D.C., without the distraction of the lawsuits.”

According to Alexandra Harwin, a partner at Sanford Heisler Sharp—a public interest class-action litigation law firm that oversaw the class action—the victims were “very happy” with the settlement.

“One of the things that is very appealing to the class members is that payments are easy to access and don’t require an intrusive inquiry,” she said. “What this settlement does is provide substantial andprompt recovery for class members instead of the delays and risks of protracted litigation.”

For several of the settling defendants, the $14.25 million payment will be made by the liability insurer.

"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 in a press release.

"This settlement provides an excellent recovery for class members in a complex and highly sensitive matter."