Jewish Men Should Take Comfort in the Barry Freundel Voyeurism Case

For those who haven’t heard yet, some Jewish guy named Barry was arrested for installing a hidden camera in the women’s mikveh at a Washington DC shul that sports members like Jack “Secretary of the Debt” Lew and Joe “Let’s Bomb Everything” Lieberman.

Barry is the Rabbi of the shul. He’s been the Rabbi since 1989. Barry is also on a bunch of committees for stuff like conversion, Beis Din of America something, and he teaches as an adjunct professor for an ethics course or some other ironic thing. He converts women to Judaism. But not anymore.

He was caught installing a dream machine 1980’s looking radio clock with a hidden camera in it just outside the shower.

Dream Machine Hidden Camera Radio Clock
Dream Machine Hidden Camera Radio Clock

While installing this thing in the Mikveh right outside the shower, my favorite line in the article happened:

On Sept. 28, a woman in charge of the bath’s changing area and showers noticed Freundel “plugging in a clock on the sink inside the changing area, right by the shower,” an affidavit says. She told the rabbi that there was already a clock on the wall, according to the document, and he responded, “This clock will help with the ventilation in the shower.”

That gem has to go on a T-shirt.

Rabbi Barry Freundel is suspected to have secretly videoed hundreds of women over several years dating back to 2010. Deleted files containing women’s first names from his shul were found on his computers. The amount of hardware this guy had raises an eyebrow itself.

Police listed items seized from the rabbi’s home as six external hard drives, seven laptop computers, five desktop computers, three regular cameras, 20 memory cards and 10 flash drives. Police have said the camera in the bath and another found in the home were part of clock-radios in which the hidden device was linked to a motion detector.

I have one laptop in my home, and one in my office. That’s it.

Those reading this may notice I’m taking a humorous approach to this whole thing rather than an “Oh My God what a Chillul Hashem!” approach. It’s because I don’t trust Rabbis to begin with. That doesn’t mean I don’t trust any people who happen to be Rabbis. I trust my brother and my father, both Rabbis, but that’s because I know them, more or less. I just don’t trust anyone BECAUSE he’s a Rabbi, and I think the world would be a better place if people were more inherently skeptical of people with religious authority.

The less trust in power and authority that people have, the better. That extends to doctors, government officials, financial advisors, and anyone claiming to be an expert. With Google, you can check up on whatever anyone says to you these days.

This case, though, had me thinking of several things. First, the Tefila Zakah that men are supposed to say before Yom Kippur. This is one of those guilt-trip weird psychedelic compositions written by a sad soul about how many demons he gave birth to through chronic masturbation. Then my head skipped to a pasuk from Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) I remembered from Shabbos Chol HaMoed Sukkos about nobody going through life without sinning. I’d bet a dollar that Shlomo, or whoever wrote the book, had auto-erotic self stimulation in mind. These days the chronic guilt trip among men is coupled with internet pornography.

So all you men who klopped על חטא for watching porn and other common sins, put things in perspective. These sins would include seeing a prostitute, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality for the gay people out there, or any number of consensual sexual sins. The perspective is this: When you’re watching porn, you may be hurting yourself, but it’s voluntary and you’re not harming anyone against their will. If you’re gay and you have a relationship with another man, you’re not harming anyone against their will. You’re not getting off on invading the privacy of another.

But the line from watching women naked on a screen who have been paid and agreed to be filmed, or any other sexual sin, is very, very far from something like voyeurism, where you are deliberately invading, violently, the life of another. This is a sin against the Non Aggression Principle, and is entirely different in nature.

If Barry Freundel were a normal man committing sins that most men commit, he would sit at home and get off on regular pornography, or see a prostitute, or whatever. Not that this would be perfectly fine, but it would be excusable, at least to me, maybe not to his wife. But I’m trying to imagine the moment in Feundel’s head when he decided he was going to cross the line past the Non Aggression Principle and watch women undress without their consent.

There has to be something very qualitatively different about the brain of someone who decides do do this, something very different from your average everyday guy who masturbates to pornography. I believe I speak for most men when I say that if someone showed me a voyeur video of vulnerable women I would be sick to my stomach and I’d have the urge to punch the guy in the face who took it.

If I try to get into Barry’s head for even a second, think about what it would be like to take pleasure in seeing this kind of stuff, I can’t do it. Unless I pretend I’m actually an evil person taking pleasure in the vulnerability of these poor women.

The reason I have an inherent skepticism of anyone in the position of power like a Rabbi, is that anyone in a position of power is there because some part of him wants power over people. That automatically means he’s suspect.

So let this case infuse you with skepticism. It’s healthy. And if you’re a guy who commits the same sins that most guys do all the time, take it easy on yourself. You’re not a violent voyeur.

My wife includes this chiddush that I actually like a lot. When giving tzedaka, the highest form of tzedaka is anonymous, so neither the giver nor the receiver knows who got it or where it came from. When dealing with violence, or violations of the NAP, it’s almost the opposite. With rape, at least you are not cowardly enough to hide yourself from your victim. She knows who you are, you know who she is.

But voyeurism in some ways is worse. The victim doesn’t know who you are, or even that she is a victim.

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3 thoughts on “Jewish Men Should Take Comfort in the Barry Freundel Voyeurism Case

  1. Despicable as voyeurism is, I am not sure it is an act of violence. Theft, yes. Betrayal yes. Violation yes, but I don’t know how you can see it as violence. Please explain.

    Our hearts go out to the victims of this person. I guess that must also include his own family.

    • I define “violence” as any willful violation of the private property of another. Theft is violence. Betrayal is, too, if it’s a violation of contract. The word “violation” you use comes from the word “violence”. Colloquially, we use the word “violence” to signify the physical harassment of body or property, but really any kind of invasion of body or property is violence. Property is simply an extension of body anyway.

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