Bethany Mandel is a victim of Rabbi (sic) Barry Freundel who secretly videotaped her in a state of undress while she was undergoing conversion at the mikveh (ritual bath) under his control. She has now announced that she will not join any lawsuits by other woman who were also videotaped by Freundel.
I always respect the decision of a victim to move on. But that is not how she explains her decision. Even though she is a member the Rabbinical Council of America’s (RCA) committee reviewing conversion practices she declares they are blameless. This makes me wonder if the implicit price of her inclusion was granting the organization absolution for negligent oversight of Freundel and instead focusing on protections in the future. I agree that the future is more important than the past. However, forcing accountability for the past can stimulate future vigilance.
Bethany Mandel also insists that a lawsuit against Freundel himself will victimize his wife and children. She writes:
Unfortunately Barry Freundel’s finances do not exist in a vacuum. He is a member of a family with a wife and three grown children, who are also victims, if not the biggest victims of this entire situation. I have no idea if they are now or will be an intact family in the future, nor is it any of my or anyone else’s business. If they do stay together as a family unit the entire family needs to rebuild their lives. If the family does not stay together, those victims, above all others, deserve to take him to the cleaners first.
Freundel victimized his family. But they are not the ones who were spied on while naked. They are not the ones whose sacred moments were grist for Freundel’s voyeurism.
Obviously, the financial payout will hurt his wife and children. So for that matter will a prison sentence that deprives him of earning power. In fact, his family was hurt when he was fired by his congregation. Carried to the extreme, no predator should ever be forced to pay anything as long as he has relatives.
The orthodox community prides itself on its strong family and community ties. But sometimes it is a curse because it morphs into protection at all costs. It also keeps on turning victims into outsiders. Ms. Mandel insults victims by saying they don’t matter as much as Freundel’s wife and children.