A Washington rabbi who serves as an associate professor at Towson University has been suspended with pay by the school after being arrested and charged with voyeurism by D.C. police last week, school officials said Tuesday.
Towson University spokesman Ray Feldmann said that Barry Freundel, 62, has been suspended from all teaching duties and responsibilities but will continue to be paid under guidelines issued by the University System of Maryland, of which Towson is a member. Feldmann said that the school will conduct its own administrative review pending the outcome of the criminal case.
Freundel, rabbi of the Kesher Israel Congregation in Georgetown, has been accused of hiding a camera in a clock-radio to record as many as six women changing and showering at a ritual bathhouse, according to charging documents released last Wednesday.
Police found the camera when a woman reported seeing Freundel plugging in the fake clock and pointing it toward the showers in the mikvah, or ritual bathhouse, attached to the synagogue, the documents said.
Feldmann said some Towson students were invited to the synagogue and Towson officials are concerned that some of their students may have been videotaped. They have offered counseling services.
"We are absolutely concerned about that," Feldmann said. "We know some students were invited to the synagogue. We have concerns about the implications that would have on the students, and that's why we're being as proactive as possible in talking to our students and offering counseling services so they feel supported."
Feldmann said, "No activities that he has been accused of in D.C. have happened anywhere on our campus." Freundel has taught at Towson since 2009, said Feldmann. He has been an associate professor in the philosophy and religious studies department.
Freundel's attorney, Jeffrey Harris of the Washington-based law firm Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris and Cooke LLP, would only say Tuesday, "He entered a plea of not guilty and we're due back in court in mid-November, and police are continuing to look into it."
The school's newspaper, the Towerlight, reported Monday that a student said she visited the synagogue last fall as part of her work in a religious studies class. The student said she and other students who toured the synagogue were asked if they wanted to shower in the mikvah where Freundel is accused of videotaping, according to the newspaper account. The student said she declined but two of her classmates accepted.
Feldmann said that Towson has compiled a list of students who have taken Freundel's classes, in part because students expressed concern after reading articles in the news media. He said students have been provided with ways to contact D.C. police if they have any information related to the investigation.
Freundel faces six counts related to voyeurism, each punishable by up to a year in jail, prosecutors said. He pleaded not guilty in a court appearance in Washington on Oct.15. His next hearing will be held Nov. 12 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
The synagogue's board of directors said on its website last week that it had suspended Freundel without pay.
Towson senior Jonathan Munshaw, 21, the Towerlight editor in chief, said he has been taking Freundel's course, "Judeo-Christian Medical Ethics," this semester in the Towson Honors College.
"He was very knowledgeable, and as an instructor very traditional, how he came into class every day," said Munshaw, who wrote the Towerlight story about the rabbi. "There wasn't much discussion in the class. It was more so just come in, sit down and he just lectured."
Munshaw said reactions from students since Freundel's arrest have been "a mixture." He said that the class has continued and is being taught by another rabbi.
He added, "I understand what the university is doing; there is no way to eliminate a class this deep into the semester, but before the new rabbi showed up to teach the class, we all said, 'Why are we even doing this? No one wants to be here. It's way too awkward.'"