A $14.25 million settlement was reached in the class action lawsuit brought by victims of Barry Freundel against four organizations named as associates with the former rabbi of Kesher Israel Congregation.
Under the settlement with Kesher Israel, the Rabbinical council of America (RCA), the Beth Din of the United States of America, and the National Capital Mikvah, none of the co-defendants are admitting guilt, and they deny any wrongdoing.
Stipulations included in the settlement — still to be approved by a judge — could see every plaintiff in the class action who has been identified as having been videotaped receiving a minimum of $25,000, and any woman who used the mikvah from July 2005 to October 2014 is eligible to receive at least $2,500. These sums could escalate depending on several factors, including how many times the plaintiffs were videotaped and whether the crimes affected their conversion to Judaism.
Freundel was arrested in Oct. 2014 and began serving a six and a half year sentence in May 2016 after pleading guilty to 52 counts voyeurism.
In Aug. 2016, Kesher Israel filed a motion to dismiss the case. Lawyers representing the victims did not oppose, instead choosing to enter into negotiations for settlement.
A statement from Kesher maintained that the final sum to be paid is much lower than the $100 million originally sought by plaintiffs, and that it is confident it would have been cleared from wrongdoing should the trial have been allowed to move forward.
“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 interest, as well as the best interests of the Kesher community and Freundel’s victims,” the organization’s public statement said early Tuesday morning.
Some victims privately discussing the news said they would give their share of the settlement to charity. Others expressed concern that the money would be coming out of Kesher Israel’s pocket, as it were, but they don’t need to worry — the statement from Kesher Israel also noted that the money will be paid in full by insurance.
Alexandra Harwin, part of the firm defending the plaintiffs, said they were happy with the agreement.
“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 and prompt recovery for class members instead of the delays and risks of protracted litigation.”
By Anis Modi
Anis Modi is a staff reporter for Kol HaBirah. Born and raised in Israel, he currently writes for several DC-based publications while pursuing his master’s degree at American University.