One of the most nebulous issues in the unfolding of the case has been Fatso’s supposed refusal to leave the synagogue’s residence. According to several news organizations, Fatso refused to move out by January 1st, 2015 and Kesher sent an e-mail to it’s members on January 29th claiming to have brought a case against him in the Beit Din of America to have him forced out because his contract required that all disputes be resolved there. However, this doesn’t explain several issues. First of all, even with the contractual provision for arbitration, they could have sought an emergency/temporary restraining order. There was a court order in effect after his arrest prohibiting him from being within 100 yards of any of the victims or anyone with whom he had participated in a mikveh ritual. Given that both the synagogue and the mikveh are only 4 short blocks from his residence a very good argument could have been made that for him to continue residing there would have made it nearly impossible for him to comply with this order as there was a likelihood that any of these women who attended the synagogue would pass within 100 yards of his residence. Even without this technicality, the sexual nature of his crimes could easily have been used as a premise to seek an emergency restraining order against him prohibiting him from residing at the residence. There would have been no guarantee of success, of course, but these are very legitimate legal arguments to make. No attempt was made by Kesher to remove him.
According to an article dated January 29 on the web site of Religion News Services, LLC, an e-mail was sent to Kesher congregants on the 29th stating:
“Unfortunately, that has not happened,” wrote Elanit Jakabovics, president of Kesher Israel’s board. She also wrote that she hoped the matter could be resolved before it came before a board of rabbis. Kesher Israel formally opened a case on the residency matter in rabbinical court Wednesday.
“We were informed in late December that Rabbi Freundel did not have plans to leave the house,” the email continued. “So, we began informal conversations to resolve this issue with Rabbi Freundel and his attorney, but to no avail.”
The “Wednesday” being referred to was just the day prior to the e-mail, January 28th. So, according to this statement, the Board of Kesher knew well before the move out date of January 1 that Fatso had no intention of leaving by then but waited a full month to submit a complaint to the Beit Din, not withstanding the fact that they had other legal means at their disposal. The question also remains as to what ever happened to the supposed complaint. Was there no request for it to be fast-tracked by the Beit Din? Given the circumstances it would have been logical and the position of the synagogue was unassailable, in that his contract stated that he must move out within 30 days of termination, which happened on December 2, 2014.
The question also remains as to whether Kesher did in fact submit a complaint to the Beit Din. An article in the Washington Jewish Week dated February 4, 2015 contained an interview with Freundel’s attorney, Jeffrey Harris. Mr. Harris is quoted as saying,
“…the synagogue’s charges are very ‘misleading.’ Feundel had said he was taking the matter to the Beit Din, but that he wouldn’t be doing so until the criminal case had been played out.
During discussions with Kesher Israel, ‘they said that March would be okay’ to remain in his residence, Harris said. At that time Freundel agreed he would not receive any back pay but he still wanted his $100,000 retirement money from his pension,’ Harris said. ‘We said we are sorry. We are not giving up his pension.’”
The final lines of the article state:
“Harris said he was not informed that Kesher Israel had opened a case with the Beit Din, which should have happened if a case against Freundel was started”
So, did they or didn’t they? As events played out Mr. Harris’ version of events seems to be more credible. After Freundel’s guilty plea on February 19, 2015, he announced that he would be moving out March 1, which is what his lawyer had stated in the February WJW article would happen. If you reread Ms. Jakabovics statement, it is somewhat cryptic and evasive. She says she “hoped the matter would be resolved before it came before a board of Rabbis” almost as if she knew it would be. The most likely explanation for this charade is that Kesher let him stay until March 1 and when they started getting questions from people as to why he was still there they made up this story to try to make themselves look like victims.
But why would they do that? An article in the Daily Beast written by Batya Ungar-Sargon on February 25, 2015 contains a quote from Kesher’s president’s Facebook posts, as follows [btw, the article is titled “What the Catholic Church Can Learn from the DC Rabbi Scandal” because I guess she thinks Jews are better than Catholics and don’t have the same problems, notwithstanding many examples of Jewish institutions ignoring abuse victims for years such as Australian Chabad and Yeshiva University]:
“Kesher’s president, Elanit Rothschild Jakobovics, did not respond to requests for comment, but she did update her Facebook profile yesterday with a “PSA” reminding people that “victims of this crime, direct and indirect, exist all around us. Our friends who happen to be family of the perpetrator are around as well. We are each processing and dealing and healing from this in our own ways.”
So, apparently Ms. Jakobovics thinks that the criminal’s family should be of equal concern and influence the synagogue’s behavior. It might be that forcing Fatso out would have hurt his family but that doesn’t matter. That’s Fatso’s fault and responsibility. All criminals have families who suffer for their crimes but no civilized society fails to adequately punish a criminal because it would hurt his/her family, nor should it.
Victims of Freundel are encouraged to join the class action lawsuit freundelclassaction
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