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Synagogue Hires Replacement for Disgraced Rabbi Barry Freundel

The Washington, D.C., synagogue whose longtime rabbi was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison for voyeurism has hired a part-time replacement on an interim basis.

Rabbi Avidan Milevsky will begin work on July 27, Kesher Israel’s president announced in an email to congregants Thursday. The Orthodox congregation has been without a paid spiritual leader since Rabbi Barry Freundel was arrested last October and charged with using hidden video cameras to spy on women using the synagogue’s mikvah, or ritual bath.

Milevsky, an associate professor of psychology and psychotherapist, is the former interim rabbi of Ner Tamid Greenspring Valley Congregation in Baltimore and has served as a visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“His research on families, well-being, and spirituality in psychotherapy has produced an impressive body of work including 5 books,” the email from Elanit Jakabovics said. “He studied at yeshivot in Israel, at Telz Yeshiva in Chicago, and at Yeshiva Ve’kollel Ramach in Miami where he received rabbinic ordination from the Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Yochanan Zweig. This unique combination of rabbinical and psychological work will serve our community well as we move forward.”

In the months since Freundel’s arrest, according to the email, the congregation has relied on two volunteers — Rabbi Kenneth Brander and Yoetzet Halakha Nechama Price — for answering members’ religious questions and providing pastoral care.

“Both Rabbi Brander and Nechama Price provided much needed counseling in the wake of the crisis we faced,” the president’s email said.

“As we turn the page to Kesher’s next chapter, we know that despite our best efforts to move forward, many of our community members are still in pain and in need of healing. The Board hopes that the hiring of Rabbi Milevsky as our part-time interim rabbi will provide our community with the spiritual guidance that we need as an Orthodox shul, while leaving open the space needed for us to explore what it is that we would seek in a new permanent Rabbi.”


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