When I lived in Washington, I attended Kesher Israel regularly. It was a thrill to sit behind Senator Joseph Lieberman, Leon Wieseltier and other luminaries of the American Jewish scene. They and many others took pride in articulating a literate, intelligent Modern Orthodox Jewish sensibility – and Freundel was an exemplar of it…

All this time, he was a sex offender, a fraud and a pervert.

… [T]he Freundel scandal looks a lot like the Madoff* scandal. There are questions that should have been asked, suspicions that should have been raised. But the self-reinforcing loops of elite power — X likes him, X is powerful, therefore I should like him — blinded those entrusted to keep watch.

And then there are the nonsexual allegations. One of Freundel’s victims, Bethany Mandel, told The Daily Beast that we’ve gotten Freundel wrong. “People keep calling him a pervert and yes, he’s a pervert, but he’s also a power hungry sociopath,” Mandel said. “It wasn’t about porn. It was about power, and this was additional power no one knew he had.”

This, too, should have been visible in plain view to anyone who worked closely with Freundel.

… It can seem, downing a shot of whiskey with someone of influence, that you are in the presence of greatness. Really, you are only in the presence of power.


* Board Chair, Sy Syms School of Business; Honorary Degree recipient; Treasurer, Board of Trustees — all at Yeshiva University.

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One Response to “Jay Michaelson on Rabbi Professor Freundel”

  1. Greg Says:

    Unless he either lacked compassion for his congregation, and other people in general, or was entirely out of touch with reality, some small pocket of moral decency should have compelled him to get help against his desires and actions. Barring evidence for a lack of capacity defense, it is for that failure to trigger external restraint that he deserves at least a couple of years in minimum security.

    I could share excitement about seeing LW – a truly interesting guy and admirable in many ways. From Joltin Joe Lieberman, I would like to run as far as possible. Or, more accurately, I would like him to do the distancing from politics and all of us. I was excited when he ran for VP but now my respect gauge is at absolute zero.

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