I don't now why I want to write this about Freundel. To heal my own poisoned sense of Judaism, or to help the case.
Maybe to clear my own name. Maybe to confess.
I knew Freundel very well for many years. I always knew him, in his own weird way, to be very sensitive and extremely ethical.
I was Barry Freundel's personal computer tech some time ago, maybe 15 years.
I volunteered. I wanted to help him out with one of the few ways I could, with my computer skills. Contribute to the community and his work.
He had several computers. He needed things like upgrades, and backups, sometimes installing a new computer.
One time I was doing something or another, and discovered dozens of bookmarks in his AOL browser for porn sites.
I paused and thought. Was it him or someone else who had access to the computer? It wasn't the first time I'd discovered
something like that on someone's computer. There were times at work too. It was very unlikely to be someone else's.
He made no attempt to hide them.
I don't remember if it was then, but I think it was sometime later, I discovered an archive of porn videos on a computer of his.
I didn't examine the whole archive, but what I saw looked like garden variety light porn, and not illegal.
At that point I knew it had to be his.
At the time, I was involved with another community and Rabbi for spiritual matters, but I still considered him a friend and someone to
talk to about Judaism and answer questions. He had never been the type to be an example of a pious individual.
So I wasn't crushed and without a spiritual guide like I could have been.
He had a certain irreverence toward Judaism which was kind of refreshing. He was deeply analytical, but not spiritual.
When he prayed, he did so with no feeling behind it as far as I could tell.
At least he didn't put on heirs. Nobody's perfect, anyway.
I thought for a while about what to do. I figured my choices were:
Confront him? That would be awkward as hell and I didn't feel I was up to it. I still viewed him as far superior and stronger than I.
That might be a bad idea. He would get angry and I would freeze up.
Tell someone else? That would be worse.
Tell Sharon? It was better she didn't know. I would surely lose their friendship.
None of those choices were likely to get him to stop. At work, I would have considered it a breach of ethics if I had discovered something on a personal computer.
A work computer was something else. But even with those, I had access to everything and saw many things that were company secrets which my ethics said I had to forget.
I figured, well he's a friend and a source of a particular type of advice. A lot of people succumb to this thing. I should just feel bad for him that
he was snared by it. I could still be his friend. But it was disappointing. So I did nothing. I told nobody.
One time I was in his office, I saw that a bunch of computer cables were deliberately cut.
He told me he thought a child visiting had done it. I didn't believe that. I didn't believe him.
I figured he or maybe someone else became desperate and took out their frustration.
As time went by,he still asked me for help. I tried to get out of doing anything more on the computers. But some things I had set up and I was really the only one around who could
fix it. He practically begged me. He was really stuck.
I came over and told him I needed certain data disks to do the job he wanted. He then said something to the effect of "Ok, but you have to realize that a lot of these are other people's. They give stuff to me all the time. I don't know everything that's on it. There could be pornography for all I know."
My immediate thought was how insulting this was to my intelligence and how easily he thought he had cleared any possibility of suspicion with such a bad lie,
to a computer expert. I guess over the years he kept on thinking it was very easy to fool people. He had always been aloof. Brilliant, but aloof. I was pretty irritated. I was not going to spend my time helping him back up his porn collection. I saw him less after that, but kept in touch. I never helped him again.
I don't know now if I should have done something different. Maybe he was once an ordinary porn junkie and became something much worse, and it could have been stopped.
But a lot of things he did started to make more sense. Standing above and behind brides at weddings 'to make sure the groom was not assisted when putting the veil on'.
He went into the women's section on Simcha Torah to give every woman a misha berach. And how he railed against the degeneration of American morals.
I wonder sometimes if something he did, was halachically justified, or something he made up to gain access. Now, I regularly question myself when I do something that is according to his 'minhag'. It's distracting in shul. It's like my experience has been poisoned.