Justice for the Children- Some thoughts from the Taubenfeld abuse trial

by Pesach Sommer on his blog, Pesach Sheini

Leiby, Accuser of Moshe Menachem Taubenfeld

Laiby Stern, Accuser of Moshe Menachem Taubenfeld

I know that I can’t have held my breath for 1 ½ hours this past Friday. Still, as i sat in the courtroom listening to Laiby Stern testify about the abuse he suffered at the hands of his former neighbor Moshe Menachem Taubenfeld, a powerful and influential member of the Hasidic community in New Square, I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

As I listened to Laiby as he was cross-examined by the defense lawyer I felt so many different emotions rise up inside of me. Perhaps the strongest emotion that I felt was anger. Anger at the dozens of men who were there to support Taubenfeld. Men who smiled, smirked, and even laughed each time Stern, who has a learning disability, was tripped up by the high-paid defense attorney. Anger at a community that instinctively circles the wagons around its most powerful members, rather than protecting those who are most vulnerable. Anger at a community that refuses to recognize the dangers posed by abusers in their community, where the abuser might receive, at most, a beating and a warning to not do it again, or, if they are influential enough, no consequence at all.

I also felt anger at the fact that the community fears the outside world more than it fears its children being hurt, and anger that it blames the victim for any subsequent problems  he or she might face, rather than holding the abuser responsible.

Moshe Menachem Taubenfeld

Moshe Menachem Taubenfeld

After the trial, I heard about how other victims of abuse in New Square and other Hasidic communities are following this case, anxiously waiting to see whether it’s worth it to come forward to bring charges. If Laiby loses his cases, these young people will take it as a sign that they can not succeed if they come forward. I was told that some might give up more than that, and had suggested they might jump off a bridge if Taubenfeld is found not guilty.

After having had some time to process what I saw and heard, more than anything, I feel powerless, knowing that whatever anger, fear, and frustration I might feel, there is little if anything I can accomplish to bring about change. Perhaps the presence of those who attended the trial to support Laiby gave him some encouragement as the defense lawyer tried to get him frustrated and catch him in a lie, but I am left wondering what, if anything else, I could do to effect change in a community of which I am not a part.

I attended the trial wanting to give hope to Liby, and to other victims, wanting to believe that somehow, justice would prevail, and to believe that, finally, in communities like New Square the wellbeing of the children would finally take center-stage. It was this lack of power, and the wishful thinking it subsequently brought about, that, in the end, leaves me feeling so deeply sad and afraid.


For background on Skver/New Square see here for overall criminality and here re handling of sex abuse.


18 thoughts on “Justice for the Children- Some thoughts from the Taubenfeld abuse trial

  1. Each trial leaves most of us holding our breath. Is is discouraging because we know that those cases that come to trial are only the tip of the iceberg and most other cases are submerged by a culture of silence and intimidation. Yet, each single victory is of immeasurable importance. If there is a conviction and a consequential sentence, all of Skver will be rocked by the realization that they can no longer count on shielding their abusers. They hate the exposure and they hate any of their members going to jail. It may lead to a change in the attitude that they can just cover up all abuse.

  2. Oh how my heart goes out to the victim. I wish you can give him over a message how so many of us support him and hope that justice will prevail. I’m crying for him

  3. Interesting that at least one girls’ school in our community brings its students to NS to learn about the pious ways of the folk there.

  4. Leiby Stern is a hero! He is courageous to tell. He is strong and is shedding light on horrible evil while making the community safer! He deserves our gratitude! Leiby, you rock! Thank you!!
    Barbara Blaine, President of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, bblaine@snapnetwork.org, 312 399 4747

    • I have no idea who “A Jew” could possibly be but a predator, a pedophile or a very sick individual.
      Someone who committed sexual acts on a child is very guilty. Taubenfeld stole his childhood, ruined his psyche, tortured his parents. He should burn in Gehennom. He may not be guily in this world, but he is guilty of torturing a child and his parents and siblings and he will suffer in the world to come. Hashem is the true judge.

      • Look at the link above from someone that was at the trial and you’ll understand why he was found not guilty!!

        • This is beginning to get repetitive. Nobody here can demand the other change their opinion or prove the other is wrong. At some point we have to agree to disagree, or bore and abuse the attention of other readers. If there are additional points with new arguments or facts, please add them in. I will delete simple repetition. Saying the same thing more often or louder does not make it truer or more persuasive.

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