Moshe Menachem Taubenfeld’s defense completed its presentation of evidence yesterday afternoon.
Closing statements are scheduled to start in the Rockland court-house this Friday afternoon (7/24/15) at 2:00 p.m. The Judge, Rolf M Thorsen, said yesterday, that he will announce a date for verdict at the end of today’s session. [update- the verdict will be announced on Thursday, July 30 @ 3:00 p.m.] Taubenfeld waived his right to a jury so the judge alone will determine the verdict.
His reasons for waiving a jury are the subject of much speculation. His defenders claim that a Rockland jury would be biased against a Hasid in the current climate of county tensions between orthodox residents and others over the practices of the Hasidic dominated East Ramapo School Board.
Skeptics, and there are many, suspect undue influence on the judge by some parties in Taubenfeld’s New Square village, the home of the Skver community. The community has a disciplined block vote almost completely swayed by the decisions of Grand Rabbi (Rebbe) Dovid Twersky. During the 2000 US Senate race, the Rebbe endorsed Hillary Clinton and she carried New Square by 1,400 to 12! In most other orthodox communities, the vote favored her Republican opponent, Rick Lazio. President Clinton then shocked folks by pardoning four Skver fraudsters on his last day in office.
While Judge Thorsen’s term runs to 2024, some professionals in court-house circles say he is hoping to run for a higher judicial position. If so, Skver’s campaign contributions and votes could be influential. Yet others just take it for granted that Skver will yet work its magic through an outright bribe.
Everyone remembers the sweetheart deal of the defendant’s brother, Herschel Taubenfeld. He was originally charged with 10 counts of forcible touching, 10 counts of endangering the welfare of a child and 10 counts of third-degree sex abuse. He got off with a single misdemeanor count of forcible touching and no jail time, just probation. Skver continued to employ him as a teacher in their school.
The Skver community feels strongly that none of its members should ever be subjected to imprisonment by civil authorities. To date, no New Square resident has ever served a prison sentence for sexual abuse in spite of many documented cases. One can only hope for a different outcome this time.
Some refer to Taubenfeld as the Rebbe’s right hand man. That is an exaggeration. But he is a well respected teacher of both children and grooms preparing for marriage and comes from one of the higher status families in the community. His students like him. He is friendly and approachable (and seems to know how to have his way). In Skver, allegations of sex abuse are all squashed or denied, so these criminal charges will probably not dent his status.
Observers are also suspicious of the office of Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe. When police first sought Taubenfeld he was hard to find through official records because he was using an alias, Mendel Zarkowsky, to vote and for other official purposes. Yet his birth name is Moshe Menachem Taubenfeld and he has used that name continuously in his community for his entire life. A 2003 NY Post story about the murder of his first wife in a suicide bombing also used the Taubenfeld name. One has to wonder why the DA never prosecuted him for likely voter fraud, tax fraud, or government benefits fraud.
Laiby Stern, the alleged victim who chose to go public with his name, was supported in his brave pursuit of justice by a number of anti-abuse activists and rabbis. According to his testimony they include R. Nuchem Rosenberg, Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik of Chicago as well as his brothers. Boorey Deutsch was especially active in rallying supporters to attend the trial.
No good deed goes unpunished and the Skver community and its supporters have used Twitter, FaceBook, and a new website to attack me, Boorey, Failed Messiah’s Shmarya Rosenberg and Paul (Feivie) Mendlowitz who blogs as the Unorthodox Jew. Our supposed sin is vile anti-Semitism. Our actual sin is using blogs and social media to support the prosecution of Taubenfeld and other sex offenders. These attacks have come through a new website, Eiruv Rav, which attempts to portray us as modern day propagators of hate on par with the Nazi newspaper, Der Stürmer. Eiruv Rav also Tweets and they get retweeted by The Block the Hate twitter account.
To stay up on developments in this case follow Tweets with the tag #TaubenfeldTrial.