Sunday, January 20, 2013

Case of Rabbi Herschel Taubenfeld

Case of Rabbi Herschel Taubenfeld
Teacher - New Square, NY 
Playgroup at 31 Rita Ave. - Monsey, NY

Convicted Sex Offender.  In exchange for his confession he only received six years' probation on a misdemeanor charge handled in New Square Justice Court.  Originally Taubenfeld had been charged with with 10 counts of forcible touching, 10 counts of endangering the welfare of a child and 10 counts of third-degree sex abuse, all misdemeanors.

Many people close to this case believe that people in New Square have pulled strings to get this confessed sex offender an extremely light sentence.  They believe the District Attorney of Rockland County has the same issues as the District Attorney in Kings County (Brooklyn), where there are allegations of obstruction of justice when it comes to cases involving sex crimes.

Also beware that Rabbi Taubenfeld owns the playgroup at 31 Rita Ave. in Monsey.

It's important to keep in mind that statistically the sexual abuse of children happens within every society equally. Pedophilia has NO religion. 

The ongoing problems in New Square and within any other insulated community is that those in leadership positions appear to care more about their reputations and assets then they do about the safety of their children. The Awareness Center wants to thank the survivor of Rabbi Herschel Taubenfeld for doing what they need to heal and for coming forward and speaking their truth. The survivor should be seen as a hero and when they enter a room, we believe everyone should stand up and applaud their bravery!

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents:

  1.  Welcome to New Square (2010)

  1. Editorial (11/23/2011)
  2. Threatening Twitter Message (11/27/2011)
  3. Who is a self hater? (12/07/2011)
  4. Crackdown on Sex Crimes Continues (12/14/2011)
  5. Herschel Taubenfeld received Smicha (rabbinical ordination) (12/15/2011)
  6. Sign Posted in New Square: Can you spare something for Herschel Taubenfeld (12/18/2011)
  7. New Square Schnorring for Herschel Taubenfeld's Defense (12/20/2011)
  8. Problems in Skvere & Questions for R' Hershel Schachter (12/28/2011)
  1. Taubenfeld Case Adjourned for Now (11/26/2012)
  1. Herschel Taubenfeld of the “Holy” town New Square plead guilty  (01/17/2013)
  2. 2 convictions in Orthodox child sex cases (01/18/2013)
  3. Sex abuse victim from New Square speaks exclusively to News 12  (08/29/2013)

  1. Sex-abuse victims lack voice in New Square  (01/04/2014)

Also see:

Welcome to New Square (AKA: New Skvere)
By Vicki Polin
The Awareness Center's Daily NewsletterMarch 22, 2010
(© 2000) Photographed by Vicki Polin

Early in 2000 I was visiting a friend in New York.  At the time I was newly religious and so my friend wanted to take me on a tour of New Square, NY (AKA: New Skvere)

Just outside of the town line, my friend pointed out the following sign to me.  I was in a state of shock.  I understood that in Israel it was common place to have signs like this when entering ultra-orthodox communities, yet this sign was placed on a street in the United States of America.  I had no idea it was legal for a community in New York to put these types of restrictions on women.  Besides the dress code, it was also very much frowned upon for women to be driving a car.  Because we were two women and here was no male in the car, it was "more" permissible. 

Considering the signs below, may make it easier to understand how sexual predators can get away with their offending frenzy within this community.  It's all a part of understand the mindset of this chasidic town.  


By Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter
AMI Magazine - November 23, 2011


Threatening Twitter Message
Failed Messiah Blog - November 27, 2011
Translated by Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg

This flyer was posted on FailedMesiah, quoting from Twitter that it is a warning to those that are praying at Friedwald nursing home. I personally think that this is about a bachur who claims that Herschel Taubenfeld molested him, and this is the "Square" way of trying to quiet him down. This bachur was also offered a very large sum of money to keep quiet, but thank G-D he is smart enough to refuse - Unlike Simon Taub that wanted to extort from Lebovits.  


די סקווערער רשעים הערען נישט אויף, ווילאנג מע וועט דעם אבערצאָדיק אליינס נישט אריינזעצן אין תפיסה וועט דארט קיין ארדענונג נישט זיין. 

הערשל טויבענפעלד - Herschel Taubenfeld
ווי עס זעט מיר אויס איז דאס צעטל נישט וועגען דאווענען אין פריידוואלד, דא האנדעלט זיך וועגען א בחור וואס זאגט אז הערשעל טויבענפעלד האט עהם מאלעסטעט, און דאס איז דער סקווערער וועג צו פרובירען שטיל צו מאכען דעם בחור. מען האט שוין צוגעזאגט פאר דעם בחור גרויס געלט, אבער דער בחור איז קלוג און האט


Crackdown on Sex Crimes Continues
Rockland County Times - December 15, 2011

Alleged child molester Hershel Taubenfeld of New Square has turned himself in to Ramapo Police as of 10:30 a.m. this morning. Previously he had fled the area when his impending arrest was announced by police.
Recently a victim of Taubenfeld came forward willing to go through with the prosecution of the case and sources said police may arrest others in Taubenfeld's circle in the coming weeks. Sources said Taubenfeld is a well-connected resident of the Hasidic village. 

Police have taken a heightened interest and have been more successful in pursuing such cases within the Hasidic community, since certain activists like Brooklyn Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg have made light of the abuse. Others have also helped, though most would rather not have their names known.

These activists have been setting up support networks for victims of abuse, as the most difficult aspect of prosecuting abuse charges is finding a victim willing to go through the trauma of the legal process.

Ramapo Police reported that after receiving a complaint, in early November 2011, of a possible sex abuse incident in the Village of New Square the department began an investigation. On December 7, 2011 charges were filed against New Square resident Hershel Taubenfeld. On December 14 (today) at 10:30 a.m. Hershel Taubenfeld turned himself in to the Village of New Square Court. Taubenfeld, who was represented by counsel, Kenneth Gribetz, was arraigned on the following charges:
  • 10 counts of Forcible Touching (Class A Misdemeanor)
  • 10 counts of Endangering the welfare of a Child (Class A Misdemeanor)
  • 10 counts of Sex Abuse in the 3rd degree (Class B Misdemeanor)
The charges against Taubenfeld resulted from his actions with a minor male over a five month time period between March 2011 and July 2011, police said. The alleged incidents of abuse, between Taubenfeld and his victim all occurred at Taubenfeld’s residence at #92 North Garfield Dr. in the Village of New Square.

Judge Salas of New Square Village Court set bail at $15,000 with a return date of February 6 at 6 p.m. in the New Square Village Court. Taubenfeld was transported to the Ramapo PD by RPD officers where he was processed. Due to the nature of the offense and age of the victim police said his name and age will not be released.


Who is a self hater?
By Vicki Polin
Examiner - December 7, 2010

Often, we hear accusations from members of a religious community that someone within that community is a self-hating Catholic, Mormon or Jew. This has become increasingly common in discussions about religions covering up sex crimes and other forms of abuses within their own communities. We all have to stop and wonder who the real self haters are. Is it those who are fighting to protect the rights of children and adults who were sexually abused, or is it those who appear to take a vow to protect the sexual predators living within the religious community or the world internationally? The term “self-hating Jew”, is a saying that seems to be thrown around in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community all too often towards other Jews whose views differ or does or says something they disagree with.
Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter

Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter recently wrote an editorial in Ami magazine which he is the editor of and is geared towards the orthodox Jewish community, in which he attacked Dr, Michael J. Salamon, calling him a “self hating Jew”. Why you might ask? The answer is that Dr. Salamon wrote one of Amazon’s best selling books, “Abuse in the Jewish community.
To the best of my knowledge Rabbi Frankfurter has no education, training or experience working within the anti-rape movement. He is not unlike many other rabbis who have jumped on the bandwagon to attack anyone who is an activist in educating the religious world of the issues and ramifications sex crimes plays in our communities

Rabbi Frankfurter went on to insinuate that Dr. Salamon’s newest book “Abuse in the Jewish community”, was a blood libel against the Orthodox community perpetrated not by Catholics, but my our secular brethren”. To be honest, I along with so many others who have been advocating for the civil rights of survivors of sex crimes, feel that it is people like Rabbi Frankfurter whose ignorant comments and actions have been driving Jewish orthodox survivors away from Judaism are the ones who are creating the newest type of pogrom against our people. Not only are these folks giving out misinformation and covering up sex crimes -- they are also doing their best to pit Jew against Jew, creating an atmosphere of cult like behavior. A few weeks ago we learned that at the recent Agudath Israel convention, there was a private meeting in which they discussed how they best could use the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office to bypass making hotline reports and further promote various sexual predators offending behaviors. We all must be aware that according to studies, one sex offender will molest at least 117 times within their lifetime --- leaving possibly 117 new victims. Not only does this alter the lives of the survivors, yet it also changes the dynamics of their family members and their communities

It seems that the singular purpose of Rabbi Frankfurter’s appearance on the Zev Brenner radio show where he originally appeared with Dr. Salamon was apparently to negate what Dr Michael Salamon had to say. Frankfurter was loud and repeatedly interrupted the psychologist who has years of experience working with survivors of child abuse and other forms of abuse. He was generally rigid in his statements on the topic. Based on his comments it was clear that he was uninformed on the issues so Dr. Salamon asked him on air if he had even bothered to read the book. The Rabbi was forced to admit that he had not but had read only the back cover where there were several approbations, one of which he objected to. Nevertheless, he continued to attack the book and even attacked Dr. Salamon’s personhood on air. Based on what he wrote it would appear that he was on a different radio show entirely.

In Rabbi Frankfurter’s editorial which appeared the week after the radio show he stated “Abuse is a global problem”, while simultaneously rejecting the fact that it exists as it does in the Orthodox world. Resorting to character assassination he called Dr. Michael Salamon a self-hating Jew with an anti-charedi bias without knowing him or any of his beliefs. In response to a question from the show’s host regarding why some people are leaving the charedi world Dr Salamon quoted from a Jerusalem Post article written by a former member of that world who had left it because of the overwhelming need of members of that world to be controlling and rejecting of those who wish to approach issues realistically. In his article the Rabbi objected to that as well, also likely without first reading the article
The question of self-hatred is not an open one. Individuals who use their positions of power to deny reality and attack those who are trying to help others are the true self haters.

Herschel Taubenfeld received Smicha (rabbinical ordination)  
Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg's Hotline - December 15, 2011
(Translation by Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg)

מזל טוב
כשהן עולין עולין עד לרקיע, וכשהן יורדין יורדין עד העפר
When they are elevated, they are elevated up to the sky,
And when they descend, they descend down to the dust.
פון ווען איך האב געזאגט אז דער מנובל הערשעל טויבענפעלד איז א מורה הוראה, שיקט מען מיר כסדר emails אז ער איז נישט קיין מורה הוראה, ער איז סתם א אינגערמאן, ווייל די סקווירער ווייסען דאך זייער בראך און זיי שעמען זיך אז זייערס א שיינער איד איז אזוי א נידעריגע בריאה. וויל איך מודיע זיין בשער בת רבים אז ער האט ארויסגענימען התרת הוראה פון הרב וואזנער שליט"א'ס בי"ד, און ער איז שוין 100% בארעכטיגט צו זיין א נואף ווי אסאך אנדערע רבנים. אויך קען ער שוין ווערען איינער פין די ל"ג ל"ג רבנים און אינטערשרייבען דעם חי"ת אויף מיר שטאטץ דעם וואס איז שוין א שוכן "עפר".

Since I said that the menuval Herschel Taubenfeld is a dayan, I am bombarded with emails saying that he is not a dayan just a plain yungerman, because the Squerer know well their problem and are embarresed that one of their prominent people is such a lowlife. Therefore I want to announce publicly, that he recently was given Semicha by the Beth Din of Harav Wosner shlit”a, and he is already entitled to be an adulterer, like some other Rabbis. He can already become one of the la”g la”g Rabbis, and sign my ban instead of the one that hit the dust.

Also beware that he owns the playgroup at 31 Rita Ave. in Monsey.

Sign Posted in New Square: Can you spare something for Herschel Taubenfeld
Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg's Hotline - December 18, 20111

 Translation by Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg:

The Squirrels Are embarking on a
Schnorr Campaign
For Herschel Taubenfeld
They distributed today Shabbos such handbills
In the Tzodik’s shul
That the Dayan is making a collection
To save a brother
Indeed he is a brother
He is not the only menuval in town
His uncle Avrum Moshe thinks he will rescue him
Just like he rescued Chaim Berger
Not even will Hillary be able help him


New Square Schnorring for Herschel Taubenfeld's Defense
Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg's Hotline - December 20, 2011 

The Squirrels Schnorr Campaign For Herschel Taubenfeld Is getting more intense

Translation by Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg
Those that signed to save a “brother” seem to really be his brothers, meaning they are as bad as he is. I can understand them trying to help him, but ro write that he is a G-D fearing person, whom are you kidding?
It also says a lot about the signatories: Aaro Lefkowitz, Pinchos  Shpitzer, Shraga Ezra Taubenfeld (nephew), Sholom Elye Felberbaum and of course the Dayan Eisenberger
שרגא עזרא, לייג אוועק די געלט פאר דיין טאטע ווען ער וועט אי"ה בקרוב גיין זיצען.
Shraga Ezra, save the money for your daddy, for when he will be picked up

דער סקווירער שנאר קאמפיין
פאר [הרה"ג] הערשעל טויבענפעלד
איז מוסיף והולך
עס ווערט מעכטיגער ממש ווי די
מהדרין מן המהדרין
די אלע וואס האבען אינטערגעשריבען אז מען זאל ראטעווען א "ברודער" זענען די זעלבע מנובלים ווי ער אליינס, ממילא אז זיי שנארען פאר עהם, אבער צו שרייבען אז ער איז א "יראת שמים". ווען ער וועט גיין זיצען, וועט ער ברענגען אסאך מענטשען צו יראת שמים
עס זאגט אויך אסאך אויף די אינטערשרייבער: אהרן לעפקאוויטש, פינחס שפיטצער, שרגא עזרא טויבענפעלד (נעפיו) און שלו' אלי' פעלבערבוים, מיטען דיין אייזענבערגער.


Problems in Skvere & Questions for R' Hershel Schachter
Rabbi Yehuda Levin - December 28, 2011

PLEASE NOTE: Rabbi Yehuda's views do not always represent mainstream Orthodox Judaism's views.  After reviewing this video, his remarks are totally on target, and represents the views of those close to this case.

Rabbi Levin takes a look at a child abuse situation in Skvere & allegations against Herschel Taubenfeld. Levin responds to an Ami interview with R' Hesrhel Schachter who excoriates the Beis Din & Toanim situation & asks why the same criticism can't be leveled against him for blindly supporting the anti Halacha mesira & harassment techniques of theY.U. student group Orah.


Taubenfeld Case Adjourned for Now
Rockland County Times - November 26, 2012

Herschel Taubenfeld, a New Square man charged with 30 misdemeanor counts of molestations against a male youth in his village, appeared for a hearing before Judge Salas of New Square Village Court on November 19.

Originally a plea deal was expected but the matter was adjourned.

Taubenfeld, charged last December with 10 counts of forcible touching; 10 counts of sex abuse in the third degree; and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, was told to appear back in court in January 2013, pending further information on his “probation report.”

Sources close to the case gave the following statement:

Viznitz Rebbe shaking hands with Herschel Taubenfed (08/2012
“The Ramapo Police Department should be highly commended for their work on the Taubenfeld case. Their vigilance, as well as continuous and intensive community cooperation, is necessary for ensuring the safety of all of our children from the worst sorts of perpetrators.”

In the Taubenfeld case, advocates such as Brooklyn rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg are concerned that a weak sentence will send the wrong message that molesters can get away with their misdeeds with a relative slap on the wrist. That could discourage future victims from coming forward.

Rosenberg is a leader in the effort to raise awareness and fight sexual abuse in Hasidic and Orthodox communities. The topic has been receiving more attention in recent months and  years, following many high profile cases.

Rockland County prosecutors have said it is challenging to pursue sex abuse cases within Rockland’s religious communities, as typically social pressure encourages such matters to be dealt with internally.

In a recent case against Monsey resident Schmuel Dym, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe told The Journal News that social pressure created hurdles to justice. He said, ultimately the victims did not wish to testify in the case due to the pressure, thus weakening the DA Office’s position and leading to Dym receiving only probation.

However, some activists contest this characterization of the Dym case and others.

Shmarya Rosenberg, editor of the watchdog website, said, ”If the DA protected the victims and their families and worked closely with them, more would choose to testify. But he doesn’t really do that, and then he offers Dym and other like him plea deals that are really disgraceful, but which many haredi rabbis love. And it is those rabbis who often control large blocs of votes. That’s the real story with most of these cases.”

The issue of sex abuse has received attention around the country. Rav Moshe Soloveichik of Chicago, Illinois is a prominent authority who has been working to raise awareness of abuse. He offered a statement on the topic in light of the charges against Taubenfeld.

“While I am not familiar with the details of this particular case in New Square, being a resident of Chicago myself, a few basic principles need to be emphasized. Child-molesters should be reported to the police and brought to justice, primarily as a preventative and protective measure…To grasp the enormity of the obligation incumbent on us to root out child-molestation, we need to focus on its horrific effects on children. Perhaps one of the most devastating effects of child molestation is the repetition of the cycle of abuse. In some cases, victims who do not receive the help they need, in turn, may eventually  victimize others in a similar manner. This results in a child molestation crisis of epidemic proportions – as we have today.”


Herschel Taubenfeld of the “Holy” town New Square plead guilty
Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg's Hotline - January 17, 2013

Herschel Taubenfeld of the “Holy” town New Square plead guilty to forcible (forbidden) touching, will get 6 yrs probation and SEX Offender's Registry. Sex Offender Level to be decided by judge on Jan. 28, 5PM. A Playgroup he will be forbidden to have. But he is – a DAYAN (Religious Judge).
הערשל טויבענפעלד פון "העיליגע" שטעטל "סקווירא", האט גענומען א "פלי בארגין", ער האט זיך דערקלערט שולדיג אויף אנרירען (ווי מען טאר נישט) מיט געוואלד, און ער גייט באקומען 6 יאר "פראבעשען" און וועט אויך זיין רעגיסטרירט אויף דער "Sex Offenders Registry", דער שטאפעל וועט דעצידירט ווערן ביים שופט, דעם 28טען יאנואר, מאנטיג פ' יתרו. קיין פלעיגרופּ וועט ער שוין מער נישט טארן האבען. אבער ער איז  א מורה הוראה.


2 convictions in Orthodox child sex cases
LoHud - January 18, 2013

NEW CITY — Two members of Rockland’s Orthodox Jewish community have pleaded guilty to charges of sexually abusing children, heartening children protection advocates who have been pushing for increased awareness and prosecutions of such cases. A third man is facing pre-trial hearings in County Court.

A 58-year-old Monsey man admitted in court Friday that he had anal sex with a 14-year-old boy.

The admission came after a judge promised the man a sentence of 10 years’ probation to spare the child from having to testify.

Moishe Turner of 5 Dana Road, a heavy-set man with a long beard streaked with gray, had been accused of having anal and oral sex with the boy on seven occasions during July 2011.

Turner was the second person who avoided incarceration this week by pleading guilty to a sexual crime involving a child. He’s been free on $75,000 bail and awaits sentencing March 19.

Rabbi Herschel Taubenfeld
Herschel Taubenfeld, 33, once a teacher in the New Square Hasidic community, admitted forcible touching a young boy during 2011. The admission came in exchange for six years’ probation on a misdemeanor charge handled in New Square Justice Court.

Taubenfeld originally had been charged in December 2011 with with 10 counts of forcible touching, 10 counts of endangering the welfare of a child and 10 counts of third-degree sex abuse, all misdemeanors.

Another man, Dovid Kohn of Monsey, 59, faces 40 criminal counts of having oral sex with a girl when she was between 12 and 15.

Kohn is currently challenging telephone conversations between him and the girl taped by police as inaudible at pretrial hearings in Rockland County Court. Prosecutors and Ramapo police said the girl, now in her 20s, remains a witness in the case.

Shmuel Dym, 32, of Monsey is fighting his guilty plea to sexually molesting a boy. Supreme Court Justice William Kelly has twice turned down Dym’s request to withdraw his guilty plea.

The increased prosecution of sex attacks on children within the Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox community has been welcomed by advocates for children. The advocates said police and prosecutors are just skimming the surface, arguing there are unreported sexual attacks on children.
"The epidemic of child-molestation threatens an entire generation of children,” said Monsey-based Rabbi Noson Leiter, founder of Help Rescue Our Children. “Many of these molesters are arrogant, narcissistic, deceptive, and downright evil. Even though some of them appear unable to control themselves, that is because of choices they repeatedly and intentionally made.”Leiter, a leader of Torah Jews for Decency in Monsey, said Taubenfeld’s guilty plea “is a trail-blazing case — the first in which a survivor from within New Square prosecuted a molester within the community.”

He said he hopes other families will find the strength to come forward and fight off community pressure not to report sexual abuse. He praised the Ramapo police for their efforts when told about children being abused.

"Taubenfeld's own admission to molestation charges also confirms that current New Square leadership who clearly failed to stop this vile, manipulative ‘educator’ and is unqualified to deal with the molestation crisis,” Leiter said.

Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said the religious community has been more open with police and prosecutors. He said historically the major issue confronting law enforcement was the “insular community often protected the accused at the expense of the victims.”

Zugibe said he was encouraged by the Taubenfeld case. He said families in the religious community have “recognized finally that if you protect the victims all you are doing is creating a new generation of offenders and victims.”

“In the latest cases, particularly Taubenfeld, I have to credit the community for being more forthcoming,” Zugibe said. “We have a long way to go. I am hopeful this is a new trend.”

Families face being kicked out of the religious community and having their children denied schooling and services.

The family of the boy abused by Turner faced pressure from the community leaders to drop out of the case, authorities said.

Prosecutor Jennifer Parietti said Friday in court that Zugibe approved the no-prison sentence for Turner.

Turner faced seven years in state prison under the felony charge. The case was down for a pretrial hearing with Ramapo Detectives Peg Braddock and Robert Fitzgerald ready to testify.
 She told Kelly that she supported the sentence “to spare this victim the difficulties of the trial.”

“The victim is under tremendous pressure,” she said. “This plea will relieve that.”

Turner admitted he had anal sex with the boy under questioning from Parietti in July 2011. He admitted he knew the boy was 14, making him incapable of consent under the law.

Turner’s lawyer, former District Attorney Kenneth Gribetz, said after court that he’s not aware of any rabbi or religious community leader putting pressure of the boy or his family.

“Our hope is the victim can go on with his life,” Gribetz said. “There was no pressure from the community. I think justice will be served. Our client is very sorry and he’s happy to put this behind him.”

Turner, who prayed before court, doesn’t speak fluent English. He speaks Yiddish and needed a translator to tell him what was being discussed in court and for his responses.

Kelly and Gribetz made sure Turner agreed he was voluntarily pleading guilty to the charges and signed a waiver giving up his right to appeal.


Sex abuse victim from New Square speaks exclusively to News 12

News 12 (Westchester, NY) - August 29, 2013

NEW SQUARE - A shroud of secrecy surrounds the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of New Square. Many of the residents shun the outside world and keep to themselves.

However, a sex abuse victim from the community has spoken exclusively to News 12.

Yossi, who prefers to use only his first name, says he wants to speak out about his ordeal in the hope that other victims of abuse will come forward.

Yossi claims that Herschel Taubenfeld, a teacher in his community, inappropriately touched him three times a week for four months.

The teen asked for help from the head rabbis of New Square who had just set up their own sex crimes unit called the VAAD. The agency told him to see a therapist.

Two months later, Yossi reported the abuse to the Ramapo police. He says that his friends stopped talking to him and treated him like he didn't exist.

Yossi says his attacker admitted to the crimes, but religious leaders in the community sent Taubenfeld to Israel to obtain his rabbinical ordination. He also says he was offered  $100,000 to keep quiet about the situation, which he refused.

In December 2011, one month after Yossi reported the abuse, Taubenfeld turned himself in. He was charged with 30 misdemeanor counts of forcible touching, endangering the welfare of a child and third-degree sex abuse. However, the rabbi avoided jail time in exchange for six years probation.

According to students, Taubenfeld is still teaching at one of New Square’s largest religious schools.

Sex-abuse victims lack voice in New Square
In Hasidic community, those who take assault claims to cops 'are damaged goods'
LoHud - January 4, 2014

“Look at the moon,” Herschel Taubenfeld mused.

Yossi was 16, out for a stroll when he came across the older man who pointed him to a bright light encircling the moon one night in early 2011.

Having grown up in the insular Hasidic enclave of New Square, Yossi knew little about sex, or sexual abuse, and didn’t find it strange when the man then invited him into his house.

Nor did he understand what was happening during subsequent visits when he said the man convinced him to pull down his underwear. The 38-year-old married father, a respected teacher in a religious school for boys, fondled him under the ruse that he was a fortune-teller “reading” his genitals.

It wasn’t until months later that Yossi, who asked that his last name not be used, told his parents and then, he said, the cover-up began.

The Vaad, a community group set up to handle sex abuse allegations, referred Yossi and his abuser to therapy. Taubenfeld offered him hush money, Yossi said, and even some relatives pressured him to keep quiet in the interest of community harmony.

Yossi went to police anyway.

“I wasn’t ready to feel guilty for the rest of my life for not stopping this monster when I could have,” he said.

In a community that shuns outside authority, Yossi’s decision was almost unprecedented.
Sexual abuse of children and young people is systemically suppressed in Hasidic communities, advocates and alleged victims say, spawning a culture where victims are sent to therapists picked by the community’s religious leaders and whose sympathies often seem aligned with the abuser.

And if the victim is strong enough to seek out the judicial system, he or she, in the case of New Square, could find themselves in front of a judge elected by local residents at the behest of the grand rebbe. David Twersky is the heir to the rabbinical dynasty that has led the Skver Hasidim since their times in the Ukraine.

“New Square’s leaders have hunkered down,” said Ben Hirsch, a co-founder of Survivors for Justice, who helped Yossi through the legal process. “They have their policy of cover-ups, of keeping everything in-house. It’s the outspoken victim who is the villain, and the reported child molester who is the victim.”

Yossi actually got his abuser to tearfully confess in a telephone call secretly recorded by police. It wasn’t enough to get jail time for Taubenfeld, however.

Stuart Salles, New Square’s part-time elected judge, whose courtroom inside a yeshiva building typically handles petty crimes and traffic offenses, tried to convince the prosecutor to drop the sex abuse charge.

“The judge actually made indications to us that he wanted to see if it could be a non sex-offender case, where Taubenfeld would not have to register as a sex offender,” Rockland County Assistant District Attorney Eric Holzer said. “I said ‘no.’ ”

Salles, Rockland’s longest-serving judge, is a former Ramapo deputy attorney who now lives in New York City and has represented New Square pro bono since the mid-1970s.

“It’s my honor to serve the community,” Salles told The Journal News, while refusing to discuss Yossi’s case. “I sit and weigh things fairly on behalf of everyone.”

Originally charged with 10 misdemeanor counts each of third-degree sexual abuse, forcible touching and endangering the welfare of a child, Taubenfeld faced up to two years behind bars. He pleaded guilty to one count of forcible touching in January 2013, received six years probation and was forced to register as a sex offender under a plea deal Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe hailed as a triumph.

“If the guy had done jail time, he would have been out in a few months and under no one’s control,” Zugibe said. “We got a plea to the top count and six years probation and supervision. This was our first successful case in New Square. It was a home run.”

For Yossi, the sentence was devastating because his abuser never served a day in jail. And as a Level 1 sex offender — the least restricted — Taubenfeld’s name, address and case information are not publicized on a state registry.

“Everything I worked for, I risked everything,” Yossi told The Journal News during a recent interview. “When I found out he got nothing, and I see that he’s still out and continues his life here as if nothing happened, and that more children are at risk of being abused, it felt and still feels horrible.”

Yossi, who never had the chance to testify, is now the star witness in a new effort to fight his case in the media. He and his supporters argue his community and the local court failed him and will fail other abuse victims so long as the current dynamic prevails. They’re trying to influence change in New Square and other Hasidic communities where victims experience similar problems, and ultimately create a culture where sex abuse crimes get reported and aggressively prosecuted.

“If Yossi weren’t so brave and dogged, Taubenfeld would never even have been arrested,” Hirsch said.

In New Square, they’ve come up against community leaders who say it’s not their job to report sex crimes.

“We’re not mandated reporters,” said Isaac Brewer, a member of the Vaad. “That’s not our function. What we do with the accused is therapy and restrictions, until the authorities step in. He (Taubenfeld) is a typical subject that therapy and a slap works.”

Brewer, whose committee hears a couple of abuse allegations a year, said details about Yossi’s case have been “distorted.” He said leaders never sought to keep Yossi from contacting police.

“What friends, neighbors, cousins, others told him to do, we can’t be held responsible,” Brewer said of Yossi’s case. “We will never hold back anyone from saying what they want to say.”

Yehuda, who also asked that his last name not be used, said he is among the victims pressured not to speak. He claims he was sexually abused at age 15 by a man who was once part of Twersky’s inner circle and is suspected by police of molesting others.

Yehuda has spoken to Ramapo police, but hasn’t filed charges because he fears retribution from those loyal to the grand rabbi.

“Once you go public, you are damaged goods there,” said Yehuda, now 19.

“My family will be targeted. They could blow up my father’s house. I have nephews in New Square schools,” he said. “They will go after the children if I press charges. My sister would never forgive me. They use family against you like the Mafia.”

He said the man who abused him gave him a job working in the grand rabbi’s kitchen, where he joined other young followers who did butler work and other menial tasks.

One night in 2009, Yehuda said the man picked him up in a village car used by Twersky and parked behind a wedding hall on Route 45.

“He opened my zipper and began touching me,” Yehuda said. “I was shocked. I didn’t know what’s going on.”

Yehuda said he felt confused.

“I told my father — and he didn’t believe me,” Yehuda said. “The whole thing made me sick. I couldn’t eat. I left school.”

He said the man molested him twice more, once at the Holiday Inn in Montebello.

“Why are you doing this? We’re doing a sin,” Yehuda recalled telling him at the hotel. He said the man pointed to a 9 mm pistol at his waist and threatened to kill him if he told anyone.

The Vaad
For accusations made by people like Yossi and Yehuda, Twersky established the Vaad in 2008.

The committee of five local men, who meet about once a month, serves as a local clearinghouse for sex abuse allegations, referring victims and abusers to a roster of therapists and arranging training for teachers, principals and community rabbis on how to recognize signs of abuse.

Gabriel Fagin, a therapist who has provided training and also counseled Yossi and other local sex-abuse victims and abusers, said the efforts have dramatically changed the culture of a village that was “in complete denial about the issue.”

“There is a much more comprehensive and wholesome approach to how the community is dealing with the issues,” he said.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey and director of the Center for Jewish Family Life and Project YES, said some high-profile sex abuse cases have penetrated the religious community’s protective wall and that parents are increasingly turning to secular authorities.

“On the street, parents are much more aware of child safety matters and it’s not even comparable to a few years ago,” Horowitz said.

Samuel Heilman, a New Rochelle resident and professor of Jewish studies and sociology at the City University of New York at Queens College, said ultra-Orthodox community leaders still discourage their followers from reporting sexual abuse to police or secular authorities to maintain their control and keep the outside world at bay.

Allowing outsiders to protect community residents, he said, “threatens to undermine the belief in the moral superiority of their community and its leaders. If the price is a few victims, they — or at least some of them — are willing to pay it.”

Victim advocates say the Vaad helps maintain a protective wall.

“They block people from going to the authorities by saying, ‘Come to us, not the police, we’ll deal with this,’ ” Hirsch said.

“So in practical terms, it’s an organization that serves to obstruct justice,” Hirsch said.
Yehuda and Yossi said they learned the hard way that the Vaad and New Square leaders were not looking to help them.

Yehuda said after he reported being abused, he was sent to Rabbi Israel Eisenberg, who is assigned by Twersky to handle such sexual abuse cases. Eisenberg declined to comment.
Yehuda said he felt insecure, even scared, when he walked into the rabbi’s New Square study lined with religious books. The rabbi sat at the end of a long table.

“He asked me who abused me and what color underwear the individual wore,” Yehuda said.

“He seemed to be trying to figure out whether to believe me or not. He told me I shouldn’t do anything, not to talk to anyone else.”

He saw this as part of a cover-up sanctioned by New Square’s leadership.

“Yes, 100 percent they tried to protect (the older man),” Yehuda said.

“If they weren’t trying to protect him they would have given him up. They would have told me to go to the cops. The grand rebbe knew. They all knew about him.”

Suicide triggers more debate
In September, it was a highly publicized suicide that exposed the tormented past of another longtime New Square resident, Deborah Tambor.

The 33-year-old, who had psychiatric problems and overdosed in New Jersey, left the village four years ago after divorcing her husband.

She told friends she was still suffering from the childhood trauma of being molested by an uncle — and having members of the community accuse her of lying about it.

Yossi said he experienced similar alienation after he revealed that Taubenfeld had abused him repeatedly over several months, while his wife and children slept elsewhere in the house.

Yossi’s abuser continues to live less than a half mile away from him in New Square.

Taubenfeld has declined comment but his wife said she believes in her husband’s innocence and that he pleaded guilty only because his lawyer pressured him. She said she was home during Yossi’s visits and would have noticed if there were abuse because the door to her husband’s study was open.

Yossi, who started taking college classes in the fall and is seeing a non-Vaad therapist, worries about the impact his case may have on other victims from his community who remain too scared to pursue criminal charges — Yehuda, for one.

“My case might have strengthened that fear of coming forward, that even if you risk so much, it doesn’t accomplish much,” he said, though he does not regret breaking the silence.

“For other victims who feel alone, they should know there’s people out there to help,” he said. “A large part of the healing process for me was not to be ashamed about what happened.”

Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.

We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

For more information go to: . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


 "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." –– Margaret Mead


No comments: