A Rockland judge on Thursday found New Square rabbi Moshe Taubenfeld not guilty of allegations he sexually abused a boy over a five-year period.
Taubenfeld, 55, also known as Mendel Zarkowsky, was charged with second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, a felony.
As he left the courtroom, his supporters started singing and dancing until court officers told them to be more composed. They said they planned to host a big celebration in New Square.
His lawyer, Gerard Damiani, said “Mr. Taubenfeld is very happy it is over with. He always denied he ever abused (the boy) or anyone.”
He said Taubenfeld had taught over 200 students over the course of his career and not one of them has ever suggested he did anything inappropriate.
Rockland County Court Judge Rolff Thorsen announced the verdict at 3 p.m. following a multi-week, non-jury trial. He said it was based on the evidence, and had nothing to do with public opinion.
Damiani said Thorsen was under a lot of pressure in the case from the district attorney, the media, and Brooklyn activists, but was able to look past any prejudice in the case.
Nachum Rosenberg, a Brooklyn resident with ties to the religious community in Ramapo, advocates for people sexually abused in the Hasidic community and came to court Thursday to hear the verdict. He said it had been a terrible week for children in Rockland, citing another rabbi’s plea to a reduced charge in a sexual abuse case earlier in the week.
He called the decision political, saying the judge owed his election to New Square. He said as long as judges are subject to political influence, “there will be no peace for children.”
The young man testified during the trial’s second day that Taubenfeld had sexually abused him, starting when he sought comfort and an explanation for the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He was 8 years old at the time and Taubenfeld was a neighbor. He said the alleged abuse didn’t stop until he said he turned 13 and moved out of the village in May 2006.
The young man said he and his family reported the abuse about six years ago to New Square community religious leaders, who discouraged him from going to police.
Defense lawyers, however, hammered at what they said were inconsistencies in the man’s story,
The courtroom had been packed with men supporting Taubenfeld, a father of 20 who is well respected within the Skver Hasidic village. His brother, Herschel Taubenfeld, pleaded guilty in 2013 to charges that he forcibly touched a young boy.