Defending Rabbi Taubes

Defending Rabbi Taubes

The Rabbis in the Talmud determined that the Second Temple was destroyed as a result of sinat chinam – baseless hatred. The Netziv (Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin) defines sinat chinam as attacking other Jews who have a different, albeit valid, opinion other than one’s own. This naturally leads to the serious sins of lashon hara and publicly embarrassing others. The lead article in your July 12 issue (“Outcry over hosting a sex offender”) is an example of this type of sinat chinam.

Rabbi Michael Taubes is an outstanding Torah scholar, educator and pulpit rabbi. He is kind, compassionate, caring and sensitive to all who have the pleasure of knowing him. Rabbi Taubes is beloved by his congregants and by his students. Smearing his good name through public vilification is despicable and a sin.

Someone who was molested certainly deserves compassion and the ability to receive counseling to heal, if he so chooses, to deal with the terrible trauma. No one is minimizing the pain of a victim, and all victims deserve communal support and assistance. But being a victim of abuse is not a license to malign another (who had nothing to do with his case) in a public forum, such as a rabbinical convention, a newspaper, or the blogs. Anyone who has a complaint against Rabbi Taubes should call him directly to discuss the issues rather than immediately going public.

And finally, there is absolutely no connection between Rabbi Taubes and charges of alleged abuse at MTA many years ago. The Jewish Standard is guilty of sensationalist journalism by insinuating that connection in both the first paragraph and the sixth paragraph of your story.

Rabbi Taubes is owed a public apology.

The editor responds:

We at the Jewish Standard stand by our story. We plead not guilty to the sin of sinat chinam. Our intent was not to defame but to inform.

The story, particularly in the first and sixth paragraphs, includes reports from credible observers that Rabbi Taubes hosted Baruch Lanner, who was convicted of and imprisoned for the sexual abuse of children, and who now is on Florida’s registry of sexual offenders.

We note that the letter writers do not debate this fact; they object instead to our reporting it.

The letter writers say that “anyone who has a complaint against Rabbi Taubes should call him directly to discuss the issues rather than immediately going public.” We direct those writers to our seventh paragraph, where we report on the results of our reporter’s call to Rabbi Taubes: “I’m not going to comment at this time.”

Nothing in the article connects Rabbi Taubes to the alleged abuse at MTA, which is not claimed to have continued past the 1980s. Rabbi Taubes now heads MTA; we mentioned the school in that context.

Parents have a right to know when a known sex offender is in their neighborhood.