Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New Square arson victim blames leaders, not attacker 

New Square arson victim Aron Rottenberg today said he has no real animosity toward the 18-year-old man charged in the attack.

"Why would this 18-year-old boy come to my house at 4:15 in the morning and want to burn down a home with five people in it?" he said in a just-concluded news conference.

Rottenberg instead blamed the leaders of the New Square Hasidic village with making clear that his family had to go. He said that New Square's grand rebbe, David Twersky, in particular, had it out for him because Rottenberg would not pray at New Square's main synagogue, as required by Twersky.

"I don't know if he said 'Burn down the house,' but he wanted us to move out of there," Rottenberg said.

Rottenberg suffered third-degree burns over half his body during the May 22 attack on his home.

He said he was released from the hospital Monday and is staying at an area hotel until he feels ready to return to New Square. His wife and children are now living outside New Square, he said.

Still, he said that he feels safe because the FBI and local police are now investigating his case.

"I have the government on my side," he said. "We're the victims."

His wife, Ruth, sat by his side as he talked, looking nervous. She said that New Square's leaders refused to work things out with her family before the attack.

"We were like hostages," she said.

Rottenberg, who had two skin grafts, said he is receiving daily physical and occupational therapy and has been told by doctors that he could be close to normal in a year or so. He hopes to return to his job as a plumber.

His lawyer filed an $18 million lawsuit earlier this month accusing Twersky of inspiring the arson attack. The lawsuit also named Shaul Spitzer, 18, who faces attempted murder and arson charges in the case.

Rottenberg, who has lived most of his life in New Square, said that most people there are good people but have been brainwashed by the community's leaders.

"They only know the grand rebbe, New Square, the grand rebbe, New Square," he said. "They don't know the outside, what freedom is all about."


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