Friday, June 03, 2011

Second family claims New Square harassment, leaves village 

As Aron Rottenberg faces more surgery for severe burns suffered in an arson attack, another man who says he was targeted for praying outside of the Hasidic Jewish village packed up his family and left the community Thursday.

The fates of Rottenberg and David Fromowitz have differed since they began praying outside the village's only synagogue in September. But they are linked by their defiance of Grand Rebbe David Twersky's rules.

They say they faced months of harassment, their property being damaged and dozens of residents protesting outside their homes. Their children's education was threatened.

Rottenberg said the anger against him led to an attempt May 22 to burn down his Truman Avenue house, down the block from the synagogue.

During a scuffle just after 4 o'clock that morning with the suspect, Shaul Spitzer, 18, an incendiary device exploded.

Rottenberg suffered third-degree burns across 50 percent of his body. He's in Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.

Spitzer, charged with attempted murder and attempted arson, has third-degree burns across his hands and is being treated at a New York City hospital.

Rottenberg, a 43-year-old plumber and father of four, is improving, his son-in-law Moshe Elbaum said Thursday.

"They've started to walk with him down the hallway," Elbaum said. "He's able to eat a little bit. He's still in pain. He's looking pretty good."

Elbaum said Rottenberg couldn't complete the sale of his house because of interference. Fromowitz was able to sell his Stern Avenue home, although he said the religious leadership tried to kill the sale.

Hank Sheinkopf, a public relations consultant, said his New Square clients counter that there was no effort to force anyone to move out of the community.

"No such efforts have been sanctioned by the leadership of the community," Sheinkopf said. "There was no blocking any sales of houses. Every attempt has been made to assist, not to block sales."


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