Saturday, June 18, 2011

Suspect in New Square arson returns to community 

The 18-year-old man accused of an arson attack on a man who refused to pray in the grand rebbe's main synagogue has returned to the community and the local school.

Shaul Spitzer, who faces attempted murder and arson charges in the May 22 attack, regrets the criticism and spotlight brought onto the Skver Hasidic community's grand rebbe, his friend, Menashe Luftig, said Thursday.

A spokesman for community residents denied that Spitzer, who was treated in a New York City hospital for burns suffered in the attack, had returned to school.

Spitzer's return to the village drew a harsh response from the family of Aron Rottenberg, who remains hospitalized with third-degree burns over half his body due to the 4 a.m. attack.

Spitzer lived in Grand Rebbe David Twersky's house and did menial tasks for the dynastic religious leader. He's also been tied to a group of young men whom some residents say enforces the rebbe's rules.

Spitzer lived with the rebbe and others at the time of the attempted arson of Rottenberg's Truman Avenue home.

Rockland prosecutors have prepared for a grand jury review on the charges against Spitzer by interviewing Rottenberg.

While Spitzer has been welcomed back in some circles, the Rottenberg family said Twersky and other religious leaders have essentially expelled two of Rottenberg's younger children from attending schools in New Square.

Rottenberg's son-in-law said Friday that Spitzer's easy return to the community and the boycott of the family shows Twersky's words condemning violence were hollow.

"Spitzer walks around there in the shul and yeshiva like nothing happened," Moshe Elbaum said. "After what he did, he came back to his old life and things are back to normal. My father-in-law is still suffering."

Elbaum said the rebbe and religious leaders shouldn't have to let Spitzer back into the fold.

The family argues Spitzer acted on the rebbe's behalf when he went after Rottenberg, who had been targeted for months with vandalism and protests. The family is suing Twersky and Spitzer for $18 million. Twersky has denied the accusations and condemned violence.


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