Friday, June 03, 2011

Troubling pattern in New Square 

Ramapo police detectives did not investigate last fall, when Aron Rottenberg's family called police eight times in less than two months to report vandalism and intimidation. The family said they were being targeted for Rottenberg's decision to worship outside the Hasidic village. Detectives got involved in May, about a week before the arson attack that burned Aron Rottenberg over 50 percent of his body.

The pattern of intimidation revealed in Ramapo police reports should pique the interest of federal agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. The freedom to pray where one wants without suffering violence is a civil right.

The record shows that Ramapo police failed to notice the growing threat to the Rottenbergs, even though police have said that detective investigations are warranted not only for serious crimes, but for patterns of criminal activity.

Ramapo town officials failed further, as Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence parrotted assurances that the attack was an "isolated incident."

Federal law enforcement, which doesn't rely on the community's amazing ability to turn out the vote, could launch the clear-eyed investigation that is needed, and that Rottenberg deserves.
Drawing ire

Rottenberg has said that he began praying at Friedwald House to help his friend being treated for cancer at the nursing facility. Jews are required to form a minyan, a quorum of 10 Jewish males, to fulfill religious obligations, including prayer.

The decision drew the ire of the Skver sect's dynastic leader, Grand Rebbe David Twersky. Orders were issued by the rabbi, and a Beth Din, or rabbinical court, demanding all residents pray only at the community synagogue. While others returned to the main synagogue, Rottenberg stayed at Friedwald.

Soon, his house's windows were smashed; his daughter's schooling was threatened; crowds gathered on the street outside his home. Then, on May 22, he confronted a man carrying a rag soaked with flammable liquid, and was severely burned. Rottenberg remains hospitalized in Westchester Medical Center, where he underwent surgery on Tuesday.


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