Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hasidic man who burned neighbor over synagogue dispute set free 

A young hasidic man who firebombed a neighbor's house in a religious dispute three years ago is set to be given early release from prison after a New York court retroactively granted him youthful offender status on Tuesday.

Shaul Spitzer was eighteen when he set fire to the house of Aron Rottenberg, a fellow resident of the insular hasidic village of New Square in 2012, causing severe burns over half of his body.

According to local newspaper The Journal News, judge William Kelly decided that Spitzer had matured in prison and that he was not the same person he was when he tried to impress the hasidic leadership of his community by taking the law into his own hands.

The Skverer Chasidic sect, which largely runs New Square, is incredibly strict and maintains rules regulating what its adherents eat, what they wear and where they pray.

Spitzer, who was living in the house of Grand Rabbi David Twersky at the time, attacked Rottenberg due to his decision to pray outside of the town's central synagogue.

Prior to the arson, Rottenberg had been harassed by other neighbors in the forms of rock attacks, threatening phone calls and the expulsion of one of their children from a local school. He subsequently sued both Spitzer and Twersky for what he termed a coordinated campaign against him and his family.

Rottenberg later received a settlement from the Skverer hasidic movement of over three million dollars.

According to The Journal News, during Tuesday's court appearance, judge Kelly said that he "got the impression [that Spitzer] was sincere," and taking into account Rottenberg's call for leniency when Spitzer was initially sentenced, he felt comfortable in ordering him freed.

A video clip purported to show Skverer Chasidim dancing and singing in celebration of Spitzer's release.

Rottenberg spoke out against Spitzer's release, telling the judge that despite advocating for leniency initially, he did not believe that the young man should be set free now.

"If they succeed in getting Spitzer out early, it will actually prove to them that they do have the power in the justice system and they will be able to brainwash their community even a lot stronger," he told The Journal News.

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