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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Update on Shaul Spitzer from New Square

Chaim Aaron Rottenberg in Burn Unit
Shaul Spitzer, a follower of the New Square grand rebbe, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for first-degree assault in the attack on Aron Rottenberg at 4:15 a.m. May 22 during an attempt to burn down the family's home on Truman Avenue in New Square.

Spitzer was sentenced this morning in state Supreme Court in New City.
Rottenberg, 44, once a plumber, continues to recover from third-degree burns over 50 percent of his body, suffered when Spitzer set off an incediary device while grappling with Rottenberg. Spitzer suffered burns to his hands and arms.

 Charges Upgraded!
Ramapo police have upgraded the charges against the suspect believed to have attacked a Truman Avenue man early Sunday morning after trying to burn down his home.    Shaul Spitzer, 18, of nearby Adams Lane, now faces charges of first-degree arson andsecond-degree attempted murder, both felonies. He had previously been charged with felony counts of first-degree attempted arson and first-degree assault.
Police said Spitzer was responsible in the arson attack that left Aron Rottenberg, 43, with third-degree burns to 50 percent of his body. Rottenberg was taken to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla and remains there in serious condition. He is expected to survive his injuries, police said today.
Rottenberg's family say they have been the target of violence and protests in the Hasidic enclave because Rottenberg worships at the Friedwald Center, rather than the community's main synagogue.
But at a press conference at 2:30 p.m. today Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said he had spoken with New Square Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer and had been assured that Sunday's attack was the result of a private dispute between the two men and not a campaign of retribution. Rottenberg's family has strongly disputed that conclusion.
Police said they are continuing to investigate and released only a few additional details, some of them grisly. When police arrived at Rottenberg's home on Sunday at 4:12 a.m. they found him sitting on the front steps of his home so badly burned smoke was rising from his body.
Rottenberg's son also suffered burns on his fingers after trying to put out the flames.
Here read the Condemnation of the Skvere Bais Din, notice no one signed it, and nobody wished R' Aaron Rottenberg a Refuah Shelimah! 
Rottenberg Hires A Lawyer

An attorney hired by the family of a man severely burned during an arson attempt early Sunday reiterated the family's claim that the attack was orchestrated by religious leaders of the Hasidic Jewish village, and should therfore face prosecution.
Michael Sussman will hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon in front of Aron Rottenberg's Truman Avenue home where Sunday's attack occurred.
Sussman said Rottenberg had no personal issues with the suspect, Shaul Spitzer, 18, contradicting the position of a village leader.
Sussman said Rottenberg's rights to practice his religion were violated by the leadership of grand rabbi David Twersky, the dynastic spiritual leader of the Skver Hasidic Jewish community.
"Rather this event culminated months of increasingly violent and coordinated religiously based attacks on Mr. Rottenberg triggered by the victim's choice of synagogue and religious leader," Sussman said
Spitzer was being arraigned this morning in a Manhattan hospital burn unit room. He suffered severe burns to his arms and hands.
Ramapo police charged Spitzer with felony counts of second-degree attempted murder, first-degree arson and first-degree assault.
Spitzer is accused of tossing a flammable item onto the rear porch of Rottenberg's home on Truman Avenue.
Rottenberg, a plumber, and his family have been the targets of community intimidation since last year, police reports and Internet videos show.
Mobs of people descended on his house, demanding he leave the Skver Hasidic Jewish community.
Rottenberg and his family said his refusal to pray in Twersky's synagogue led to retaliation from community members. Rottenberg's family and residents say Spitzer worked as a butler in the grand rabbi's home.
After 4 a.m. Sunday, Rottenberg confronted Spitzer outside his house. Both of them caught fire, police said.
Rottenberg suffered third-degree burns across 50 percent of his body. He's being treated at the Westchester Medical Center.
Spitzer is being treated at the Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan with serious burns to his hands and arms.
Ramapo Detective Lt. Mark Emma said this morning that a video from Rottenberg's house shows one man outside.
He said detectives are investigating all avenues of the case, including who broke Rottenberg's windows last week and those who attacked his house last autumn.
"We're looking at all the incidents together," Emma said as he drove to Manhattan for the arraignment. We're looking at whether the incidents were done collectively or by people acting individually."
Emma said one other family on Bush Lane has reported being targeted, but "Mr. Rottenberg for some reason has been the principal victim."
Emma said detectives spoke to Rottenberg, but he was under heavy sedation. His son-in-law, Moshe Elbaum, said Rottenberg has been in great pain.
Spitzer declined to talk to police without his attorney, James Licata, the county public defender, Emma said.

New Square burn victim had feared for his safety!

Ramapo Police Chief Peter Brower announces the charges against a New Square man in connection with Sunday's arson attack against Aron Rottenberg, 43, of New Square. Behind Brower at Monday's news conference is Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence.

A New Square man who was severely burned early Sunday during an attack on his home had been the victim of growing harassment for more than a year because he did not attend the community's main synagogue.
Aron Rottenberg, 43, who suffered third-degree burns to half his body, visited The Journal News office in November to express concerns about his safety.
Rottenberg had been ostracized by the Skver Hasidic sect that runs New Square because he did not worship at the community's main synagogue, headed by Grand Rebbe David Twersky.
A letter distributed to the community in November by New Square's leadership and rabbinical court warned that not worshipping at the synagogue was a severe violation and that anyone in violation must be stopped from using the community's facilities.
"This all started when Rabbi David Twersky called for a meeting demanding the religious services outside his synagogue must be stopped," wrote Sam Dirnfeld, a New Square resident, in an email.
Rottenberg's son-in-law Moshe Elbaum said the family had faced growing levels of intimidation in recent months, including broken windows in their home. Some protested outside the Rottenberg home in November, calling on them to leave. The family later installed surveillance cameras.
The cameras didn't help on Sunday. Just after 4 a.m., Rottenberg confronted a man carrying a rag soaked with flammable liquid behind his home on Truman Avenue and was severely burned during a confrontation.
Rottenberg is in serious condition at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla but is expected to survive.
Shaul Spitzer, 18, of nearby Adams Lane, was arrested and now faces charges of first-degree arson and second-degree attempted murder, both felonies. Spitzer also suffered serious burns to his hands and arms and is being held at Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. He has not yet been arraigned.
At a news conference Monday, Police Chief Peter Brower said his detectives had not found evidence linking the attack on Rottenberg's house to the previous protests in the community.
Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said he was assured by New Square Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer that Sunday's attack was an isolated incident, the result of a private dispute and not part of a campaign of retribution.
Yossi Gestetner, a Monsey-based journalist who works with the Hasidic community, said New Square leaders would never condone such violence.
"Did the rabbinical leadership have issues with Mr. Rottenberg? Yes," Gestetner said. "But to conclude they would sanction violence is wrong."
But others suggested that the campaign against Rottenberg inspired Sunday's violence.
"If you don't follow the rules, this is what happens," said Elbaum, a former New Square resident.
Dirnfeld said he had little faith in local law enforcement because of its ties to New Square. He called for a federal investigation.
"I know there will be retaliation against me for speaking up, but as there is no responsible leadership, someone has to," he wrote.
One New Square woman said she and her friends were waiting for New Square's leadership to condemn Sunday's act and were bitterly disappointed that nothing was said.
"No one has come out to condemn the action of that boy," she said. "The girls went back to school. The boys went back to yeshiva. Nothing. It is against Judaism, against the Torah."
The woman did not want to be identified because she said she would be shunned and her property vandalized.
She said residents don't know what to tell their kids about Sunday's violence.
"People are hurting others, burning others, throwing rocks into windows, doing things to people's property, and no one condemns them," she said. "A group of men think that when New Square was built, the grand rebbe's father, who built the village, said everyone should pray in one synagogue. Did he know there would be many, many more people here and that not everyone would want to go to the same synagogue?"
Divisions within Skver and other Hasidic sects only occasionally spill into public view. New Square is a mystery to most. Its population grew by 50 percent to 6,944 between 2000 and 2010, as most adults marry young and have large families. New Square's average household of 5.54 people is the largest in the region.
Samuel Heilman of New Rochelle, distinguished professor of sociology at Queens College and one of the nation's leading experts on Hasidim, said the Skver community is a monolithic place where people are always on the lookout for challenges that could lead to divisions. People also believe the grand rebbe is their intermediary to God, so perceived challenges to his authority are taken seriously.
"The idea of a crack in the charter of the community is really frightening to them," he said.
Rottenberg and up to 30 others had decided to pray at the Friedwald Center, a rehabilitation and nursing center on New Hempstead Road, rather than New Square's main synagogue on Truman Avenue. Elbaum said the community's pressure dropped the number of worshippers to a handful, including his father-in-law.
nternal disputes rarely involve violence, although there is a tradition of using force to confront a wrong-doer, Heilman said. A dissenter is more likely to be cut off by the community.
"I could see a young man, who probably doesn't understand the rabbinic norms, figuring that if someone doesn't follow the conservative line, you can impose it on him," Heilman said. "It's not an impossible jump."
The Skver Hasidic movement was founded in modern-day Ukraine in the city of Skver during the late 1700s. Rabbis in the Twersky line are believed to have been at the helm since the earliest days. The movement came to Brooklyn during the 1920s. Then in 1954, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Twersky, the grand rebbe of the day, bought 130 acres of a former dairy farm outside Spring Valley to form New Square.
Many of the community's early residents were Holocaust survivors, and none had been followers of Twersky previously, according to "Hasidic People: A Place in the New World," a 1992 book by the late scholar Jerome R. Mintz.
"They were united in the dream of the new community and in their faith in the sincerity and piety of the Skverer Rebbe," he wrote.
The settlement incorporated as a village in 1961 after battling the Ramapo Town Board over zoning regulations. When the grand rebbe died in 1968, David Twersky was quickly named his successor.
A similar division has been seen in the Satmar Hasidic sect. A group that opposed the chief rabbi in Orange County's Kiryas Joel village wound up battling the sect in the state courts over where it could worship.
The highest-profile Hasidic split has been for the leadership of the vast Satmar movement, with two sons of the late rebbe splitting the movement into two groups as they battled for power.
Press Conference in New Square

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