UPDATE: The family of Aron Rottenberg says he was attacked because he started a prayer group outside the authority of Grand Rabbi David Twersky, and that Twersky’s followers have been trying to drive him from the community ever since. See update after the jump...
In today’s episode of My God Hates Your God & Wants Me To Burn Up
All Your Stuff, we take you to the fundamentalist Jewish community of
New Square, New York. That’s the world headquarters of Grand Rabbi David
Twersky, leader of the Skver Hasidic sect.
New Square’s problems began when some residents split off to form their own synagogue at the
Friedwald Center, rather than worshiping with Rabbi Twersky (pictured above). So some of the rabbi’s followers thought the break-away parishioners deserved to burn.
On May 6, 100 firefighters were called to the home of one dissident family after the upstairs floor of their home caught fire. The blaze appeared to be part of an ongoing campaign by Twersky’s followers that included threats and fires.
So the family of 43-year-old plumber Aron Rottenberg decided to take defensive measures. They’d received threats before and had their windows broken. They also received a phone call last week, telling them to quit calling the cops, otherwise their home would be burned down.
That threat proved legit in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Police say Aron’s son woke his father at 4 a.m.; he heard someone on the porch of their home. They looked at their newly installed security cameras and saw a man outside throw something on their back deck.
Aron and his son went outside to confront the guy, who turned out to be 18-year-old Shaul
Spitzer. He’d thrown a gas-soaked rag onto the deck, intending to set the house on fire. But in the midst of the confrontation, both Aron and Spitzer were set aflame.
Spitzer fled while Aron’s son rolled his dad on the ground to put out the fire. Police arrived to find Aron with severe burns to his arms, chest and face. He was taken to a hospital, where doctors still aren’t sure if he’ll survive.
Spitzer was arrested a few hours later. He too was taken to a hospital for burns to his hands and arms. He’s been charged with arson and assault. But those charges may be jacked up to attempted murder or even murder if Aron dies.
Aron Rottenberg’s family says he was set on fire for starting a prayer group outside Rabbi Twersky’s synagogue
UPDATE: The Rottenberg family says they’ve faced a campaign of harassment to drive them from the community.
Aron’s troubles began when he started a prayer group at the Friedwald Center, just a block away from Rabbi Twersky’s synagogue. Then came the rabbi’s pronouncement that no one should pray outside his synagogue. The Rottenberg family has faced harassment ever since.
The windows of Aron’s car and home have both been smashed. On at least one occasion, 100 people gathered outside his home to chant, “Aron Rottenberg, leave the neighborhood.”
Police concede the incidents occurred, but never made an arrest. And when Aron wouldn’t budge, it appears Twersky’s followers resorted to attempted murder.
The Rottenberg’s believe the assaults may have been orchestrated by the grand rabbi himself. They say Spitzer is a butler in the rabbi’s home.
See our last episode from the What Wouldn’t Jesus Do? file: Derrick Griffin, Baptist Minister, Charged With Murder in Love Triangle Slaying.