Rockland County, NY – Relatives of a man who was severely burned in an arson attack were shouted down by a resident of this Hasidic enclave Wednesday for going against the will of the community’s grand rebbe.
A lawyer for Aron Rottenberg, the 43-year-old plumber who suffered burns on half his body Sunday, held a news conference in front of the Rottenberg home to call for state and federal investigations into the arson attack.
Lawyer Michael Sussman, joined by Rottenberg’s son and son-in-law, said that Rottenberg was harassed for months by the Skver Hasidic sect that runs New Square because he would not pray at the main synagogue, as required by Grand Rebbe David Twersky.
“This is nothing other than religious bigotry,” Sussman said. “If it doesn’t stop, it will get worse.”
Early in the news conference, a six-year New Square resident, Shulem Sofer, began screaming that Sussman was lying. He yelled out that Rottenberg broke the community’s rules and that it was justifiable to try to burn down Rottenberg’s home, but not to injure the man.
“The rabbi never said to do fire to people,” Sofer screamed in a high-pitched voice. “It’s anti-Semitism. It’s anti-New Square.”
Sussman countered that people in the United States are free to pray where they want, but Sofer said he followed the grand rebbe’s rules.
“I am from Jew land,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.