September 19, 2019

Brooklyn Rabbi’s House Burns Down in Suspected Arson, 13 Injured

Crown Heights , Brooklyn neighborhood. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The home of a Brooklyn rabbi erupted in fire early Friday in what investigators suspect was an arson attack by a man who accused the rabbi of being a pedophile.

Thirteen people, including a 6-week-old baby, were injured. None of the injuries were life-threatening, although 12 people were sent to the hospital, including nine civilians, two firefighters and an EMS medic.

The blaze erupted in a car outside a home in the Midwood neighborhood and spread to three others, including that of Rabbi Jonathan Max, the New York Daily News reported. 

Investigators are looking into Menachem Karelefsky as a suspect, according to the Daily News. The Pittsburgh resident, who also goes by Matthew, on his LinkedIn profile accused Max, a teacher at the Chaim Berlin Yeshiva, of being a pedophile.

A phone number listed on Karelefsky’s LinkedIn profile leads to a voicemail message in Hebrew that says “May the name and memory of Rabbi Max be erased, simply, really, forever.”

The rabbi’s son told the Daily News that Karelefsky was “a psychopath.”

“He said he was going to make an attempt on my dad’s life,” Ezra Max said. “He’s a sick individual who needs help.”

A Midwood resident, Shimon Gifter, told the Daily News that Karelefsky had threatened to kill the rabbi for years.

“He lives in Pittsburgh, but people saw him around the neighborhood yesterday,” Gifter said. “He was asking people where Rabbi Max is, ‘I want to kill him.’ But people didn’t believe him. He’s been saying stuff like that for 10 years. He said to me, ‘I want him to drop dead.’”