Pa. man charged in rabbi home fire that hurt 13, rabbi's son says suspect a 'psychopath'

Samantha Liebman
June 16, 2019 - 10:32 am

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) – A suspect is in custody in connection with a four-alarm fire at a Brooklyn rabbi’s home that left more than a dozen people hurt -- and the rabbi's son says the alleged arsonist attended his father's yeshiva and has had a long-standing vendetta against him.

Days after the blaze, police arrested 41-year-old Matthew Karelefsky of McKeesport, Pennsylvania.

He’s been charged with attempted murder in the second degree and arson.

Karelefsky, who also goes by Menachem, had some sort of grudge against the rabbi.

The rabbi’s son, Ezra Max, told 1010 WINS' Samantha Liebman that Karelefsky suffers from mental illness and needs help.

"Apparently he even wrote a manifesto and he said, 'If I can't get him this way, I'll get him that way,'" Max said. "And while he was in either jail or a psychiatric facility he read, 'Oh we can destroy people's reputations, so I'm going to destroy his reputation.'"

He accused the rabbi of being a pedophile on his LinkedIn page and left a voicemail message in Hebrew calling for the rabbi to be erased from history.

"It's horrible to even have to answer this," Max said. "It's insulting that a man that gave his entire life for his students should be torn down by a psycopath."

Even more stunning – a photo of the suspect shared on social media is said to show a tattoo on his arm saying, “Never let go of the HATRED – KILL Rabbi Max.”

The Max family is trying to focus on the positives after their home was burned.

"My dad said it's bricks and stones. It's just wood. It's just things. It's things. Baruch hashem, we have our lives," Ezra Max said through tears.

The fire on East 17th Street in Midwood started after 4 a.m. Thursday and quickly spread to two neighboring homes. Thirteen people ended up in the hospital, including a six-week-old boy with smoke inhalation.

Video from police shows someone dashing from the home after the fire was set.

There’s been no word on when the suspect is due in court.

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