A McKeesport man accused of setting a fire at the home of a Brooklyn, N.Y., rabbi last week that injured 13 people had a history of threatening the religious leader, according to published reports.
The victims, including a 6-week-old baby and three first responders, were injured in Thursday morning’s fire, according to the New York Post.
Menachem Karelefsky, 41, was arrested and charged on Sunday with arson and two counts of attempted murder for setting a fire at the home of Rabbi Jonathan Max. The fire spread to a pair of neighboring buildings before it was extinguished.
None of the injuries is life-threatening, the Post reported.
The Times of Israel reported that Karelefsky, who also goes by the name Matthew, posted on various social media sites that the rabbi, a teacher at the Chaim Berlin Yeshiva, molested him in the school’s dormitory.
Karelefsky has a tattoo on his arm reminding him to “Never let go of the HATRED – KILL Rabbi Max YEMACH SHMO.” The final two words are a Hebrew term calling for his name to be obliterated from memory, according to published reports.
There do not appear to be any other public accusations of sexual misconduct against Max, according to the Times.
Karelefsky has repeated his allegations on various Orthodox blogs and reportedly threatened to kill the rabbi for at least a decade.
Max denied the accusations as “nonsense,” saying that Karelefsky blamed him for his divorce, the Times reported.
A neighbor told the New York Daily News that he saw Karelefsky around the neighborhood the day before the fire looking for Max.
In a telephone exchange with a Post reporter on Thursday, Karelefsky admitted to having an issue with Max.
“I do hate him. Doesn’t mean I torched his house,” the suspect wrote in a text-message exchange with the reporter. “Of course the police will think it is me.”