NEW SQUARE, N.Y. (CBS 2) — An orthodox Jewish father of four said he was apparently punished for worshipping his own way after an attack left him with burns covering 50 percent of his body.
CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported a rift exploded into a fiery confrontation in Rockland County Sunday morning.
“His upper body is third-degree burns all over,” the victim’s son-in-law, Moshe Elbaum, said.
Elbaum said the top half of Aron Rottenberg’s body is covered in excruciatingly painful burn wounds. He said his father-in-law suffered the burns defending his family, confronting a man who police said was trying to fire bomb their home.
“He tried to murder people who were sleeping in the house,” Elbaum said.
Early Sunday morning, Rottenberg, 43, was sleeping in his Truman Avenue home in New Square when a family member saw an intruder in the backyard.
Rottenberg, a plumber, went outside to face the suspect, who police said had a device with flammable liquid and a long, improvised fuse. In the struggle, the device caught fire, injuring both men.
Police arrested 18-year-old Shaul Spitzer, also of New Square, and charged him with first-degree attempted arson and first-degree assault, both felonies.
Spitzer was transported to a burn unit in New York City, while Rottenberg was taken to Westchester Medical Center.
Rottenberg’s wife and children surrounded him at the hospital, saying they were too terrified to return home to their all-Hasidic Jewish community. They said a religious rift in the community led to them being targets before.
Family members said that because Rottenberg left the village’s main synagogue, and now worships elsewhere, some in the community want the family gone. Six months ago, car windows were smashed; earlier this month, the windows of the house were busted in.
“Doing your own thing, that is not something they can take,” Elbaum said. “They don’t like that, because it’s showing people can do what they want to do.
“Hopefully this is the end of it, and everyone’s going to be okay,” he said.
The Rottenberg family installed surveillance cameras after the previous incidents, and police said that’s how the suspect was caught in the act of pouring liquid around the property in the back.
Family members said that boosted security, and Rottenberg’s bravery, saved all of their lives.
Aron Rottenberg was expected to remain hospitalized for at least the next month.