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July 19, 2019

Pennsylvania man with crazed grudge against Brooklyn rabbi charged with attempted murder and arson in fire that torched holy man’s home

June 16, 2019
The four-alarm fire that erupted early Thursday on E. 17th St. near Avenue N in Midwood. (Vic Nicastro / for New York Daily News)

A Pennsylvania man with an crazed grudge against a Brooklyn rabbi has been arrested over accusations he set a massive fire that torched the religious leader’s home and sent 13 people — including a 6-week-old infant — to the hospital, police said Sunday.

Menachem “Matthew” Karelefsky, of McKeesport, Pa., was charged with two counts of attempted murder and arson for the four-alarm fire that erupted early Thursday on E. 17th St. near Avenue N in Midwood.


The blaze quickly spread to three homes, including the home of Rabbi Jonathan Max, a teacher at Chaim Berlin Yeshiva.

Karelefsky accuses the rabbi of being a pedophile on his public LinkedIn page.

“So many people know that this ‘holy man’ uses his big beard and big hat to cover up the BIG sins that he does in private,” the alleged arsonist told a Daily News reporter via text message prior to his arrest.

The rabbi’s son called him a “psychopath” when reached after the fire.

“He has a history of saying very strange things,” the son said. “He said he was going to make an attempt on my dad’s life. He’s a sick individual who needs help.”

It took firefighters three hours to bring the early morning inferno under control. Most of the victims suffered smoke inhalation and all are expected to recover, the FDNY said.

Karelefsky was awaiting arraignment in Brooklyn Criminal Court Sunday.


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