12:24 AM, Jun. 2, 2011 | Written by Steve Lieberman
NEW SQUARE — The man severely burned during an arson attack alleged to have been committed by a follower of the Hasidic village's grand rabbi angrily denounced the religious leader in a recent video from his hospital bed.
In the video, Aron Rottenberg, 43, who says he was attacked for refusing to pray at Rabbi David Twersky's synagogue, calls Twersky's comments condemning violence hollow and disingenuous. He said the grand rabbi's comments disrespected Jewish law and that Twersky is concerned only about himself.
"This person doesn't have the guts to base his speech on the Torah or humanity," Rottenberg says in Yiddish in the video.
In his first comments about the May 22 attack outside Rottenberg's home, Twersky told students last Thursday that violence violated the principles of the Hasidic Jewish sect.
Twersky, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Skver Hasidic community, also said he prayed for the healthy recovery of Rottenberg and of his accused attacker, Shaul Spitzer, 18. The rabbi didn't mention either man by name.
"Violence has never been our way," the revered religious leader said.
Rottenberg's comments on the video were translated by several Yiddish speakers for The Journal News, including Paul Glasser, senior research associate on Yiddish language at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York City.
The video shows Rottenberg holding a letter in his left hand as he sits up in bed at the Westchester Medical Center's burn unit. He suffered third-degree burns across 50 percent of his body on May 22. He underwent a second surgery on Tuesday, cannot use his right arm due to the burns and is battling an infection.
Spitzer, who slept in Twersky's house and did butler-type duties, is accused of trying to burn down Rottenberg's Truman Avenue house after 4 a.m. May 22.
The family was asleep except for one son who was monitoring a security camera because of threatening telephone calls to the family.
Spitzer suffered third-degree burns to his hands and is being treated at a New York City hospital. A nurse said Wednesday that Spitzer was not allowed to speak with reporters.
Ramapo police charged Spitzer with second-degree attempted murder, first-degree attempted arson and first-degree assault. His brother Jacob and community members posted $300,000 cash bail.
In a previous video, Rottenberg said he started praying at Friedwald Center because a friend there was being treated for cancer.
Rottenberg had walked the mile to the New Hempstead nursing home so his friend would be able to pray with 10 Jewish men as required under Jewish religious practice. He said the New Square community sabotaged a shortcut by taking down lights and digging a 3-foot-deep trench.
Staff writer Jane Lerner contributed to this report.