12:55 AM, Jun. 6, 2011 | Written by Alex Taylor
NEW SQUARE — Prayers for the victim of a vicious arson attack two weeks ago were to be offered in a private service Sunday night.
By 8:30 p.m. a steady crowd of New Square residents could be seen gathering inside the community's main synagogue on Truman Avenue, two houses down from where Aron Rottenberg was severely burned during an attack that has exposed a violent religious feud in the heavily Hasidic village.
Outsiders were not allowed inside the synagogue.
Several people entering the synagogue declined to speak with The Journal News or claimed no prayer service for Rottenberg was taking place.
But one man, who gave his name as Moshe Klein, said about 1,000 village residents had in fact gone to synagogue to pray for Rottenberg's recovery despite a community-wide belief that he had acted against the village and its religious leader, Grand Rebbe David Twersky.
He went on to say that the past two weeks had been disruptive for New Square and he complained of unfair media coverage.
"This is very painful," Klein said.
"One guy wants to destroy the whole community," he said.
Another New Square resident, who declined to give his name, said he had been friends with Rottenberg, but believed he had provoked the May 22 attack after years of religious infractions.
Those infractions included not praying at the shul and stubbornly encouraging others, especially teenagers, to pray outside of New Square.
Rottenberg, 43, a plumber married with children, remains in Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla with third-degree burns across 50 percent of his body.
Rottenberg and other residents had been targeted for protests and vandalism since September when they broke Twersky's rules by praying outside the New Square synagogue at a local nursing home.
Shaul Spitzer, 18, is charged with felony counts of attempted murder and arson, along with assault.
He remains hospitalized in New York City with third-degree burns on his hands.
The prayer session was the first public event acknowledging Rottenberg's injuries.
While Twersky has spoken against violence and wishing a recovery to those injured, Rottenberg's family has blamed the rabbi for not stepping in to stop the months of violence that preceded the attack.
Staff writer Steve Lieberman contributed to this report.