|Adolf Hitler David Twersky|
Shaul Spitzer, who faces attempted murder and arson charges in the May 22 attack, regrets the criticism and spotlight brought onto the Skver Hasidic community's grand rebbe, his friend, Menashe Luftig, said Thursday.
A spokesman for community residents denied that Spitzer, who was treated in a New York City hospital for burns suffered in the attack, had returned to school.
Spitzer's return to the village drew a harsh response from the family of Aron Rottenberg, who remains hospitalized with third-degree burns over half his body due to the 4 a.m. attack.
Spitzer lived in Grand Rebbe David Twersky's house and did menial tasks for the dynastic religious leader. He's also been tied to a group of young men whom some residents say enforces the rebbe's rules.
Spitzer lived with the rebbe and others at the time of the attempted arson of Rottenberg's Truman Avenue home.
Rockland prosecutors have prepared for a grand jury review on the charges against Spitzer by interviewing Rottenberg.
While Spitzer has been welcomed back in some circles, the Rottenberg family said Twersky and other religious leaders have essentially expelled two of Rottenberg's younger children from attending schools in New Square.
Rottenberg's son-in-law said Friday that Spitzer's easy return to the community and the boycott of the family shows Twersky's words condemning violence were hollow.
"Spitzer walks around there in the shul and yeshiva like nothing happened," Moshe Elbaum said. "After what he did, he came back to his old life and things are back to normal. My father-in-law is still suffering."
Elbaum said the rebbe and religious leaders shouldn't have to let Spitzer back into the fold.
The family argues Spitzer acted on the rebbe's behalf when he went after Rottenberg, who had been targeted for months with vandalism and protests. The family is suing Twersky and Spitzer for $18 million. Twersky has denied the accusations and condemned violence.
Led by Rottenberg, village residents outwardly defied Twersky's edict that his followers pray in the community's only synagogue on the Sabbath.
The dissidents, along with several younger residents, chose to pray at the Friedwald Center nearly a mile outside the village. Their decision led to threats and protests, and in some cases their children were expelled from village schools.
Ramapo police, along with the FBI, are looking at the previous incidents against Rottenberg and others to ascertain any provable pattern of harassment and connections to the community's religious leaders.
The notion that Spitzer has been welcomed back to the rebbe's yeshiva has been denied by a group of residents close to the Twersky.
"The statement is inaccurate," spokesman Hank Sheinkopf said. "He has not returned to the yeshiva. The rebbe continues to condemn violence."
Luftig said he spoke to Spitzer and the man has faced some community disapproval. He said many residents are embarrassed by Spitzer, though they support the rebbe over Rottenberg and the other dissidents. "It bothers him because people blame the rebbe. When he was in the hospital, he was isolated and didn't know what people were talking about him."
Luftig said Spitzer told him about seeing Twersky after returning home from Staten Island University Hospital.
"Spitzer told me the rebbe said, 'Everyone should be well.' The rebbe walked away," Luftig said. "Spitzer told me he feels very funny the rebbe wouldn't talk to him."
Spitzer's lawyer, James Licata, had no comment Friday. Spitzer is free on $300,000 cash bail posted by his brother and others in the community.
Rottenberg's testimony for the grand jury has been videotaped from his hospital room at the Westchester Medical Center burn unit, said Elbaum, his son-in-law.
Elbaum said Rottenberg was feeling better after his second skin graft surgery last week and might come home next week. He said doctors told the family some of the grafts were taking more time to mend.
Elbaum said his family has not heard from Spitzer's family. Shaul Spitzer is a cousin of Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer, who has not returned telephone calls from The Journal News.
"His family should have contacted our family to apologize," Elbaum said.
My source tells me that Spitzer was standing on the bench behind the Tzodik. I was also told that when Spitzer showed up in the Yeshivah, he received a STANDING OVATION.