Thursday, June 9, 2011
New Square burn victim lost his right arm.
VALHALLA — A New Square man burned in an arson attempt after disobeying the Hasidic community's rabbinical leader has undergone a painful skin graft surgery for the second time.
Aron Rottenberg, 43, remained in the burn unit at Westchester Medical Center on Wednesday, recuperating, his attorney said.
Doctors on Tuesday removed healthy skin from his body and replaced the charred skin. Last week, he underwent a similar operation.
"A burn injury is very difficult. … The physical part is horrible," attorney Michael Sussman said. "It's disfiguring.
"He doesn't have use of one of his arms," Sussman said. "Mentally, he's incredibly strong and has a wonderful spirit. That's certainly a blessing."
Sussman said Rottenberg's livelihood as a plumber is in jeopardy because he can't use his right arm.
He said that skin grafts don't always work and that Rottenberg might need more surgeries.
Rottenberg and several other men had been targeted with protests and vandalism late last year when they stopped praying at Grand Rebbe David Twerksy's synagogue.
Rottenberg and another dissident blamed Twersky for the trouble and said the community leaders kicked their children out of school.
Representatives of New Square officials deny Rottenberg or anyone else was targeted and forced out of the community.
The violence peaked May 22, when Rottenberg suffered third-degree burns across 50 percent of his body, predominately his chest and arms.
Ramapo police have accused an 18-year-old Twersky follower of trying to set fire to Rottenberg's Truman Avenue house after 4 a.m. that day. When Rottenberg confronted the suspect, Shaul Spitzer, an incendiary device held by Spitzer exploded, police said.
Spitzer suffered third-degree burns across his hands and arms. He's being treated in a New York City hospital.
Spitzer was charged with second-degree attempted murder, first-degree attempted arson and first-degree assault. His brother and community residents posted his $300,000 bail.
Rottenberg's family could not be reached for comment because of the Jewish holiday of Shauvot, a celebration of God giving the Torah to the Israelite nation at Mount Sinai.
In a video posted Tuesday to the FailedMessiah.com website, which calls itself a watchdog over the Hasidic world, Rottenberg is seen in his hospital bed, thanking people for their prayers and New Square for holding a prayer service for him.
Rottenberg also condemns the violence against dissidents in New Square, according to the site. He also talks about the pain he has suffered and says he will need more skin grafts.
Ramapo police continue to investigate the attempted arson and previous incidents of vandalism. The FBI and Rockland County District Attorney's Office are working with the police.