White Plains, NY - The chief rabbi in a Hasidic village north of New York City says a recent lawsuit filed against him is without merit.
A resident of New Square who was badly burned in May had alleged Grand Rebbe David Twersky directed the attack. Plaintiff Aron Rottenberg claimed Twersky targeted him because he had begun praying at a synagogue other than the principal one in the insular village of 7,000 residents.
On Monday, Twersky’s attorney Franklyn Snitow issued a statement saying the lawsuit has no legal or factual basis. The attorney says Twersky condemns violence.
Eighteen-year-old village resident Shaul Spitzer has been indicted on charges of attempted murder, attempted arson and assault in the attack. He has pleaded not guilty.
Spitzer’s lawyer says Twersky wasn’t involved in the attack on Rottenberg.
NEW SQUARE — The newly hired lawyer for Grand Rebbe David Twersky said Monday that a civil lawsuit brought against his client by burn victim Aron Rottenberg is baseless.
The rabbi has actively campaigned against violence in the Skver Hasidic village of New Square, said his lawyer, Franklyn H. Snitow.
"The rabbi has done everything in his power to ensure that New Square has been a safe and peaceful community for decades," Snitow said in a statement.
The victim's lawsuit alleges that Twersky was responsible for months of intimidation that culminated in the May 22 arson attack on the Rottenberg home. Rottenberg suffered third-degree burns to more than 60 percent of his body in the attack.
The suspect, Shaul Spitzer, 18, of New Square, is named as a co-defendant in Rottenberg's $18 million lawsuit, filed June 14 in state Supreme Court in New City by attorney Michael Sussman.
Rottenberg's lawsuit claims Twersky endorsed several months of intimidation and violence directed at his family in response to Rottenberg's praying at the Friedwald Nursing Home instead of the New Square synagogue, where Twersky presides.
The lawsuit says that, between September and May, the Rottenberg family was a constant target; Rottenberg's daughter was expelled from a village yeshiva and the family received several threatening telephone calls and had car windows smashed on numerous occasions.
On Monday, Snitow condemned such violence on Twersky's behalf.
"Such behavior has never been nor will every be tolerated," he said. "In addition, we strongly believe that the civil case brought against the grand rebbe has no legal or factual basis."
In an email Monday, Sussman, an attorney based in Goshen, N.Y., called Snitow's statement "nonsense."
"The grand rabbi has sat by and allowed terror through the community," Sussman wrote.
"The Rottenberg case is not isolated and Mr. Snitow should know better than to associate with profound lawlessness.
"I welcome the upcoming legal battle."
Spitzer, who had lived with Twersky for more than a year before the attack, is the only one to be criminally charged in connection with the case.
He faces charges of second-degree attempted murder, second-degree arson and first-degree assault.
Spitzer pleaded not guilty in Rockland County Court on Friday and is free on $300,000 bail.
Rottenberg has been living at a hotel since his release from Westchester Medical Center on June 20.
After enduring two skin graft procedures, he is facing weeks of occupational and physical therapy.
Rottenberg has said he hopes to return to New Square soon.
Twersky, 70, has been the grand rebbe of New Square since 1968. He rarely comments publicly and did not comment on the Rottenberg attack until four days later.
Snitow, of Snitow Kanfer Holtzer & Millus in Manhattan, has been as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, according to his firm's website.
Since entering private practice in 1976, Snitow has handled a number of high-profile cases, many involving issues concerning the First Amendment.