A prominent 99-year-old Lithuanian Haredi leader was attacked early Wednesday morning in his Bnei Brak home.
The attack on Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman was thought to be related to a succession battle in the Lithuanian Haredi community.
The attacker, a young man in his 20s from Modi’in Illit, burst into the rabbi’s home in the early hours of the morning as Shteinman was preparing for a class and began shouting at him, then grabbed Shteinman and shook him violently, witnesses told Israel Haredi news site Kikar Shabbat.
Two people in Shteinman’s home managed to apprehend the attacker and call the police, but only after a protracted struggle.
The attacker was arrested and taken in for questioning.
The incident may have been connected to Tuesday’s elections. The attacker shouted about the split in the Lithuanian Haredi community between Shteinman’s camp and that of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, and about Shteinman’s political activity.
However, according to Channel 2, police believe that attacker suffered from a mental disorder.
Shteinman, who has been an Torah educator for much of his life, currently heads Ponovizh Kollel study hall and Archot HaTorah yeshiva. He also leads the Degel HaTorah ultra-Orthodox political faction, part of the United Torah Judaism party. He is seen as a moderate in the Lithuanian community, supporting jobs for Haredi women in the hi-tech sector and military service for ultra-Orthodox youth who are unable to learn in yeshivas.
The two sides have been locked in a struggle over the leadership of the Lithuanian haredi community since the death of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv in July 2012. Shteinman’s camp, the larger of the two, supported Moshe Lion in the Jerusalem municipal election, whereas Auerbach’s conservative faction backed incumbent Nir Barkat, who won another five-year term.
The struggle between the two sides has often been bitter, and occasionally violent. Posters have gone up in Haredi areas attacking Shteinman, and activists from rival camps have tried to interrupt his classes.
Police stationed a vehicle outside the rabbi’s house, and Shteinman’s personal doctor arrived to assess his health. The rabbi did not require hospital treatment.