Suspect in Brooklyn arson had tattoo reminding him to ‘KILL’ rabbi

Menachem Karelefsky, a Jewish man from Pennsylvania accused of torching the home of Rabbi Johnathan Max, has history of threatening rabbi over alleged molestation

An image said to be the tattooed arm of Menachem Karelefsky, the suspect in the arson of the home of Brooklyn rabbi  Jonathan Max (Facebook)
An image said to be the tattooed arm of Menachem Karelefsky, the suspect in the arson of the home of Brooklyn rabbi Jonathan Max (Facebook)

A Pennsylvania man arrested in connection with suspected arson at the home of a Brooklyn rabbi has a long history of threats against the rabbi, including a tattoo on his arm reminding him to “KILL Rabbi Max.”

Menachem Karelefsky of McKeesport, Pennsylvania was arrested by officers from the New York Police Department at about 1:30 a.m. on Sunday and charged with two counts of attempted murder and one count of arson, media reports said.

Thirteen people, including a 6-week-old baby, were injured in the early Friday morning fire. None of the injuries were life-threatening, although 12 people were sent to the hospital, including nine civilians, two firefighters and an EMS medic.

Karelefsky, who also goes by the name Matthew, posted on various social media sites that the homeowner, Rabbi Jonathan Max, a teacher at the Chaim Berlin Yeshiva, molested him in the yeshiva’s dormitory.

And, according to the New York Post, even had a tattoo on his army reminding him to “Never let go of the HATRED – KILL Rabbi Max YEMACH SHMO.”  The final two words are a Hebrew term calling for his name to be obliterated from memory.

The Rabbi Chaim Berlin yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York. (Google screen capture)

There do not appear to be any other public accusations of sexual misconduct against Max. Karelefsky has repeated his allegations on various Orthodox blogs had reportedly has threatened to kill the rabbi for at least a decade.

Max denied the accusations as “nonsense”, saying that Karelefsy had blamed him for his divorce.

According to the Post, Karelefsky posted a 30,000 word “memoir” on Facebook that blamed Max for the dissolution of his marriage, but did not mention anywhere accusations of molestation.

“Fundamentally he feels that I cheated him — that he thought so highly of me and I turned on [him],” Max told the Post. “Somehow, he understood that I was a key figure — of which he was terribly mistaken. I was the one who told him not to divorce.”

Karelefsky, who was born Jewish to non-Orthodox parents and later became religious and attended the yeshiva, has since converted to Christianity and according to writings obtained by claims to be “healing in church almost every Sunday.”

A neighbor told the New York Daily News that he saw Karelefsky around the neighborhood the day before the fire looking for Max.

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