Midwood arson suspect had tattoo reminder to kill rabbi

June 17, 2019 Noah Goldberg
The fire caused signficant damage. Photo via FDNY
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A Pennsylvania man with a vendetta against a Midwood rabbi was accused in court Sunday night of setting fire to the man’s home in order to kill him — and burning down two other houses in the process.

Matthew Karelefsky was charged with arson and attempted murder for starting the fire on Rabbi Jonathan Max’s porch on Thursday around 4 a.m. The raging fire sent 13 people to Maimonides Medical Center and New York Community Hospital, including one who was critically injured.

Karelefsky has a tattoo on his arm that reads, “Never let go of the HATRED — KILL Rabbi Max YEMACH SHMO,” according to a criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn Criminal Court. Yemach shmo means “may his name be erased,” in Hebrew.

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Karelefsky hated the rabbi, and posted about it on social media, according to prosecutors. In court Sunday night, the defendant smiled widely as a judge ordered him held without bail, according to the New York Post.

The fire started at 1492 E. 17th St. between Avenue N and Avenue O, and quickly moved to the houses on either side, according to FDNY. Firefighters worked for three hours to put out the three-alarm blaze.

On Saturday, Karelefsky’s Pittsburgh landlord received a text from his troubled tenant, “I am on the run from the police BIG TIME,” reported the New York Times.

Karelefsky claimed he has been molested by Rabbi Max as a child, which the rabbi denies, according to the Times. 

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