Midwood Fire Was Arson & Targeted Rabbi; Authorities Search For Suspect

A massive fast-moving four-alarm blaze ripped through three homes in Flatbush, early Thursday morning, as was reported by Yeshiva World News. Photo Credit: Facebook

By: David Ben Hooren

Investigators are still searching for the person they believe set a rabbi’s home in Midwood on fire Thursday.

Family members say they believe someone was targeting a rabbi. News 12 reported he  received numerous death threats from a former student for at least a decade. The Daily News reported that the target was  Rabbi Jonathan Max.

Investigators are looking into Menachem Karelefsky as a suspect,  JTA reported  The Pittsburgh resident, who also goes by Matthew, posted on his LinkedIn profile that Max, a teacher at the Chaim Berlin Yeshiva, molested him in the yeshiva’s dormitory.

A phone number listed on Karelefsky’s LinkedIn profile leads to a voicemail message in Hebrew that says “May the name and memory of Rabbi Max be erased, simply, really, forever.” Karelefsky declined via text message to comment, JTA reported  The rabbi was never previously accused of any other molestation accusations.

The rabbi’s son told the Daily News that Karelefsky was “a psychopath.”

“He said he was going to make an attempt on my dad’s life,” Ezra Max said. “He’s a sick individual who needs help.”

A Midwood resident, Shimon Gifter, told the Daily News that Karelefsky had threatened to kill the rabbi for years.

Chief of Fire Operations Thomas Richardson said more than 170 firefighters and EMS personnel were on the scene at 1488 East 17 Street near Avenue N within 5 minutes and found three homes on fire at 4:05 am,  early Friday morning, TJV previously reported

“They did make an interior attack into the main fire building, but they quickly had to evacuate that building, and we concentrated our efforts on the two exposures,” Chief Richardson said, according to a CBS News report.

Over a dozen civilians, including a 6-week old infant, were injured, along with three firefighters and two police officers. Most of them suffered smoke inhalation, and are all in stable condition in the hospital. They’re all expected to survive.

“Children were screaming, ‘help!’ I did not see them. Then I heard the voice of a man, and I came out right away. When I came out right away, I saw three houses on fire,” neighbor Philippe Naim told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas. “Thank God everyone’s out, thank God, thank God.”

Yeshiva World News reported that Flatbush Hatzolah received multiple calls, and along with FDNY EMS treated and transported approximately 10 victims.