Police Believe Arson Suspect May Have Been Seeking Revenge Against Rabbi

June 17, 2019 - 9:26 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) --  Police believe alleged arsonist, Matthew Karelefsky, 41, may have been seeking revenge against Brooklyn Rabbi Jonathan Max.

Police believe Karelefsky is the man seen in a surveillance video fleeing the fire scene around 4 a.m. last Thursday.

“He said he would destroy him reputationally and then he came to actually kill him physically,” Ezra Max, the rabbi’s son, said.


Authorities told CBS2 that Karelefsky had a long running grudge against Rabbi Max.

The Rabbi’s son said his father even had a restraining order issued against the suspect.

“I know that he had a plan to kill my dad,” Max added.

The blaze was not fatal, but injured  a total of 14 people.

Karelefsky was arrested Saturday night in Midtown and police say he traveled to Brooklyn from Pittsburgh.

“A lot of lives could’ve been a lost,” neighbor Mariann Vitanza said.

The son also called the suspect deranged, saying he hopes the system provides help for the alleged arsonist and attempted killer.

Karelfsky smiled as he faced a judge on arson and attempted murder charges. He was not granted bail and remains in custody.

He's due back in court this Friday.