A 41 year old Pennsylvania man has been charged in the fast moving Thursday morning Midwood fire that caused massive damage to three houses and left multiple families homeless.
Menachem Karelefsky of McKeesport was arrested by the NYPD at approximately 1:30 this morning and charged with two counts of murder and one count of arson.
A former student at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin who renounced his Judaism and claims to have converted to Christianity, Karelefsky had a long standing grudge against Rabbi Jonathan Max, a teacher and former dorm counselor at the yeshiva.
Karelefsky had publicly expressed his intention to kill Rabbi Max, allegedly setting the fire that had the E 17th Street home erupting in massive flames just after 4 AM.
The blaze quickly spread to the houses on both sides of Rabbi Max’s two family home, with 40 fire units and 170 firefighters responding to the four alarm blaze. Smoke detectors alerted residents of all three houses to the fire, with everyone evacuated safely, including a six week old infant who was rescued by the FDNY along with his parents.
Karelefsky was known to have a tattoo on his arm bearing the words “Never let go of the HATRED – KILL Rabbi Max YEMACH SHMO,” and had also been known to brag that the administration of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin considered him to be a security risk.
A screenshot of a series of text messages written by Karelefsky showed a photo of him smiling and captioned with the words, “Me killing Rabbi Max YEMACH SHMO…one reason that yeshiva has security guards is bec of me…”
It took three hours for firefighters to get the flames under control. More than ten people were hurt in the fire, although none sustained serious injuries.