Police charge man with throwing chemical at rabbi

Posted at 8:55 AM, Dec 13, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-13 08:55:23-05

By Rande Iaboni and Marina Carver

NEW YORK (CNN) — New York police have arrested a man for throwing a chemical, believed to be bleach, on a rabbi who advocates for sexual abuse victims.

Meilech Schnitzler, 36, turned himself in to police Wednesday and was charged with assault, menacing, criminal mischief, and criminal possession of a weapon.

He is accused of attacking Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg in Brooklyn’s tightknit Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Williamsburg on Tuesday.

Schnitzler allegedly threw a chemical on Rosenberg’s face, causing his eyes and face to burn.

Rosenberg runs a website and telephone call-in line that publicizes claims of sexual abuse in the Hasidic community, and he believes this attack was an attempt to “silence” him, according to Abe George, the rabbi’s attorney.

Police would not comment on Schnitzler’s motive.

But Rosenberg said earlier he knew who doused him, describing him as the son of a man he had reported on in the past as being allegedly involved in sexual abuse in the community, the lawyer said.

The assault happened a day after the conviction of Nechemya Weberman, a prominent community member in the conservative Satmar Hasidic community, was found guilty of sexually abusing a girl over a period of three years.

Weberman’s conviction has put the spotlight on the insular Satmar Hasidic community, many of whom live in Williamsburg.

Joel Engelman, another advocate against sexual abuse among Orthodox Jews, describes himself as a survivor of such abuse. It is rare for respected members of the community to face such allegations in court, he said.

In the past, members of the community have intimidated and pressured those who have accused their leaders of sexual abuse, he said.

Rosenberg’s vision is still blurry, but his attorney said he believes the rabbi will fully recover.

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