MCKEESPORT (KDKA) — A McKeesport man is facing a list of serious charges, accused of burning down home in New York City in an alleged attempt to take a rabbi’s life.
KDKA spoke to the people who live on Anderson Street in McKeesport about the man who is accused of setting multiple fires in Brooklyn. They say he lived in McKeesport for about eight months, and generally kept to himself.
“I can’t believe it,” said John Yauch, a McKeesport resident.
“Crazy people do crazy things, ya know what I mean,” said Carlos Rubero, another McKeesport resident.
Neighbors were surprised to learn 41-year-old Matthew Karelefsky lived on their street.
“Just a roommate, helping a guy out,” said Rubero.
They didn’t know until Monday morning that he’s the one who is accused of setting fires that destroyed three homes in Brooklyn, New York, last Thursday. No one was killed, but 14 people were injured, including a baby and three firefighters.
Karelefsky was arrested on Saturday.
“Just glad he didn’t cause anything around here this way, ’cause I got three kids coming to visit every day,” said Rubero.
KDKA has learned Karelefsky was once connected to the Yeshiva School in Squirrel Hill.
The principal there says his kids once attended the school, but they haven’t been associated with them or their center in any way for years.
Police say Karelefsky may have had a grudge against Rabbi Johnathan Max in Brooklyn. They say Karelefsky claims he was sexually abused by him.
WATCH: KDKA’s Andy Sheehan investigate
In emails last year to KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan, Karelefsky detailed his hate for Max, accusing the rabbi of molesting him as a child.
“Rabbi Max has hurt me many, many, times, and continues to hurt me until this day. Including, but definitely not limited to the following. As a minor, rabbi max sexually molested me weekly (except the summer months) for close to 3 years.”
After leaving Brooklyn for Pittsburgh as an adult, Karelefsky said Rabbi Max visited several times – and that he found the rabbi in bed with Karelefsky’s then-wife.
“He is lucky that I did not kill him on the spot. The only reason I didn’t was because I thought about going to jail for life and about my kids growing up without a father and that stopped me.”
But Karelefsky said that is when he got this tattoo on his arm which reads: “Never let go of the HATRED – KILL Rabbi Max.”
When the tattoo appeared on a Facebook account bearing his name, Pittsburgh Police arrested Karelefsky in October 2017 charging him with criminal use of a communication facility and terroristic threats.
But the charges were dismissed at trial in May of last year by Judge Randal Todd, who ruled that Allegheny County did not have jurisdiction to prosecute. In his emails, Karelefsky proclaimed his innocence.
“Getting a tattoo does not mean that I will truly kill him. My tattoo does not say that ‘I’ will kill him. According to English grammar, my tattoo can only be understood as a directive. It is a directive to GOD.”
The rabbi has denied that the abuse claims, telling The New York Times he did not know Karelefsky as a child but later worked with him at this all-boys Jewish school in Brooklyn.
His son, Ezra Max, says Karelefsky finally made good on threats he has made against his father over the years.
“He said he would destroy him reputationally and then he came to actually kill him physically,” he said.
Karelefsky is now in jail, charged with two counts of attempted murder and one count of arson.