Watch: Matthew Karelefsky Smiles in Court While Being Arraigned on Attempted Murder, Arson Charges


The Pennsylvania man accused of torching a Brooklyn rabbi’s home appeared in court on Sunday night — smiling from ear-to-ear — after getting hit with attempted murder and arson charges.

Matthew Karelefsky, 41, didn’t appear to have a care in the world as he was arraigned in Brooklyn Criminal Court and remanded into custody.

Wearing a white t-shirt, black pants and sneakers, the McKeesport resident only spoke twice — when the judge issued a full order of protection for Rabbi Jonathan Max, whom he allegedly targeted last week.

Asked if he understood the terms and had any questions, Karelefsky said: “Yes, your honor” and then “No, your honor.”

Prosecutors laid out their evidence against him, including how there’s video that shows the alleged firebug at Rabbi Max’s home on the morning of the fire.

“There are receipts showing the defendants purchase for charcoals and matches,” said Assistant District Attorney Tziyonah Langsam. “[Karelefsky] also made admissions to setting the fire using gasoline and charcoal…This is after the defendant was tracked and found in Manhattan with a bag full of lighter fluid an axe and knives.”

Prosecutors confirmed the existence of Karelefsky’s “Never let go of the HATRED – KILL Rabbi Max YEMACH SHMO” tattoo, which was reported by The Post on Sunday — as well as online threats that he allegedly made against Rabbi Max.

“The defendant faces a significant jail sentence if found guilty on attempted murder in the second degree and arson in the second degree,” Langsam said, before asking that Karelefsky be remanded.

The divorcee was ordered back into custody, against his lawyer’s wishes.

“The top charge is a ‘B’ violent felony,” said Karelefsky’s defense attorney, Amy Swenson, of the Legal Aid Society. “I don’t think remand is appropriate for someone with no criminal record.”

Karelefsky is scheduled to be back in court on June 21.


  1. “I don’t think remand is appropriate for someone with no criminal record.”

    This lowlife bum just tried to MURDER 12 people! He should just be let free because he has no criminal record??? I think the lawyer should host this thug in his own home. They can share a bedroom together.

  2. I knew this guy. He went to Pittsburgh, after getting married, & having children. At the time he had long curled sideburns (Gecreiselte payos), he wore & up hat & long, & looked like a na nach type of guy, he wore techeiles a little later on. He Claimed that he wanted to go to Uman, but the RY told him no, so he wasn’t ever a Breslover.
    He was a yodeia sefer,& quite intelligent.
    Pittsburgh didn’t save his marriage, & he got divorced & went down the tubes pretended to be a meshumad for attention, got to be on a local Xian TV, until they called his bluff.
    He was unstable, & very emotionally hurt.
    In an interaction with him, a little more than a year ago, I told him that I know he still believes in G-d & wants to have it all over & do it right & be a frummer Yiid, at that point he burst into tears & said: ” I love the Aibishter, Torah & Am Yisroel & Yiddishkeit, I want to be an ehrlicher yid, but Yiddishkeit (I guess our system) has rejected me”.
    I have seen his tattoo, & another one on his other arm, where he has a name of his kids tattoo &R.I.P. next to it, as far as he is concerned that kid is dead.
    He had a very difficult childhood, & a terrible marriage, & no family support, (no family either), no money & he definitely went off the deep end. He showed me a massive knife & other equipment, he would carry in a duffel bag to kill the Rabbi.
    He was a coward, and could never knife him to death. i honestly think he didn’t have the guts to set the house on fire, he just wanted the car to scare him,the rest was possibly an explosion of the gas tank in the car.
    He is probably proud that he got to front page of the NY Post, & all over the news, but after time in jail, or psychotic hospital, he will wake up regretting his actions. He may feel there is no way back & do something desperate to himself, but knowing him, he doesn’t have the guts. Had he met the Rabbi, he may have yelled & threatened, but I doubt he would actually knife him. BTW that is my personal opinion.
    What a nebach.


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