Man Arrested for Attacking Rabbi Who Spoke Out Against Abuse, Police Say

By Sonja Sharp on December 12, 2012 10:08am | Updated on December 12, 2012 7:25pm

WILLIAMSBURG — The man who allegedly tossed a cup of bleach at an outspoken Williamsburg rabbi was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon after surrendering at Brooklyn's 90th Precinct.

Meilech Schnitzler, 36, was arrested on charges of assault, menacing, criminal mischief and criminal possession of a weapon in connection with the attack, which took place on nearby Roebling Street Tuesday morning, police said. 

Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, a Brooklyn activist who speaks out against child sex abuse in the Orthodox community, was treated and released from Woodhull Hospital Tuesday after Schnitzler allegedly threw a cup of bleach in his face.

"I'm still in a lot of pain," Rosenberg told reporters outside the 90th Precinct station house Wednesday afternoon, after identifying the suspect to police. "They thought they're going to blind me and I'll stop this war. If I have to pick them up with a seeing eye dog I would still pick them up."

Schnitzler did not respond to reporters' questions as police walked him from the 90th Precinct building Wednesday afternoon.

The incident came just a day after prominent counselor Nechemya Weberman was convicted of repeatedly sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl sent to him for failing to adhere to the Satmar Hasidic community's strict codes of modesty.

Rosenberg was a fixture at the trial and spoke about it on his call-in radio talk show.

He said he believes the attack was "100 percent" in retaliation for his stance on Weberman.

"As I was walking, someone comes over to me and taps me on the shoulder," Rosenberg said, recounting the assault. "I saw he was holding a glass and before I had time to react he throws it in my face."

In the past, Rosenberg has criticized Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes for not going after sexual abuse in the religious Jewish community, and now Rosenberg's lawyer is asking Hynes to recuse himself from the assault case, worried that Hynes will be reluctant to prosecute.

A spokesman for the DA's office vowed Wednesday to "vigorously prosecute this case" and said there was no reason to move the case to another venue or prosecutor.

Tuesday wasn’t be the first time violence erupted around the shocking and controversial Weberman case. Earlier this year, four men were arrested for allegedly attempting to bribe the victim, offering her $500,000 through her then-boyfriend if she would drop her case.

When he refused, prosecutors said thugs attacked his business.

Retaliation has also taken more subtle forms. The victim’s mother said her granddaughter was thrown out of school and her husband was taunted in synagogue because her daughter spoke out.

Hynes has said the widespread practice of intimidation around reports of sex abuse in the borough’s Orthodox communities has made these cases particularly challenging to prosecute. Less than an hour after Weberman was convicted, Hynes vowed his office would come down hard on anyone who tried to stop victims from coming forward.

"Make no mistake about it, if we are able to establish in any case where someone is told if 'you go to civil authorities you will suffer consequences' ... you can bet I’m going to have a grand jury indict and we’re going to prosecute to the maximum," Hynes said in at a press conference Monday. 

With Julie Shapiro

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