January 14, 2015
Beis Moshiach in #957, Interview

The stab wound was 3.5 centimeters deep and it caused internal bleeding in his skull, placing increasing pressure on his brain. * Less than a month after the attack took place in 770, Levi Yitzchok ben Raizel Rosenblatt is well and granted an exclusive interview to Beis Moshiach.  He and his mother recount the moments of terror, the doctors grave concerns, his mothers tense flight to the US, and encouraging answers from the Rebbe.

“Levi Yitzchok ben Raizelwould prefer to remain an anonymous bachur, one of hundreds of Tmimim.  He wanted to spend Kislev learning Chassidus in 770 and participating in farbrengens.  But Divine Providence willed otherwise, and overnight, his name and picture were spread around the world.

News outlets everywhere reported about the dramatic incident that took place late at night in 770, when a black man stabbed a yeshiva student in the head (this took place not long after terrorists attacked worshipers in a shul in Yerushalayim).  It was of particular interest in the US since the attacker was subsequently shot and killed by a policeman (as this took place not long after several black men were shot and killed by policemen, generating numerous protests).

Levi Yitzchok Rosenblatt, a young man from Beitar Ilit, as well as his mother, stay well away from the media.  When he was released from the hospital and returned to Crown Heights, his friends arranged dancing in 770 to thank Hashem for the miracles. Levi and his mother wanted to be there but when they heard that the media was waiting there for them, they avoided the scene.

The only reason they agreed to be interviewed by Beis Moshiach, after consulting with a mashpia, was to fulfill the Rebbe’s horaa in the sicha of Parshas VaYeishev 5752, to publicize miracles that Hashem does in our days, “and this pertains to actually bringing the true and complete Geula.”

During the interview, which took place in the Beis Moshiach offices, Levi described the terrible moments he lived through.  It was really hard to believe that just two weeks earlier he had been stabbed in the head and brought from one hospital to another with bleeding in his skull.  The doctors too could not believe how quickly he was released and all consider him a walking miracle.

His father, R’ Shaul Rosenblatt, rav of the k’hilla that is based in the shul attached to the Chassidus Library in Beitar Ilit, remained in Eretz Yisroel with the rest of the family.  He says that whoever was involved in the medical process realizes the magnitude of the miracle.  He says they all see how the Rebbe protected him.


“I was sitting in 770 and learning Tanya with a friend.  We were sitting on a bench next to the Rebbe’s farbrengen platform when I suddenly noticed a black guy coming toward us.  I looked at him and when he stood next to me he opened his jacket and took out a knife.

“I was very scared and began to scream, ‘Help! He’s stabbing me!’ while I tried to get away from him.  But since he was standing next to me and I was sitting, I wasn’t able to get away and he stabbed me forcefully in the temple.  I later heard that the knife entered above my ear, 3.5 centimeters.  In those moments I thought about one thing only: how do I get out of here so he doesn’t stab me again.

“In the meantime, some bachurim who were in 770 heard my screams and rushed over.  The guy turned around and I took the opportunity to escape.  I got up on the table and from there I jumped to the farbrengen platform and kept going to the back of 770.  I did not notice the blood dripping from me and creating a red path.  Afterward, they told me that the drops of blood also dripped on the Rebbe’s farbrengen tablecloth.

“As I was walking quickly on the farbrengen platform he noticed that I had escaped and began shouting at me, ‘Come here!’ Of course, I walked even faster and quickly reached the back exit from 770.  Outside, I walked toward the main entrance of 770 so I would be seen and I shouted, ‘Help, he stabbed me!’

“At this point, I began to feel weak, in pain and dizzy and I sat on the pavement.  Some bachurim were walking with me and one of them sat down next to me and let me lean on him.  Another bachur stood next to me and began asking me questions like what’s my name and other details so I would remain conscious.

“I saw that one of the policemen from the police mobile command post stationed nearby was walking slowly near the entrance to 770.  I yelled in Hebrew and other bachurim told him in English that someone was walking around with a knife and he had already stabbed someone.  The policeman reported this on his radio and many police cars began appearing.

“The bachurim called Hatzalah, and the first responders came quickly.  Within minutes more and more volunteers showed up despite the late hour.  One of the bachurim thought I had been stabbed in the stomach, and after saying this to a volunteer they cut open my clothes to quickly reach the site of the wound.  I began to shiver from the cold.

“In the meantime, R’ Avrohom (Yingy) Bistritzky, one of the heads of Hatzalah, came and took charge.  From that point on, for more than 17 hours, he was completely devoted to me – it was amazing – like a parent.

“When they put me into the ambulance, I asked my friend Mendy Notik to get on with me so I wouldn’t be alone.  I was lying on the stretcher and Yingy began driving quickly.  I asked Mendy to take my cell phone so he could answer those who called.  Since I did not know how serious my condition was, and I certainly did not imagine what a great interest the media would take in the story, I told him it was better that my mother not know what happened.

“Within a few minutes we had arrived at Kings County Hospital at the edge of Crown Heights.  The medical team took us in quickly and brought me immediately for a series of tests.  I did not know what they were checking.  One of the Hatzalah people spoke to me the entire time so I would remain alert.

“At some point, my mother called and although I felt very dizzy, I insisted on speaking to her so that I could reassure her.  I said that there was some blood, but I felt okay and just had a headache.

“I finally fell asleep in exhaustion and when I woke up I was in a different hospital, in Bellevue in Manhattan.”


Mrs. Rosenblatt:

“Although Levi tried to reassure me in the phone conversation we had, we were very afraid that it wasn’t so simple.  R’ Avrohom Bistritzky, who is a close friend of the family from way back, was in constant touch with us and gave us detailed updates about Levi’s condition.  With him as the intermediary, we also spoke to the doctors at the hospital.

“After the doctors took CT scans and MRI’s, they concluded that the bleeding was dangerous and could increase the pressure on the brain and cause serious damage.  They decided to operate immediately to insert a drain that would drain the blood and fluids that had collected around the brain.

“R’ Bistritzky had left the hospital for a break, and when he heard that the doctors wanted to operate he went right back in to ensure that Levi would be taken care of by the best doctors.

“One of the doctors, Dr. Rosengarten, said that an operation like this should be done at Bellevue where the biggest experts in New York did brain surgery.  She insisted in face of the opposition from the other doctors who wanted to do the operation in Kings County, and she contacted the doctors at Bellevue.  She was very devoted to Levi’s care.  She even gave us her cell phone number and said we could call her at any time if any additional help was needed.

“R’ Bistritzky, who has good connections with doctors at Bellevue, made the necessary arrangements. Within a few minutes, Levi was taken by ambulance to Bellevue.

“Three top brain surgeons were there to see Levi and after checking the test results two of them said an immediate operation was needed, while one of them said they should first check the fluid and pressure in the head by a cerebral angiogram.  A small plastic catheter is inserted into a vein in the foot and threaded all the way up to the brain; then a tiny camera is threaded through the tube which shows the doctors a precise picture of the brain.  Through this catheter the doctors can also insert other optics tools that enable them to carry out certain procedures in the brain as well as drain small amounts of blood and fluids.

“After a quick discussion, the doctors decided to first perform the angiogram.  Boruch Hashem, with the catheter the doctors were able to locate two veins that were torn by the stabbing.  With special tools they cauterized the blood vessels and stopped the bleeding.  They also drained some of the fluids and the inter-cranial pressure went down significantly. 

“The very precise tests that were done during the catheterization showed that the fluid level in his head was no worse than at first, i.e. he was stable.  So they determined that there was no need, at that time, for an operation.”


Mrs. Rosenblatt continued: “As I said, we were constantly updated.  From the start, we wrote to the Rebbe and asked for his bracha, but the rest of the day we did not report to the Rebbe about the latest developments.  At night, without our knowledge, my oldest son Meir opened a volume of Igros Kodesh and in his mind he asked the Rebbe for a bracha.

“The Rebbe’s answer, in volume 21, p. 234, stunned us and thrilled Levi.  It said: It is surprising that from the day you asked about your son’s health and the doctor’s opinion, in a phone call with R’ Chaim Mordechai Isaac Hodakov, nothing further was heard from you.  Surely, this is a good sign and still, surely you will let us know explicitly.  Surely you took advantage of the special day of Yud Kislev and will take advantage of the Chag Ha’Geula, Yud-Tes Kislev … in the right way …

“At the end of this letter appears the following astonishing line: My letter was delayed, and in the meantime, R’ Hodakov told me that your son’s operation was postponed for now, and every delay is for the best.

“Because of the Rebbe’s letter which said the parents should explicitly tell the Rebbe about their son’s condition, and not to suffice with information the Rebbe received indirectly, I immediately sat down to write the Rebbe an update about the good news.  I also opened to a special letter with the same date, 17 Kislev.  It said that surely the special day of Yud-Tes Kislev would be utilized properly, as well as the days of Chanuka, to influence the students, boys and girls, which is my job.”


“The attack occurred on Tuesday morning, by Israeli time.  Within a short time we had decided that I would go to be with Levi, and my brother Shmuel who speaks fluent English would join me to help me.  The problem was that I did not have an up-to-date passport and neither of us had a visa to enter the US. 

“Boruch Hashem, I managed to get a passport that day at a branch of the Interior Ministry which was opened especially because of what happened.  And we arranged to get a visa on Wednesday morning.  We ordered plane tickets for Wednesday morning.  When the embassy opened, I arrived there with my brother.  At first they said that the visas would only be ready that evening, but after some askanim got involved, they told us that we could pick up the passports and visas within ten minutes.

“From the embassy we rushed to Ben Gurion airport and managed to get on the morning flight leaving for New York.  Of course, throughout the flight I thought about Levi and I davened to Hashem.  Since an operation had been postponed twice already, I hoped that the statement of Chazal ‘since it was pushed off, let it stay pushed off’ would apply.  I also wondered what awaited us in New York and did not know how we would manage there.

“We landed at Newark airport and to our great surprise, at the entrance to the plane we were greeted by two policemen along with the askan, Yanky Meyer.  We later learned that Yingy Bistritzky was involved in this too.  The policemen got us through customs quickly and within minutes we had left the airport in an unmarked police car.  There was a police escort, with a police car in front of us and behind us. 

“During the trip, the policemen said that the fact that the incident was on video was a tremendous help, because there were recently protests by blacks against the police who claimed the police used unreasonable force against them.  In this case, the policemen said with satisfaction, everyone could see that they weren’t quick on the trigger and it was only when there was no choice and they felt threatened by the attacker that they shot him.”


When Mrs. Rosenblatt arrived at the hospital, Levi was already awake after having been anesthetized for the angiogram.  Levi:

“When I heard that my mother was coming, I said I wanted to get out of bed and sit on a chair so she wouldn’t be frightened to see me lying in bed with all the equipment.  She walked into the room slowly, apprehensive about the sight she would see.  How surprised she was to see me sitting in a chair, weak though alert.  I smiled and said that Boruch Hashem I was feeling a lot better.  I said although I wasn’t happy about the situation, I could not help but be grateful that she had been able to come to the Rebbe.

“Once my brother and parents wrote to the Rebbe, the miracles took place one after the other.  Beyond the miracle of having been transferred to Bellevue where there are top doctors with the most advanced equipment to treat the brain, afterward we were told that it was by Divine Providence that I had arrived at Bellevue on a Tuesday.  This is the day that the experts on cerebral angiography are present.  We found out about this when they told us that the next cerebral angiogram would take place only the following Tuesday, since Tuesdays are when the cerebral angiography team operates.

“My recovery from the stabbing was very quick and the doctors found it hard to believe that I was able to get back to myself so soon after the trauma the body had undergone.  They put me through various function tests, both physical and cognitive.  For days I had to be attached to lots of machinery that measured all kinds of things and supplied the doctors with a precise picture of my condition.

“During those days, we reported to the Rebbe about all the progress.  In one of the Rebbe’s answers, the Rebbe said to check t’fillin and mezuzos.  My friends took the t’fillin and mezuzos to Merkaz Stam and R’ Yitzchok Mishulovin checked them for free.  After finding some letters that needed fixing, he took care of it.”


During the interview, Levi and his mother spoke about the Kiddush Hashem at the hospital.  The fact that Levi’s friends were with him in shifts throughout the day until his mother and uncle arrived, and then during all the nights afterward, wowed the staff.  In the ICU where Levi was all those days, it is usually quiet and there are few visitors.  Levi’s room was lively with family and friends who were with him and rabbanim and police representatives coming and going.

When the doctors decided there was no need for further testing and they let Levi eat normally, he said a loud bracha and to the amazement of the nurses who did not know what he was saying, he explained that the world and all it contains belongs to G-d.  When we want to enjoy something in G-d’s world, we need to ask permission by saying a blessing first, and then we thank Him afterward.  The staff was impressed and respectful of this basic concept.

The head of the hospital’s IT department, a religious Jew by the name of Eli Turlow would come now and then and ask if any help was needed, and he helped a lot with translations. 

On the day of Levi’s release there was excitement throughout the department.  The department administrators came to say goodbye and Eli said, “You have no idea what a Kiddush Hashem you caused here!” There were nurses who could not get over the sight of Levi, who had come into the hospital with a serious head injury and was now leaving, hale and hearty.  They kept saying, “What a special family,” referring also to the extended family – the terrific bachurim who were always at his side.


Levi was released from the hospital on the first day of Chanuka, a week and a day after the attack.  On the day prior to his release, his friends went to the hospital with a printer and arranged a printing of the Tanya.  They did most of the printing in the waiting room but brought the machine into Levi’s room for the final pages and had him press the button.  Afterward, Levi learned Chapter 32 with the bachurim, as is customary.

Speaking of Tanya, besides the numerous chapters of T’hillim the bachurim said for him (as did thousands of others), they decided to divide the Tanya among them and completed it all several times. 

Levi and his mother want to single out Yingy Bistritzky for his enormous help, as well as the constant help of the bachurim organized by Kupas Bachurim, who even after he was released continued to stand by Levi and help him in every way, and R’ Avrohom Lieder for the nutritious meals.  For Shabbos, his mother and uncle ate at the shliach in the area of the hospital, R’ Chezky Wolf.  At night, they slept with a family friend, R’ Betzalel Rotter, and after Levi’s release they enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of the Popper family in Crown Heights.

How symbolic it was that the series of miracles culminated on the first night of Chanuka, when the entire nation thanks Hashem for the miracles and wonders of those days.  It was at this time that Levi Rosenblatt was released from the hospital.  He then thanked Hashem for the miracles and wonders he personally experienced.

On the seventh night of Chanuka, Levi went to the 71st Precinct police station in Crown Heights and attended a menorah lighting with askanim of the community.  How moved they all were when Levi loudly said, “Who did miracles for our ancestors in those days and at this time.”


Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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