The mysterious death of an Orthodox Jewish millionaire – murder or suicide?
The New York medical examiner ruled Solomon Obstfeld's June 9 death a suicide, but family and friends insist Obstfeld was murdered after a dispute with an Israeli rabbi.
The mysterious death of an Orthodox Jewish millionaire on June 9 in New York has sparked a whirlwind of rumors, even though the medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.
Solomon (Shlomo) Obstfeld fell to his death from the 19th floor of his posh Manhattan apartment, and while New York police have yet to close the case, Obstfeld's family members and close friends believe he was murdered and have hired a private investigator to look into his death.
A friend of the Obstfeld family told Haaretz on Sunday that Obstfeld, 55, was murdered as the result of a conflict with an Israeli rabbi who had cast a "pulsa denura" death curse on Obstfeld.
According to the police investigation, no ladder or chair was found near the spot from which Obstfeld plunged to his death, a fact that bolsters the family's belief that he was murdered.
At this point, however, it does not appear that police are taking the family's suspicions seriously.
Many in New York's Jewish community are wondering whether a devout Orthodox father of five would take his own life.
"Suicide is not a common act by an Orthodox person – it is forbidden in Judaism," a friend of the Obstfeld family told Haaretz. "He was a very happy and successful man, who contributed to the community. There were no signs that he suffered from depression. On the contrary, he did not leave a note, will, letter or any other sign of suicide. If he had committed suicide, he certainly would have left something behind."
According to his associates, Obstfeld had several regular business chats in the hours before his death, including a long telephone conversation with a business colleague and had recently three luxury apartments up for sale for a combined 6.5 million dollars.
A person close to Obstfeld said he had complained of an Israel rabbi living in the United States to whom he had rented an apartment at a below-market price. The rabbi allegedly did not pay the rent over a long period of time and this led to a serious feud between him and Obstfeld.
After Obstfeld evicted the rabbi, the rabbi allegedly told friends that he had cast a "pulsa dinura" death curse on Obstfeld.
A friend of Obstfeld claimed that the rabbi returned to Israel around the time of Obstfeld's death.
"We spoke with Obstfeld a lot recently, and despite the fact that the rent dispute disturbed him, he did not seem depressed and it did not seem like he had problems," Obstfeld's friend said. "He had many plans, he was young, he had a good family and good business. I have no doubt that these men [the rabbi and his associates] were behind this and I could be next in line, because they have no inhibitions."
The New York Daily News reported that Obstfeld was connected with former Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert and also had ties with Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff, who attended Obstfeld's funeral.
Israeli police suspect Schlaff of having bribed Sharon and want to question him.
It has also been reported that Olmert visited Obstfeld's office two weeks before Obstfeld's death.