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Long IslandCrime

Police arrest hit-and-run driver who injured West Hempstead rabbi

Benitez Rodolfo, 46, of Far Rockaway, Queens, has

Benitez Rodolfo, 46, of Far Rockaway, Queens, has been arrested in the 2016 hit-and-run crash that seriously injured a rabbi in West Hempstead, Nassau County police said in a news release on Sept. 2, 2017. Photo Credit: NCPD

Nassau police have arrested a man they say is the hit-and-run driver who severely injured a rabbi in front of his Long Island synagogue in December.

Police said Benitez Rodolfo, 46, of Far Rockaway, Queens, was arrested Friday in West Hempstead and charged with leaving the scene of an accident and tampering with physical evidence.

He pleaded not guilty at First District Court in Hempstead on Saturday and was being held on $20,100 bond or $10,100 cash bail.

The accident on Dec. 12 left Rabbi Jordan Kelemer, 71, in intensive care with a head injury.

The accident spurred prayer vigils at Young Israel of West Hempstead, an Orthodox temple where Kelemer, who survived the crash, is still listed on the website as a rabbi.

Police said at the time that Kelemer was struck by a white Dodge Ram pickup truck about 7:30 p.m. as he walked across the southbound lanes of Hempstead Avenue in front of the synagogue.

Kelemer, who was not in a crosswalk, was thrown about 35 feet. The driver left the scene, leaving the rabbi on the pavement, police said.

A police spokeswoman Saturday said the arrest was the result of a 10-month investigation but declined to provide any details.

Surveillance video from outside the synagogue captured the accident, detectives said at the time, but the pickup’s license plate was not visible.

Kelemer and congregation leaders could not be immediately reached for comment.

“He’s a very warm, endearing guy who cared about each and every individual. He always has this spark and sense of humor,” Harold Lipsky, president of Young Israel, said after the accident. “Nobody has one bad word to say about him.”

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