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Child's grisly murder shocks Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood
The scene on Wednesday in front of the residence where Leiby Kletzky lived.
July 14th, 2011
04:53 PM ET

Child's grisly murder shocks Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood

By Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, CNN

Brooklyn, New York (CNN) – An 8-year-old's grisly murder would shock any community, but there's an added layer of astonishment in this neighborhood because the alleged killer appears to hail from the same close-knit religious community as the victim.

On Thursday, New York police charged a 35-year-old man with the killing of Leiby Kletzky, an Orthodox Jewish boy, after officers found human remains in the man's refrigerator and a trash bin.

The alleged killer also appears to be an Orthodox Jew who lived relatively nearby to Kletzky, according to community members.

"You can't possibly describe how tragic this is and how upset people are this boy was murdered by a person living in the community, who shares his religion and his neighborhood," said Ezra Friedlander, who lives in Borough Park, the neighborhood where Kletzky went missing on Monday.

On Thursday, Levi Aron was arraigned on first degree murder and kidnapping charges in Brooklyn in connection with Kletzky's death.

"It would have been extremely scary if a terrorist would have come into the community and killed a boy, but when it's one of your own you feel even more vulnerable," said Friedlander, a public relations executive who represents many Orthodox Jewish clients.

"The level of fear that mothers and fathers and children here are experiencing is something that I never witnessed before," he said.

Police say the 35-year-old Levi Aron made statements Wednesday implicating himself in the death of Leiby Kletzky.

Kletzky was supposed to meet his parents after walking seven blocks from his summer day camp, but became lost and asked the suspect for directions, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

Menachem Freed, a 37-year-old Orthodox Jew whose 9-year-old son was Kletzky's classmate, said the community prides itself on its faith-based unity.

Borough Park is composed mostly of Hasidic Jews and non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Jews of Eastern European descent. Signs for everything from pediatricians' offices to a pizza parlor are in both Hebrew and English.

Families with young children are everywhere, with streams of women pushing strollers down sidewalks and bearded Hasidic men piloting minivans through narrow streets.

"We all believe in the same ideas," Freed said, standing outside his son's preschool, where he showed up Thursday to help children deal with the murder.

On Monday night, Freed and his family had joined with other Orthodox Jews from the neighborhood to search for Kletzky.

The neighborhood's Jewish security patrol force - called the shomrim - searched for the boy through the night.

Working from surveillance video that showed Aron entering a dentist's office Monday while Kletzky waited for him across the street for seven minutes, police arrived at Aron's residence at 2:40 a.m. Wednesday to ask about the boy's whereabouts.

The suspect pointed them to the kitchen, where blood was visible on the freezer handle. Inside the refrigerator was a cutting board with three blood-spattered carving knives, Kelly said.

"A lot of people were saying that they would think differently about what they would allow their children to do," said Josh Nathan-Kazis, a staff writer for the Jewish newspaper The Forward, who is covering neighborhood reaction to Kletzky's murder.

"When you're there, it feels like a small town: Everybody knows each other," said Nathan-Kazis, describing Borough Park. "The fact that the alleged perpetrator was more or less from the same community, it's like they don't know who to trust."

There are questions about how active Aron was in the Jewish community, but pictures of him that have surfaced show him in traditional Orthodox Jewish dress.

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind said the largely insular Orthodox neighborhood bred a sense of trust among adults and children.

"Borough Park is a largely Hasidic, Orthodox neighborhood - most people have beards and side curls," he said. "Often kids will trust someone who looks like their father or looks like their friend or like their teachers and say, 'Oh, this guy must be safe."

"This is not the case, never should have been the case," he continued. "You've got to be very, very careful. You've got to teach your kids. You've got to talk to your kids."

A young father who was pushing two strollers with children in Borough Park on Thursday said his rabbis told him to explain to his children that such a murder only happens "once in 10 years or even once in a lifetime."

Like many Orthodox Jews interviewed here, the man declined to give his name.

Nathan-Kazis said that rumors had begun emerging in Borough Park's Orthodox community that portrayed Aron as something of an outsider.

One such rumor suggested that Aron is a Sephardic Jew - meaning of Spanish of North African descent - unlike most Borough Park Jews, who are Ashkenazi, or of Eastern European descent.

"You could see the community struggling with the fact that the suspect is Jewish and lived nearby and at the same time protect a sense of safety in the community," Nathan-Kazis said.

Thousands of Orthodox Jews turned out for Kletzky's funeral on Wednesday.

On Thursday, community members organized an effort to initiate a Torah scroll in Kletzky's name.

"It's an extremely lofty way to elevate someone's memory," Friedlander said of the scroll. "Not every person has a Torah in their name."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Judaism • New York • Uncategorized

soundoff (1,564 Responses)
  1. feenixbucky

    I am confused. and no article explains why this kid was waiting for the killer across the street for seven minutes? Don't get it.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Joe

      I thought it was poorly written myself

      July 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Julie

      According to the NY Daily news the boy was waiting for him (after he asked him for help trying to find his way back home) for seven minutes because the man offered to drive him home after he paid a dental bill at the dental office.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  2. Sal1943

    There are evil people in every community. What was this guy's motive? Body parts in the fridge. Sounds a bit like Jeffery Dahmer's fridge?

    July 14, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  3. Hollybush 123

    "Added layer of astonishment" that the killer of this child comes from a religious community. Why is that shocking? Pedophile priests run rampant in the Catholic church. Elizabeth Smart's kidnapper was a Mormon fantastic. Jaycee Dugard'd abductor was a Christian crazy man obsessed with God talking to him. I'm surprised there are not more people killed and abused by those who claim to be religious.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  4. GeorgeWBushie

    You know what I want to do to this piece of excrement? Lock this filth in a dungeon and go to work on him with a pair of pliers, a can of gasoline, and a blowtorch. Satan awaits this garbage, he's licking his chops, and he's HUNGRY!

    July 14, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • bigglesworth

      or epilate his ball sack......just as painful

      July 14, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  5. redwingsdiva

    I cried when this story broke. I just can't wrap my head around how someone could do this to anyone, much less a CHILD. Oh, God.....

    July 14, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Carol

      Completely mortified–I agree. This is one of the most horrible crimes I have heard about in a long time.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • bigglesworth

      you literally cried?...... I mean literally? for real?

      July 14, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  6. razzi

    I am nauseous... I can't believe how evil people can be. I just what to cling close to my son and not let him out of my sight. It is too bad I have to shield him, yet at the same time educate him about these unspeakable crimes. I pray that Lord have mercy on this family and I'm not sure what form that would be in but...I'm praying for you right now.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • abraham

      Tell me please...what was the mother even THINKING of sending her 8 year old child ALONE on the streets of Broklyn???? I do not care how safe she thought her neighborhood was! You just don't even think about it. I blame the child's mother, and her alone.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  7. Di Drezner

    @Monica No I'm not stupid! You must be! I'm just upset that a poor innocent child is dead, and you all wanna talk mess about Jews! Very Sad! And really you got to use "Jesus" in that??!

    July 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  8. diedonutdie

    I don't understand how people can say that they want for God to bless the family and whatnot. If God did exist, then this wouldn't happen. What kind of "God" allows an eight-year old to be murdered? Oh, free will, you say? Okay, so the murderer had free will...then are you blaming the eight-year old child for not practicing free will properly? Let's blame the child, shall we? For not taking steroids from an early age so that he can defend himself from grown men! Get off your high horses and go volunteer at a beach somewhere picking up trash instead.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • razzi

      God is grieving..."bad" things happen in the freedom that comes with the gift of life. This is reflected in the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross for all humanity. Any "bad" thing that happens is never the last word because God, being the Alpha and Omega, has the first and last word, and that word is love and eternal life with God- and Mercy for this family.
      Know Him, know hope.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • Canadian

      @razzie: well said.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • Cedar rapids

      'Any "bad" thing that happens is never the last word because God, being the Alpha and Omega, has the first and last word, and that word is love and eternal life with God- and Mercy for this family.'
      well i am sure that will be great comfort as the parents think about the last moments of the kid as he is killed and then cut to pieces.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Sarah25

      @cedar rapids: No. While the parents are undoubtedly feeling pain for the final moments of life that their child experienced, they will be forever comforted in the knowledge that their child is safe now for all eternity with God, and that they'll be reunited in due time.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  9. bigglesworth

    When's the bus Jew?

    July 14, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  10. ryan

    At least this ain't in Florida!

    July 14, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  11. Leslie E. Allen

    If the Jews were as shocked at all the Palestinians they are murdering are taking their land, I might have a smidget of sympathy, however, all murders are horrendous.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • donn

      I am a Jew and I have never murdered anyone, so are you speaking about me? As if Christians have never murdered anyone. Or Muslims.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Sam0589

      i agree jews need to be wiped off the planet!!! They just casue to many problems for us all

      July 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • simon

      You are both disgusting and stupid to bring up such a comparison. What does the murder of an 8 year old buy by a sick individual have to do with middle eastern politics you stupid bimbo. And now, let me give you some history...For 2000 years before there was such a thing as Palestinians, Jews lived on that land. Jews also lives for thousands of years in Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc etc...after 1948 they were all essentially expelled from what they considered as their homeland but none of you stupid, lethargic uneducated anti semites have a problem with that. You are just dumb Leslie and you know very little about world history or geo politics so just shut your trap.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • simon

      Sam, let me disappoint you. Jews are G-d's chosen people so if we are wiped off the planet you can bet that you're coming with. I am sorry you are jealous of the impact the 1/10 of 1% of the global population that we make up is responsible for so much success in so many endeavors from business, to medicine and science. Face it, I am simply better than you in every way.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Mark

      donn, have you ever gave money to israel? If so, then you have contributed to the murder of people!!

      July 14, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Mark

      I have had enough of the lie jews and christians regurgitate about jews being "chosen." This is a lie perpetuated by people!! It is disgusting and used for manipulation and profit at ever turn. Don't listen to these trolls and shills, ALL PEOPLE ARE GOD'S CHOSEN. Well at least the ones who are decent, regardless of race. The fact that jews perpetuate all kinds of crimes on humanity because of the atheism doesn't mean all jews are evil. But they are not God's chosen in the least!!!

      July 14, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Mahmoud

      What does the brutal murder of a young AMERICAN boy in Brooklyn have to do with Palestine??? I also recall there are some Jews who are pro-Palestinian and there are human rights groups in Israel, like Btselem that monitors and strongly criticizes Israeli policy vis a vis Palestnians. Basically, what I am trying to say is - you are a heartless, ignorant, bigot.

      July 15, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  12. IamSteveJobs

    If he had an iPhone he wouldn't have stopped to ask for directions. Parents please buy your kids an iPhone immediately. – Steve Jobs

    July 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • jermaine

      true..very true..

      July 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Melabong

      Thanks for the commercial break Steve Jobs :). I have an 8 year old son, do you want to supply him and all other kids iPhones? I'll send you my mailing address.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  13. James

    God rest your soul poor little boy. Shame on the evil person that did this. If New York does not have Capitol Punishment, then the murder must be placed in general population in prison to be delt with properly. My prayers to the family.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  14. Lesa

    This to happen to anyone....but especially a child is heartbreaking. Are people so damaged that they could perform such heinous acts on others. Sad, very sad.....

    July 14, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  15. Lilly

    I say..if this article is not about Jews not being murderers why bring the race description so detailed then? you are responsible for what u say and how it is interpreted. And yet, another poster saying that the murderer was probably even Jewish does confirm that sentiment of ethnocentrism that is so distracting and annoying. A boy is murdered in a horrifying way..it is zoo disturbing that no...let's not drop it..let's make stronger and new laws to address these crimes. And I am sorry about the parents of this child but letting the boy this age walk along in NYC is a little bit naive. They don't deserve this loss and this pain poor people but really...no neighborhood is completely safe. And people don't get too involve in prevention of crimes either.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  16. Nancy M. B.

    I would love it if someone could convince me why a supposedly loving God would allow the child to fall into the clutches of this fiend.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • Canadian

      Nancy ... don't start. A horrible tragedy has occurred, people in that community are suffering a painful loss, and are struggling with issues of trust, betrayal and fear and the family of this little boy is experiencing indescribable pain. For you to heap on extra pain to this family & community who are deeply faith-based with your callous comment is reprehensible. Just send flowers or a condolence card to the family and leave it at that.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Christian Mom

      God is loving. Nothng the world can do will change the love of God. But there is also evil, real evil, in the world. This precious life was taken by an individual who acted out of his own flesh, just like all sin is out of flesh. We can not blame God, the child's parents, religion, TV or anything else for this. Only the individual that took his life can be blamed.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Sarah25

      That was a cruel post Nancy. This family is hurting and I 100% guarantee you that they've turned to God for strength and comfort right now and for you to slam their beliefs, given what they're going through right now, shows that you have absolutely no respect or compassion for this family/community/their friends/for anyone touched by this horror. Shame on you.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  17. just a thought No 1

    There is some hyena of a troll using my name!

    July 14, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  18. MARY P

    What an overwhelmingly sad story. This man was a killer, probably would be a serial killer, Dalmer type. Poor child. This is not a race situation. How sad we can’t just say how wrong this is anywhere. Listen to ourselves people..so much hate. Don’t stopped being shocked. Don’t insulate your life to the point of stupidity. Teach your children …even if you know the person..unless they know the password..it’s a no go. These parents didn’t ask for this. I can just see how this kid started out, first freedom for a child…and how it ended. Parents of this child please don’t feel guilty. You didn’t do anything wrong. Talk to your community. Don’t hide. Don’t be ashamed. Speak out against others even if it a taboo subject. Check out the people in your environment.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  19. Fuyuko

    its tragic when any person is killed. being from the same religious community or ethnic background, sadly doesn't prevent murder.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  20. khalid lahmeur

    I just hope that god gives this family the power to overcome this tragedy

    July 14, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.