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. happen

    Unfortunate they have to base their unity on faith instead of the natural fellowship of simply being humans. They might not be so shocked that a Jew did this if religion wasn't blinding them to the monstrous capabilities that can lie within any person.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Kevin

      Couldn't agree more.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • jma58

      You nailed it.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  2. katie

    This is exactly what's wrong with this country. A little boy was brutally murdered by someone who was part of his community, someone he trusted and most of you people on this site are critiquing the writer rather than having deep sympathy for the family and friend's of this child. Instead you decide to bring up race, religion and bad parenting. Take a look at your life and how you were brought up and realize that we all have exercised poor judgment, have trusted people we couldn't and got burnt, but let's for once stop blaming others and acting so self-righteous and just let the family, friends and others with a heart just mourn and sadness for this tragedy and leave it at that. Why can't there ever be a story where the public sees the message as its intended instead of constantly believing some other hidden meaning is involved? We were all raised differently and just accept it and move on.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • AM

      well said!

      July 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • cdogg

      Yes, this is awful, but what is also awful is this writing.
      "an added layer of astonishment in this neighborhood because the alleged killer appears to hail from the same close-knit religious community"
      People are often if not mostly killed by members of the same religion. Pure crap CNN, your journey to a Fox news level of drivel is almost complete.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • ann

      thank you for this, katie.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • cdogg

      I bet you watch Nancy Grace.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Aly

      I think everyone here is sad and upset, a innocent little boy was killed by a sick individual, no one is denying that, but writer did not have to use the words he/she has, i mean does it make it less astonished if the killer had been christian or Muslim. i mean orthodox jews does not commit crime, are they immune to crime? when casey anthony murdered her child, was she labelled as "a christian mother killed her young toddler" or whatever religion she believes in , or was she labelled as a atheist mother killed her child.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Audrey

      Another "thank you" for this sensible comment. <3

      July 14, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  3. ddp

    I am a parent of 2 boys. I don't care what community I live in, my boys will never walk 1 block, much less 7 BLOCKS by themselves. This is a classic case of neglect on the part of the parents to let their 8 year old child walk 7 blocks BY HIMSELF!!! Unbelievable!!!!! Where are the charges on the parents????They are just as guilty as the murderer.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • socalpimp

      How dare you blame the parents!!! This is a tight knit community, not some slum like you live in.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Sarah

      You sound like an inbred moron.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • ddp

      socalpimp- you ask how dare I blame the parents??? Are you a parent yourself??

      July 14, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • kevin

      your an idiot 7 blocks in nyc is much closer then your mid western blocks. 7 blocks is nothing. thats closer then most corner stores in most places.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • cdogg

      Children should be kept in cages until they are 18 because of the 1-250,000 chance that something like this may happen.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  4. Aaron

    Nikki, i have never heard of such idiocy. The guy is sephardic (meaning coming from spanish descent) This included Africa (Not all africa is black). You are THE most racist bigot I have ever seen.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  5. Hyman

    God bless that little boy. But I have to say.....I am a brownskin girl with Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry (Germany). And I was told by Hasidics and Orthodox that if I wanted to be comfortable find an all black synagogue. I pains me to even read that they believe that their are the cream of the crop and that they are investigating his status within the community. But GUESS WHAT? He IS JEWISH.....this should remove the belief that Jews are perfect and without blemish. They should concentrate on putting him away and protecting all children, not just theirs. Reality is a b***h aint it?

    July 14, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  6. Eric of Reseda

    As a Jew, I am constantly astonished by how moronic the Orthodox community appears at times. These are supposed to be educated people! But they are blinded by religion, and cut themselves off from certain modern realities, one being, don't let an 8 year-old walk around the city unsupervised, no matter how much you trust your neighborhood. And whispers about the Aron being Sephardic, as if that has anything to do with it?!? These people are morons! And here is my favorite: "A young father...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." What an odd, almost comic thing to say to very small children in order to calm them.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      Don't even try it!! You are not a Jew, because a 'real' Jew would never position their lips or write anything as pious as your dumb a ss comment!!! GTF outta here you stinking TROLL!!!!

      July 14, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • janjan

      Eric, you are absolutely right. He did it because he's Sephardic? Give me a break. The Hasidic community has so many problems they turn a blind eye to. No matter what they will find a way to claim he's "off the derech".

      July 14, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  7. gnostic

    Its time to forgive the misguided.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  8. Descartes

    To those people who immediately assign the blame to the parents, this is just a random, senseless killing. This could have happened anywhere in the world in any ethnic/religious community.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  9. Vegetarian

    This is the type of murder you(Muslims, jews, Christians) do to animals everyday without batting an eyelid.

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

      Go F yourself and die in a grease fire you idiot. They are almost the same thing.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Ryan

      Oh, you mean the same way how Stalin starved and killed 20 million of his own men? How Mao killed 47 million people? Speak for yourself.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Sure, because after all, unbelievers never kill anyone, only day by day, more than any religious person.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • Anon

      Animals dont have feelings, silly goose.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Sarah

      I thought vegetarians weren't supposed to be judgmental?!?

      July 14, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Bub

      If you listen closely, you'll hear the lettuce screaming.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Vegetarian

      Very "intelligent" responses from everybody. especially Ryan who dragged in Stalin and Mao for no reason (he is confused where I am from so thought it is worthwhile to name every mass murderer not born in America) , the silly goose who thinks animals have no feelings, the feenixbucky whose sounds like his pants are on grease fire.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Sue

      See Leviticus and elsewhere in the bible. The bible actually demands killing of animals, and in some cases, people. No wonder Christians overwhelm non-believers in jails.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Emie South

      . Don't act like you are above killing because you don't consume flesh of another animal. Meat eating animals like bears and lions feed on plant eating animals every single day where is their reprimanding? I am a animal. You are a animal. Please shut the hell up. A boy was killed. Yes, the senseless killing of cute kitties, puppies and birdies is sad and avoidable because most of us human don't eat things we find useful in tracking and killing pests or just plain adorable. But the death of the pig that supplied the bacon for my sandwhich today was appreciated and served a purpose. The death of this boy and the lives that have been affected may serve a purpose in awareness about strangers or if you wanna go 'Dexter' served a purpose in this guy's need to kill. Stop sitting there and smelling your own ego farts. You're no better than anyone else! flesh or no flesh. I do hope in light of this boy's death that many people will recognize that everyone isn't who they seem to be.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  10. Yankel

    If Mr. Aron is set free (they said Casey Anthony would be guilty) I see enormous potential for him to become a shochet.

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

      Nothing about this is funny. This excuse for a human being chopped a little boy into little pieces. You are a sick person.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • harry

      Loosen up joanne... the world isn't ending yet.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • fred

      Yankel, I find you to be very funny and to the point. Keep it up.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • DaVuVuZeLa

      He won't go free because prosecutors in New York know what they're doing....I should know, I've watched all 20 seasons of Law & Order

      July 14, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • janjan

      And your name's not Yankel.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Melabong

      DaVuVuZeLa, N'Kosi sikeli Afrika!

      July 14, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  11. Ana

    I'm surprised that this is the 35 year old man's first crime. Seems as though he would have displayed mental imbalance long before this. He lived in the same community and no one ever noticed anything strange about him? I find that hard to believe.

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

      Jared Loughner, the Tucson shooter, was a pretty average person. The familiy lived in the community and nobody knew anything about him. Not even his parents suspected anything.

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

      Really? Most murders are committed by1st time offenders.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Nick

      Mental imbalance? Yeah it's called religion!

      July 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  12. Creq

    agree with Jeanette, WHY was an 8 year old walking back home ALONE????? education, moral, ethics, all begin at home, pay more attention to your kids PLEASE, as they said on this article, Aron seemed to be an outsider. a probable cause is parent's neglect, (among other factors)

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

      Give me a BREAK! The kid was walking 7 blocks. You never walked home from school? I did all the time as did my friends. So now a kid walking is from an immoral family? You are twisted. Blame the family for this horrendous crime....I have truly read it all. Sick sick sick people on this site........

      July 14, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • sorah

      I usually do not respond to the comments, however: the only person to blame is the sick murderer himself and himself alone. Each parent has the individual right to decide how/when their child can walk alone.

      There is absolutely NO BLAME whatsoever that belongs to these parents. Remember-one individual acted by himself. He himself decided to take a life!!!

      July 14, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • kevin

      IDIOT is the only word to describe you. REALLY???

      July 14, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  13. Aly

    "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."

    why is it astonished that killer is also a orthodox jews, was he suppose to be a muslim or hindu or christian? would that made this story less astonished?

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

      You seem to be on the right track there, Aly. This is a sickening article in many ways. The story, the photo the slant by CNN. One thing's for sure, it was no atheist that killed that kid and chopped him up.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Arsio

      I agree what does religion and race have anything to do with psychopaths and retards!!!!!!

      July 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Jeremy

      I will help explain for those of you who just don't get it: The point was not that it was shocking that an orthodox jew could commit such an atrocity, the point was that the community he came from was so close to one another and so trusting, almost like one big family or extended family. The fact that a member of their own family did this is what is so unbelievable to them- would it not be more shocking if a member of your family killed another one of your family members? As opposed to a random stranger who has no emotional or other ties to you or your family? Think about it. It make perfect sense.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Kdm245

      You are obviously not from the area and completely missing the point. The child was Orthodox and from an Orthodox neighbourhood. I am Catholic but live in Brooklyn. The point is that Orthodox dress alike – men have yarmulkes and where sashes and have long sideburns. He thought he could trust him because he looked like his dad, uncle and teacher. It has nothing to do with terrorism in the way you are inferring. It was a child who was murdered, no one thought it was an, ahem, terrorist meaning Muslim. It is tragic and your indifference is disgusting.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Connecticut

      AMEN to that!

      July 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • Orthodox Jewess

      It would make more sense for a murderer to target someone from a different community or religion, because if a person has any compassion or empathy AT ALL it would naturally go first to those in his own community! Thats just the way empathy is learned. Healthy people can extend their empathy to all people. This sick individual did not even have any limited amount of feeling for others!

      July 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • Aly

      @ Jeremy, how many times police is called for domestic violence in US? and offcourse i'd be upset if one of my family member killed another one, but the person who killed this little innocent boy was not related to this kid, the only thing was common between these two individual was religion and living in the same neighbor.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  14. IgnoranceisBliss

    Really? They're shocked that it wasn't a "terrorist" (*cough*Muslim*cough) and it was one of.. dun dun dun.. their own?

    This is why the world has its wars and hate- they really think their own religions are 100% righteous while all others are evil.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  15. Sal1943

    " Jews are the most humble and peaceful".I know they are not to blame for the killing fields in the middle east or for all the wars. It's always the other guy's fault.

    Anyways I think we need to condemn this sick bas*ard. There are evil people in every community.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  16. nyc635

    Are they that brainwashed that they don't think people of their own religion could do such a thing? Also, why was the boy waiting for him to come out of a dentist's office????

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

      Are they that brainwashed, you ask? Have taken a look at them?

      July 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • nyc635

      Yup...sadly I have and it's just unbelievable how ignorant they are to people other than their own. This should be a wake up call for them.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • sorah

      a wake up call to them??????????????

      A child was brutally murdered last night. And that is all you have to say? Maybe you need to be checked into the same psych ward.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  17. YBP

    "Close-knit" community? By that they mean a community that doesn't accept outsiders in any way. "Religious" community. I have a few other words for it. Perhaps it was the demands of this so-called faith that turned the killer into the man that he turned out to be. Ever consider that? Or is it that we just don't go there.

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

      totally agree...they discriminate against people of different ethnic groups..if they raised their kid to not be afraid of black or hispanic people he would be home eating that taste bad meat they call kosher.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • YBP

      That's 100% correct, Jermaine. That kid approached someone that looked like him, because that is all he was allowed to do. heartbreaking.

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

      If this story was about muslims, instead of jews, with a 'close knit' neighborhood with their own security force, people would be screaming about hows its an example of how muslims dont want to fit in and should not be allowed in the US.

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

      in the Caribbean we have a saying. It takes a village of all kinds to raise a child..but apparently in these hasidic community..especially in williamsburg, "only them must raise their children". They raising kids that cant walk 7 blocks home? I see 6 year olds taking the b46 and nobody touch them.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  18. cali-girl

    i will pray for you and your family; that you fine peace during this time when your hearts are so heavy.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  19. cbr

    Let us to mourn the death of this child and realize just how agonizing this loss is for the family..

    July 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  20. SML

    Tragic story, indeed. But why is the Hasidic community more shocked and disappointed that the alleged criminal was from their own community? Murderers come from all races, religions, and nationalities.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • la13

      the shock is because nothing like this has happened in this community. it is a very close knit community.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • sorah

      There is an ingrained feeling to love a fellow Jew. This is why it is such a shock for everyone!

      July 14, 2011 at 8:29 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.