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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. Shiori

    I can't believe that someone would do such a thing.
    What's wrong with that person for killing a kid and cutting him up into little pieces?
    People like him should be kept in jail for their lifetime.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • GIA

      It's very sad indeed. But I disagree with keeping them in jail for a lifetime. No, they should not be allowed to breathe the same air as the one they snuffed out of this world. They should not be allowed to take their 3 squares a day or have a book to read or have medicine when they are sick. They should not be allowed to have access to a pencil to write or paper to wipe their behinds. NO, they should not be allowed to ever again, see the sun of day. That man could have let the child go and chose instead to ....

      July 14, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  2. Ras Gregory

    Will prosecutors seek the death penalty?

    July 14, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • joanna

      ny doesn't have a death penalty. i'm starting to wish they did....

      July 14, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  3. GIA

    Here's the problem: You CANNOT allow a young child to walk through unfamiliar territory on their own. In Brooklyn many blocks are very long. I use to live there and know this. However, I can partly understand why parents in decent Brooklyn neighborhoods might think it's safe. For one, there's usually plenty of people out and about in these areas with small stores and other public places throughout. However, the fact that it was 5PM and more than likely some places were closing and people start going inside for dinner and to get out of heat... there probably wasn't as many people mulling around.... so if the parents felt that this neighborhood offered "safety in numbers" so to speak they were wrong.

    Secondly, as this child became more afraid, he turned to a fellow "jewish" community member who he's probably always been told he could trust. He's probably NEVER been told don't get in strangers cars... but what did the term "strangers" mean to him? Possibly gentiles? I say this not to imply anything remotely anti-semitic but to point out that having lived in the Brooklyn area myself, the Jews are a very insular people there.

    Then there is also another factor...many people who live in the city don't keep cars or at least don't drive them that often. Partly to do with good public transit and also that New Yorkers do tend to walk a lot. So again, this kid walking alone doesn't actually surprise me however in this day and age parents can never take for granted anything. At minimum a child even at that very young age should have a cell phone with him and parents should always give backup plans such as " if you get lost, ask a female on the street, ask a store owner to use their phone to call us or the police..." etc.

    When you look at nearly 99 percent of these cases pretty much everyone of them have the same thing in common; child was not properly supervised. IN essence the parents fell down on their job:

    -Young children left outside for long periods of time, including playing in front yards with no parental supervision
    -Left to walk from point A to point B alone.
    -Left to get off at bus stops,
    -Left at stores where another friend has been picked up
    by parents but remaining child is waiting for their own parents.
    -Doesn't have cell phone to call parents.
    – Walks from other friends house without supervision.
    -Not given self defense skills or proper instincts to fight OUTLOUD.
    -Doesn't have backup plan.

    Parental negligence is the devils playground. Plain and simple. And except for a few cases where an evil offender slips into a house, ie. Polly Klaus, Elizabeth Smart, Jessica Lund, Danielle Van...sad but I forget the last little girls name, and even then in most of those cases, the home was improperly secured. Doors and windows left unlocked etc. most scenario child kidnapping and murders could have been prevented.

    My kid is 25 years old now. I was overprotective because as having been a victim of crime and abuse survivor myself I knew the dangers. To this day I am still protective. If my son goes somewhere for the weekend and doesn't call us to tell us where and with whom, I'm on him. If he doesn't call at least once a week – I worry. If he rides his bike without a helmut, I say something. If I suspect he's getting lazy about his own security I remind him by asking: "are you locking your doors, are your windows locked and do you have a dowel in them (he's on the first floor) and the list goes on. Yes, I know it sounds overbearing but it is what it is and I'm still his MOM and til the day I die will always be.

    Lastly, these sick FREAKS need to fry. There should be NO leniency shown to a perp/killer. And people on the streets or in stores...when you see a young child lost and notice an adult is "handling it"....perhaps you should also get involved. Stand by, offer to call childs parents or the police and don't take your eyes off the kid. If you see a parent being negligent don't be afraid to tell them so and get involved by calling police. I've seen several times parents allowing children as young as three to be on their own in their home, yard or even at stores. It's appalling.

    This story and stories like it make me very angry because 9 times out of 10 they could have been avoided.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • jeffrey

      its not the parents fault...if they can be blamed for something ..is that they raised a child to think that he should only trust jews that look like him. If they raised him to be aware and open minded to other races..he would have asked a black person or Hispanic person for directions. Not just ask the first Jewish person he saw. and seven blocks is not long.

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

      Hard as it is to swallow in the wake of this horrific tragedy...um, it is the parents fault. You never let a child walk/play/wander unsupervised and without a cellphone or means of self defense. Our JOB is to keep our children safe, no matter how "inconveinient" it may seem at the time, or to what lengths one finds oneself going through. Protect. Protect. Protect. The truth sucks. But the truth is, there are predators in every color and creed, and a child cannot defend him/herself against it.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Blablabla

      Wow thanks for that war and peace size ramble, you're both wrong and a total d-bag.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  4. TheTruth

    At least it wasn't a German. They're still complaining about that! Now they can look for evil within themselves TODAY instead of looking back in history for the evil within others. You ain't perfect!

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

      Sadly this is true! How many articles are on the 1000's of Palestinian children killed by jews in the middle east. None, because they aren't jewish so they don't matter. It is sad but most jews think this way....

      July 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  5. Arab in America

    NO community, especially not a small, tight knit religious community in a small neighborhood, wants to believe something so unspeakable could be the work of one of their own. That's human nature, so lay off the anti-Semitism. Hating on a whole group of people based on stupid stereotypes or the actions of a few wackjobs is sick. I've been on the recieving end of that many times. The Hasids are rivaled only by the Amish for insularity, and this will affect them in ways most can't fathom. I don't wish on anyone what they're suffering now. Don't make it worse by pouring salt in the wounds with hateful words.

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

      Excellent sentiment!

      July 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Arab in America

      Shukran, Melabong. Thank you. Very kind of you to say.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Westgrl

      Well said! A child is dead at the hands of an animal. It shouldn't matter what race or religion, it was an innocent child. People act like ignorant morons wanting to lynch an entire religion because of one disgusting action by a person not worthy of being alive. This should bring people together, not drive them apart.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Mary Wilbur

      Well said.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • janjan

      Agree 100%

      July 14, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Dawn

      How is truth translated into anti-semitism. Be honest with yourself because the rest can see through it. Yes, it is a terrible crime and any sane person would not wish this on any child, I hope! Stop with the anti-semitism card, it is a losing hand.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  6. Alfredo

    I walked to school when I was 9 yrs old but that was a 40 yrs ago when we didn't have all these deviants running around. Today there seems to be an abundance of pedophiles and other deviants. I would never allow a 8, 9 yr old to walk alone regardless of what neighborhood I lived. Too many predictors out there, extra care must be given today....

    July 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  7. Suzanne

    What is wrong with this world?!!!!

    July 14, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      What is 'right' with it??

      July 15, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  8. Terry Washington State

    Poor sweet little soul. May the suspect if guilty rot in the bowels of he11. My sincerest sympathies to family, friends and loved ones. Just a heinous thing to have happen to any child.

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

      I agree Terry....sooo so so sad. I'm outraged. I'm outraged each and everytime something like this happens. I keep thinking WHY and why is there nothing that's in our laws that says to evil perps like this...no jail cell....you will be brought before the people you harmed and done away with. I know that is extreme but I can't help but believe if we had sanctioned execution when it's clear that the person is guilty by the evidence and his full admittance that this is the thing to do. I believe we have to STOP and give swift retribution...no lingering in jail cells.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  9. Ras Gregory

    Cannabilism inside the Jewish Community...so much talk about the antichrist and pointing fingers all the time
    DAMN DAMN DAAMN

    The bad thing about cannabilism is...its kind of a pagan ritual rank achievment to these evil SATAN WORSHIPPERS...They eat humans who they thing possess special powers basically, so they eat them to DEVOUR THEIR SOULS??

    LISTEN, another point is... All over YouTube these things are being exposed...Satan worshippers inside of the JEWISH RELIGION maybe even in CATHOLIC CHURCH?

    July 14, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • ari

      um, i'm pretty sure that this is just a single case of a mentally deranged guy. cannibalism is not prominent in the hasidic community... or the catholic community as far as i know... and they aren't "satan worshipers".

      if there's anything to be learned from all this, it's to never let a little kid walk around by himself. even if he went with a group of other children, this could have been avoided.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  10. Jlarral

    This gives me the creeps. What is wrong with some people nowadays? I am a man who's 35 years old and this scares the heck out of me.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  11. Akeelah

    @Voice of Reason....So you are telling me that all of the vegetarians that I know will began to decompose faster than anyone else because they don't eat preservatives right? NOT. Thats funny...my aunt (who was a vegetarian and ate no preservatives) lasted about 3 weeks before she started to decompose. (Yes I saw here in the casket) Like I said...Geneologist know the real reason why Jews rot faster than anyone else. Oh and another thing...the more melanin you have, the longer your body is preserved. Melanin is native to the Earth. Whites contain less of it because they aren't from here. Think about it? If they are native to the Earth... why do they literally bake in the sun? Of course you don't want to see the truth because you are White, right? I understand. I just have one word for you: ANNUNAKI.

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

      @akeelah- YOUR A SICK PUPPY!

      July 14, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  12. kevin

    Ver very sad about the little boy. As soon as i heard about this the other day i knew it would be another Hasidic. They live in their own little world out there in Brooklyn. It is a community that still is living in the 18th century. A non jew to these people are considered lower than dirt!

    July 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  13. wisdom4u2

    It's obvious this killer is really, really sick!!!! Evil is not a respecter of persons!!! My condolences to the child's family and friends. I hope his family will come to realize that bad things really do happen to good people, too!!! They need to stop blaming themselves.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  14. Ash

    it's a bit weird that an orthodox jew would cut up a body into little pieces since it states that the body must be kept in one piece and all the organs should be there as well. It is actually against the religion to donate any organs.

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

      I don't think the murderer was really following his religion when he killed the kid.

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

      I would say that anyone capable of killing a child & cutting them up in the kitchen is sick. With sickness comes loss of any real beliefs. Christians & Jews would find killing a child to be against their religion.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • msvisadeklined

      The Hasidic community has only itself to blame. The inbreeding in the communities in NY, Brooklyn, Kiras Joel, upstate and Montreal is producing generations of genetically impaired adults, mental illness, retardation, Down's Syndrome and sick animals like the one who killed the child. Just because someone wears a yarmulke and prays on Shabbos doesnt discount all the hidden problems that exist within their religion. They hide their defects from the world and do little or nothing about the cretins walking around their community. Interesting but little known fact: when the men marry they are always always always matched with someone of their own mental/financial status. In other words, if a girl of marrying age is a little slow she is always matched with a man of the same status. It becomes a black mark if a young man like the killer becomes known within the community as "strange". Parents do little or nothing about psychological problems because of the strain and embarrassment put on them by members of their own sect. Usually the only time they do not produce children with mental or genetic problems is when they marry outside the immediate group. For example if a woman from Kiras Joel marries a Hasidim from Belgium or Montreal, chances are their children will be healthy. They are allowed to marry family members closer than 2nd cousins................sad, very sad.............

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

      Yeah, once you murder someone, I don't think your faith is at issue anymore.

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

      and you consider this guy religious? "do not murder" is up there in the 10 commandments. this guy is the furthest thing from what any religion preaches....

      July 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  15. children are the future

    Teach children the importance of being very cautious and wary of strangers especially when they are outside
    What a heart wrenching tragedy, may his sould rest in peace!

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

      Totally.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  16. MK

    When I was 8 I used to walk almost a mile to school by myself. However these days I wouldn't let an 8 year old even cross the street alone. Too many crazies out there.

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

      Totally agree. Even people my age (I am in my late 20's) lived in a different "era" where it was safe to cross the street alone.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  17. Patti

    WOW! We have people turning this into a Christian/Jewish issue and others blaming the poor child's family. With each day that passes I am more and more disgusted by my fellow man. I can only hope that the idiots that post here are a very small representation of what's out there, otherwise we are screwed. If there IS a god...I hope this 2012 crap is true. We're wasting a good planet.

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

      I find that most people are not like the anonymous posters. I think this way because when I post a positive comment on CNN, I get way more likes than negative comments. It's the negative minority that makes the most noise.

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

      Indeed.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  18. Nick

    Halloween 24/7 in that neighborhood!

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

      thats why i moved...as anyone who constantly wears black worships the devil.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  19. nellie

    This is horrible tragedy. This has nothing to do about Religion ..this is about a poor innocent little boy who become a victim of a sick pedaphile. There are evil people protraying themselves to be loving Christians, Jews, Muslim etc. This is how these monsters gain the trusts of their victims. God bless the victims family, and everyone in that community that knew and loved that little boy.

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

      I love this post. It shows both compassion and intelligence. I like reading posts like this.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Sarah25

      Well said, Nellie.

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

      Well said

      July 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Eli

      I agree, this man was sick in the head and was sheilded and protected by living and blending among the Orthodox Jews, it's the best place to hide your demons, they trust each other with their lives in those communities, I know I have family their.

      July 15, 2011 at 6:32 am |
  20. Kevin

    Such a tragedy. I can't really say anymore than I am shocked, although sadly, not suprised since I've heard of murderers doing stuff like this before, obviously.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
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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.