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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. NAforpeace

    Wow. this killer is respectfully called Orthodox Jew by our media!!! No Jewish religion is invoked. If this guy would have been a muslim-then Islam and Muslims of the world would have been talking points on every channel in every negative way-– terrorists and extremist have no religion–the may be jews and may have other religions too. It is disgusting when you guys blame muslims for every wrong things!

    July 14, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Huh?

      Terrorists and extremists have no religion? Of course they do. Muslim extremists are Muslim. If Muslim extremist didn't cause so many problems, then people wouldn't talk about them so much. It's not my job to not talk about them, it's there job to not give us something to talk about. Clean up your own backyard.

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

      Wrong. Muslims kill Muslims all the time and that never makes the news.

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

      I cannot make out what you are trying to say. IRA terrorists in Ireland, heavily funded by American Irish people, were Catholic Christians.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  2. ANEST

    He 's gonna end up going free just like casey anthony what a sick country. I would like to have 5-10 mins with him

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

      Kinda doubt it. Nobody found body parts in her kitchen.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Barry Newman

      First of all to the person who said "he will get away with it" is not a jew. This person wants to spend 5-10 minutes alone with this man. I think that this person is a blow hard and would not know what to do if he did have his 5 minutes becouse he would be scared out of his wits to confront this man who did such a dasterdly thing. I love the big talk people. They are the ones who jump behind someone else. However be as it may. This man who did this murder of a young child in such a bad way will meet his end here on earth and also in his afterlife.To the family of this young boy. How can we say how sorry we are for your loss. May he rest in peace forever.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  3. itsjustme

    There is a cultural divide here, perhaps - the pp poster (GIA) might be on to something.

    The story our local news site has: Aron took the kid to a wedding in Monsey - that has to be at least 3 hours' drive from Brooklyn - the guests saw Aron but not the kid, it is said - and then he took the kid all the way back to his house.

    Is this "I took the kid to a wedding and then back to my house" perhaps a story Aron cooked up to tell the cops - maybe the kid was already dead by the time the wedding happened and Aron showed up at the party - or if the kid was alive, how come he didn't think it was odd that somebody he didn't even know wanted to take him to a wedding? How come the kid didn't put up a fuss or run or something to help himself??

    This just gets curiouser and curiouser. Anybodyt else?

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

      Actually, it was YOU that assumed that "terrorist" equates with Muslim! See.. even you know the truth!

      July 14, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • SWBeth

      Sorry "itsjustme" I hit comment and it jumped to your post without me noticing. That reply was meant for another! Sorry!

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

      because Jews are raised to only trust Jews....gullible set they are.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  4. Akeelah

    @ v kole...yeah...sure you're black.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  5. hendeeze

    Do they serve pepperoni pizza at the hasidic jew pizza parlor?

    July 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • itsjustme

      Why not?:) There is such a thing as turkey and chicken pepperoni.:)

      July 14, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  6. Science

    Salem, Islam is the truth? Bwahahahaha. Open a science book man, Islam, Christianity, etc have all been proven false

    July 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  7. Name*jorge mola tapia

    the law needs to enforce and study this man ,for any past history ,whether this is his first time killing and or pocking kids of the street

    July 14, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  8. elove

    Ppl use race card yet have bet/Latino tv yet i would be racist for having wet (whttv) We all
    Need to lose blinders the world is box of crayons different shapes colors sizes

    July 14, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  9. Omar

    "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.

    What a loaded comment that exposes such a huge prejudice against Muslims... You wouldn't call someone like this a terrorist? The fact that he's "one of your own" allows him to bypass that label? If that's not the action of a terrorist, I don't know what is.

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

      i don't think he's being racist at all. if someone from your home town or church that everyone knew killed a neighboring kid, you'd also be more freaked out then if someone was killed in a terror attack. why is that such a crazy thing? it's scary for them because it hit so close to home.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • No comment

      any believable right... just change the subject.. I am surprised he did not mention Hitler or holocast

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

      Well said. Seriously.

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

      Why would you even assume they were talking about someone of Muslim faith? I don't see anything about any faith or ethnicity in the above quote. It seems like you should perhaps reevaluate your racial perceptions.

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

      Get over it. There was no mention of Muslims. You are exposing your own bias and insecurity.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Amy

      I think terrorism is usually defined as an act meant to strike fear into a specific, larger group. If this person didn't mean for this act to be discovered then it probably isn't terrorism, no matter how awful. He sounds more like a serial killer.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • whoa

      Are you not the racist one for assuming that by terrorist they meant Muslim, sounds like you are the one "equating" and he was the one who was using "terrorist" and "random murder" as equatable terms. The Jewish people, especially those of Hasidic community, have been at best consistently been put under a microscope, at worst been horribly persecuted in a country that prides herself on religious freedom. Instead of nit picking through what one says when they are bewildered, frustrated, and with a microphone up to their face, you should be focuses on the real tragedy of this situation: That a innocent human being was brutally murdered in NYC. Everyone in their community will be affected. Meanwhile this guy will be allowed to live off the tax payers dime (47k avg. a year) until his death.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  10. Anna

    This poor Little Child of God, this is simply not acceptable. What is happening to this world we live in. We can't even let our children walk home from school. I am disgusted and appaled at this Man who took away this little boy from us. What right did he have to do this. This has nothing to do about religon, it's simply a case of him being at the wrong place and the wrong time who knew that this crazy man would chopped his body into pieces. I am so sick about this, this hated and pain and killings have to stop. God Bless his family I can only imagine the pain they must be going through.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  11. CASEYJEWS

    Probably, this man read attended many Casey Anthony trial or reading CNN articles. Mr Baez you have another case to public defend and casey the murder, you should call this guy in jail and send him Baez phone number. These folks are living on Obama's tax money from the rich?????

    July 14, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  12. No comment

    I am not surprised, In Kriyos Joel and Monsey where they have a big hesedic community and they habe the biggest per captia ratio of child molester any where.. but it not reported cause it does not goes pass there community leaders or rabbi.. mentioning terrorist in this article is a shame ..

    July 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  13. anonimous

    let's say this man who killed the boy was a muslim....attack on ISLAM and not the individual...

    July 14, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Omar

      agreed!

      July 14, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • teddythebear

      I pretty much knew the killer was jewish because the news media took a whole day to be absolutely sure they had the right guy before saying any thing.

      If there was the remote possibility he was black or hispanic or moslem he'd be perp walked right out of his house and all the experts would be out pounding away about the innate failing of xyz group within 3 hrs of them finding him at his house

      July 14, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Chachtastic

      "The war on terror...also known as religion" – Lily Allen

      July 14, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • whoa

      How can you possibly say that when so many suicide bombers in multiple states across the middle east regularly kill their own people, and by that I mean women and children, to make the "point" that they hate western civilization. There is no need to imagine. It happens every week.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  14. Say What

    Oi.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  15. Outraged1980

    @vegetarian- Regardless of race or religous beliefs a child was abducted and murdered then dismembered. Who knows if this poor child was tortured before he died and had those indignities done to his small innocent body. How in the HELL can you compare luring and killing a small child to slaughtering an animal. You are a heartless piece of garbage you sick SOB

    July 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  16. v kole

    hey akeelah, i'm black and guess what: YOUR A SICK PUPPY!

    July 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  17. Akeelah

    I figured it out everybody! Kevin and Voice of Reason is the same person! You sly dog lol.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  18. Martin

    They should allow the death penalty for such cases !!!!! Horrible tragedy may god give the family of the victim strength

    July 14, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Ras Gregory

      Maybe if they had put out an Amber Alert on the child...The Fed would pick up case and he be put to death...

      This guy looking at 40 years to life

      July 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  19. Brandon

    Wow!! Absolutely Horrendous! Is this what this world is coming too..? I am so terribly sorry for that child, and his family. I have children of my own, and could not imagine what it could be like to lose what I cherish the most. I listen and see this situation on the news, and cant help but to cry. This situation scares me away from sending my own into the world. Why can't people have common sense? Why can't people think about the quality of life and what it has to offer? No one deserves this, especially a child who has not even experienced life. Whoever could be capable of such an atrocity, please do yourself and all of us who respect the quality of life a favor, and swallow some rat poison, or shoot yourself. Thankyou!

    July 14, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • GIA

      I absolutely agree Brandon..It's scary out there and what children are up against – they are no match for...unless parents teach them well and also offer them fierce protection. See my LONG commentary below. 🙂

      July 14, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  20. v kole

    ...a sephardic jew: man these people have become really prejudiced...

    July 14, 2011 at 8:34 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.