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. the critic

    redneck from ablamabamlama I was told rednecks can't read. Tell me who read the article for you? she can not be a redneck otherwise she couldn't read either. But on the other hand she is not so smart, after all she is hanging around you. I know, she must be drunk. But she is drunk that will wake up and you, you are a dumb azz that will never wise up.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  2. the critic

    redneck from ablamabamlama I was told rednecks can't read. Tell me who read the article for you? she can not be a redneck otherwise she couldn't read either. But on the other hand she is not so smart, after all she is hanging around you. I know, she must be drunk. But she is drunk that will wake up and you, you are a stupid that will never wise up. Just drop dead nazi.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • Redneck From Alabama

      @the critic....If I'm as stupid as you say I am, then why are you responding to me? I guess, that makes you stupid too. Oh by the way, fix your grammer. It's absolutely horrible. For someone who's complaining about smarts, you sure are dumb.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • JT

      Hi Redneck...even though you're a troll I couldn't help but correct you. It's "grammar", not "grammer". BTW, I'm from Arkansas.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  3. SDFrankie

    Here's the deal. You can let your kids walk home by themselves, telling yourself your community is safe. 99 times out of 100 nothing happens. But sometimes someone with schizophrenia kills your child. That's how life is in this universe. You can think there's a God involved somewhere if that makes you feel better. But it males me feel better to think it's just random and the world is a dangerous place sometimes. Go swim in the ocean. People hardly ever get eaten by sharks. But every once in a while they do.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  4. frank

    This story seems like the premise for a movie where Denzel Washington plays a homicide detective.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  5. GIA

    Another thought...my sister constantly allows her girls 10 and 15 to walk home from bus stop alone. The kids are not together and even when there are other children around at some point they have to walk alone to their own homes. I tell my sister not to do this and she doesn't have an excuse as she is a SAHM and could easily drive or walk herself to meet them. I know she is teaching her children self reliance but I don't think it's safe. Perps look for these such conditions:

    -Children or young women walking or jogging alone
    -Latchkey kid
    -Left waiting for rides
    -Improperly secured home environment – no alarm, poorly secured doors and windows etc.
    -false sense of safety, ie., believing the dog will protect them, believing the neighbors are as normal as they are.

    It doesn't take much for a wackjob to stalk out a situation and then overwhelm his victim.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • PeteH

      You're a fearmonger.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Sally

      Unfortunately this is true. NO ONE thinks this will happen to someone they know until it does. A childhood friend of my husband's (they were in scouts together) disappeared from a very "safe" neighborhood and was never found. Parents HAVE to be cautious, and until the kids are old enough and large enough to defend themselves, parents have to watch them at all times. The self-reliance lessons can come when they're bigger and stronger. Not to say they should be raised to be paranoid, but certain common-sense precautions are necessary. Why chance it?

      July 15, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  6. Jgrl

    ...and Jon, you're a retard. We are a tiny little minority, this is why we marry each other. How on earth would this affect you?
    I think you're the bigot here.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Sal1943

      Religion is becoming less important in peoples lives, which is why you see a lot of inter-faith marriages.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  7. Sal1943

    Just a little confused I guess and digressing. It says these Jews are East European descent, which seems right. They look it. Well then why are they claiming land in the middle east, where Israel is?

    July 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Angry black man

      They claim their native land as the middle east is where Judaism originated however the majority of Jewish people are of European decent

      July 14, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • Sarah

      You hit the nail on its head. Over 70% of Jews living in Israel are of Ashkenazi origin, and hence cannot logically claim Israel as their "ancestral" or "God-given" land.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Melabong

      So here's a little history lesson. The Jews have been around almost 5000. What made Jews unique then was the fact that they were monotheists (believe in one-god) and rejected idol worship which was widely practiced at the time. Over time other monotheist religions arose in the region including Islam and much later, Christianity. It wasn't until the dawning of the common era, around the time of Christ's birth, that the Roman, and other conquerors exiled Jews. Over time, Jews found refuge in Spain, Poland, England, France and many other areas but they were never given significant rights. Nevertheless, since the destruction of the 2nd Temple until 1948 and the establishment of Israel, the Jewish people had never had a homeland. Jewish connection to the Holy Land of Israel is 1000's of years old.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • AB

      Sal, these Jews are Americans. And they are not claiming anything in the Middle East. In fact, most of these Hasidic Jews would not even consider themselves Zionists. Read up. Get your facts straight. And while we are at it, most Jews in Israel are not of Ashkenazi origin, which is another easily verifiable fact, but when the facts get in the way of ones politics it is of course easier to remain uninformed.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  8. Redneck from Alabama

    and I thought only Blacks and Hispanics were capable of killing.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Angry black man

      Minorities are very capable of killing but Caucasians damn sure know how to top the cake!!! You guys made a real freak show out of this one. Casey Anthony has nothing on this!!!!!

      July 14, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Melabong

      That's really funny 🙂 redneck. Redneck humor rocks!

      July 14, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Sal1943

      And lest we forget another redneck: Jeffery Dahmer. Apparently his preference was for brown meat; having tasted white once in Germany and didn't much like the taste.

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

      Angry black man, jews are not white!!! They may look white and exploit that fact as much as possible but they are semites. Well, there are some eastern europeans who pretend they are jewish but they are really nazi's.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • black man

      Incorrect the majority of the modern Jewish population is white. They are claiming Semtic lineage because they were the original Jews. Stop stealing other people's heritage and get your own!!!!

      July 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  9. Lew

    The stuff people are posting is blowing my mind. Horrible.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • iluvla

      Okay!!! Especially the racist from Alabama(he's obviously uneducated)

      July 14, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Sarah

      I agree. As a muslim, this is not a matter of a "jewish loss," but a loss for all humankind. What a horrible thing to happen to this child. RIP... and may his parents and all those affected by it find strength and peace.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Melabong

      Lew and Angry Black ... Peel back the ancestry layers of our Redneck friend. Wonder what race, ethnicity or religion run through his bloodline.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  10. kari inSC

    Praying for comfort and peace for this family. What an unimaginable thing to bear as a parent.... And as far as so many of these comments, my eyes have been opened to what a religiously and racially charged country we still live in... Amazing!! So much for practicing your religion without persecution....

    July 14, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • the critic

      Great post.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  11. Angry black man


    July 14, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Sal1943

      But how can you claim land where your religion originated? Like this all Christians and Muslims could also claim lands in the middle east, because all the prophets of the Bible, Koran and Torah were middle eastern guys.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • black man

      Wrong again sal you really have to educate yourself. The bible is a collection of stories from people of all races some were African and some where Middle Eastern.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  12. Jake the Snake

    First they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

    Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    – Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • Sal1943

      I wish they had spoken out. We wouldn't have had the problem in the middle east now; cuz the victims became the victimisers.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • AB

      Sal, try to think for yourself instead of repeating Hamas' propaganda.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  13. Wontevertellyou

    I have a question: was this jewish boy allowed to have a phone?

    July 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • goldie

      No, phones are too goyasha.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  14. kari inSC

    Praying for comfort and peace for this family. What an unimaginable thing to bear as a parent.... And as far as so many of these comments, my eyes have been opened to what a religiously and racially charged country we still live in... Amazing!! So much practicing your religion without persecution....

    July 14, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  15. Name*adam

    Lets not talk about religion, fact is an inocent child,has
    Lost his life,for the sob_mf who did that,hope he goes to
    Jail for ever then rot in hell.for the family of the young one
    God is and will be there for you

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

      Why didn't god stop this from happening? Where was he/she? Busy sorting out the abusive priests?

      July 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  16. Aaron from Connecticut

    wow...I'll never take a White cab again! Whites, including the Jews are some real sickos!!!!!

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

      I hate to break it to you but there are sickos everywhere. It has nothing to do with color or religion!!!!

      July 14, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  17. Lew

    Sad :o(

    July 14, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  18. mnstx

    Kids are getting taken from their front yards, you can't even let your kids play outside anymore. I hope the killer frys!

    July 14, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  19. Mohamed

    The name Levi Aron is not a Sephardic Jewish name. It is eastern European Jewish name. The guy is blond. The fact is, it is very very sad no matter who did it. My heart goes out to the child who suffered such bad ending. I hope he is in a better place.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • AB

      Actually it is a Hebrew name.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  20. Phillip Bunnell

    Wow....and I thought Muslims wore funny clothes.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Hamoud Abdullah

      .......and to us it is YOU who wears 'funny clothes'.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Sarah

      Sadly, that's how much you still need to learn about the world around you. It's easy to stereotype a religion or those conforming to 'a' religion, when fact is, that good and bad exists in every human being.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:23 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.