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. Blair

    When I was 9 or 10, I walked a long way from school to my cousins house where my dad would pick me up. One time, my cousin and I stopped into a bowling alley for a soda and this guy came up to us, really casual. He sat there and asked us questions about ourself. He got our names, addresses, and other info. He brought up school and punishment in school. He told us that in New York that they didn't give you the strap but tickled you for punishment. He asked us if we were ticklish, we said yes. He told us that he had a device in his car that would not make us ticklish any longer and did we want to see it. We said yes. We went outside and he said he would be right back he was going to get his car. Something in me clicked, my intuition said run. He was driving his yellow vw bug toward us. If we went back in the bowling alley he would surely catch us. I grabbed my cousins arm and we jumped a fence with a 10 foot drop. My cousin hurt her leg but we made it down a hill to a safeway parking lot. We looked up and he was furious. I could have been that kid! Kids should not be left to walk by themselves no matter who your community is as humans from all cultures have good and bad. Very sad for this innocent kid, that could have been me.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • AB

      so right.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • livibluesmom

      Wow your story made the hairs on my arm stand up, I grew up in a very small town and everyone knew everyone but we still had it drilled in us not to talk to stranger and to run if we are approached, I have 2 young kids now hope I can drill it into them. Good for you for having the courage to grab your cousin and run.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • Blair

      Although many years have past, I remember every second of this encounter as if it were yesterday. I failed to mention a few details. We asked for help in the safeway and got nowhere. We walked back to my cousins and every yellow vw bug sent us running. We ran into a strangers house and closed the door. They were eating and shocked at not only our entry but the story that led us to do so. Since he had our names and addresses we were on guard for quite some time afterwards. Kids should not have to live like this....

      July 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  2. BW

    I am amazed at how many of you miss the point. This is simply a very, very tragic story about how an innocent little boy was killed by an alleged psychopath in a presumably safe neighborhood. It is not a forum for you to express your idiotic hatreds, your soapbox diatribes or your life-long whining agendas. I compare this tragedy to nothing, except to pray and mourn and hope this kind of tragedy happens to none of "yours" or anyone you know.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • black man

      If this kid was black you would have never heard the story.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Jon Durham

      Unfortunately BW, it's not just a story about the tragic death of an 8 year old boy. It's a story about how Jews are shocked that another Jew could such a thing to the little Jewish boy. When is the last time you read an article about a Baptist Christian community in shock that anohter Baptist Christian did something like this? Did they start a rumor? "I heard that guy wasn't Baptist at all..... his parents were Presbyterians."

      Would be different if the story was about the facts and not a bunch of hateful religious zealots who believe their own kind to be better than a gentile.... even when one of their own kills, they look to find a way to brand him something different. Cause thier kind just don't do this to one another.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • frank

      If you were really black you'd be a second-rate troll instead of a third-rate one.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • black man

      I can see you never stray away from your Nordic imperialistic ways my Anglo Saxon friend. Just remember that karma is real and your sinister past will catch up to you. The Indians, the Africans, the Aztecs, all have a place they can call home. Where is your native land? Please research further before you say the cliché Europe, because if you do, then your lack of intelligence disqualifies you from responding to my comment.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Dawn

      black man, your ignorance knows no bounds. Without the cultures you mentioned there would be no way for you to get a welfare check. If you were not such parasites then perhaps you would go back to Africa.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  3. Renea

    I bet the police are going to discover that this man has killed before.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  4. black man

    The out of Africa Theory
    Although every single Caucasian on the planet will probably try murder you on site if you mentioned this to them nonetheless it's the truth. Okay, it all started in a hot place near the equator called Africa that's where evidence of the earliest existence of human life on earth was discovered. As we all know ALL of the native people from the native land are DARK SKINNED people. Well as people began to migrate to different parts of the earth they evolved to better adapt to their surroundings hence the reason why whites have no melanin in their skin along with slim nostrils for cold climates. Thus, white people are mutations of the original man who without a shadow of doubt was black. Therefore I believe that makes Blacks your ancestors my dear white people. I know it hurts but take it all in one day at a time!!

    July 14, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • stratt721

      No kidding. But who cares? And what does that have to do with the article?

      July 14, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Akeelah

      You are absolutely right. it's not just a theory its true. The story of the "Annunaki" is very interesting also.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Akeelah

      @Stratt721 ...you sound angry. You must be White, right? lol

      July 14, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Mike

      Actually we evolved from apes, some of us faster than others.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • black man

      No one accepts that theory anymore the Charles Darwin theory fell by the waist side once people realize how much of a scientific loony bin he was. Accept it the original man NEVER had blonde hair and blue eyes. What a load of crap!!! If we evolved from apes, explain to me how the apes are still here if we evolved from them?

      July 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  5. jp in brooklyn

    "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." Thank you CNN for telling us what one of the rumors are. Why are you printing rumors?

    July 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  6. Redneck from Alabama

    @Melabong...you could only dream of being an Aryan like me.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • AngryAtGov1

      You're not Aryan! But, you are hilarious!

      July 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  7. Stephanie

    The writer of this article needs to do basic fact checking- The signs in this neighborhood are in YIDDISH not Hebrew. I understand that the writer may want to identify the signage as "Hebrew" because he could care less that, though many letters are similar/ same in shape, no Hebrew speaking person would be able to read those signs! Additionally, most Hasidic and orthodox Jews will NOT speak or use Hebrew in everyday conversation (they will only use Yiddish, reserving Hebrew for only religious purposes!)It's a small error but shows lack of basic fact checking!

    July 14, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • frank

      The writer also needs to be enlightened that paragraphs can be more than one sentence long.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  8. itsjustme

    Remember what happened in PA when that school was shot up, out in Pennsylvania Dutch country? That happened about 3 or 4 years ago.

    The Amish prayed for that man. They forgave him, if my memory serves me correctly.

    Perhaps the community in Brooklyn will do the same for Aron.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  9. kari inSC

    So very sorry I drifted across this blog. Sad day when people use a tragic horrific murder as a platform to promote bigotry and hatred. People really need to edit their inner demons out of respect for this grieving family

    July 14, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • donna

      Absolutely kari in SC-I cant believe people can take such a horrific, tragic event and platform about their social/political/religious views. God bless the family of this poor little child–poor little guy. Can only imagine what he went rhough and people sit here speaking of Aryans, blacks, Jews, etc.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  10. alex

    OK guys, I can see some hate here
    do not stereotype all the Jews because one Jewish psycho child killer

    July 14, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  11. Akeelah

    ever wonder why minorities aren't allowed in these "secret societies"? That's because Whites know their ancestors are from the stars! Their descendants of Aliens (Annunaki). Its an amazing story I know. Yes, yes, call me crazy all you want, but the truth is there. You just have to open your eyes. Go read a David Icke book....he'll fill you in on the scoop.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  12. Raymond Leslie

    Kids are our most valuable asset and our most vulnerable.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  13. Renea

    People wake up and please do be concerned.......this kind of thing happens somewhere every day. We should be upset, angry, and confused, but at the same time don't we all have someone to blame, someone evil, mean, and murdeous, who you say? Satan of course. Who else. He is the one that gets into someones mind and turns them into demons, then causes them to commit these terrible acts of violence. We all need to pray for each other no matter who we are, we are all sinners of one sort or another. Sin is sin. Without forgivness from the good lord above we might all end up in the same place in the end.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • frank

      Didn't "the Good Lord" command Abraham to chop up a little boy?

      July 14, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • AB

      Frank, um, the end of the story is he commanded him NOT to.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • frank

      I'm aware of that.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Rafi

      And no...he wasn't a little boy. He was 37 at the time.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • frank

      37 was just a toddler when people lived to be 900...

      July 14, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  14. Cascadoux

    This horrible crime shocks us all. Please know that my family pray for some comfort for you.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  15. inprayer

    People PLEASE he was a little boy, He was someone's child 🙁 I cant believe that some people would say anything negitive about him or his race or his faith It would not matter if he was purple he was someones baby. I know that his Mothers and fathers hearts are broken over this. Just his death isn't bad enough what this awful person did to his remains is unbearable. My thought and prayers are with this family and I know this child is at peace tonight I just hope that the family can find away to forgive and turn this awful dead into some thing good to help others.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  16. CommonSense

    Why is it so shocking that the person who did this is of the same religion, culture and race? Most people are killed by their own kind. Secondly, religion has never stopped anybody even the religious from committing evil acts. Actually religion causes more harm that it does good.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  17. tldixon

    crazy stuff seems to bring out the other crazies-some of these posts are convincing me this country is full of idiots and whack-jobs-precisely why I prefer NM-low poulation density

    July 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  18. gary

    Dear gabe

    "Hellhole?!....... the Jews there really take care of one another."
    Speaking of morons, your statement really hit the nail on the head!!
    Enjoy your stupid life!

    July 14, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  19. grist

    So this is a time that we can use to consider how well we have discussed with our children talking with strangers. My kids know that no person will be authorized to pick them up unless that person knows our password. I established that password when they were about 8 (they are teens now). I don't claim that my kids would never have gotten into a car with strangers. I have heard about the studies that show, despite their parents feeling they prepared their children, the kids do get into cars with strangers. I recall when I was about 10 when I was walking home from a friend's house that a couple in a van pulled up next to me asking for directions and that I get in to show them. I ran as fast as I could. Otherwise, I probably would not be typing this.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  20. Jimmy

    @ Gavin Boothroyd <<< If you say so. Racism still exist today...its just unspoken, but Blacks can still feel it. For example, the media does not give as much news coverage to a missing Black child. Blacks are not hired when they wear "natural" hairstyles, such as kinks, curls, braids, etc. Blacks are racially profiled by the police. Blacks are purposely not given the same opportunity as Whites, unless they go "above and beyond." I think you already know all of this. So yes, I will continue to dislike Whites, but thanks for your concern.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:27 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.