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. suzydrew

    To the aggrieved parents and family of this sweet young boy many in this country are praying for you. Please disregard the haters, for they are the minority for now. It is a shocking tragedy that an innocent be so violated ! And another wake up call to the Fact the wonderful American Life where your kids could walk down the street Free from Fear is now GONE. as Abraham Lincoln said, America will not be destroyed from without but from Within !

    July 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  2. James Black


    July 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  3. Scott

    Can the media and all of you making comments about Jewish people stop for one moment and consider that a PERSON violently lost their lives, or does eliminating labels bring it a little too close to home?

    July 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  4. KSK

    This confessed killer is clearly a man with schizophrenia and accompanying distorted though. The unasked question is how the orthodox and Hassidic communities address mental illnesses .. Hereere, the 35 y.o. man lived in an attic of his parents home, presumably untreated. The result was the tragic death of a young boy. Untreated mental illness, so often the product of community denial or stigma, is the cause of death here.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Carol

      I feel that you are correct however, I will be physically ill when I have to listen to defense attys try to get him off because of mental illnes. Some crimes deserve this consideration but the brutality of this criminal does not deserve any consideration. The world would be a better place if this man did not exist in it.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  5. Alaa Mohammed

    So sorry for the loss of this poor family.. my prayers go to his parents. May God`s mercy be upon them.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  6. anna

    i just cannot comprehend why any parent would trust this world and allow their child to walk the streets anywhere alone. whether in ny in this jewish community, along a small town school bus route, etc, etc. Guard your children... there is so much evil in the world... theres an old italian saying " its better that your child cries than you cry".

    July 14, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  7. albert

    all u ppl that have bad to say about the jews are all jealous of them they live better and wealthier lives than we do but in the end of the day they are the ones that truly work hard and earn their money im proud to be a neighbor of mannnyyyy jews they are better ppl than us.. look at u guys that r making fun of the way the appear and making a mockery of this tragedy u all deserve to burn in hell g-d willing this shud happen to ur kids i want to be the first one to laugh about it as well than c how u all feel

    July 14, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • marv

      Thanks Al, us yids are better than anybody else.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  8. krehator

    The fact that his religion is even a motivation to create the story says a lot. C'mon!

    July 14, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • lotusblossom5

      Ummm, it's not about the religion, it's about the community. This story would be just as big if it came out of Bluffton, OH, or some other rural town. How about a little compassion for a shocking, grisly occurrence. I hope nothing like this ever happens to you or someone you know. I pray that the boy was dead before everything else happened. It's a parent's worst nightmare.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  9. Sean

    "Did we mention it was a close-knit, jewish community..."

    July 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  10. lubavitcher rebbe

    So why was this potential luminary taken from us in such a barbaric fashion? Hashem suffered a mini stroke which led to momentary lunacy and caused this Mr Aron to flip out and slay this young man. Let's forgive Levi since It's not really his fault.

    Boruch Hashem

    July 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • mary

      L rebbe... I haven't heard from you in a while

      July 14, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Carol

      Religion does not belong in this story. This horror can happen and is happening in America today. Very sad rebbe and very much everyone's problem not a Jewish one (and I am Jewish).

      July 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  11. CT

    May G-d bless this family and community. From the midwest our prayers are with you and we mourn with you. May His mercy and grace be poured on you like oil during this time and in the days ahead. Baruch HaShem.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  12. crushgroove

    children getting murdered happens in all communities, i dont understand why hasidics thought they were above this.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  13. livibluesmom

    It just astounds me that of all the people the little boy could have stumbled upon he happened to get the one guy that could do something so horrific. So very sad for this kid.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • felix sabiniano

      like the report said, they pride themselves of their faith based community. they never expected such when they feel they belong in a god fearing, torah reading group. you should be proud if you happen to belong to their group

      July 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  14. Moshe

    Are onlyJjews Shocked?. How interesting!!!!

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

    America is so fortunate to have the Jewish presence.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  16. SnowVeil

    May Yeshua the Messiah comfort the Jews and Israel visibly very soon...

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

      Yeshua or "jeesis" is a false prophet.

      July 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • SnowVeil

      He is the true Prophet. He fulfilled all the prophesies except the ones con-cern-ing the Endtime.

      July 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  17. SnowVeil

    Prayers for the boy's family and friends. All men must be educated to the bones they were born to protect women and children and never to harm them in any way.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  18. CH

    I can't believe all the ignorant comments i am reading. One hates blacks, one hates whites...or religion ...picking apart grammar and spelling. This was simply an article about a little 8 year old boy being murdered by a sick criminal and you have all turned it into a hate fest. Good luck to you all. If this is how you all talk and feel to others on the street, you may not be around for that long because you could open your mouth to the wrong person and what happened to this poor little boy could happen to you!

    July 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  19. Muneef

    What is for ....is it for revange ....is it for Hate.....is it for child abuse....?
     There is always a reason for every act but only God knows the real reason that is hidden in the heart? 

    My prayers to the family of the lost child to grant them patience and that they may have faith that it was God's will to replace them with a better child;

    Verses about Moses and the man of knowledge a servant of God;

    [18:80] "As for the boy, his parents were good believers, and we saw that he was going to burden them with his transgression and disbelief.

    [18:81] "We willed that your Lord subst-it-ute in his place another son; one who is better in righteousness and kindness.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • frank

      Wow, just wow.

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

      so what quote do you pull out of your ass when your wife is cheating on you?

      July 14, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Mike

      Not even a God could love Muneef.
      (but there is no god, ha). Unbelievable. Thank goodness that ideas like this will eventually be lost to evolution. Now Muneef thinks I should die.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:20 pm |

      are there really disgusting people like you in this world, it's never God's will for anyone to be murdered.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:37 pm |

      Oh I see, those are verses from the Quran.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • mom232011

      God had NOTHING to do with this child's murder! God gave us free will and some sick, twisted person used his to murder this child, who shouldn't have been left alone, tight-knit community or not. God threw this innocent child, His child, I might add, away in such a gruesome and violent manner, just so the parents could replace him?! Wow.....

      July 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Muneef

      That is in the Holy Book....every thing happen for a reason and only charity and good deeds protects ones family and wealth..
      Non believers I expect will miss judge me but suprised to hear it from believers unless they do not or did not read their bibles about such things...

      Not happy about the murder of innocent child and am not saying that this criminal was sent to kill him by God...but what I am saying there is a reason behind that happening,that could had been avoided by charity and good deeds...

      After all God is the knower of all things,may God protect our children and seal such criminal from all innocents...

      July 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • suzydrew

      Gee Muneef what in the hell is your reason for acting as though this boy wasn't good enough ????? Or his family ? You in on it somehow ????? You think you know the will of God ? How dare you ?

      July 14, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • suzydrew


      July 14, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • Muneef

      They perants although will be in pain now but too late to have realized that they should have protected him more even from family relatives and not only from the closed community or strangers....but since you can not be over each one of your kids or interests all the time it here where the prayers,charity and good deeds become to protect you and yours...

      [13:8] GOD knows what every female bears, and what every womb releases, or gains. Everything He does is perfectly measured.

      [13:9] The Knower of all secrets and declarations; the Supreme, the Most High.

      [13:10] It is the same whether you conceal your thoughts, or declare them, or hide in the darkness of the night, or act in the daylight.

      [13:11] Shifts (of angels) take turns, staying with each one of you – they are in front of you and behind you. They stay with you, and guard you in accordance with GOD's commands. Thus, GOD does not change the condition of any people unless they themselves make the decision to change. If GOD wills any hardship for any people, no force can stop it. For they have none beside Him as Lord and Master.

      [6:61] He is Supreme over His creatures, and He appoints guards to protect you. When the appointed time of death comes to any of you, our messengers put him to death without delay.

      [6:62] Then everyone is returned to GOD, their rightful Lord and Master. Absolutely, He is the ultimate judge; He is the most accurate Reckoner.

      July 14, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • Muneef

      [2:269] He bestows wisdom upon whomever He chooses, and whoever attains wisdom, has attained a great bounty. Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.

      [2:270] Any charity you give, or a charitable pledge you fulfill, GOD is fully aware thereof. As for the wicked, they will have no helpers.

      [2:271] If you declare your charities, they are still good. But if you keep them anonymous, and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and remits more of your sins. GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do.

      God is the Only One Who Guides
      [2:272] You are not responsible for guiding anyone. GOD is the only one who guides whoever chooses (to be guided). Any charity you give is for your own good. Any charity you give shall be for the sake of GOD. Any charity you give will be repaid to you, without the least injustice.

      [2:273] Charity shall go to the poor who are suffering in the cause of GOD, and cannot emigrate. The unaware may think that they are rich, due to their dignity. But you can recognize them by certain signs; they never beg from the people persistently. Whatever charity you give, GOD is fully aware thereof.

      [2:274] Those who give to charity night and day, secretly and publicly, receive their recompense from their Lord; they will have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.

      July 14, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Muneef

      As a believer I am required to believe in this in faith;

      [2:274] Those who give to charity night and day, secretly and publicly, receive their recompense from their Lord; they will have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.

      July 14, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Muneef

      As a believer I am required to believe in this in faith;

      13:11] Shifts (of angels) take turns, staying with each one of you – they are in front of you and behind you. They stay with you, and guard you in accordance with GOD's commands. Thus, GOD does not change the condition of any people unless they themselves make the decision to change. If GOD wills any hardship for any people, no force can stop it. For they have none beside Him as Lord and Master.

      July 14, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • Muneef

      But do as well as a believer to believe in this in good faith;
      [2:154] Do not say of those who are killed in the cause of GOD, "They are dead." They are alive at their Lord, but you do not perceive.

      [2:155] We will surely test you through some fear, hunger, and loss of money, lives, and crops. Give good news to the steadfast.

      [2:156] When an affliction befalls them, they say, "We belong to GOD, and to Him we are returning."

      [2:157] These have deserved blessings from their Lord and mercy. These are the guided ones.

      July 15, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Muneef

      After all it is the destiny ;

      [9:51] Say, "Nothing happens to us, except what GOD has decreed for us. He is our Lord and Master. In GOD the believers shall trust."

      July 15, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  20. Stephen W.

    So sad, this world is just so unpredictable and I really believe it to be evil. A child cannot even walk home. Never talk to someone you don't know, it is cliche, but so true. My heart hurts hearing about this.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:02 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.