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. Truth

    If this had been a Christian community this story would have been treated very differently.

    In fact, I have even told a few of the Christian haters this story but told them it happened in a Christian community. These haters immediately go into a diatribe, claiming "I told you so", about how evil Christians are, blaming Christians for all the problem in the world that have existed for the last 2,000 years.

    I then tell them I made a mistake and the it happened in a jew community and their tone immediately. Its interesting that so many people seem to think that the jews are some type of group manifesting of Jesus and are incapable of doing wrong.

    July 15, 2011 at 4:26 am |
    • IzzisGirl

      "some kind of group manifesting of Jesus"? What does that mean?

      We're not "incapable of doing wrong", but it's rare to find a Jewish person who has committed a crime like this and rarer still for it to be an Orthodox Jew.

      July 15, 2011 at 6:29 am |
  2. Muataz

    This Jewish person hid him in a dumpster next to a muslim school ! That school is my school and the dumpster is for our school !
    He wanted to make problems with Muslims and Jews ,,, making jews think muslims did it ! What a looser and an epic fail !

    July 15, 2011 at 4:13 am |
  3. chris

    if it was a racial minority this blog would be filled with racist comments.

    July 15, 2011 at 4:00 am |
    • Muneef

      They are turning it in to racial minority now by stating that the criminal is of Sephardic meaning Jews of the MidEast or Spanish/North African Race which means Arab Jews of Spain who immigrated to North African countries such as Morocco,Tunisa,Algeria or even Libya.!!
      Many of such as those Arab Jews are citizens of the (Ashkenazi Israel) and treated as a lower class but above the Yemenite and Yemenite above the Flasha Jews...racism among Jews them selves, am not sure whether it is all about branches of faith or bloodlines !!

      July 15, 2011 at 4:30 am |
  4. Muneef

    Was there any children disappearance faced in the same area before?
    Was the criminal just like a wolf that awaits small sheep to wonder out of flock?
    Was going to the dentist before taking the child just intended for taking the anesthetization drug that is used for teeth, have heard many stories about pouring it onto cloth and block nose and mouth with it to knock the victim unconscious before kidnaping him for ransom or abuse.!!!

    July 15, 2011 at 3:59 am |
  5. Muneef

    So because it was not branded Muslim did the horrible act, now they are trying to turn the man in to being a north African Arab Jew?? Even if an E.T Alien did that,they will insure branding him as a Muslim or an Arab....the fight continue against Muslims and Arabs by those East Europian Jews....!!

    July 15, 2011 at 3:40 am |
    • s

      Actually, CNN did that. The rumor just stated that he was a Sefardic Jew.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:12 am |
  6. purrplesawks

    first off, your a horrible parent if you think allowing your 8yr old child to walk alone is okay. it is not. they live in new york. walking down the streets of new york is like walking down the streets of Iraq. it is not safe there, just as any other place in the world. especially crowded areas. and even in these "communities". i dont give a rats butt who you are, or how well you "trust" your own people, no person is alike nor will we ever be alike. we all think differently, act differently, and speak differently. just the fact that these people are "shocked" something like this happened in new york, shocks the hell out of me, thats for sure.

    July 15, 2011 at 3:23 am |
    • Fatimah

      About 20 years ago it was safe and very common for children to walk the streets around that age with no worries... because it was the city. Now a days we have more crime, more monsters such as this. I agree just because its your people does not make it safe and growing up in NYC I would never let my children just walk the streets .

      July 15, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • Jamie

      I am in my 20's, but my brother and I walked alone back and forth to school as kids and we grew up in a major city. I read a few articles about this story. The victim's parents had always walked with him and they finally gave him the freedom to walk from camp to home. Things like this happen to adults as well. The parents already are blaming themselves for their child's death, but at some point you need to teach your child independence. It was just so unfortunate and disgusting that this had to happen. There comes a time when you need to little by little allow your child to become independent.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:00 am |
  7. Jessie Peters

    I wouldn't EVER let my kids wander around the city alone. I am in the suburbs and my kids never leave my sight. My kids are with me at all times, I drive them to school, I pick them up. Had his parents done this, instead of exercising freedom at the age of eight, maybe their son would still be here today.

    July 15, 2011 at 3:10 am |
    • purrplesawks

      i completely agree with you. it is a sad story to hear of such a thing happening but your right, this would not have happened if his parents hadn't given him the freedom to walk alone. all it takes, is one wack job.

      July 15, 2011 at 3:28 am |
  8. Asi Chii Nhai?

    While this is indeed a very sad development and my deepest condolences go to his family; I must address the issue of the perpetrator potentially being Spanish/North African. Am sure before this incident this man was embraced as one of the community members, now that he has committed this heinous crime; he must be Spanish/North African. This has obvious racial undertones which imply that if he was as Jewish as others in the community he would not have committed this crime. I find this disgusting and hypocritical. Let's not make this any worse that it is....lets morn the loss of a child and honor his life that was so brutally taken way.

    July 15, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • BubbaAl

      You are so very right. This shouldn't be a race issue. All I could think about was how many times I've helped kids that were lost - almost none this young, but I didn calm one close to his age who panicked that her ride was late - given them subway fare... What we should focus on is that a little kid that's lost should be able to get help from a stranger; Period. Any adult that uses that opportunity to abuse and murder an innocent child, should be abused and tortured in jail - without the possiblity for parole EVER.

      July 15, 2011 at 2:58 am |
    • melody

      well said.

      July 15, 2011 at 3:28 am |
    • Jamie

      I think you may want to reread the article again. They are reporting that people weren't familiar with him in the area and that it might have been possibly due him being Sephardic (which is speculated). I have Orthodox Jews in my family. There are usually synagogues that Ashkenazi attend to, and others that Sephardic Jews go to. It isn't segregation like us vs. them. It is due to languages being widely spoken at one vs. the others (Ashkenazi Jews that are very religious will probably speak in Yiddish with each other or possibly Russian assuming they are Russian, while Sephardic ones would be more likely to speak Farsi, Spanish, and/or Arabic). Each "branch" has their own traditions and customs. It would be like saying that Mexican Catholics and Irish Catholics all do the same things.

      In short he might have been an outsider because (if he is Sephardic) nearly all the Jews in this neighborhood are Eastern European while he may have gone to synagogues, restaurants, markets, etc that aren't popular with Askenazi Jews.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:09 am |
  9. jesse

    Have to say, I find it a bit laughable that they're trying to say that this guy has to be different. Because hey, it's not like we don't have murders, rapists, and all manner of ill willed people in every community. I do however find it more than a bit ironic that the jews here are essentually discrediting another group because of racial decent and religion. Learned nothing from WWII did we?

    July 15, 2011 at 2:16 am |
    • Jgrl

      No one's discrediting anyone, they were referring to his practicing differently and thus not being part of the same services and culture thus somewhat of an outsider. Sephardis have different services etc. Read the other comments.

      July 15, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • mary

      I agree, he looked like he belonged in every aspect yamica intact, he did not appear to look spanish or african, so they should face it there is evil in all cultures even theirs, and now this little boy has lost his life to another nut job.

      July 15, 2011 at 3:43 am |
    • atheist

      every human being has capacity for good and evil; just sometimes the evil is present in some individuals in higher capacity; no one is purely good or purely evil. However, once a direction is picked whether on purpose or just once, then the magnitude of the good or evil act becomes self perpetuating. This is a somewhat simplification cliche but the point to be considered is that a subjective measure of morality takes hold on individual understanding of the event. All agree that this was an evil act; but not all would agree that what the Isrealis are doing in Palestine is aparthite; some would say it is self-preservation. Why this analysis-because real evil is all over but has many disguises as good. Therefore, the Jews of this community have to believe that someone of their community would never be able to do this because if they are like us they are good people and are part of us and I am a good person. But, my circular proposition...we are all capable of both good and evil. That goes for religious folks and nonbelievers!

      July 15, 2011 at 4:06 am |
    • Jamie


      I agree with you. I think a lot of the people commenting really don't know much about the backgrounds of people that are Jewish.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:11 am |
  10. generalizationsarebad

    Makes me not want to bring children into the world. The very idea of predators lurking in my midst is completely unnerving.

    July 15, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  11. n

    Reminds me of the guy who killed the Amish children in school. SAD. May the family find peace and remember the good of their son. It is a shame that children continue to be a target in our societies/cultures across the world.

    July 15, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  12. joe kahn

    May the lord present him to he most violent prisoner in the system.
    May god make him suffer for the rest of his life,each and every day a violent prisoner
    having their way with him.
    I hope and pray he suffers every minute of his sentence in a similar fashion,afraid,used and abused by the rst of the prisoners.

    July 15, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • KB

      And let he who live without sin cast the first stone.
      Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

      Do not wish God to spite anyone. He will do it on his own.

      July 15, 2011 at 1:50 am |
    • Jgrl

      You're quoting the New Testament to a Jew dude. ^

      July 15, 2011 at 2:20 am |
    • BubbaAl

      WE can only hope; however I don't know if anyone will suffer as much as his parents.

      July 15, 2011 at 3:00 am |
    • Marla49


      July 15, 2011 at 3:04 am |
  13. Muneef

    I read the article again but still not clear why would a normal religious person take a child kill him and have his blood or parts in the fridge ?
    So in such closed community it is either that there is some thing personal between him and the family (perents) of the boy...
    Or was it a blackmail for money that was not responded to...or if the father in some political or religious movement being revenged from or was being pressurized for some thing that he did not respond to...
    The article here is not giving the bigger picture because I my self do not believe this could happen in a closed community where there are no junkies... The fear for children at such closed community would be of child abuse, but most of who abuse children and want to hide their guilt would be go for killing the child and throw him some where...
    But if had been cut to pieces then that maybe because some one is trying to hide that he had abused the child hiding his shame of abuse by the shame of killing a child...am sure now he will make so many stories to act as person that was being discriminated by the community or the family.. Well that is all an assumption but will see if any updates come about findings.

    July 15, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Ron

      "Normal" ?

      July 15, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • Muneef

      Meant normal by not being a drug addict or not being a metal problem before this crime...

      July 15, 2011 at 3:27 am |
    • Jamie

      That crossed my mind too that he had ties with the victim's family, but I just don't know how he would know that the boy would be walking alone. I think he probably was mentally ill regardless to have committed a murder of a child and leaving the body the way he left it.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:13 am |
  14. alex

    come on guys, not all the Jews are bad, the same with Muslims

    July 15, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • seattlekatie


      "come on guys, not all the Jews are bad, the same with Muslims."

      Not just the Jews and the Muslims, but ALL OF US.

      We are all as good and as bad as each other.

      July 15, 2011 at 3:18 am |
  15. Obsessed_Egoist

    No one deserves this !!! Please don't bring "hate" based on your religious belief into it. A child is a child !!! I am shocked, ashamed & clueless. Please trust your instinct & report, so that reoccurance of such incedence can be prevented before it takes place in any community. If u have a gut feeling that something is wrong in a scenario, there might indeed be something wrong. It is better to be safe than sorry !!!

    July 15, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  16. Pastor Frantz

    Our condolences to the family and the Jewish community of Boro Park.
    This Shabbat let us all stand at the reading of the mourner's kadish in sign of solidarity with them.
    Barukh Dayan Emet, who will send Mashiach and with him those who departed from among us. May that day be today.
    We have the hope of the resurrection. May we all can find peace and rest this Shabbat.
    Crying with you, with the hope in the day when we all will laugh together, your friend,
    Pastor Frantz

    July 15, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  17. Bukoo

    This is a very painful and unfortunate incident and it would be for any parent. I pray that the family of the boy will feel some comfort one day soon after the grieving process, and that they continue to receive love and understanding from their community, friends and loved ones.

    July 15, 2011 at 12:44 am |
  18. MJ

    What a senseless and tragic act of violence, that poor little boy... This is a tragedy for every single one of us in this country and an act like this transcends all belief and logic, my deepest condolences to his family and their community... I'm not Jewish but I will keep him and his family in my prayers and meditations, may they find the strength to move forward... He is in heaven

    July 15, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  19. Habboy24

    It's always the jews that are shocked! Why?

    July 15, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • s

      Are you not shocked? Who wouldn't be? What are talking about?

      July 15, 2011 at 4:17 am |
    • IzzisGirl

      Because we don't do this, to each other or nyone else.

      July 15, 2011 at 6:25 am |
  20. Mohamed

    Please people, let's not talk about religion, ethnicity or citizenship. A child is a human being with a pure soul. i know he suffered on his way out of this world but let's not forget where his soul is at this moment- "IN HEAVEN". I would say that is a fact and that should console his loved ones specially his parents.

    July 15, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • IzzisGirl

      That's not a common thought process for us, e.g. "he's in a better place now, we should be glad he's in heaven". This doesn't make us feel better or console us. For Jews, the ultimate goal of "this life" is not to make it to heaven. The ultimate goal is to make this world a better place (tikkun olam).

      July 15, 2011 at 6:40 am |
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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.