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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. huwie

    Everyone on here using this as a forum to spout bigotry and antisemitism should be ashamed of themselves. Why is it that when a single tragedy happens in the Jewish Community you find it permissible to attack an entire religion? Do you attack your own religion's for the countless murders that occur everyday? Does the Jewish Community log in specifically to comment on how Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc. was the sole cause of the murder? You people are sickening.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • pam

      everybody hates the jew

      July 15, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Danny

      Hasids spout bigotry, hate, racism, all the time – their entire lives are about segregatiing themselves and their communities.

      July 15, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • William Demuth

      Spare us

      We hate Christians, which is a different cult from yours.

      July 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  2. WiseMan

    "On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land."

    Quran 5:32

    July 15, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  3. vasechek

    Death friggin Penalty!
    Complete with a Crematorium and the scattering of the ashes.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  4. Janice

    How naive I am - I didn't realize how much anti-semitism (and general bigotry) still exists in this world. Have we learned nothing from anything my friends?

    Peace to All

    July 15, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  5. Weezer1107

    My prayers and condolences to this young boy's family as well as to the Jewish community. I am dismayed reading the hateful comments which some readers have posted. What are they thinking??? This was the senseless killing of a child. May all who have been touched by this tragedy find peace and solace. Shalom!

    July 15, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  6. Vaman

    This Monster is an animal. He belongs to the Zoo not In NYC.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • bob

      NYC is a zoo.

      July 15, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  7. Real Jew

    Correction to 1John 5:19.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • huwie

      Again, quoting the New Testament means nothing to the Jewish Community. Save your bigoted garbage for someone else. You are anything but a 'Real Jew'.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  8. William Peterson

    We all feel your pain. Ignore any hatefulness on here. We are all diminished. Peace to you all.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  9. Abd al-Latif

    Obviously, this is not the time to make negative comments about any religion, either Islam or Judaism. That is typically childish behavior of people on CNN. You guys want to have a shouting match about politics and religion even when the subject is the brutal murder of a child.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • Melissa

      I agree-no time to point fingers or speak of religion. It's rediculous for anyone to express anything but how awful this tragedy is. Sad, sad, sad. I feel for the mother, who I know is blaming herself. But no one to blame but the evil that did this. Not a religion...but the human being that chose to do this evil, evil act to a precious child.

      July 15, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  10. Bobbi

    Why any parent regardless of race or religion would let an eight year old walk 8 blocks and even 1 block alone is beyond my understanding!!!! We live in a violent world people. What is the matter with these parents?????

    July 15, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Vince

      where the heck are you from? We used to ride bikes around hte neighborhood all the time. My kids do to. Plus this is typically one of hte most tame neigborhoods in all of New York. Hopefully parents in the neighborhood will be comforted by the fact that this was probably a one time incident and hte killer is in custody.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • CityBoy34

      Whats not mentioned in this article is that this was the very first time EVER his mother allowed him to walk home alone, at the insistence of poor Leiby. Living in Brooklyn, I know this hood and it is one of the safest in the city. But it does go to show you that evil can be one of your own. Its very sad.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Muneef

      Seems in the first world they are good in creating wars than being good on fighting crime...as seems there are less law regulating wars on the international community than it is war of crime on it's own lands..?!

      July 15, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  11. Monica Anderson

    My prayers are with the family of this child and his community. It is difficult to no longer feel safe in your community especially when such a gruesome crime is committed to one of the most innocent in your neighborhood. May God's grace, love and protection be with the parents and family of this lost child.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Bryan Fox

      That was beautiful Monica...our world needs a whole lot more Monica's....thanx...

      July 15, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • MommaM

      Well said Monica – I think of the family every day and my heart goes out to them and their community. How sad that one individual can rob a whole community of a sense of trust. May this sweet little boy sleep in peace now. I know I will never forget him.

      July 15, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  12. Bob

    No community is immune from sociopaths. Parents need to make sure their children are always guarded by a trusted adult, whether they're Jews in Brooklyn or Native Americans in South Dakota or Cajuns in the Bayou.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  13. abd

    when a christian kills a christian is that weird !!!! this happens every single minute. why the media is trying to make this incident is very weird because the 2 belongs to the same belief !!!! the incident is bad no matter what religion either one of them is.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  14. ROBIN

    This is about the death of a child,RELIGON has nothing to do with it. FOR GOD'S SAKE PEOPLE. R. I. P. LITTLE ONE.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • San

      Thank you. A little boy got lost the first time he walked home on his own and asked the wrong person for directions and ended up dead. That is the worst kind of tragedy.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • orwen

      I agree. I am Jewish too, although not ultra-orthodox or Hasidic, and still I find it absurd how shocking people are finding it that the crime was committed by one of "their own." It is ignorant to believe it cannot happen in a close-knit, super religious community. It can happen anywhere unfortunately, and it's absolutely sickening.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  15. ROBIN

    This is about the death of a child.....RELIGON has nothing to do with it. JEEZ PEOPLE. R. I. P. LITTLE ONE.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Matthew

      EXACTLY.....it's like "Oh, We're ALL Jewish...we don't kill boo hoo.." tell that to Christ.
      MattinDC

      July 15, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • San

      Matthew: you are an idiot. This is a close-knit community where everyone knows one another and goes to synagogue together. I am a Jew but non-practicing and outside their community, and I would have been more of a suspect than the neighborhood people who they know and see each day.

      Grow up. I know that is asking a lot.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  16. Ray

    So sad for this boys family and for everyone. The monster who did this needs to be brought to justice. I wonder if he killed more children.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  17. seriously

    "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," -You mean, a MUSLIM, right?

    July 15, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Look

      Antisemitic views and actions are always a concern for Jews, regardless of the religion or social ideology of the individual who holds or acts on those views. Are most Nazi skinheads Muslim? No, but such groups and others who may support antisemitic rhetoric or actions, do exist and are of a concern. No where in the article were Muslims singled out or even mentioned.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • San

      One stupid person's remark is captured and that is what you focus on when a little boy has been violently murdered?

      July 15, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • Tracy

      Anyone who creates terror is can be termed a "terrorist." It should not apply only to people who are organized or politically motivated. Certainly this boy was terrified, and his parents and community. I know I am terrified that this can and has happened. Muslims are not all terrorists, and are certainly not the only terrorists.

      While I would not call this man a "terrorist" based on what governments around the globe would recognize as politically or religiously motivated, organized individuals or groups who commit terrorist acts against innocents, it cannot be denied this man has created terror by kidnapping, murdering and mutilating a true innocent.

      My heart breaks for this family, and for the entire society.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Viperz4

      That is a dumb comment! Jew killed Jew, he has sickness, Muslim commits a crime, he is a terrorist. Grow up!

      July 15, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • seriously seriously..

      yup, thats exactly what he meant

      July 15, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  18. anonymous

    prison will take care of him

    July 15, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • vasechek

      hopefully just before the hangman does

      July 15, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  19. 8 years old walking through Brooklyn alone?

    Why the heck would you alllow a child of 8 to walk seven blocks through New York unaccompanied in the year 2011? Jewish neighborhood or not, creeps come in all races. My heart goes out to the family, but hopefully this will be a lesson to all.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Kam

      You must not know New York. Eight year olds walking blocks is not uncommon, plus this was the child's own community.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • orwen

      i don't think you can call it a "lesson" for a little boy to be violently murdered and chopped up into pieces.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Whatevs

      I agree with you. Long gone are they days when I used to walk myself and my little brother home from elementary school. It just can't be done. Humanity has sunk to new lows and it is best to be safe than sorry. Hard lessons are often the best way for people to learn. Guard your little ones people! There are wolves out there who don't consider them precious!

      July 15, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  20. Moe

    This is very sad. My heart-felt condolences from me and the Muslim community. Shalom. And Salam

    July 15, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • GodOfAbraham

      Great comment Moe. Let's keep it up.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • San

      Thank you and God bless. There were many Pakistanis from the neighborhood helping to look for the child before it was discovered he had died. We should all help each other. That's how it should be. Again, God bless you for your outlook.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • vasechek

      Way to turn horrible tragedy into something token of positiveness, Moe.
      Hope your community never has to experience anything of the sort.
      watch your kids... always...

      July 15, 2011 at 9:55 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.