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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. Capricorn

    Its a murder of a child people....it should be sad and shocking for the entire humanity....why does everything everything have to be about race and religion?????

    July 14, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • reena

      I agree with you Capricorn...some people NEVER seem to be able to follow along...my heart hurts for this little boy and his family...

      July 14, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  2. Eye 4 an Eye

    I pray that none of the jurors from the Casey Anthony case are selected to sit on the jury when Levi Aron goes to trial. I am sure they would find some way to justify acquitting this monster. He is really no different from Casey Anthony who, like Aron, carelessly threw the life and body of a child away as if it was garbage. May you both you both spend the rest of your life on this earth tortured and constantly reminded – everyday and everywhere you go – of who you are and what you have done.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • DenverGrl

      "like" – Wish there was a like button here. Your comment is right on.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Monica

      Except this case will have actual evidence.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  3. McGuffin

    My apologies for saying something so crass after the death of a child, but why would it be so shocking that the child was killed by someone within his community? Most people are killed by people they know, and failing that, someone with proximity and opportunity. I feel like CNN is reaching a bit to try to make this a religious thing.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • Ted Linguini

      The same question popped to my mind immediately. Why does it matter? I'm no fan of Hassids due to their general intolerance for nearly anyone else, and the article makes it sound as if they are above such acts.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • sarita gonazels

      why are you so offended by that? in every murder, they point that out because 99% of the time it is someone in their own community. jeesh – there is a TON of anti-semitism in this world and it makes me sick. a jew can't sneeze without someone criticising them. this isn't about religion folks – a boy is dead – it doesn't matter if he's black, white, jewish, atheist, etc.

      boy – people are hateful!

      July 14, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • CCCool

      @McGuffin-Your post is not at all crass. It reflects sanity, which doesn't appear in any part of the article we've just read. I don't understand, though, why you think CNN "...is reaching a bit to try to make this a religious thing." I'm surely not a defender of CNN. Their "journalism" is as yellow as the rest of our media. But they have no hand in "trying" to write about this tragedy focused on a religious group. It simply IS. Tragedies in a Hasidic neighborhood are virtually nonexistent. One doesn't ever see a Hasidic Jew walking around drunk. Not ever. They don't have a battered-women shelter in a Hasidic neighborhood. But they surely had a psychotic living in their midst who got swept under the rug until he couldn't be swept anymore. Far be it from me to defend CNN. They have reported a shocking level of denial of mental illness in that community.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • jayla

      @CCCCool: " They don't have a battered-women shelter in a Hasidic neighborhood"... Does this mean women are not battered in the Hasidic-Jewish community?

      July 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  4. JD

    When are people going to wake up and realize there are crazy people in every society and every religion. Put your children first!!!!! Do not just assume your neighbors or friends are okay.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  5. Shahid Khan

    I am a muslim living in Canada. Very sad news. I have lived in Brooklyn for few years, and I noticed the Jewish community as very peaceful. I have a four year old son now, and can imagine how much painful it must be for the parents losing a child. Religion is irrelevant when it comes to such a pain, it is indeed an irreconcileable loss.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Bless you.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Kate

      Thank you for saying that.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  6. Kate

    ...wondering if those making the anti-Semetic remarks are the majority or just a loud, insane minority.

    So that I can sleep tonight, I choose to believe you are a loud, insane minority.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Disappointed

      I have to go with loud, insane minority too. Deafening, maybe.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Mark

      The old anti-semitism trick!! Too bad other cultures don't have that trick to be played when they do bad things. Jesus lady, are you high or just that stupid?!!

      July 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  7. Saul

    Isn't there something in the Old testament where Jehovah tells someone to sacrifice his son and chop him up or something, Abraham or someone?

    July 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • the critic

      Read the bible and find out. You are no where close to anything that makes any sense.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Another pervert on the loose. Saul – you are disgusting

      July 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • ohsnap

      Since God did not approve of the child-sacrificing rituals done by other cultures (and we know this from reading the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament), it was actually a test of loyalty; to see how far Abraham would trust God by 'sacrificing' his favorite son, if he was asked to do so. It was God who stopped Abraham from actually going through with it. It was also prophetic, foreshadowing how God (who is called the Greater Abraham) was willing to sacrifice His favorite son, Jesus. Hope that answers your question.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  8. JJ

    The shock isn't rooted in the religion but in that such a horrific crime occurred in a community which is defined by the love and supporting of one another. I don't think religion is the focus as much as the sense of community which will never be the same. My thoughts are with the family and the community of this boy...

    July 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  9. Barry

    It is very sad that some of the previous people commenting are so focussed on putting down religious people that are not like them in this heart breaking story. The objective of the article would be the same no matter what race or religion would have been involved. The murderer being from the same neighborhood as the murdered, and similarity in the background.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  10. nadine

    Although it is well known that Orthodox Jews are extremely Xenophobic they are also known to be very peaceful and incapable of committing violent crimes of this nature. Truly shocking.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • CarmenSo

      Why would they be incapable of committing these crimes? Excuse me but they are Humans. Last time i checked faith has nothing to do with whether someone is born a sociopath or not or has a mental health issue. They are subjected to the same mental health and physical limitations the rest of the human population is. .

      July 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Mark

      Google ~ Censor jewish crime ~ then come back with an educated opinion.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • jayla

      Nadine, ARE YOU KIDDING ME????

      July 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  11. bert the fig

    the child was an innocent that deserved nothing that happened to him.

    the community is one of the most corrupt, deceitful groups i have ever encountered. i work in in the financial industry and these people will lie, cheat and steal for their own. i do not paint with a broad brush on faith... just this brooklyn tribe. professionally horrible.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • the critic

      I tend to disagree with you very strongly. I think you are a jealous person and extremely misinformed. Further you are a racist and a liar. Check yourself in.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      HOW DARE YOU – Bert the PIG use the painful,sick death of a child as a means of furthering your own selfish agenda of racial bigotry and hatred. To disrespect a child in this way is beneath contempt. You make me sick to my stomach.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Ted Linguini

      Agreed.....the truth is the truth

      July 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Mark

      I agree with you! This poor child, very very sad. No matter our political beliefs in the actions of others, this child did not deserve this, nor any child for that matter.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • bert the fig

      voice of reason? not bloody likely...

      never have i encountered a more cloistered and deceitful tribe. they have no hesitance to lie to support their own. i have many jewish friends who agree that these folk are vermin... sorry you can't accept truth.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  12. Sam

    My heart goes to the kid's parents and family, I only can imagined what they are going through. A murder is a murder regardless of what religion they believe. I have a kids of my own, and I started crying when I heard about this innocent young boy and what he went through. My god bless his soul and don't be surprise of Who did it, this guy is a monster, he is not human being, if there is justice they should cut him up like he did this little boy. Don't bring religion into this, what it if it was a a black guy or a Muslim would it make a different, would bring this innocent live back, I am a Muslim, so lets not be suprised who you live with, and don't trust anyone.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • the critic

      Sam, I congratulate you for having this view. Shokran ya Habib.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Bless you Sam. Peace.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  13. Disappointed

    It's so unbelievable all the anti-Semitism rampant in this world evidenced by the comments. The headline references a Jewish community in Brooklyn because this tragedy occured in a Jewish community in Brooklyn....just like there are Puerto Rican communities in Miami, Latino communities in Los Angeles, Mormon communities in Utah, and Amish communities in Pennsylvania. It is so incredibly disheartening to consider all our country has been through with Civil Rights and discrimination, log in online in the year 2011 to read an article about the horrific murder and dismemberment of an unsuspecting 8 year old boy, and then have to read the comments of a bunch of people who sound like they should be walking around in white hoods in the 1950s talking about what "trouble makers" the Jews are. Shameful. My heart goes out to this family and community.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • CarmenSo

      You don't visit the CNN or any news forums often do you? Just ignore them, they are mostly anti social cowards who are shunned in real life so they come here hoping for some attention,

      July 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Antonio

      Never heard of no PR chopping up a kid and distributing him around the neighborhood.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Antonio – This post has no place for people like you. Where is your humanity?

      July 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  14. John Obrien

    An innocent child was brutely murdered and some folks still have to make stupid ignorant comments . It just boggles the mind.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Dawn

      You're so right. People have no respect for the gravity of the situation.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  15. Drew

    I don't understand this statement ""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."... why a terrorist? couldn't she have just said "any other person".. as a minority, not of a Jewish background, i find that statement extremely offensive..

    July 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Ahmed

      Thank you for saying that Drew. That statement didn't sit well with me either.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Ben

      You're reading a bit too far into this. One thing you must understand is Jews throughout history and even in Israel today are accustom to these sort of crimes being committed by outsider communities upon them. The reference to terrorism was likely made so that those outside of the community can relate to just how damaging something like this is. In Israel today they wonder not IF but WHEN the next terrorist attack is going to kill their children on the bus. Unfortunately, this is not surprising and shocking. It is a reality. The comment that bothers you is meant to show the polarity between ordinary and extraordinary, violence they are accustom to and violence that is relatively unheard of.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Ben – I can see what Drew meant but I think yours is more accurate.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Mark

      It is sad to say but true that jews want to look like victims and innocents, everybody else is a terrorist but no a jew couldn't be one. All you have to do is google ifamericasknew to see the real terrorists in this world. Where do you think your tax dollars go to?

      July 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Mark

      Correction: Google ~ ifamericansknew. It still comes up with the other spelling I overlooked but don't want our grammar police to get mad. 🙂

      July 14, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  16. Nancy

    KSG, I think you're reading this wrong. After reading this I take it to mean that evil can happen anywhere. It's telling us that even those who live in what is perceived to be a "safe" community, aren't 100% safe.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  17. carmen

    I can imagine the pain that those parents feel. Do not blame yourselves, your beloved son is at rest.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  18. Alina77

    More often so, when child is abducted, you dont have to go far, just around the corner where friend, relative or neighbor lives.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  19. sleepyjones

    Why are they bring race into this? He was from their community.

    July 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Rabbi Barry

      It's not about race, it's about tradition. Ashkenazi Jews have different traditions than Sephardic Jews. Same basic beliefs, but just different traditions and in a community like this one, I guess that can be a big deal.

      July 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  20. Billy Davis

    That child's murder not only shock Jews it shocks us all!!!

    July 14, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • BubbaAl

      Thank you for emphasizing the key point that this article fails to.

      July 15, 2011 at 3:19 am |
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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.