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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. howsthatnow

    Sephardic Jew! Oh thanks, thanks for that, is that it, yes,- thats the ticket.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Anissa

      Right.. and why is that important?? No relevance at all!!!~

      July 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Mark

      It is relevant as this is a religious blog you are responding to or did you not read. Also the jewish media is notorious for censoring jewish crime so I think CNN reporting on all people in an unbiased fashion is VERY VALID. RIP to this poor child.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  2. Rich

    @Martin Warner...please. Doesn't matter if one uses a first and last name, a first name or some silly handle. Anyone can post anything without any recourse. Its pathetic.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • srh

      So what would you suggest be recourse?

      July 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  3. Anthony

    Very disturbing, Children believe in grown ups and they let them down my hart crys for a world full of monsters.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  4. BunnyT

    Maybe god told him to do it? The supposed almighty has ordered more ridiculous things according to the bible. Heck Abraham was told to kill his son. Hundreds of thousands have been killed in his name. And let's not forget, he/it managed to get Mary (the brown chick from middle east) pregnant without taking off her panty.

    Religion is so comical sometimes.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • RaDe

      I assume you've run out of yor meds?

      July 14, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • BunnyT

      Only people who needs to be on meds are those foolish enough to believe in first century mythologies (aka bible).

      July 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  5. Raub

    "Crazy" doesn't discriminate based on religion.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  6. USMC79

    What an unthinkable crime. No way he'll make it in prison. Hope they do to him, what he did to that child!

    July 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  7. Donna

    This is sad. I don't get how people hurt children or anyone for that matter.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Mark

      I agree Donna!!

      July 14, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  8. Amjad Muhammad

    May God ease the suffering of the family that is suffering this horrible loss. Ameen.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • BunnyT

      Your so called god allowed this kinds of things to happen didn't he?
      What kind of god is he?

      July 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  9. srh

    This is truly a tragedy. I felt sick when I read that there was blood still on the refrigerator handle. My heart goes out to this child's family. I cannot begin to image how they must be feeling.

    On another note: I find it disturbing that this close-knit religious community is in such denial over the fact that "one of their own" committed this atrocious crime that they have to suggest that "Aron(suspect) is a Sephardic Jew – meaning of Spanish of North African descent". Really?!?!?! How racist is that?!?!? In the history of man-kind, it is not only Spanish/African descendants who have committed murder. Jews of Borough Park, just get over yourselves already.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  10. Seriously

    Let me start with this. This should never have happened and it's unfortunate that an innocent child lost his life. But I use to live in Borough Park and you do see 8 year olds walking by themselves all over the place. I was always shocked to see such little kids unsupervised crossing the street by themselves. Times have changed and we all need to be more vigilant with our children. I won’t blame the parents but I do blame the community. A community that encourages little kids to walk the street unsupervised in this day and age. I believe the blame falls on them. Wake up, this is a sad world we live in where bad things happen even to kids...

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

      Actually, crimes against children (and crime in general) are lower than they have been in the past. The reason you see so many unsupervised children is because it is actually quite safe. Obviously we will have horrible exceptions as in this case.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Cam

      I agree completely. I have absolute compassion for his family and community, but aside from home invasion, every case I've heard of occurred when the child was out unsupervised. Nothing is worth risking what his parents are going through now, God have mercy, no matter how slim the chances of it happening.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  11. Stephen

    Kletzky's death is a tragedy and my heart goes out to the family, but this article sickens me. It seems to imply that because someone is of a certain faith they should be too good for murder. Well let me say this: regardless whether you are wearing a cross, a yarmulke, or a turban you're still human, and any human can be a psycho. It's also disgusting that they quoted someone that was even talking about terrorism. Even if it had been someone from outside their community that person would have been a murderer, not a terrorist. That quote was wholly unnecessary, and this article as a whole detracts from the seriousness and tragedy of this terrible crime.

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

      Quite the contrary. Religious types do not follow rational thinking. How else would they blinding believe that some brown chick from middle east named Mary got laid without spreading her legs? People with irrational thinking can believe and do anything.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  12. Jim P.

    Truly a sad event and my sincere condolences to the parents and the community at large.

    This transcends religion or the lack of it as children are our future regardless of what we believe.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  13. lisa

    Very tragic and preventable murder. Why let your 8 year old child walk 7 blocks alone? I dont care how safe I thought the neighborhood was... you never know who is lurking around the corner.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  14. Mom of 3 from NY

    This is a terribly sick crime. That poor little boy must have been so scared. Selfish pedophiles and murderers should be castrated, then publicly stoned to death. Why should this criminal be allowed to breathe another ounce of air after what he did to that innocent child. The laws regarding crimes against children are not severe enough. If any crime to a child resulted in a seriously severe punishment, maybe some of these sickos would stop hurting children. He preyed on this boy and made him wait 7 minutes while he went to pay a bill? Seriously?!

    July 14, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Stephen

      Maybe you would be more comfortable moving to Saudi Arabia.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  15. just a thought

    @ Christopher. I doubt that you will be back to read this. I'm not a Jew, but Christopher, if you had any idea of how close-knit Jewish communities were, you wouldn't ask what does this have to do with religion. If it were left up to the people of this community to punish this man, in any way they pleased, it wouldn't be a pretty sight.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  16. Mahdi

    Rather than focus on the murder, the main point of this article was to find out how and why a jewish man killed a jewish boy. To the extent where they posted reasons and opinions why the criminal was an outsider; race and religious branch. Please concentrate at the matter in hand here, the fact that this poor boy was killed and apparently, humiliated.

    Oh yeah, and what parent makes a kid so young walk so far?

    July 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Dan Horowitz

      When the murder was originally discovered, the media did it's job in trying to hunt down the perpetrator in anticipation that this was a hate crime. I don't blame them for that. Hate crimes are news. But as soon as it was discovered that this was not a hate crime, the media should have shown more respect for the Jewish community and just DROPPED the story to avoid inflicting more pain and suffering than the Jews have already suffered. SHAME ON YOU, MEDIA!!!!

      July 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Trololol...lol

      Exactly; it's like CNN pointing out that a while man killed another white man. WHAT??! That never happens!??!!

      July 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Mark

      Dan you must be a troll or a shill. First of all, we live in the United States where it is law that we have freedom of speak, no matter who owns the media and doesn't like it. Secondly, it is about time the media start reporting on all crimes and not just focusing on whites who commit crimes. The media completely avoided the Christian-Newsom murders. It is time for the jewish media to report the news in an unbiased fashion, PERIOD!!

      July 14, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Mark

      Correction: Speech. For the grammar police who have too much time on their hands.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  17. jim

    this sick sob better not get a defense lawyer like Jose Baez, dont need another Casey anthony set free. this moron should be in public square let the people administer justice

    July 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Trololol...lol

      Let people go at him? Gee, that sure rings the bell when I think of "a right to a fair trial".

      July 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Ruth

      Trol......so you think this admitted child murderer desrves " a fair trial"? Let it be your child and then say he should get a fair trial.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  18. judy

    It seems to me that this man had been thinking about this crime for awhile. it hurts my heart to know he was so young. his parents should probably have had one dry run without him knowing! too late now. just seems that every jew hater is happily crawling out from every rock_where they belong. i am proudly jewish and As someone said earlier~ lets hope this jury gets this right!

    July 14, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  19. Rich

    Regarding posting in general: I wonder how many posts we would have if the posts were not basically anonymous. What a gutless country we have become.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Martin Warner

      Ok, "Rich".

      July 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Trololol...lol

      Why don't you learn how to defend yourself then? This is the internet after all; we aren't living in the 1970's.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Sean

      Agreed. It would be nice if the anonymity went away...at least for communication online.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Mark

      Then what, have people go after you because they don't like your opinion? Why do people not know how to think anymore? Oh wait, I forgot, the media does their thinking for them. Poor kid, murdered, and this is what people have to reflect on.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  20. Anissa

    Let's leave the race comments out of articles. We should be focusing on how do we prevent this type of demonic force from hurting and destroying another child;whether black, white, brown, Hispanic, white jew, black jew, chinese, korean, or brazilian. Our children are being destroyed because of homelessness, hunger, abuse, and lack of a good education. God, please bless this child's parents. and PROTECT OUR CHILDREN FROM THE EVIL ONE .. IN JESUS' NAME.. AMEN

    July 14, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • ButterPecan

      Amen

      July 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Trololol...lol

      Amen... wait, do they say the same thing?

      July 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Stephen

      Do you mean Voldemort?

      July 14, 2011 at 7:21 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.