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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. elove

    We should look to our hearts for this family remember when all is said and done we all bleed red

    July 14, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • mhklein

      Amen to that!

      July 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  2. Kat

    Some of you people are disgusting. To Pam: One less Jew?! Obviously, you are a hateful person who has lost your sense of humanity. A life is a life! How would you feel had this happened to a child (or anyone) in your family?!

    July 14, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Rich

      I absolutely agree. People who respond to a CHILD'S murder with hate have no soul. Again, I wonder if we took the anonymity out of these blog how brave the hate mongers would be.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  3. Grigory Dashevsky

    LENIN SAD"RELIGION IS DRUG FOR PEOPLE"! From drug you become crazy and from religion........

    July 14, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • DZW123

      brako – go back to the rock in which you were spawned

      July 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  4. Jouee

    Rest in peace sweet Leiby.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  5. chilliepepper

    @Randy, Finding some body parts in a freezer "is too common " is a scary thought. Crime is so out of control people have become numb to the most violent crimes.

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

      just my point, and it sucks............but what can "we" do to overcome, or change the way 'some' people act/think..........

      July 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Terre08

      Crime has gone down for the last decade or even longer, the difference is that more people have access to all kinds of media these days so what probably would have been local news in NYC 10-15 years ago are now online instantly. So you are not correct in your presumption.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  6. jessica

    The death of a child is always sad and I will pray for their family but I must argue one point:

    "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 know as much as the jews were persecuted you would think they would learn that racism is a sin and yet the continue to be so close minded. This is very sad.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  7. brako

    go leiby! i mean levi i mean aron

    July 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  8. Mike

    I take great offence to the fact that they think because they are Jewish that they are beyond any type of demonic behaviour??? Doesn't matter the race of a person. May Justice be swift and EXTREMELY harsh. May you rest in peace you Angel of God and may peace come to your family. Amen

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

      I agree Mike. No media suppression is going to change the fact that all cultures have good and bad apples.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  9. just a thought

    Now I know why their called trolls! The are cowards who want to say something , but not in their own name. If anybody read the first post under my name and the post just above, they would know it wasn't the same person.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  10. Mike

    Interesting how they are trying to reconcile this heinous act by casting the killer as an "outsider". Ask yourself why.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  11. Just a thought

    And because it was on of their own it is news. Guess what; there are those of the Jewish faith who hate as well. When will you make news of a Christain killing a Christain; Black killing a Black etc. This is not news and you shouldn't try to make it news just becase it was a Jewish person.
    How many innocent Palistanians are killed each day looking for freedom?

    July 14, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • DZW123

      Just a thought – please go away!

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

      Just a Thought. You are an idiot, who probably never had a worthwhile thought in your life. You can't see past your own hate and bigotry to have compassion on a child who was hacked up and put in a freezer. And yes, that would have made the news no matter the race or religion of the victim, because all decent people are horrified. As for you, you have a lot of personal introspection you need to engage in.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Mark

      Although this is a terrible crime, the sad fact that they reported it is because it was one of their own, jewish. Not one media outlet reported the Christian-Newsom murders when they happened. The media and "their own" show who they are on a daily basis. RIP to all the murder victims out there whoever killed them.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • Grigory Dashevsky

      why do you didn't write your name? For me your name is I D I O T !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      July 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  12. fred

    It's a shame that this community feels that they are above the common problems that affect every other community. As always, these child killers deserve an immediate death sentence.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  13. Grigory Dashevsky

    I will rapid one more time-Lenin sad "RELIGION IS DRUG FOR PEOPLE"! From drug you became crazy and from religion,,,,,,,

    July 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Shumel

      Good grief... You have a problem? Idiot.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Terre08

      If he said that he stole it from Marx who wrote "Religion is the opiate of the masses".

      July 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  14. 666 talker

    another murder...... how is this shocking?

    If your shocked by anything their is something wrong with you

    July 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  15. r

    They're an insular community and think they are insulated, for the most part, from bad things. On 77 WABC radio this morning a woman from the killer's neighborhood stated that many people thought the killer was a weird, creepy guy and they knew he tried to lure young boys into his car. And no one ever informed the police about this.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  16. Amjad Muhammad

    May God be with the family suffering this incredible loss... Ameen.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • brako

      stfu

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

      Agreed. Don't let the one bad apple get you down. There are thousands of holy people who showed their support at the funeral. We are the Chosen people and we have a job to do, let's move on and show this family all of our support and may Hashem bless them for all that they have been through and may it be a complete kaparah for all future sins, G-D forbid.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  17. SUSIEQ

    ANNISSA DEAR
    MILLIONS OF JEWISH CHILDREN HAVE BEEN MURDERED IN JESUS' NAME – HOW DARE YOU!

    July 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Anissa

      Hello Susie, because I can.. how dare you.. He still has power no matter what you may say.. Truly, HE did not do the Killy,.. evil demons did.. so that bottomline I still believe in the power of HIs name, because I am a Christian, and stand on the Word!!!

      Susie, once the article focused on race and you focused on religion.. Please focus on what important.. the life and death of child.. Let's move beyond our foolish thoughts and see the big picture!!!

      July 14, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  18. Furunculus

    Unless i missed something, the murder and dismemberment of a child is a shock for ANY neighborhood..

    July 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • xtheist

      yes you missed the very first line of the article.

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

      Just as you missed the front page headline.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  19. Joe

    my my , what if the killer was an arab?

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

      it would be on every news channel doing the useuel muslim/arab bashing

      July 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • isayso

      always sad when an innocent is victimized or slain, but is the point of this story that jews are somehow incapable of murder or murdering each other? some people have to pull their headsoutaatheirutts please

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

      it would have been fox's field day is it happened their useuel line up ann and fox and friends

      July 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  20. aa

    People always want an outsider to blame. They never want to believe one of their own did it. No one just like them could be a monster.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Terre08

      Yet most crimes involving children are done my someone in their near vicinity like family, relative etc.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • A

      That's human nature.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
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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.