Borough Park Reels at News of Boy's Death

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Hasidic man pushes a stroller near the residence of Leibby Kletzky, a murdered eight-year-old boy who went missing from the Hasidic neighborhood of Borough Park, Brooklyn. Many members of the ultra-Orthodox community in Borough Park, Brooklyn, choose not to vaccinate their children. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images/Getty)

Thousands of people crammed into a Borough Park, Brooklyn, synagogue and the adjacent blocks Wednesday night to mourn the death of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, who was found murdered and dismembered early Wednesday morning.

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Leiby had asked his parents to let him walk home alone from day camp on Monday. They said they would meet him half-way, about seven blocks from his camp. But Leiby missed a turn and was abducted, setting off the frantic manhunt that consumed not only Borough Park’s ultra-Orthodox community but several others in the region.

The tight-knit community is in shock.

“I woke up to the news,” said 25-year-old Barry Fink, who was one of hundreds of volunteers who spent many of the prior 36 hours trying to find the boy. “I was devastated. I have a kid myself, and to imagine someone killing and cutting up a kid, it’s – I don’t want to think about it. And when I hear the details on the news I just cry.”

Police have arrested 35-year-old Levy Aron, who faces murder charges. They say he confessed to taking and killing the boy. Aron remains in police custody.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly characterized Aron as Orthodox. Many people in the community said they could picture a lost young boy asking for help from someone who looks similar to other adult men in the neighborhood. Parents and grandparents in this very family-oriented neighborhood said the boy’s loss hit them especially hard.

“I would not think this story in our community to happen,” said Adina Naamah, who has a grandson the same age as the murdered boy. “We have to be scared to leave for a second the children – to send to the store, to buy something, just a grocery, a few steps away. It’s very, very scary.”

The police say the suspect has no record as a pedophile. So far, there’s no evidence that Aron molested the boy, but it could take a week or more to get toxicology reports.

The ultra-Orthodox community has grappled with sexual abuse scandals in recent years, much like the Catholic church, so people in Borough Park are primed to think it played a role here. Senior rabbis in the community wield a great amount of power. They have been reluctant to speak about sexual abuse – and have denounced those who do.

But several people said they hope the Kletzky murder will get the community to consider the crime in a way it never has, and take more steps to prevent and prosecute it – whether or not it turns out to be related to sexual abuse.

“It’s really started to change,” said Assemblyman Dov Hikind. “I’m not going to tell you huge, but around the edges. This tragedy will take us a long way, there’s no question about it, because people realize: we got to protect our kids.”

In this deeply religious community – where nearly everyone dresses traditionally, prays daily and upholds dietary and other Biblical laws – people say they can’t help but focus on all the unanswered prayers.

“We prayed for something, and God didn’t ignore us,” said Chaya Faige, who runs a residential and social service program for the mentally ill. “He said ‘No.’ This was his answer. Why this was his answer? I don’t know. And instead of questioning why it happened, we’re trying to give each other support to get through whatever it is we’re supposed to experience now.”

Faige and others say the only thing they can do is keep praying to God for strength, for themselves and the Kletzky family, for peace for little Leiby Kletzky, wherever he may be, and for justice for the murderer who killed him.


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Comments [13]

Eugenio Senerman from Santiago de Chile

God bless Leibby and rest in peace. From this side of the world, our pray for Leibby and his family.

Jul. 27 2011 08:22 PM
Channah from Jerusalem

Leiby did not die because he walked home alone. Leiby walked home alone because he was destined to die that day. His parents didn't want him to walk alone . They themselves don't know why they ever agreed, it was his first time out alone. They were very careful parents. Please do NOT misunderstand.We absolutely MUST protect our children and ourselves. It is a Torah commandment. But we have to know that Leiby walked home that day because it was decided on Rosh Hashanah when and how this tragedy would take place.

Jul. 25 2011 03:22 PM
y. kipperwasser from Jerusalem, israel

Jerusalem, Israel. one mother can't always be everywhere for several children at one time and children can't be tied to their mothers' skirts. psychopaths live everywhere in the world. aside from prayers for our children's wellbeing it is wise to have parents "randomly" petoling around the places where children will be going. there are programs that teach children street wisdom which they never brought to my children's schools but we can teach our children how dangerous it is to get near to strange people and to cars. something that has been helpful is having expensive junk food in the house even though I am into health food. I told my children that if anyone ever ofers them anything they should run home and tell me and I'll give them something better! (thank G-d they never used it for that and got some junk once in a while anyway...)
In truth,however, it is G-d's will that saves us, even if we are strong wise and watchful. I walked borough park streets from the age of 8-14 and then hitch-hiked in pretty dangerous places in Israel, went to "collect" a problematic friend (four years older than me) every night to keep her out of trouble and walked old women home at night. No one knows why G-d spares one and takes another... maybe Lieby was too good for this world and he was just sent here for a short "visit" to save some other child from falling into that psychopath's was just a matter of time. I'm sorry his family had to part from their poor beloved angel who just wanted a little independence. precious parents to a precious innocent child. G-d should console them...

Jul. 17 2011 08:01 PM
Phebe from Astoria, NY

I pray for dear Leiby's mother and father and family, his neighbors, friends, and teachers: trust altogether in the Lord for He is our G-d, Which desires that we turn to Him for Comfort. Be blessed to thank Him for His Presence, His Life, and His Light even in grief. Know that J-H-W-H is our Father. He will help. His Love is sufficient and He brings healing. Gather in His arms and rest in His peace.

Jul. 15 2011 10:45 PM

Mary from NYC, get your facts straight. Elizabeth Smart was sound asleep in her own bed during the middle of the night when an intruder abducted her. Still, I amazed by how lax some parents are. I have grandchildren now and just like when my children were young I watch over them like a hawk.

Jul. 15 2011 11:35 AM

I am so saddened by this story. Regardless if this little boy wanted to walk home alone and his parents granted his last wish, he certaintly did not deserve to die. This is not something Leibby could have known coming nor his parent's..this is something done by a horriable psycho. I just don't get why people like him, his killer, get to live and get a chance to repent? I hope this crazed murderer gets the death penalty. I dont care if he claims he's crazy; he is, and there is no room for crazy people in this world!

Jul. 15 2011 09:02 AM
Harold A. Maio from Florida

The comments on this page reveals bias in regards to the Hasidic community.

I did not see that, I did see regret.

Jul. 14 2011 03:05 PM
S. F.

Aside from the horror I felt about Leiby's murder, I immediately knew that this story would bring a flurry of biased comments about the Chassidic community of which I am a part. After a tragedy, in any community, people who are interviewed make the same type of comments, "I can't believe this happened on my block; by this person; etc."
The comments on this page reveals bias in regards to the Hasidic community. We look different, and have a different lifestyle, but we are human like everyone else, with a wide variety of parenting styles, views about the world etc.
We are a community of holocaust survivors and their descendants. We, of all people, know that horrible things happen to good people.
My grandmother and most other survivors were extremely protective of their children. In later generations, different people within the community, just as in the wider community, have developed varying parenting styles. To blame loving parents after a tragedy like this is the height of insensitivity. Abductions and abuse have happened in all strata of society.
It is true that many Hasidic people are naive about a lot of things. It is also true that we have our share of problems that are pushed under the rug, and we have a long way to go in addressing them properly.
However, over the past 20 years, many leaders have increasingly been educating the community about a variety of societal ills that we need to deal with, and we are much more sophisticated than most outsiders think we are.
The community's schools and social services agencies have sent home numerous letters and waged campaigns to educate parents about child safety, especially when there is news of a predator having been seen in the area. We are urged to warn our kids not to trust anyone, even if they look like "us".
Just as with any kind of racism or bigotry, people tend to paint groups that seem different with a broad brush. I am sad to see this happening on this site, whose listeners are supposed to be open-minded and liberal.
It is true that racism and bigotry and mistrust of "others" is widespread in my community. Based on the history of persecution Jews have suffered at the hands of so many non-Jewish anti-semites, it is not hard to understand why.
Increasingly, I am aware that intolerance and bias is widespread in most communities and groups, in different forms, as indicated in some of the comments on this page.

Jul. 14 2011 02:14 PM
Janna from MO

I don't think it was naive for the parents to give their child a little freedom. The article even said that they were reluctant, but met him halfway. It's unfortunate is what it is, and there really isn't anybody to blame for this except for the murderer. The are a lot of sickos out there, and no one can predict who they are and when they will act on their sick urges.

BTW Mary from NYC, Elizabeth Smart was taken from her home, in her bedroom at night. Tragic yes, but totally different scenario.

Jul. 14 2011 10:18 AM
mary from NYC

Very sad - I hate to say it but who lets an 8-year-old make a decision to walk alone? It was naive of his parents to think something like this could not happen.I believe Elizabeth Smart was walking alone too the day she was abducted. Does no one remember the Etan Patz story?? I see many young children in NYC walking and crossing streets alone; it seems many parents have a 'clear head'. Perhaps all parents will learn something from this horrendous tragedy (which, sadly, could have been avoided).

Jul. 14 2011 09:51 AM
Roz from Kensington, Brooklyn

I appreciate this story. But I cannot adequately express my frustration at how, in their on-air reporting of the tragic killing of Leiby Kletzky, WNYC reporters repeat the nonsense that the Orthodox Jewish community is somehow typically “safe” and “holy” and immune from violence. The Orthodox community—has at very least—its own fair share of domestic abuse, rape and child sex abuse. The insularity of the community keeps these phenomena under the radar and off the police blotters, but--as the story above reflects--anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of that community knows they exist. Indeed, had Leiby Kletzky not been living in such an insular world, his mother might have taught him that the safest person to approach when you are lost is a woman with children. Had he gone to a black woman with kids for help, a Latina, Indian or Pakistani woman—any of the many women he would have loathed and feared—he would be alive today. Yet WNYC seems happy to perpetuate the ethnocentric tripe that not only helped lead to this boy’s death, but shields from view the abuse of so many women and children on a daily basis.

Jul. 14 2011 09:34 AM
lynette joel from atlanta ga

i have 5 children and 12 grandkids, it was and is my policy NEVER,to let a child be alone anywhere, not to walk to shul, not to go to a public toilet, nowhere. Even as they got older they has to walk in pairs. It only takes one nut once second to ruin lives, its not worth the risk. please take heed and keep our kids safe

Jul. 14 2011 09:29 AM
Michelle D. from Greer SC

I too am in Shock and completely in tears this morning as I hear the very sad news of this little boy. I am so sad for his parents and will pray for them.
I hope the killer is put to death.....what a sick person. That little boy trusted him......God bless Little Leibby you are in our hearts

Jul. 14 2011 08:14 AM

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