Killing Rattles A Jewish Community’s Long-Held Trust Of Its Own


Yocheved Schachter, a 47-year-old nurse who lives in Borough Park, Brooklyn, acknowledges that she has a double standard of sorts: one for people who share her background, and one for people who do not.

“If you’re in the airport and need help, a Jew will help you,” said Ms. Schachter, who is a mother and a grandmother. “I pick up hitchhikers, boys waiting to go to yeshiva. When I travel and see another Jew, we’ll eyeball each other; there’s a connection. Everywhere you go, all over the world. I’ll still do it.”

So like her neighbors in Borough Park, she has been bewildered by the fact that Leiby Kletzky, 8, was kidnapped and killed, the police say, at the hands of another apparently religious Jew, though not a Hasidic one.

“The fact that this came from within,” she said, “it’s beyond belief.”

With its distinctive dress and customs, the insular ultra-Orthodox community of Borough Park has always been somewhat wary of outsiders who might introduce temptations and ideas that could erode their way of life. But the converse — too much trust of those within — has also been true, many civic and religious leaders say, and it is only in recent years that people have become less guileless about and protective of ill-doers from inside their tribe.

On Thursday, Levi Aron, 35, was ordered held without bail on a charge of second-degree murder, and the police disclosed elements of a confession. Mr. Aron, according to the police, said that Leiby had approached him on the street Monday afternoon, that he had taken the boy to a wedding in Rockland County that night and that he had suffocated the boy in a panic the next day when he realized the huge search effort that was under way. The police also say the boy may have put up a struggle.

It may never be known whether Leiby trusted Mr. Aron because he appeared to be someone like him. But the murder occurred at a moment of a slow change in how Borough Park residents regarded one another, and some people interviewed on Thursday predicted that, for better or worse, the tragedy would only accelerate it.

“Someone told me, ‘Now you know who your neighbors are,’ ” said Ben Herb, 37, who works at MS Optical on 16th Avenue. “I said: We always had to be cautious in this neighborhood. Here in the center of Borough Park is where you have to be very careful. Most of your neighbors are Orthodox Jews with which children are comfortable. That, in itself, is a risk.”

“My children don’t talk to strangers whether they wear a yarmulke or a do-rag,” he added.



  1. “Rattles”, yes. We should definitely be much, much more careful. But it ought not destroy our trust in our co-religionists.

    The fact of the matter is, religious Jews do have a proportionately lower murder rate than average. There is also the fact that we are a community, which usually does not kill its own members (except the Mafia, of course). And if someone needs help, it would be far more prudent to ask one with a yarmulke than one with a do-rag.

  2. This rattles our trust.
    When Thousands upon thousands showed up many leaving their vacations to search for a little boy who they did’nt know?
    When private individuals in a bad economy turned a 5,000 dollar reward into a 100,000 dollar reward in mere hours so they could perhaps help a fellow jew?
    When over ten thousand shell shocked men women and children streamed in for a night time funeral with little advance notice to pay respects to a little boy they knew not and show support to a family they may never know?
    No, now is not the time that I do not trust my own brothers and sisters. Rather now is the time that I see that Kol Yisroel Areivim Zeh Lu Zeh. No matter what Klal Yisroel will stop at nothing to help one of their own.