Neighborhood bids farewell to slain boy

July 14, 2011 Heather Chin
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The sun had long since set, and the glow of the streetlightsbarely illuminated the sea of faces pouring out of a courtyardbetween 56th and 57th Streets off 16th Avenue, but every line ofgrief remained visibly etched, every stifled sob palpable, with orwithout a microphone and loudspeaker. At the funeral for slaineight-year-old Leiby Kletzky, a mother’s pain became the pain ofthousands.

The Wednesday night service began shortly before 10 p.m., besidethe Heichal Hatorah synagogue, where Kletzky had worshipped withhis family for all of his almost-nine short years. Attendees beganarriving hours before, the onslaught of rain from a passingthunderstorm not enough to keep people away. If anything, it madepeople more somber and reflective.

The angels are crying, said an Orthodox Jewish woman who worea look of determination on her face while walking to the funeral.I don’t know this family, many of us don’t, but we feel it like itis us.

I have a nine-year-old [daughter] and I had to come, saidCarmen Allen, a non-Orthodox Brooklynite who traveled from SunsetPark to attend the funeral. Every time I see that video of himwalking, lost, my heart breaks and I start crying.

Kletzky was found dead and dismembered early Wednesday morning,his body parts discovered inside a dumpster outside a GreenwoodHeights auto shop and in a refrigerator-freezer at a Kensingtonapartment.

He had been missing since 5:05 p.m. Monday after leaving BoyanDay Camp, 1205 44th Street. Police believe that he became lost onthe way to meet his mother on a nearby street corner, and asked astranger for help. Thousands of volunteers from across the easternseaboard quickly mobilized to search Brooklyn’s alleyways, railroadtracks, creeks and garbage cans, for signs of him.

Levi Aron, 35, also a member of the Orthodox Jewish community,stands charged with second degree murder and kidnapping, havinggiven a verbal and written confession to police after beingarrested in his apartment at 2:40 a.m. on Wednesday.

Aron claimed that after the boy asked for directions, he tookthe boy to a wedding in upstate New York on Monday night, left himasleep in his apartment on Tuesday, and smothered the boy afterrealizing how fervently the community and police were searching forhim. He said he decided to dismember the boy because he didn’tknow what to do with the body.

The unnatural nature of Kletzky’s death and subsequentmutilation was an underlying theme of several of the eulogiesdelivered in Yiddish, with rabbis saying that the remarkable andunimaginable circumstances are signs that it served some divinepurpose.

For a father to have lived for the child, dreamt for the child,worked for the child, raised the child, and now to bury the child,is so unnatural, said one rabbi, according to a translator. Deathwill come through the windows (instead of through the doors).Because it is so unnatural, it must be from God.

Also touched on heavily were the themes of reflection,remembrance and respect – of oneself, of Kletzky’s life, and forone another. Mourners were encouraged to love one another, to loveGod, and to remember Kletzky’s enthusiasm for life, his communityand his neighbors.

He said his prayers, enjoyed his studies, and would come overevery Friday to wish me a good Shabbas, said Rabbi Eisenberg, ofHeichal Hatorah. A woman told me that ‘he’s never going to openthe door for me again.’

Thank you, God for him, said Nachman Kletzky, weeping over hisonly son’s small casket and stating how grateful he was to have hadhim in his life, even if for only nine years. Leiby would haveturned nine later this month.

Kletzky’s parents are said to not be aware of the gruesomecircumstances of how their son’s body was found, according to afamily friend quoted in The Daily News.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly called the scenario a parent’sworst nightmare, while Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynesrevealed that he has already called on a grand jury to hear theevidence in the case, and that he will ask [them] to consider themaximum charges permitted by law.

As for what the aftermath of Kletzky’s death will bring,Assemblymember Dov Hikind said people now need to figure out whatcan we do to make things better, how to make our kids safer… Justbecause somebody looks like someone you can trust, does not meanthat you can… As a community, we need to have new rules, not toscare our children, but something has to change.

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