Read enough Jesus Take The Wheels and nothing will shock you anymore, but many among the Orthodox Jewish community that sheltered both innocent young Leiby Kletsky and accused murderer Levi Aaron were as upset by the suspect’s identity as the crime itself.
In the days since the discovery of little Leiby’s tragic death, a number of people have wondered why Leiby was following a stranger to his car and how the 8-year-old could so easily trust a stranger, however many in Borough Park/Brooklyn and beyond who share the same faith as Leiby and suspect Levi Aron, say that because of the insularity of their community most Orthodox children — and even many adults have always felt they could trust their own.
And that’s exactly why it is so upsetting that the suspect is Levi Aron. The strange, twice divorced 35-year-old, who lived much of his life with his parents and now claims he hears voices was raised in a devout home in neighboring Kensington, attended yeshiva and went to synagogue. Just like them.
“If you’re in the airport and need help, a Jew will help you,” said 47-year-old nurse Yochaved 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.”
“Everybody is confused here because this never happens between Jewish people,” said Barukh Badalov, who owns a barbershop on 48th St.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind said his office received a flood of panicked calls from residents feeling a mix of shock and shame.
“Some people even asked me, Is he from the Arab community next door, because we have a lot of Palestinians and a lot of Muslims,” Hikind said.
“I keep on telling people, ‘No, no. We know who it is. His name is Levi. There’s nothing to be embarrassed [about]. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.’”
Ezra Friedlander said he initially wished Leiby’s slaying was motivated by “anti-Semitism.”
“Not because I would want that but now we know one member of the community killed another member,” said Friedlander, who runs a public relations firm.
“The human race just doesn’t discriminate when it comes to good or bad. There could be evil in your next door neighbor.”
Simon Herb, 24, who had joined in the search for Leiby, said Aron’s arrest had left many people feeling doubly depressed.
“The whole Jewish world is down,” he said.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said that though the community is reeling, he expects it to rally around the victim’s family.
“They will make the family as comfortable as they can” and “be supportive,” said Silver, an Orthodox Jew. “That’s part of their tradition.”
But not everyone feels such sympathy. Eva Rosenbluh, who owns an accessory store on 16th Ave., questioned Aron’s faith.
“To me, he is not an Orthodox [Jew] because an Orthodox Jew wouldn’t do that,” said Rosenbluh.
“People have to understand it is just one person, not the whole community. People here are always busy raising their families and going to work.”
“None of this makes sense,” Rosenbluh added. “Everybody is broken in the community.”
Not everyone is that shocked though. It seems there have been some concerns for some time about children being too trusting of strange adults.