The letter by “Concerned in Brooklyn” (Chronicles 08-05-2011) dumbfounded me. These past few weeks have brought forth a sea of emotional outpouring from our various communities in response to the sudden demise of a precious little boy in such a horrific way. It has left most of us speechless and feeling overwhelming helplessness in trying to piece together any kind of “logic” that could help anchor us in the face of depraved evil.
The fact that the “depraved” in this instance was among us has further thrown us into something akin to a crisis of faith. While we get together to discuss safety awareness in our schools, yeshivos and neighborhoods at large, who of us does not loathe telling our children that malevolence might lurk right around the corner? How do we begin to infiltrate their protective and wonderful domain and somehow teach them that not every man they come across is good and can be trusted?
Far too many individuals are “soap-boxing” their inane, daily moments of angst on the back of Leiby’s tragic death. Leiby Kletzky, a”h, reached the levels of the kedoshim whom we read about in shul during the Yomim Noraim. How do you take the memory of this child and display it to the world by writing about the mundane nuisance of double parking and the random uncouth behavior at the supermarket? Then what?
Learn as a result how to be more polite?? Neither you nor I have the right to use this pure soul, someone else’s child, for a petty agenda of trivial annoyances. Sure, we have each experienced these irritants and cringe at the lack of common sense some people demonstrate, but these are hardly issues that should be thumb tacked to a child’s eternal memory.
My suggestion is that we not cloud Leiby’s memory with bunk but rather maintain that level of kindness, unity and love we showed towards one another in those horrible first days for one intense purpose: the protection of all of our children.
We teach our children from infancy, “kol Yisrael areivim zeh l’zeh” (all of Yisroel are responsible for one another); I believe Rabbi Eisenman of Passaic actually mentioned this in the early days of this tragedy, when he wondered out loud why not one frum individual thought to bend down and ask this child if he was lost and if he needed help. I would like to propose that our complacency be permanently replaced with a highly vigilant eye towards the safety of ALL OUR CHILDREN.
A couple of weeks ago, the evening news regurgitated the fact that the perpetrator of this atrocity had no police record. Yet we became aware that he had previously approached another child in the neighborhood with an offer for a ride. This child’s mother apparently “scared him off” but failed to call the authorities to report the incident. Though no one can know whether such vigilance would have saved a child, it would have certainly been the right thing to do.
It is crucial that we build safety consciousness in our schools where many children are way too naïve, coming from large families with overworked parents or growing up in very sheltered homes where talk of the “boogeyman” lies pretty much within the pages of their story books. It is up to us to see to it that our children are aware of the dangers that may lurk right outside their doors.
I propose that leaders of our communities reach out to the NYPD and ask for their participation and guidance. With the help of our councilmen and community leaders who have a respectable dialogue with members of the larger community, I guarantee that the NYPD would jump at the chance to hand pick courteous and respectful individuals on their force to come into our schools and speak to our children. They would surely give them a clear and powerful message of safety awareness and guidelines that will help them make correct decisions when necessary.
Walking down 55th Street in Boro Park the other day, I saw two chassidishe little boys walking towards me, hand in hand. They seemed to have a fairly good sense of direction about them, but the tragedy was just too fresh, and so I stopped and asked them if they were lost. They shook their heads with a wary look on their faces and silently moved on. I may have felt foolish but I am going to move with the message that we shatter our sense of complacency and the metaphorical “bubble” we reside in and find a sensitive and Torah-appropriate manner in which to communicate to our children that monsters don’t necessarily exist only far away.
As I pen this on erev Tisha B’Av, I ask that we refrain from demonizing individuals we encounter in our everyday lives who happen to irk us. Let us not hang our paltry aggravations on the memory of a child whose life and death will haunt us for a very long time to come.
Saddened but wiser…
With all due respect to your passionate call and vital message, each of us has faults and we need to work on ourselves both in our interaction with one another and with our G-d. Undertaking teshuvah, both in a big or small way, as a result of the shocking blow dealt to us by the recent tragedy in our midst, is praiseworthy. Ahavas chinam and ahavas Yisroel go hand in hand, but we cannot achieve ahavas Yisroel by conducting our daily lives with a total disregard of those around us.
For that matter, who is to say what constitutes “paltry” or “significant” in the eyes of Hashem? While guarding our children should certainly be a number one priority, improvements in our social behavior serve to strengthen us as a whole and will enable us to realize success in our noble pursuits.
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