Last week marked one year on the Jewish calendar since the senseless murder of Leiby Kletzky, who was kidnapped and killed just 17 days before his ninth birthday.
The child’s yahrzeit should have been a day of seminars and conferences and study sessions on the subject of child abuse – how to recognize it, how to combat it, and why it must always be reported to the police. That it was not such a day is unfortunate. As we have seen too often during the past year, child abuse and its coverups are serious problems within the Jewish world.
For those who do not recall Leiby Kletzky, here is a brief refresher: Last July 11, a Monday, the young chasidic boy was walking home from his day camp, which was in a Borough Park yeshivah. It was the first time he was allowed to go home by himself, something he so much wanted to do. According to a 450-word statement given to police by Levi Aron, the alleged perpetrator (he pleaded not guilty at his arraignment), he enticed the boy into his car, drove him to a chasidic wedding in Monsey, then took him to his own Borough Park apartment, promising Leiby that he would bring the boy home to his parents the next day.
On Tuesday, according to Aron’s statement as retold by police, he saw posters all over Borough Park announcing Leiby’s disappearance. This supposedly caused Aron to panic. He went home, the statement reportedly said, and smothered Leiby to death. He then dismembered the body. According to the medical examiner, before he was killed, Leiby was given what would have been a lethal cocktail of five separate drugs; he would have died even if he had not been smothered. The autopsy apparently did not find any evidence that the boy was sexually abused.
Leiby Kletzky’s murder was such an outrageous crime that it should have seared itself into our collective memories. Every year, it presents the perfect opportunity for us to re-examine how as a community we deal with child abuse allegations, and also to heighten our awareness and the awareness of our children to the dangers and how to at least try to avoid them.
That did not happen this year. Perhaps by the next yahrzeit it will be different.