In the wake of the murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky in Borough Park last week, the Jewish community is reeling with shock, sadness, and anger. While we would not presume to fathom the depths of grief and horror experienced by the boy’s family, we do in some measure share their grief over the loss of this beautiful child in such an unthinkable manner.
Feelings of fear for everyone’s children are also in the air.
These feelings are complicated by the knowledge that the confessed murderer, Levi Aron, is a Jew. If ever there was an example of the truth that no people have a monopoly on good or evil, this was it.
We all know the platitude that we can’t live – or raise children – in fear. True enough. But threats to children from without, and from within, are real. And we must do everything we can to minimize the chances of tragedy.
A licensed social worker quoted on page 6 advises parents to teach a child, if lost, to first find a uniformed officer. (Pictures may help a child distinguish among the multitude of uniforms out there.) If not, a child should look for help from a mother with children. This is sound advice.
That said, appearances can be deceiving. And there exists some tiny risk in just living, let alone living actively and freely. As a wise man once told us, “You can’t make a world for your children.”
Last week on the Today show WABC-TV anchor Bill Ritter, who stopped by the Kletzky family home to pay his respects, said he conveyed to the boy’s father, Nachman Kletzky, that millions of people share the family’s grief. Ritter paraphrased the boy’s father as saying in response, “If my son’s death can bring all of these people together, then what a great tribute to my boy.”
Rabbi Rabbi Ron Eisenman of Cong. Ahavas Israel in Passaic, who organized a prayer vigil for Leiby and his family when the boy went missing, told this newspaper last week that non-Jewish members of his custodial staff came to him in grief after they learned Leiby had been murdered and asked him to convey their condolences to the family.
We can teach children that many more good people than bad exist in the world. And great good can come from reaching out and knowing our neighbors, in a safe setting, with adults present, whether those neighbors are black or white, Jewish or gentile.