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A Community To Be Proud Of, a Death To Mourn

Leiby Kletzky prompted Hasidic community’s finest, saddest hours

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Hasidic men in Borough Park awaiting the chance to mourn Kletzky.(Ramin Talaie/Getty Images)

On Tuesday night, barely 24 hours after Leiby Kletzky was first reported missing, I received an email from a childhood acquaintance. Apparently, when the news about the 8-year-old boy’s disappearance broke, she had been in the midst of launching a new website, which connects those stricken by illness or crisis with “family and friends from all over the world, who want to spiritually and practically make a difference during this time of need through Challah, Tehilim, Tzedakah & Nourishment.” The site wasn’t ready for prime time just yet, but, in an effort to lasso as many people as possible into praying for Leiby’s safe return, she launched it early.

Between this email and the news that hundreds of volunteers had poured in to help the Shomrim, the police, and eventually even the FBI canvass Borough Park and other parts of Brooklyn, it seemed clear that the Internet was being used to mobilize an already astonishingly mobilizable ultra-Orthodox community—one already related to Orthodox communities outside of Brooklyn. Given the historically complex relationship that the fervently observant have to technology—paradoxically both early adopting and often enduringly resistant—it was hard not to feel a sense of pride and, against evidence already mounting to the contrary, a tiny sliver of hope. This community was using all available tools to do what every community was meant to do: care for its own.

Which is why I gasped yesterday when I read that investigators believe it may have been this very asset—the efficient, powerful activation of up-to-date resources—that caused the suspect in Leiby Kletzky’s murder to panic and kill the child.

I had been sure that nothing could worsen the discovery that an 8-year-old walking home alone from camp for the first time in his life, lost and surely already scared, somehow managed to stumble into the confusing, frantic world of a deeply disturbed man; but it is simply unbearable to imagine that his parents, and the scores of police officers, canvassers, and prayer-givers who sought to help the parents might be made to believe that they had, however inadvertently and with whatever great intentions, played a role in his death. The injunction at last night’s funeral, in which one speaker “reminded the community to be careful, urging the adults to protect their children from strangers,” must have stabbed the hearts of Leiby’s parents, who allowed their child a small measure of freedom with the most unthinkable of consequences. It is a lesson embedded in Orthodox life, one for which the religious are routinely dismissed as backwater provincials. Yet this morning, it is hard not to sympathize with the insular-minded. Would contracting one’s world prevent tragedies like Leiby Kletzky’s murder? Tell me where to recycle this computer.

Let me be the one to say it: This act of violence was utterly unforeseeable—the random result of a set of cascading tragic coincidences. If the picture being drawn by investigators is true, Leiby Kletzky’s parents, however ravaged by guilt they undoubtedly are at this moment, did nothing wrong, and anyone who claims otherwise is a sinner of the first order. These two adults were engaged in that delicate dynamic that turns parenting into an art: the alternating two-step of protecting a child while slowly, thoughtfully allowing him progressively wider experiences of independence. That a madman allegedly stepped into this dance was a terrible fluke—or even, if you’re so inclined, an act of God. But as far as we mortals are concerned it was not the result of the Kletzkys’ misjudgments, and their son’s murder must not be turned into an excuse for self-punishment. Trying to make sense of this story is an understandable impulse, but it is deeply misguided. And there are, without question, enough victims already.

Ha’makom yenahem etkhem betokh she’ar avelei Zion v’Yerushalayim.

7 Blocks To Walk, Brooklyn Boy Never Got Home [NYT]
Leiby Kletzky Murder Suspect Levy Aron Confesses to Authorities [ABC]
Police, Hundreds of Volunteers Search for Missing Brooklyn Boy [NY Post]

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is a good source for the Chasidic community.

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

As one who regularly criticizes Tablet (to make it better, just like they justify their constant dumps on Israel), AN’s piece is very thoughtful and moving.


Devorah W says:

Would like to make a contribution in Leiby’s memory. Any information on whom to send it to? Thank you.

babawawa says:

Beautiful, thoughtful, moving. Anyone who is a parent knows this is all true. Anyone who believes in G-d knows that this death served a purpose, however painful that might be. And painful it is. Not just for the family, but for all Klal Yisroel.

B”H. This thought, “to be proud” has no bearing on the present situation, the people of the Jewish community should be despised in their own eyes. This feeling originates in the din of Egel Arufa, when the distance between one town and another is measured to determine whom has culpability for the death. I’m culpable in the death of this ingle kadosh because I think I can hide my aveiros by cutting up the evidence into small pieces of sheker. The way this schizophrenia works is each of us tries to convince enough “significant others” to believe his arrogant apprehension of his personal greatness until he is convinced its truth. The murderer would be adjudged for reason of “barbaric acts towards the deceased,” which anybody can assume what not what was on his mind at the time of his heinous acts will resulted in the death of another living being, G-d’s creation. When we’ll see the hate mongers calling for the death penalty we’ll again experience the disgust of “The way this schizophrenia works is each of us,” while we should be tearing kriyah on the deaths of both the victim, the perpetuator and ourselves unless we start to DESPISE OUR SINS until they are wrung out with tears and repentance and ardent striving v’ahavta l’rihecha until certain every act or thought we’ve communicated demonstrated our cleaving to the Creator

philip mann says:

@ Reb moshe zalman


Allan Leicht says:

Having written a movie about a similar horror in the ’80’s, Adam, the story of Adam Walsh and his parents, what I discovered in the course of that experience, was that evil exists. It changed my view of the world. Evil not only exists, but often comes in the most trusted of forms. I wish I could now, some thirty years after reliving the Walsh’s anguish, believe psychological, behavioral, societal or other explanations for Levi Aron, but I do not. I think I know what happened. He took the boy, there was some kind of struggle and he probably did not mean to, but he killed him. That was an accident. It was then his evil emerged. If Levi Aron were good, he would have confessed, faced the consequences and it would have been a psychological issue. But he did not. He tried to get away with it in the most monstrous way. One good thing comes out of this: as far as we know, this was Levi Aron’s first act of evil. Had the community and authorities not apprehended him, he would surely have claimed more victims. They always do. Thank G-d for the korban of Leibby. Hamakom yinachem atchem btoch shaar availey Tzion v’Yerushalayim.

hamakom yinachem…

Alexa says:

Such a thoughtful, sensitive piece, Alana! I’ve been so distraught over this tragedy, and even more so by all the attempts to rationalize it (blaming the parents, blaming the community, blaming technology). The only thing that comforts me is your acknowledgement here that sense cannot be made of something so senseless.

I think the sentiment is in the right place here, but it seems you may be overly troubled by the idea that the mobilization of the community had a role in this murder. (I also don’t see where it came from in that article.)

AM New York spoke with criminal psychologist Stanton Samenow (Sorry, it’s difficult to blockquote in the comments.):

Aron reportedly told cops he killed the boy in a panic, but that explanation didn’t wash with experts.

“That’s an after-the-fact statement offenders make,” to obscure actual motives, said Stanton Samenow, author of “Inside the Criminal Mind.” “There may have been sexual interest and there are very high odds there was sexual contact,” Samenow said.

Even in the ABC News article, the police commissioner expresses similar skepticism:

Kelly noted that police officers see a lot of violence, but said that usually “there’s usually some sort of irrational twisted logic” behind criminal deeds. “Here it defies all logic. That’s what’s so terribly distressing about this case. There’s nothing more innocent than an 8-year-old child.”

The actions the Jewish community took here were powerful, and it would be a shame to see their true impact distorted by “irrational twisted logic.”

charlie in FL says:

The entire premise of “the community mobilizing so effectively made the killer panic” assumes that this monster is actually telling the truth. You’ll forgive me if I side with the Hasidic community and not a disgusting sub-human that thinks it’s ok to take little boys home to watch tv and bring them home the next morning. (If that is even true, which I also doubt). Rest in peace young Leiby.

R. Miller says:

I second Philip’s reaction to Zalman’s truly fakakta and nonsensical rant. . .

Malka says:

My daughter started taking the bus on her own at 7 y.o. His parents certainly are not at fault. the world is full of wolves in sheep’s clothing, so unfortunate for this family. May God ease their pain.

Sharon says:

The murder of this little one is heartbreaking. And this monster’s confession has so many holes in it you can drive a truck through it. That he went into a “panic” when he discovered that people were looking for the child is incredible. Just what did he think was going to happen after a child goes missing? His statement that he took the child to a wedding that no one witnessed Leiby attending just doesn’t wash.

Authorities found ligature marks on the child’s ankles, which suggest he was tied up so he couldn’t leave while this subhuman went about his business.

One can just imagine that Lieby was begging to go home to his mother, who apparently was waiting for him at a Jewish bookstore a couple of blocks away. May G-d console his grieving parents.

Shmatahari says:

“This community was using all available tools to do what every community was meant to do: care for its own.”

Really? Didn’t anyone think of calling the cops?

Sharon says:

To my understanding of the tragedy, the Shomrin was working with the FBI and the local police to find this boy.


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A Community To Be Proud Of, a Death To Mourn

Leiby Kletzky prompted Hasidic community’s finest, saddest hours

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