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Searching for Leiby

Searching for Leiby

Along with the tragic ending, there was the unprecedented show of unity and love.


The last few days have felt as if a blur. Monday blended into Tuesday, and tonight, after paying my respects at Leiby Kletzky's funeral, I realized with a startle that it was already Wednesday evening; the week had passed by, and the sleepless nights and search-filled days all merged into one extended nightmare.

After the adrenaline and caffeine-fueled hours of searching came to a close, and after struggling today to make sense of it all, there is one story here that must be told.

There was a horrific incident, that is certain, but the horrors and nightmarish details that have been haunting us are not the story of Leiby Kletzy. They are the story of a sociopath, a malformed personality, a murderer.

Related Article: Shocked into Silence

There is the story of a community that came together in an unprecedented display of Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God's Name. The religious communities of the five boroughs and beyond came together in a show of unity and sense of duty that is at once inspiring and humbling. It has a tragic ending, but the story itself is a story of love and dedication, the likes of which are not often seen on this scale.

The main search efforts were based out of several locations in Boro Park, and as the numerous news sites and photos online attest, they were orders of magnitude larger than any community effort in recent memory. And for a few hours last night, a search was mounted in Flatbush as well, its command post set up in the parking lot on East 12th and Ave M.

Midwood Chapel and Glatt Mart graciously arranged to allow access to the lot for organizing a Flatbush-based search. Hatzoloh of Flatbush supplied an ambulance to use as a base of operations, Amazing Savings supplied flashlights, food came from numerous sources, Pomegranate dropped of cases of water - the support for the effort was astounding.

At 9 pm a call to action went out, requesting volunteers to proceed to the lot.

At 9:05 we assigned our first search grid. As I gave instructions to the first pair of volunteers I wondered to myself how we would ever get enough people together to cover Flatbush, a very large geographical area.

By 9:30 there were 50 people lining up to request search grids. By 10:00 that number had swelled to over 300.

We assigned over 300 grids to an estimated 1,300 volunteers.

All told, we assigned over 300 grids to an estimated 1,300 volunteers. These included driving grids, walking grids, parks, transportation hubs, shuls and school yards, boardwalks, 24 hour stores, subway stations, avenues and side streets.

After assigning the grids, I drove through Flatbush, and was astounded by what I saw. Every pole and streetlight had a poster prominently mounted on it, there were groups of searchers to be found on nearly every block - their bobbing flashlight beams a testimony to the dedication of the volunteers who came out.

15,000 flyers were distributed and taped to every surface imaginable. Searching parties covered every street from Ocean Parkway to Ocean Ave, from Church Ave to Oriental Boulevard in Manhattan Beach.

I am still in awe of the response that the community showed, I am still humbled by the outpouring of support and concern that Leiby inspired.

This is the story of Leiby Kletzky.

It's the story of community volunteering on a staggering scale. It's the story of an extraordinary power, the power that drives one Jew to feel concern and pain for another, a power that provided the momentum for a search that saturated the streets of Flatbush with people whose motivation was pure, whose intentions were pure, and who were driven by the unrelenting engine of loving fellow Jews.

Related Article: A Message for All Jews

Leiby was a humble and pure child. The eulogies at his funeral attested to his warm and holy nature, and to the extraordinary love of God that his parents have.

But humble and shy does not a weak child make. Leiby had the strength to unite a community in a way that no other cause ever has. Chassidim and Litvish, Sefardim and every other walk of Jewish life were represented in Flatbush last night. There were groups of teens on bikes, and older couples on foot. There were car loads of students, professionals, husband and wife teams, the demographic that showed up included everybody, united everybody.

Leiby Kletzy, a pure neshama, gave Klal Yisrael a chance to shine.

Click here to donate to The Leiby Kletzky Memorial Fund

July 17, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 14

(10) Anonymous, July 24, 2011 5:04 PM

The antidote to Leiby's murder is Ahavas Chinom

That Tuesday night, I came home by way of Landau's Shul where I davened Maariv amidst a forest of Leiby posters. Doing hisbodedus during my davening, I, visualized Leiby in Kensington between Avenues C and Cortelyou. When I got home a few minutes later, with police and Shomrim there. I questioned them why they were in Midwood? The answers were nonsensical. Total nonsense. Not, "we need achdus", but nonsense. The search could have been anywhere! Rather than go to the command center a block away, I went to bed. I vaguely knew the murderer, before I moved to Midwood, he lived two houses away. I felt as if there wasn't enough Ahavas Yisroel on the block and that this was also acutely felt by Aron. I had the good sense to leave that shul in search of a friendlier place. So, I was not surprised to hear that Rabbi Mattisyahu Salomon recently met with my shocked former neighbors and urged them to resolve to practice Ahavas Chinom. It took an unprecedented heinous crime, which will stain that block for years for them to hear that perhaps they hadn't been friendly enough. I am not the fiirst person who felt the chilly atmosphere on that block. I remember discussing the matter with a neighbor, who admitted how she also felt that the block was unfriendly. I left and moved to Midwood. Midwood also needs Rabbi Salomon's message. How many shuls in Midwood have an Hachnosas Orchim commttee? I have not heard of a single one! Achdus? Try walking into a shul without feeling like an alien. Yes, there are wonderful exceptions in every neighborhood. More needs to be done. I did the Census in my neighborhood. The reader would be shocked at what I experienced. Good and very Bad. The so-called religious Jew, who chased and threatened me with arrest in shul several times for having the audacity to do my job at his house . The family that wouldn't open their door to just anyone! The open hostility. Odd behavior for a so-called religious kehillah.

(9) Elaine Soven, July 22, 2011 5:49 PM

A note of condolence

I wanted to express my condolences to the family of this precious little boy. I live in Dallas and as a Baal Tshuva, I continue to be amazed at the outpouring of love and concern for a fellow Jew - one who we never had the chance to even know. I am so sorry for your unimaginable loss. May you find comfort knowing how many people truly cared.

(8) Anonymous, July 18, 2011 6:28 PM

love every Jew, yes. But their choices????

Jill, you are right that we have to respect every Jew, even more than that, love him. We are all brothers and sisters, all children of Avraham and Sarah. We all stood at Har Sinai together. Respect is not enough, there has to be love. When I doven (pray) every morning, and say the mornings blessings Birchot Hashachar) I say the parts for every Jew with all the intensity I can muster up. Also on the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh, for every Jew, where ever he is. And when the Visit the Sick Society I belong to sends me to a sick woman, it doesn't matter what her beliefs are, if she's a Jew in need, that's enough. BUT loving her and accepting the belief system she has, are two separate things. I may love my siblings but if one of them is literally destroying our home , and is disloyal to my parents, I do not have to accept this. And this is for two reasons, one , it is not good for my sibling himself, and two, it is not good for our home to be destroyed. Perhaps you are not aware of this but Judaism is slowily being destroyed, G-d forbid. There are places in the U.S and the world at large where the intermarriage rate is between %50-%70. This is a siient holocaust and any Jew who loves the Jewish people and who loves G-d cannot say, okay, go ahead and destroy. My heart aches for every Jewish soul lost. So many are not to blame. They weren't taught about Judaism, very often don't even know they are Jews. It is a pity on them. How many lost Jews out there!! According to the US Constitution a person can believe what he wants, but not according to the Jewish constitution, the Torah. And by the way,it is the Reform and Concervative who made a division amongst Jews. We Orthodox have been acting the same way since the time of Avraham Avinu, when H-shem made a covenant with him because he promised to bring up his children in G-d's way, and we are following the Torah which we were commanded on Sinai. So who broke away and caused devision?

gabriel hoefle, August 7, 2011 9:27 PM

I don't agree, but I understand and defend your opinion.

I don't agree , but I understand and defend and will share your opinion with others, and they can make up their own minds. What I do beleive is that truth is seldom black or white,,, usually all shades of grey have to be considered. Shalom !

(7) MESA, July 17, 2011 11:57 PM

When Suri Feldman went missing in 1994, so many fellow Jews volunteered to help search, help the family, and daven for her, and it was a Kiddush Hashem. B"H, she was found alive and reasonably unharmed. When Josh Bender went missing in 1998, again there were so many fellow Jews who helped. At YU and Stern, we had tehillim groups that were packed to the rafters. Even though his story ended tragically, it was still a Kiddush Hashem. And now, when Leiby Kletsky went missing, fellow Jews came together to help. And we all cried for him and his family. Only we Jews can carry on like this over someone we didn't even know. Mi K'Amcha Yisrael.

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