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Jul 15 2011

Why Leiby Kletzky Matters

By at 10:37 am

Mourning Leiby.

Leiby Kletzky (z”l)* was kidnapped this past Monday. He allegedly slept in his attacker’s home that night and was found dismembered on Tuesday.

The words lose meaning as I utter them: kidnapped, attacker, dismembered – all lose meaning when we think of a mother and father being told how their son was found. Leiby will never come home again.

The cynics among us will cry out: Poor Leiby…but what about the others? What about the children murdered every day in our own cities, gentile and Jew alike? Why do we care so much about the story of a Hasidic child murdered in Borough Park?

The story draws attention to a sick and solitary man who clearly demonstrated a history of significant mental health problems but was left to attack Leiby. The story draws attention to an insular and very private community of religious Jews that many of us know little about; a community often disparaged simply because we don’t know much about them.

But do you know why I care so much about Leiby Kletzky and his family? Because as Jews, we grieve for this family. We as a people lost Leiby Kletzky.

Jews are an ancient tribe who have been dispersed throughout the world over thousands of years of a difficult history. And wherever we land, we maintain a connection. We rejoice together across the world, and we mourn together when a child is murdered.

Almost 8,000 mourners gathered in Borough Park to honor Leiby Kletzky.

Judaism is about finding and creating beauty. It is fun and happy and silly and delicious. And sometimes it is tragic, mournful and full of despair. There are days we set apart to experience grief as a global community such as Tisha B’Av (August 9 this year), where we sit on the ground as in mourning, and we refrain from luxuries, indulgences, and niceties. We Jews know joy, but we also know grief.

It is taught that in the present world, we are protected from knowing the true reality of suffering that exists. If we felt it, we would never stop crying.

There will come a time when we are released from the chains of the pain of this world. In this “World to Come,” we will be free to mourn the loss of beauty of innocence that our imperfect world allows. It may seem counterintuitive that mourning that loss allows us to release it. But I have to believe it will be so.

And in the World to Come,  Leiby Kletzky will be home again. May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion.

*a Hebrew expression for “may his memory be a blessing.”

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