It is now more than 24 hours since 9-year-old Leibby Kletzky disappeared on his way home from day camp. Is there a lesson that must be learned from this sad and terrifying episode?
left the Boyan Day Camp located at 1205 44th Street at approximately 5 PM this afternoon. The missing youngster, who answers to the name Leibby, has light brown hair, black glasses and was wearing a grey and light blue striped shirt, navy pants, black sneakers, a blue knapsack bearing the words “Nechmod Day Camp” at the time of his disappearance. Surveillance cameras from nearby businesses show the boy walking up 13th Avenue to 50th Street but there is no footage of Leibby after that point.
So he walked alone for at least 7 blocks, a 9-year-old child, in a very big city where child molestation, child kidnappings and other dangers lurk.
There is now a $100,000 reward for his safe return.
I hesitated to write about this while Leibby is still missing, but the urgency of the situation compels me to write it now.
No 9-year-old should be walking home alone across Brooklyn or any other city.
It is not safe.
I do not know the Kletzky family and I have no idea what their parenting is like.
But I do know that ultra-Orthodox parents, overwhelmed by large families and often by poverty, as well, tend to allow their children to do things without adult supervision that few non-ultra-Orthodox parents would allow.
Ultra-Orthodox parents are themselves soften naive. They may be completely unaware of child sexual abuse, and their avoidance of non-ultra-Orthodox media makes them less aware (or unaware) of the child kidnappings that plague society.
Ultra-Orthodox papers do not cover child sexual abuse.
In fact, they won't even print the word "sex" or the word "rape."
Basic child safety is not dealt with.
In the same way, many ultra-Orthodox schools do not teach child safety to their students, who often never learn about proper and improper touch or the dangers of accepting rides or candy from strangers.
I hope Leibby Kletzky (Yehuda ben Esther) is returned to his family swiftly and safely.
But I don't want to see any more missing ultra-Orthodox children.
Agudath Israel of America, Torah u'Mesora, and the various other ultra-Orthodox organizations and schools need to teach basic child safety in their schools and to the parents who belong or affiliate.
And no school or camp should allow a 9-year-old to walk home alone.
You, the leaders of ultra-Orthodoxy, have a responsibility to these children, and you need to stop shirking it in favor of your extreme understanding of modesty – an understanding that goes well beyond what Jewish law calls for, and which very well may been complicit in the injury of many of your children.