[By: Yaakov Gold]
The last few days have felt as if a blur, Monday blended into Tuesday, and tonight, after paying my respects at the Levaya, 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, I have come to the conclusion that there are several stories that can be told here, and only one that actually should be told.
There is the story of Leiby, the story of his killer, the story of each one’s respective families, and the story of a community that came together in an unprecedented display of Kiddush Shaim Shomaim.
There was a horrific incident, that is certain, but the horrors and nightmarish details that have been haunting us for the past 15 hours are not the story of Leiby Kletzky.
They are the story of a sociopath, a malformed personality, a murderer – and certainly that is not a story worth repeating, nor is it a story worth hearing.
The story of Leiby on the other hand, is an inspiring one. It is the story of the Frum communities of the 5 boroughs and beyond coming together in a show of Achdus 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 – but for a few hours last night, a search was mounted in Flatbush as well, it’s 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, Hatzolah of Flatbush supplied an ambulance to use as a base of operations, Amazing Savings supplied flashlights, food came from numerous sources, Pomegranate dropped off cases of water – the support for the effort was astounding.
At 9 PM YWN put out a call to action, 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 will 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. Reinforcements were needed for crowd control and grid assignments, and the dozen Flatbush Shomrim volunteers who showed up took up the challenge with quiet efficiency.
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.
All told 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.
And this folks, is the story of Leiby Kletzky.
It’s the story of community volunteering on a staggering scale. Its 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 Ahavas Yisroel.
And despite its tragic ending, it remains a beautiful story.
Leiby, was a humble and pure child, the Hespedim at his funeral attested to his warm and holy nature – and to the extraordinary Ahavas Hashem that his parents have.
But humble and shy does not make a child weak. Leiby had the strength to unite a Kehila in a way that no other cause ever has. Chassidim and Litfish, 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.
There you have the story of Leiby Kletzky, a pure Neshama who gave Klal Yisroel a chance to shine.
And that’s the only story worth telling.