Op-Ed: Leiby Got Lost, Like Us

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[By Bracha Goetz]

Our children all over the world were praying for Leiby to be protected.  Instead Leiby is now able to help all these same children be more protected. 

The children were asked to daven, and so afterward they asked what happened.  Our pure and innocent korbon is finally enabling many other innocent children to learn that predators are among us.

This week one secular newspaper made the following comment about the insular nature of our communities: “The gates that keep the crazies out might actually be keeping them in.”  These words should not be so easily dismissed.  Rabbi Yakov Horowitz has written about our situation repeatedly, and it is highlighted in his article, “The Monster Inside.” 

In just one paragraph from this important piece, he writes: A close friend of mine runs a shelter/group home for charedi runaway kids. I recently ran into him at a wedding and asked him what his thoughts were on the correlation between abuse and the off-the-derech phenomenon. His immediate response was, “Yankie, all I deal with is abuse [victims]…”

Rabbi Yitzchok Alderstein wrote these words on Cross-Currents this week: It is natural and good that many people were not eager to rush to modes of address that themselves could be too sweeping and harsh, with terrible consequences to people and their families. They thought that various types of modus vivendi were possible. By now they should realize that this is not true. Rabbonim cannot handle the issue. We have enough evidence of this. Failure to take notice of this could have been said, figuratively, to be shefichas damim / bloodshed.

Abuse exists among all peoples.  It is how we respond to the predators in our midst, though, that can enable us to become the shining lights we are meant to be in this world.  If we continue to be complacent and cover up for them, no matter how frum they may appear, and no matter what their status in our communities, we show that we care more about the dangerous evildoers than about their innocent victims. 

Our rodfim need to be quarantined.  And our Rabbonim, as much as they may want to and as much as they may have tried, do not have the ability to monitor the predators in our midst.  This form of response has resulted in our sweet way of life becoming a far too ideal breeding ground for abusers.   

Religious trappings have always been great to hide behind.  And the purest of all ways of life can, therefore, provide the greatest hiding place of all.

In Pirkei Avot, 4:13, we learn that “One who performs a mitzva earns a defense counsel, and one who transgresses earns a prosecutor; teshuva and good actions are a shield against calamity.”  Throughout the Torah, we see that this insight into spiritual cause and effect, corresponds to what has happened to our people throughout history.

We can do teshuva as we begin to teach all of our unprotected children about personal safety through calm and clear prevention education, as a shield against torment.  We can do teshuva and begin to report all of our rodfim (those who are a danger to safety) directly to the police, as a shield against cruelty.  And we can do teshuva by listening and providing much-needed support to all the survivors of rodfim that are still with us.

Through stepping up to protect and provide needed safety for our children, those who are the purest and the most vulnerable, may Our Father provide us with the safety and protection we need. 

Courage is required in order to fulfill our mission so that we can become a light to the nations in the most base area of all, the defilement of our innocent children.    May our teshuva through these good actions bring us, and consequentially the whole world, to a place of the greatest spiritual refinement. 

We have all gotten lost.  We are all responsible for the saddest ending.  Now we can begin to return Home.

Bracha Goetz coordinates a Jewish Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program in Baltimore, Maryland and is the Harvard-educated author of fifteen children’s books, including Remarkable Park , What Do You See in Your Neighborhood?  and The Invisible Book.  You can reach Bracha Goetz at [email protected]

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

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