The following is a letter from the Director of the Center for Applied Psychology (CAPs) at Bikur Cholim (Rockland County) to staff members and other members of the community.
I, as all of you, was deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the horrific events of the past days. Unfortunately, the acts of violence that we are hearing of are occurring with increasing frequency. As with all tragic events that strike a painful chord and resonate so deeply- our hearts go out to the victim(s) and their families- may they be blessed with profound and lasting nechama for their unimaginable loss and pain.
The show of support and care and unfortunately at the end, empathy and pain we shared with them is a clear indication of how we as a cohesive, caring and conscious community are connected together as a family.
But at this same moment we, the broader community, must introspect and think carefully of where we are; not reflect, G-d forbid, for the family or friends, but for us as a community as a whole. This is the natural and instinctive reaction of our people- at a moment of communal (and personal) suffering – nechapsah darchenu venachkorah- let us search our way and investigate. And whenever we are searching we can’t really go wrong because anything discovered is undoubtedly something from which we can grow.
My offering in this note is not as a seer of future or hidden things, but simply as an observer of the community and its patterns; struggles and successes.
The horrible events of the past days, and unfortunately of the past weeks, unforgivingly remind us that whatever can happen, “out there” can happen “in here” within the community. In that way we cannot be surprised, shocked or dismayed- this is part of the ongoing workings of the world- all of which makes its way to us. We cannot afford to be silent and pretend or wish that it was another way. We must be conscious of the challenges that lay, not in foreign soil, but in our own backyards and streets. The test for the Torah community is not that bad or harmful things not happen in its midst, since we are all human and plagued with many of the ills as outside the community- but rather the measure of the community is in its response to such adversity. This means owning the challenges, and there are many, as well as the resources and successes, and there are many.
As the pasuk in Mishlei clearly exhorts- tzaddik yodea nefesh behamto– the righteous know well their animal soul- by recognizing the difficult, and yes even dark sides of life, we are most poised to overcome and protect from it. Just as we approach the pinnacle of our spiritual strivings in purity on Yom Kippur mincha– we read parshas ha’arayios-the listing of prohibition of the most degenerate sexual relations- so as to say that even at this point of spiritual heights we must still own our basest human natures and adjust our teshuva accordingly; so too we, a community of lofty spiritual elevation, must always be vigilant and maintain a keen eye to what is not only possible, but, unfortunately, what too often is. This is not a denigration of the community, adaraba, such a response is it finest hour and a display of its greatest leadership.
We recognize well that we cannot just keep in isolation things that are uncomfortable or disturbing- that secrecy is simply not possible, nor even desired, as the worst things breed in darkness. Whatever tragic details unfold about this particular heinous crime whether it be as related to mental illness or child sexual abuse- one thing is clear- we must speak out- clearly, directly and forcefully about safeguarding our children. This of course goes far beyond the story of today. By discussing the up-to-now largely hidden topics of mental illness as well as child abuse in the frum community we give great hope and chizuk to those suffering, protect those at risk and allow the community to live up to its ideals of arvus– responsibility- for all of its members. This clarion call is not, G-d forbid, of hysteria, panic or helplessness– since those are nothing but destructive forces- rather of positive change as there are many good, tried and trustworthy places and people to turn to and things to do for all the challenges that may and do arise.
A simple example to all of what we mentioned comes in this incident itself. Most school age children of the community, whether they be in cheder, day camps, mesivta, sleep away camps or at home will likely hear of this painful and horrific story (or may have heard of other difficult and harrowing stories of the recent past), that is the nature of childhood- stories circulate quickly and usually with great elaboration- without our control. To ignore the story, therefore, is likely foolhardy and to do so allows children to develop their own narrative, perhaps fears, wrong beliefs, etc. about the story and make the traumatic story even worse. Therefore, in a proactive step parents should, at the appropriate level of the child, mention, without anxiety, drama or stress, the sadness that there was a boy who died and if they have any further questions they can discuss it with you the parents. In addition, the moment can, if appropriate, be used to reinforce the very simple concept of safety and privacy (i.e. “no one should touch you in your private parts or make you feel uncomfortable, if they do immediately tell a trusted adult or your parents”). While in this situation it seems to have been a stranger- and of course one should never get into a car or walk with a stranger, the large majority of incidents of abuse occur with people known to the child and familiarity is not protective (and the child must be specifically told “no matter who it is”).
By not allowing secrets, developing open communication and dealing outright with our challenges- as a community, as parents, families and individuals we will create a better environment for our personal and spiritual growth and ultimately be a greater receptacle for bracha and kavod shamyim.
May we share smachot, besurot tovot and no longer have suffering from which to learn,
Yitzchak Schechter Psy.D.
“Unfortunately, the acts of violence that we are hearing of are occurring with increasing frequency.”
Really? Murders are “occurring with increasing frequency”? Incorrect.
Thank you YWN for (allowing the) publishing (of) this letter. It is EXTREMELY important that the correct lessons be (finally) learned and long overdue good changes take place immediately in the community.
I find it very remarkable that over the last few days we have seen multiple Editorials regarding ways to prevent future tragedies, how to speak to our children etc, etc. While I find them to be very imformative and vital, it boggles my mind why there are no Editorials stating more deeper and spiritual thinkings. After all this tragedy is a clear message from Hashem. The message Hashem is trying to give us is a lot deeper then merely informing our kids about safety. There are serious problems in Klal Yisrael. There is extensive Sinas Chinam, lack of Tzenius with Jewish women, terrible decourm in our shuls. Do I need to go on? Why can’t leaders of various sects come together and make Shalom? Why cant people look past issues they may have with one another and treat each other with respect? I believe that if everyone makes a sincere effort in changing their spirtual being and being careful on different issues, it will be a tremendous nechamah for the family and a big melitz yosher for Leiby HYD. And it will definately prevent future tragedies.
THis tragedy is especially painful for the orthodox jewish community simply becaus ethere are virtually no know instances of such a horrible thing occuring within our midst from our midst.
Yes I know that many people love to say that “problems were always swept under the rug” however I fail to understand how it is even possible to suggest that “murders occured but they were swept under the rug”
Perhaps we as a community must realy be introspective and think whether we have allowed th culture around us to infiltrate to a point where no it is not problems that were swept under the rug, rather it is problems that did’nt exist when our methods of chinuch and entire culture were intrinsically different from that which surrounded us.
#3. “Editorials stating more deeper and spiritual thinkings” are not the realm of Ohel, Chai Lifeline or the center for Applied Phsycology. If you want to hear such an editorial, call your Rav.
“Murders are “occurring with increasing frequency”?”
Last week, there were ZERO this week, there was one. That is an intolerable increase. Oh, and in the world outside the friendly confines of BP it is unfortunately true. consider the following paragraphs from a story that you are free to read on nj.com
“Between Jan. 1 and July 10, there were 175 shootings in Newark, leaving 213 people dead or injured, according to police statistics. During the same period last year, there were 125 shootings and 161 victims.
The statistics were obtained today by The Star-Ledger less than 24 hours after a spate of drug-related violence on Monday left 11 people injured and a 15-year-old high school football player dead.”
As Mr. Schechter wrote, “whatever can happen, “out there” can happen “in here””.
what do you mean that this has never happened in our midst? It happened in Shoftim to the Pilegesh Givaah–bodily dismemberment. and that whole incident was earily similar to Lot in Sidom.
I’m no lomdan but I would imagine that we can learn something between this tragedy, the Piligesh Givaah, and Sidom.
to #1: the article said that ACTS OF VIOLENCE are occurring with increasing frequency. You are the one who said murders, not the article. And acts of violence ARE occurring with increasing frequency.
speaking of pilegesh bigivaah remember how the jewish people reacted. the entire nation got involved in making sure that such a tragedy will be avenged.
I believe that speaking about the horrific details of Leiby A”H’s Petirah has no place. The parents and the family are struggling enough with their terrible loss. The details of the “how” and the “what” only make for more interesting embellishments, but for the family it makes their Nisayon that much greater. I am sure that they could have done without knowing all the details of exactly how Leiby’s life was taken.
I wish there would be less coverage of this story. What will happen now? We will interest ourselves in the next few weeks in the court trial of this Animal? More gruesome details, more gabber and chatter. For what?
If they’re smart enough, they should remove the “suicide watch” from Levi Ymch’Sh, and allow him to put himself to sleep the best way he knows how and rush his soul as quickly as possible over to Gehinnom, where Hashem alone will avenge Leiby’s blood..
Furthermore, how can we abide by all this bashing of our holy Yidden? Yes, we always need to improve ourselves, and everybody needs to make their own Cheshbon Hanefesh as to what they themselves need to correct. As for the whole Klal Yisroel, let it be said that no other nation can own up to the amount of Chessed and caring as the Jewish Nation.
This was a test, perhaps a hard test, but Klal Yisroel proved just that. We are the Eibershter’s children and we are here for one another.
I think Hashem is smiling to us, now. We should expect good things to come!
I believe we were warned to kill Amelek before he took residence among us . . . Amalek is defined as the Yetzer Hara – the first nation, and a decendent of Eisav – our enemy until the end of the days before Moshiach . . .
The answer to the question we are all asking, as to what should we learn from this (and WHY did this happen) can be found very clearly from the Torah in the war from Amalek. The man who killed Leiby, Z’l acted just like Amalek and was also successful in kidnapping and killing our dear Yehuda ben Nachman, Z’l the SAME way our people died in the war with Amelek. The reason Amalek was able to lure out (or kidnap – through false pretenses) our people and mutilate them like this, was because the Jewish people began to doubt that Hashem was truly among them and therefore quarreled with Him by “putting their complaint in the form of a challenge” (Artscroll commentary on Parshas Beshalach 17 (2-9) regarding the water they awaited. “They should have realized by now that He(Hashem) was their Healer and Provider”. Moshe reminded them that the way to express their needs is through prayer, not insolent challenges. When they did not do this, Amalek attacked and was successful (EXACTLY what we have seen here with Yehuda Z”l – who was the korben to remind of us this principle in the Torah). We must all begin to thank Hashem that only one of us has been taken in this way, and try to stop such events IMMEDIATELY before things get worse, has v’shalom.
But here is the greatest most INSPIRING part of the Parsha which we are seeing repeated today:
After Amalek began to attack (NOW PLEASE – LET’s NOT WAIT TO RESPOND IN THE RIGHT WAY), The Jews began to LEARN TORAH AND PRAY FERVENTLY. Moshe Rabbeinu prayed the most fervently and held up his hands – he did not let them drop in the battle (this is the definition of EMUNA), until finally, Hashem stopped the sun (interrupting the NORMAL way the world runs) and helped them win the war, which IMMEDIATELY PRECEDED the coming of Yisro, who validated the miracles Hashem did for the Jews before Har Sinai.
Our GEULAH – and the ultimate end of Amalek – WILL ONLY COME WHEN WE JOIN AS A NATION TO BELIEVE THAT HASHEM IS WITH US, PRAY TO HIM, AND LEARN HIS TORAH AS WE WERE COMMANDED TO DO!!!.
It’s really not as hard as people think, and I suggest we all start doing our jobs right now. The key to our success is today is to follow in the ways of our forefathers and be like Moshe – DON’T LET YOUR HANDS DOWN. Don’t let the cell phones, computers, and other gadgets distract you into worldly matters. Start praying now – teaching others to learn Torah BCHOL LEVAVECHA – and the geula will come. Hatzlochah and may we merit it soon and in our IMMEDIATE days!
We don’t do capital punishment in new York and that’s where the crime took place.