I just received an invitation to join a facebook page called ” 100,000 for Leiby Kletzky“. This young boy, as reported by every major Jewish news agency, was abducted and cruelly murdered in his home neighborhood in Brooklyn while walking home from camp.
This story touched a nerve with every parent, those who let their kids walk home and those who don’t. This is a parent’s nightmare. The week after, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik at the New York Board of Rabbis announced that “We have just received a special request from the Kletzky family to light an additional Sabbath candle this evening in memory of Leiby Kletzky z”l. Please share this information with your community.”
Beyond sympathy for the family and the community I had two reactions.
First, like Lenore Skenazy in A Note to Parents Worried Their Child Will Be Next ,I think it is ridiculous to use this incident to change the way we raise our children. She says
That’s exactly how some of us feel when we try to explain that the Leiby Kletzky murder, horrible as it was, should have no influence on whether we let our kids go outside. A one-off, one-time incident should not make us blind to the reality that our kids are safer than ever on the streets….
The truth is, New York City is at a 50-year low in its murder rate. Our streets are safer now than when most of today’s parents were growing up — and that goes for the rest of the country, too: Crime is lower today than it was in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, when our parents let us walk around the neighborhood. To lock today’s children inside because of this one murder makes as much sense as never walking in Central Park again because last year a baby was killed by a falling tree branch.
I’d like to elaborate: Driving your child somewhere is less safe than letting them walk alone.The US homicide rate for children 4.2/100,000 is- the majority of whom are killed not by strangers but by parents and relatives and most homicides occur in the first few days of life and then their first year of life. (Less where I live in Canada). The US death in motor vehicles for children is 8.5/ 100,000 (data from Child Death Review). This view is well explained in Keeping Kids Safe from the Wrong Dangers.
Second, the horrible truth we must face as parents is that there are no guarantees. ( For a traditional Jewish take see Psalm 49 and more ). Even though to get through each day I must pretend it is not true- I know that innocent, sweet children whose parents love them and try to protect them from all harm, do die. They die in cars, in pools and of diseases like cancer. When that happens, where is our mass outpouring of communal support? Where are their candles?