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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Resist Using Tragedy to Prompt a Agenda

Words cannot express the deep emotion that so many people feel for the Boro Park family who lost their sweet boy to pure evil. The emotions are shared by Americans nationwide and people throughout the world. The murder was so gruesome and unfathomable, and for those in the Jewish community, the pain is only compounded by the fact that the murder himself is one of us a member of the tribe.
I was surprised to see just how many Op-Ed's quickly surfaced, which is to be expected in the age of communication. But I really think it important to be careful, take a deep breath, take in the pain, and resist using this tragedy to play Navi or promote an agenda. We will never know the reason why Hashem allowed this boy's young life to be snuffed out and to insinuate reasons is incredibly presumptuous, perhaps even damaging when emotions run high. This is not to say that we should not be engaging in individual and communal introspection, each community and each man or woman examining.

I see little productive purpose in an organization coming in and drawing a correlation for the mourners of Israel (and attempting to raise money for their cause). This is an incredible and painful travesty, one for which we should be careful not to point fingers too quickly. And, furthermore (!) there are immediate pressing needs, particularly the important material and spiritual needs of the family in the present.

Now I'd like to say something about the third leg what is being promoted to "boost the kedusha" of Klal Yisael: tznius. (Note: I have no objection to tackling addictions or molestation or even tzniut issues). But, I believe the focus on tznius vis a vis one singular aspect (female dress) is extremely damaging. In this case, it is even more insidious. Mothers everywhere are taking a look at their parenting. They are trying to figure out where more supervision is needed and where freedom is age-appropriate. They are trying to figure out how much to supervise, how much to educate, how much to hover, how much to step back. . . . . are the talk being circulated tells women, mothers, girls that the goal is that we all have to "look invisible."

Let's resist using this horrific, horrific event to promote agendas. Let's step back, allow the emotions and logic to reach an equilibrium, and then perhaps publish editorials.

[Update: also see Rabbi Chaim B. of Divrei Chaim post "Crass" who is right to the point: "
I don't even want to discuss whether anyone can claim understanding of why Hashem would allow a child's life to be taken. To advertise in this way is not a philosophical or theological affront -- it is simply vulgar and crass. It's not a matter of a warped sense of Torah values, but a matter of a complete lack of derech eretz and common decency." Amen selah].

Two notes:
1. I'm turning on comment moderation for right now. Comment moderation has been turned off for now.

2. A note to a particular reader who will likely comment: while I do not normally engage in listening to these chizuk, tznius speeches, I have family that is very into this, so I'm not in the dark as to what these talks consist of.


Anonymous said...

The murder was so gruesome and unfathomable, and for those in the Jewish community, the pain is only compounded by the fact that the murder himself is one of us.

Thanks for the post. One point:

I know that the words "one of us" are just using a common expression, but there is no "us" and "them". There is only the human race, 99.9999999% of which would never even consider taking part in such an evil act. Please, please do what you can to spread the idea that "us" and "them" is an outdated notion.

Anonymous said...

I feel terrible for this boy's family and agree that those with their own agenda need to resist the urge to pile on. I think, however, that if any postive comes out of this horrible event it should prompt parents to increase their supervision of thier children and raise awareness when it comes to getting mentally ill people in our community the help they need.

Orthonomics said...

Anon 5:18PM, "us" as in "member of the tribe." Will clarify.

There is absolutely no us. vs. them here. None at all. The world sees the evil for what it is. Heck, the other prisoners heckled this murderer.

rosie said...

I like the idea of giving a tax break to promote the installation of more security cameras on residences and businesses.
I would also hope that schools and camps would embark on a safety campaign and that parents would postpone allowing their children to experience independence.
I would also hope that police would act faster in missing children's cases so that it would not all be in the domain of the shomrim but at the same time, I would hope that more individuals give volunteer time to act as shomrim.

Max said...

"I would also hope that schools and camps would embark on a safety campaign and that parents would postpone allowing their children to experience independence. "

No, no, no. That is the worst lesson that can be learned from this tragedy. Parents are already far more overprotective than at any time in history; meanwhile, violent crime has gone down since the 1950's but we hear about every terrible event due to the ubiquity of the media. A freak occurrence such as this does not mean children should "postpone allowing their children to experience independence". Parents should be aware of their children's individual strengths and weaknesses, and educate their children about what to do if lost or if approached by a stranger.

I sincerely hope that when my children are 8 or 9 years old I am able to correctly assess their maturity and ability to walk 6 blocks by themselves, and allow them to do so if appropriate.

Anonymous said...

This is both a personal tragedy and a community tragedy. However, I am physically ill from the songs, dances, editorials and fundraising "in the name of" this loss. I find the immediate transition into a tightening of "tznius patrol" or "loshon hora" extremely offensive.

Anonymous said...

Rosie said « I would also hope that police would act faster in missing children's cases so that it would not all be in the domain of the shomrim but at the same time, »

While I agree that it would be best for everyone to work together I'm sorry but I must repectfully disagree about the police acting faster. The police can only act when they have been notified. In this case about two to two and a half hours after the boy went missing. I think everyone did the best that they could given the situation.

rosie said...

Max, in my day (I am a grandparent) children walked to kindergarten by themselves. Today we have more traffic and more people who endanger children as well as more distractions for children. Personally, I would rather err on the side of over-protection than on the side of chance taking. I would rather be the parent whose child will probably learn to drive himself across the street before he is given permission to walk across that street.
If parents want to give their children more freedom, let them move to a yishuv in the Shomron where families know each other and traffic is minimal.
It takes a village to raise a child.

Avi said...

Max is right. The Wall Street Journal had a shocking statistic. There were 20,000 children reported missing in the New York area in the past year. Guess how many were abducted by strangers?


I have children that age and I still cannot imagine the horrible pain this family is going through. This tragedy was so shocking and terrible beyond words. I understand the instinct to vastly overreact. Just realize that doing so can ruin an entire generation of children. It is actually safer to let your kids play and walk independently today than in any time in recent history - and that's before you consider the technological leashes you can employ. Keep them indoors and they'll never get the benefits of exercise. Keep them under constant parental supervision and they'll never gain proper independence. Make them fear every stranger and they will not be able to properly interact with "strangers" - which, quite literally means anyone you do not know. A stranger can help you find directions if you're lost, or can be your coworker, or your spouse.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine what this poor mother must be going through- the guilt of should she have let her child walk alone...
Unfortunately, in life many times it is only with hindsight that you look back and can learn what little things you could have done differently . I don't feel the mother was wrong to let her child walk alone and I do believe that this sick man would have eventually harmed someone.
With hindsight, and only with hindsight, there are two things I learned from this story: One, always have a plan B in case the child gets lost anyway- such as ask a store owner to help you-( but don't get into a car) or go into a doctor's office etc...if no policemen are around.
The second point that came to me was after learning that this murderer panicked when seeing the missing child poster- perhaps the poster should be worded-" Be a Hero- if you have seen or taken this child- please let us know where he is. If you have any info, please call..." You don't want a flyer to panic the abductor and caution should be used in the wording- especially since the abductor may be mentally ill.
Anyway, just my 2 cents. But in no way do I blame this child's mother...

aunt of nephew aka female life actuary said...

I have to agree with Max. My son's day camp instituted a no walking home policy when this happened. The day camp only starts with 10 year olds. I was very upset. My house is less than a mile from the school where the day camp is and it takes less than 15 minutes to walk. To keep the bus routes routes fair whoever gets picked up last (him since we live the closest) gets dropped off last - so it took over an hour for him to come home the one day he took the bus. I wrote a note that he should be allowed to walk home but they didn't want to let him. So I've been picking him up myself since I have to be home to receive him anyway and it is a 2 minute car ride. But I don't think the camp should be allowed to make such a policy. It is my right as a parent to allow my child independence. He is 11.5 and there are no turns at all, just a straight .9 mile walk. The city would require him to walk to school if it was in NYC (since it is Nassau he does get a school bus).
And what this has to do with tzniut?

Donna said...

Max is right, this tragedy was not due to allowing the boy to walk, it was one thing and one thing alone, the act of a mad man.

Larry Lennhoff said...

I agree about the importance of not raising our children in fear.

conservative scifi said...

I wish you wouldn't have said "why Hashem allowed this boy's young life to be snuffed out". Hashem gave each of us free will, so that we are not automatons. As someone else pointed out, most people exercise their free will responsibly and do not harm others. When a person chooses to do evil, it is their choice, not the choice of Hashem, who created them with free will.

Dave said...

I like the idea of giving a tax break to promote the installation of more security cameras on residences and businesses.

Out of curiosity, how does this work with Shabbos? Especially if there is back end work being done automatically on the video image?

Bob Miller said...

For every child there is an appropriate level and type of independence---it's not only a matter of age. Even when general guidelines are necessary, they are not sufficient to cover each person's situation.

Anonymous said...

In your title, I think you meant to say, "Tragedy," rather than "Travesty."

Orthonomics said...

Anonymous--You are correct. I had a different title in the making, and changed it, but not completely. The travesty has to do with the use of agendas.

Aunt of nephew-If you have re: lashon hara and this terrible tragedy, please forward to me at orthonomics at gmail dot come.

I have to say that I was struck by the search photos that there were no women. I said to my husband at the time (who is a wonderful person but can't find a thing!) that it really it might be a good idea to have some women's search crews out there. Now, perhaps there were girls and women brainstorming and searching and there are simply no published pictures. Should it be that women are not welcome in these types of operations it could very well be that the invisible-tzniut agenda is the very opposite one that should be presented in response.

Same for lashon hara. What we should be hearing about is when to speak, not when not to speak. I think I might right about this next because it is a subject that I'm constantly going over with my oldest who seems to have been educated on hilchot lashon hara in the playground!

Orthonomics said...

Conservative SciFi-Trying to balance decree with free will. I absolutely tend to the free will side of things and do not engage in thinking that Hashem wanted this.

Anonymous said...

Why when the police had these videos which eventually solved the case, did it take all day Tuesday before the police contacted the dentist and identified the perpetrator? This sounds like an awful lot of wasted time to me. It's an entire day and a half wasted on futile searches, when the perp and his dentist were right on the video. Video monitoring by police should be the first step in investigating a missing child.

Bob Miller said...

Often, when a major tragic event occurs, one faction's spokesmen say "It's because many of us did X", while another faction's spokesmen say "It's because many of us did Not-X". The Shoah is like that; many analyses in hindsight by Zionists and anti-Zionists came to diametrically opposed conclusions. It somehow seems hard just to tell the public, "We have no real explanation, but now we should all try to do our best".

rosie said...

If over protection saves lives, what is wrong with over protection? Every summer there are accidents and drownings (remember the child who fell 10 stories down the elevator shaft) that could have been prevented by some adult supervision. The child that was murdered had rehearsed the walk with his parents but forgot what they taught him when it came time to go by himself.
My parents were over protective in contrast to our neighbors but at least we all survived to adulthood.

Miami Al said...


Over-protectiveness saves lives. Living in a bubble saves lives. Forsaking automobiles saves lives.

There are tradeoffs.

One of the tradeoffs here is less independence, both in terms of enjoying childhood and learning from it. Those opportunities to express oneself and grow as a child are part of how the child learns to be an adult.

"My parents were over protective in contrast to our neighbors but at least we all survived to adulthood."

I don't mean to sound callous, perhaps you lived in a more dangerous neighborhood than I did, but all children living to adulthood is the norm, not the exception, in modern America.

You know of the life that could have been saved by not allowing children to talk home.

You'll never be able to measure the impact on the children from losing that freedom, but it's real and there.

dovy said...

>My parents were over protective in contrast to our neighbors but at least we all survived to adulthood.<

Are you saying that your neighbors' kids did not grow up to adulthood?

In any case, based on your logic, why let people drive at all -- afterall, if nobody drove ,there wouldn't be a single traffic fatality!

Anonymous said...

afff(0) says
This crime was totally unnatural. I would say unheard of. To just kidnap a child and kill him for no apparent reason.
The gemoro comes to mind. Hashem will take a away the gedolim (now on three continents)and if that does not help then the children.
It is not tsnius which is the problem. No its no use blaming everything on the women. The men are the problem. For instance not one rov of note has stood up for what goes on in skver.

thegameiam said...


If we could "save" lives by lowering every speed limit to 5mph, would you think we should do so?

I personally don't like the phrase "save lives"- we all will die, and our conduct while we are alive is the only thing under our control. At some point, people need to be able to walk a few blocks alone. Whether you think that should be at 6 years or at 16 years, the child will experience fear. Overcoming that is a key part of growing into a healthy adult.

rosie said...

I don't think that there is anything unhealthy about parental supervision. I don't think that parents who have lost a child due to lack of supervision feel that their child died a "natural" and unavoidable death.
Several years ago, 2 frum girls aged 12 and 14 were swimming alone in a hotel pool on a Saturday night and drowned while the parents sat in the hotel room. They had given permission for the kids to swim alone and they were sucked into the pool drain due to their long hair. Adult supervision would have saved their lives.
What about the infant in the bungalow colony who was put outside in her stroller and left unsupervised. She was abducted and killed by a grisly bear.
As far as my neighborhood, the kid next door actually did reach adulthood before he was shot to death on the front porch by a rival over a girl. The other neighborhood kids did survive despite having less protective parents but some had teen pregnancies or drug use. I did grow up in a working class neighborhood.
Despite my over-protective parents, I graduated, went to work, married and had children whom I over protected as well. So far these over protected children that I raised also BH grew up, married, worked, had children, etc. They are continuing the cycle of over protection although some take it to a degree further than I did. I see nothing wrong with hyper-vigilance and everything right with it.
Children are helpless and can't fight with predators, wild animals, or cars. They can't swim alone safely. Neighborhoods such as the Shomron neighborhood that some of my grandchildren live in are family friendly and everyone who lives there has been pre-screened. There is very little traffic there on Shabbos and children can play in the street on that day. Most children are playing barefoot. I would not advocate those activities for my Brooklyn or other urban community grandchildren. How much freedom to allow a child to have depends not only on the age of the child but where the child lives. Israelis are known to be very protective as well. Sometimes children get bored and unfortunately there was a recent tragedy when some 13yr old Jewish boys who resided in the West Bank decided to cross highway 90 on foot at night. The parents did not give permission for that and probably did not know that the children were crossing the highway. Watchful parenting does not always guarantee survival because children can "escape".
Why take unnecessary chances with precious children? It only takes a moment of lax supervision to cause an unforgettable tragedy.
A person could choke to death while eating but we must still eat. Nevertheless, we would not advocate giving grapes and hot dogs to a baby. We must drive cars in order to live in society today but there was a tragedy several years ago in which an 18 yr old frum female driver was driving through the night to reach a destination several states away. She was in an accident that killed her 20yr old passenger and left her 15yr old passenger severely brain damaged. Should a new driver have taken on such responsibility? Should the parents of the 15yr old have given permission for her to travel through the night with an inexperienced driver? Life involves risk but why take unnecessary risks?

Batya said...

I hadn't heard of the girls drowned due to long hair-not in a cap and no life guard mentioned in the last comment.
A life guard is pikuach nefesh. The hotel should never had allowed those girls in the pool. Long hair is never allowed uncovered in a pool. The parents made a big mistake.

tesyaa said...

Rosie - what do you make of "shomer pesaim Hashem", that Hashem protects someone who does something mildly foolish? When you reduce the risk to near zero, you also take away the pleasure in life - swimming in the ocean, walking home from school alone, even sleeping in a stroller in the fresh open air.

Larry Lennhoff said...

Another example of the benefits of Allowing children to experience risk.

mother in israel said...

I'll said with those who recommend more freedom. Some risks of overprotectiveness: Obesity and poor health. Pollution (from driving kids everywhere). My kids walk to school and it's more dangerous than it should be because all of the other parents are dropping their kids off at the gate. If everyone let their kids walk they would all be safer.

Kids have 1000 times more chance of dying in a car accident than being abducted by a stranger. The Israeli website Bechadrei reported that the killer was a frequent Shabbos guest at Leiby's grandfather's home!! So he wasn't even a "stranger."
We don't focus on the right things. Teach your kids to trust their instincts, maintain an open relationship with them as much as possible. Teach them street safety, water safety, insist on helmets and seat belts.
Finally, all accidents can't be prevented. Life is not without risk.
We have to learn to live with our fear. It doesn't go away when kids get older.

rosie said...

Walking with supervision does not cause obesity. The parent can get their exercise at the same time.
Leiby trusted his instincts and his parents thought he knew street safety but his instincts give him bad advice and he forgot which street that he was supposed to turn on. Possibly had he been a bit older, he would not have made those mistakes.
Of course, the first time that each of my children pulled out of the driveway alone with their new driver's licenses, I sat and said tehillim. I had spent many hours with them practicing for that moment and did not mince words about the risks of reckless driving. Still, I sometimes saw them do things that I felt were dangerous and did not hesitate to let them know that what they were doing was very dangerous.
A child can know how to swim and still be no match for river currents or pool drains.
No one is saying that all accidents are preventable but not all risk taking is acceptable either. Some of the TSA procedures that take up so much time and cost so much at airports were the result of one shoe bomber and one underwear bomber. The world was not willing to take the risk that there were more such terrorists out there.
We don't know how many Levi Arons there are out there. There was the Etan Patz story and the Adam Walsh story and several stories of stranger abduction where the child was found years later to be alive but traumatized. We do know that the frum community is far from immune to child predators and that if we don't explain that to children before turning them loose, we are taking a large risk. We could call that risk "orange" like the airport does.

rosie said...

also regarding the playgrounds that are so safe that they are boring; we can accept that many children will fracture arms and legs from playground falls but serious head injuries should not be within the acceptable risks of childhood. That is why children wear bike helmets but some streets are too dangerous for kids on bikes and biking trails should be used instead. I am all for schools doing whatever possible to make sports safer. Why should football lead to tragedy? Life involves enough risks just doing the ordinary without adding risks.

rosie said...

I also find it very interesting that while most of the bloggers here accept the risk of children walking unsupervised, or babies left outside in a carriage, they have clearly voted down the "pleasures" of teens drinking on Purim and Simchas Torah, even though few children actually die of this pleasure. Somehow that is viewed as too risky. What about the couple who were enjoying a leisurely meal in the Succah while the house burnt down with the kids inside due to an electric hotplate that ignited a wooden counter. I don't recall too many bloggers here being in their corner although they were taking a common risk that Jews frequently take on yomtov (leaving on a cooking device for 2 or 3 days on end).

mother in israel said...

Rosie, why do you assume that everyone on this thread takes fire risks? I have a chagaz that turns off the gas within 90 minutes. My new stove turns off the gas within seconds of the flame going out, anyway. Taking risks with fire is stupid, but there is much benefit to letting kids take certain types of risks.
People who have more than 2 or 3 kids can't walk them everywhere until they are 15--either kids are driven by parents or they are stuck in the house all the time. Or they learn how to walk or take the bus.
Do you let your kids get driver's licenses? Can't think of anything more risky than that.

mother in israel said...

I'm also against leaving babies alone, ever. Again, no benefit to teaching them independence until they are ready.
No benefit to taking fire risks.
No benefit to letting kids drink themselves to death, but I'm less sure about this one. Perhaps they need to experiment, but we need to educate them about the risks at any rate.
Almost no benefit to going without helmets or seatbelts.
With most other things there aren't clearcut answers--when do the benefits of giving kids independence outweigh the risk? Clearly toddlers can't cross the street by themselves.

Anon on LI said...

With regard to those who argue that we should err on the side of overprotection, an interesting article on making playgrounds "safe":

"Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone. “Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway."

mother in israel said...

Why Safe Kids Are Fat Kids (registration required):

and Free Range Kids on Dangerizing Childhood:

And very interesting discussion about haredim on FRK in the comments on the post about Leiby z"l:

rosie said...

Mother in Israel, you did not read what I wrote. My children all got driver's licenses while still in their teens. I even let them get married while still young!
Children can walk in groups if a parent cannot walk with them. There is safety in numbers.
I also did not say that all frum Jews leave the gas on for 3 days. Some use timers but many leave a burner going. You can't deny that it is common.
I still am not sure how safer playgrounds does such severe emotional damage. The playground in my son's yishuv is super safe and the kids all join the IDF after high school so it doesn't exactly strip a child of his manhood.