Eight-year-old Leiby Kletzy‘s horrific death and dismemberment has understandably shaken the primarly Jewish neighborhood of Borough Park. The Orthodox Jewish community, which Leiby and his family were a part of, is know to be particularly close-knit and “insular” to quote The New York Times. The Jewish community in Borough Park is observed to be particularly wary of outsiders and protective against the infringement of others — even in the case of criminals. But will Leiby’s untimely end perhaps incentivise the community to expose more cases of wrong-doing towards children?
The boy’s murder aside, the Times notes that attitudes have been slowly shifting in Borough Park for awhile:
Ruchama Clapman, who runs a small agency that deals with drug and alcohol abuse and sexual molestation largely within the pious Jewish community, recalled that 14 years ago when she started her agency she encountered tremendous resistance simply talking about the problems, “and it took many years before the community was accepting that we had these issues in our community.”
“It was hanging out dirty laundry,” she said.
Because the community is so small, bringing cases of child molestation or abuse to light might compromise partnerships between families:
People were afraid that if a victim sought help and a problem became widely known, parents might find it difficult to find matches for their sons and daughters, and social and business relations would be hurt. There was also the often misinterpreted prohibition against mesirah — informing on a fellow Jew to non-Jewish authorities — that was a leftover tenet from a time when European Jews had to deal cautiously with anti-Semitic officials.
While there is no evidence to suggest that child abuse (sexual or otherwise) is more pervasive in Hasidic or Orthodox Jewish communities , the fact that Leiby’s killer was Jewish himself (although not Hasidic) has caused speculation as to how trusting children can be of people in their community — even those with whom they share a faith and an identity. But with Leiby’s neighborhood actively grappling with how exactly to understand and prevent such a tragedy, insularity and turning a blind eye to certain behaviors could be compromised.