What is it going to take?
Another little Jewish girl’s world completely overturned. I am screaming from the rooftops as loud as I can, but I am one person and my voice won’t carry as far and wide as it need.
As I sit in my living room with my kids safely tucked in their beds, I am reading about another little girl whose world was completely overturned. The tears will not stop falling and I feel as if I was punched in the stomach. I want to throw up, I want to scream, I want to run upstairs and gather my own children in a safe embrace and never let go. A 7 year old child was recently kidnapped and assaulted in Ashdod. The perpetrator was Jewish, looked like a nice man and said a very common lure for kids. “Your father sent me to pick you up today and I have some candy for you.” That is all it took, that is how quickly it took to shatter this child and her parents trust and change their lives.
This story saddens me but even more than that it angers me. I have sat across principal after principal, parent after parent, telling me that I am “overprotective” “what are the chances?” “Hashem is watching” and other comments of the like. I want to say to all of you, you are right. You are right!, Hashem is watching. He’s watching us make mistakes, he’s watching us take these precious gifts for granted, he’s watching the diamonds he gave us go unprotected by the people who vowed to do that job.
You’re right I am overprotective. I spent years feeling bad about myself and doubting my need to protect all children. I questioned myself, a lot. But then I came to the conclusion that, I’m fine with it, I am comfortable and happy with being overprotective. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a fine line between being anxious and nervous and constantly in a state of panic versus protecting our children in the ways they deserve to be, but setting up rules, regulations and protocols to protect our neshamos?, No! That, is not overprotective, that is our job as trusted adults.
You are right “what are the chances?” It was one story right? Leiby Kletzky was one story right? An abomination that should never happen and probably won’t again right? Wrong, there are unfortunately countless people reading this that understand all too well the dangers we are referring to. If you don’t, count your brachos, but don’t get complacent. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Don’t check out from your role of protector.
What can we do?
I run Magenu, an organization dedicated to the protection of children, and I see every day how important it is to teach our children basic safety lessons, but more importantly I see how children are so vulnerable and so trusting that it is completely insane to expect them to protect themselves. To ask a child to be solely responsible for making the right decisions is unfair and unsafe. Many of you are thinking, my child would never walk away from the line, my child would for sure check with me because we spoke about that. Think again; when a child is in an actual situation, unless they are really prepared they will likely make the wrong decision. They get confused and scared and intimidated. Saying NO to an adult or even speaking up is more difficult than you can imagine. It is therefore, the adult’s job to protect that child. The responsibility falls on all of us. Parents, we have to talk to our kids about these types of scenarios, role play, discuss situations and what your rules are, if you never speak about it your child will never have the knowledge to pull from, if it should arise. School administrators, you have to set up protocols where children are being protected, who is allowed to pick up this child? What if someone else shows up? Who is making sure the kids are getting on the buses? Who is making sure the kids are getting in the right cars? These are topics every school needs to discuss and regulate. I do not think it is an easy job for a school, in fact it is really difficult, parents get upset when they have to be inconvenienced, there’s not enough staff to monitor all the kids etc. These problems pale in comparison to the pain and suffering that 7 year old girl will face. Close your eyes and picture that 7 year old girl, the fear, the pain, the confusion. Now imagine telling her, that you could have prevented all that but it was too difficult to figure out. Don’t be reactive be proactive.
I am screaming from the rooftops as loud as I can, but I am one person and my voice won’t carry. Please, please join in so our voices are strong and can be heard. I want to protect all of our children, all of your children, don’t you? Don’t’ you want to protect your own children, your sibling’s children, your neighbor’s children, your nation’s children? Hashem is watching; let’s show him how much we love his children, how grateful we are to have been blessed with watching over them.
Please join me in a night of prevention and awareness where the topics discussed will be, “what is the role of the adult in regards to the safety of our children? Taking the responsibility off the child?”
Dr. Shani Verschleiser,
Prospect Park High school auditorium
1601 avenue R