by Corey Whelan
Could the news coming out of Brooklyn be any more devastating? Little 8 year old Leiby Kletzky was murdered two blocks from my own home. I've walked that block with my children many times. They had friends who lived there when they were little and often scribbled with sidewalk chalk on that very street.
I should have known something was wrong when I heard the sound of searching helicopters over my head for hours, God how I hate that sound. It never brings good news. And this time the telling of every parent's worst nightmare was preceded by that unending whine I've come to hate so much over the last decade.
And then, that video on the news playing over and over again of that little sweet boy walking down the street wrenched my heart. He reminded me so much of my own son at that age. As a parent, one of the hardest things I do, still, is watch my own children walking away from me, down the street. Going to school, or to the park, it's the sight of their backs moving away from me that causes me to always say a silent prayer to a God I rarely believe in, please, keep them safe. Keep them away from people in cars seemingly asking for directions. Keep them out of bus stops where no one else is standing. Please. I promise I will believe in you if you just keep them safe. Please.
Last week I attended my cousin's new born son's bris. For those of you who don't know, a bris is the rite of circumcision for Jewish males, usually done when a baby is 8 days old. It is a sign of inclusion, of welcoming, into the Jewish community. This bris was particularly poignant for me since this sweet little boy, Braedon Reece, was named for my own mom. Rather than the tears of heartache I cried for Leiby Kletzky, on that day I cried tears of joy and also of remembrance. After all, I buried my parents. Not the other way around.
The mohel who performed the ceremony was wonderful. I was struck by something he said. In preparing all of us there for the inevitable moment of crying that the baby would do as the circumcision was taking place, he said try to remember that this baby's first cry is a trumpet unto heaven and that it has the power to open heaven's very gates to the prayers of those hearing it. The mohel requested that everyone in the room say a prayer at that moment for those who are struggling to conceive a baby of their own.
Children are the mainstay of our lives, the most important thing. Their conception, their birth, the lives they will live. We welcome them into our communities and into our hearts. We are grateful when we welcome our own children into our lives. But may God protect and stand by those parents, those heartbroken souls, who live so long as to have to say goodbye, to those they loved the most.
Corey Whelan is The AFA's Progam Director.