By D’vora Gelfond
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
I needed to type out my experience in searching for Leiby. I just typed my thoughts. I’m not a writer, so forgive all the mistakes. I want to share with you, from a personal viewpoint what happened last night July 12, 2011 in Brooklyn, New York.
As I was standing in front of Leiby’s apartment building, someone asked me, “Where do you live?” I answered, “Passaic, NJ.” she said, in shock “You came here all the way from Passaic to help look for the little boy? I answered, “Yes.” “Wow” was her answer. “What a zechus, that’s amazing that you came to help.” I said to her, “When you have a child almost the same age as this boy, it’s not such a difficult decision to make.”On Tuesday, July 12, 2011, I sat glued to all the social media outlets my computer could handle. I kept thinking, I must go and help. Then I started reading messages like…Volunteers needed. Please come and help. Over and over again. As if Hashem (G-d) was screaming at me to do something.
I made the decision at around 4:30. I called my husband immediately. I said to him, “Please come home as soon as possible. I need to go to Brooklyn to help find Yehuda ben Itta Esther.” Without a pause, and in a very humble, I know she means it tone, he said, “OK, but I can’t leave until 5:00.”
He came home and I was out the door at about 6:30.
I arrived a little after 8:00 PM. I went to the command center that I was told to go to when I called. There, I was standing with hundreds of other volunteers. It was a heartwarming and heart wrenching scene all at the same time. I was overwhelmed with the outpouring love that the Jewish community was displaying. A Kiddish Hashem (Sanctification of G-d’s Name) like I had never seen before.
I walked around for a good hour looking for 3 women to join a search party with. They were not letting people go without a group of four. I met this wonderful Israeli woman who has lived in the states for quite some time. She told me that she is a good friend of Leiby’s mother. She said they go to the same synagogue. My heart skipped a beat when she told me she went to be with Leiby’s mother earlier in the day. She had no words to describe the pain Itta Esther was going through. She tried to speak to me about it, but nothing came out of her mouth. She would just shake her head in disbelief.
I asked her “Where does Leiby live?” She said to me, “Right there” and she pointed to the apartment building directly across the street. My heart sunk fast and furious. I just stood there, staring at the building. I couldn’t stop thinking about what his mother was going through, right in that building in front of my eyes. I didn’t want to think about it, but my mind kept forcing me to go there. This made me want to help even more. I went over by the building, and I saw the women who lived there outside in the front, with their babies. The look on everyone’s face was indescribable.
There was one point while my new friend and I were standing by the Shomrim command center and they made an announcement. “WE NEED VOLUNTEERS TO GO TO SUNSET PARK.” I looked at her and asked where that was. She said in her beautiful Israeli accent, “They will not let the women go there, it is not a nice area.”
I was getting very anxious to go out and start searching. By 9:00 PM, we were finally on our way. They told us to go from 15th street and 57th avenue all the way to 86th street. We got our waters, and were on our way. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this. It was quite surreal. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do, but my maternal instincts apparently did.
For 29 blocks, there was not one garbage pail, garbage bag, dumpster, parking lot, car, backyard, ally, tree, bush or garden that was left unturned. It was dark, we had no flashlights and I had no idea where I was. B”H the angel, my partner in all this, did.
There was absolutely no stopping this wonderful woman that walked with me. As we walked up the blocks, she would shout out “LEIBY!!!!” My heart would drop each time. After she would call out to him, she would say to me, in a whisper, “You never know, maybe he will hear us.” Now I know, I’m sure he did.
As we were walking, we would show people on the sidewalks the flyers we had and say…”Have you seen this little boy?” I could not believe those words were coming out of my mouth. Was I in a movie? “There is a $100,000 reward if you find him. Please call 911 if you see him or have any tips.”
The people we approached were so helpful, caring, and warm. You could see they were also in pain with us. As we were walking across a street, a man in his car said to us…”Is that a picture of the missing boy?” We ran to his car, and said “YES!” He said to us “I’m a cab driver, give me a copy of the picture so I can show it to my passengers. I can put the flyer up in my shop tomorrow morning.”
There were a few men standing outside a bar. We approached them and asked them if they saw Leiby. They said no, but they put a flyer up of him in the bar to help us.
A woman approached us and asked us for a flyer so she can help with the search in the morning.
Someone sitting on his steps out front asked if he could take a picture from the flyer on his phone so he had it with him and he could send it to his friends.
There were 3 women and about 6 kids sitting outside their house. The mothers were very upset about this and the kids kept asking us questions about little Leiby. The response was amazing!
It took us approximately 2 hours to walk the 29 blocks. My friends husband picked us up and brought us back to the command center. I had a friend who lived in the area I contacted earlier who asked me to come visit her. I thought I would go see her and then go home. It was almost midnight, and there was not an aching muscle in my body. I don’t think that Lucille Roberts should get the credit for that though. It was my adrenalin going into overtime.
My friend came over to me and said, “D’vora, they still need us. Do you want to continue?” I thought about it for a second and I said, “Of course.” Then I was greeted with a huge bubby type hug and a “Your so good D’vora!” I knew I was doing the right thing.
She told me they needed people to check basements. I said..”OK, lets go.” A woman was standing there and said to me, “Why are you going into basements? It’s scary, aren’t you scared?” I said to her, “Not as scared as Leiby is right now.” I couldn’t even think about how scared I would be doing this. I could only think about what he could possibly be going through at that moment. Little did I know, he was already in Shamiyim (heaven) with The Rebono Shel Olam. (The Creator of the Universe).
We were assigned to go to Flatbush. We found two other amazing Israeli women (25 years old and looking for shiduchim 😉 to join us. On our way to my car, I received a Facebook message. My friend wrote that he possibly got into a gold colored sedan. BTW, thank you for that, you know who! In Flatbush we had to cover avenues K, L, M, and N. from 17th-19th street. Then after that, we had to do Avenues S, T and U from 20th until 22nd street. We get to Flatbush and park.
As we were walking, one of the women with me said, “Is that a gold car?” I said, “Yes it is.” On every single block we walked in Flatbush, every time we saw a gold car, we didn’t take any chances. With a lump in my throat, and holding my breath, I put my ear to the trunk, and knocked. THAT was scary. But I did it to EVERY car that fit the description. While one of the other women looked inside the car with her flashlight. Except when she told me right before I knocked on the trunk, “D’vora, be careful, that’s a Jaguar.” I skipped that one.
There was a track and a football field. A woman was jogging on the track and came over to us because she heard us calling out Leiby’s name. She said, “Are you looking for someone?” We said, we are looking for a 9 year old boy. Her face sunk. She said, “There was a boy who ran through here not so long ago!” We quickly moved to get closer to her. My friend showed her the picture and she said in a very sorrowful voice, “Oh. No, that’s not him, he was a Spanish boy. I’m so sorry. Good Luck.” We all walked away with our heads down.
Shortly after that happened, I received an e-mail that I shared with the women. “Giving to others will increase your love for them. If you make an effort to help everyone you meet, you will feel close to everyone. Doing acts of kindness for everyone fills your world with friends and loved ones. “A stranger is someone you have not yet helped.” I think that gave us a lot of chizuk (strength).
A few times, we found blankets in the back seats or in the trunks. We scanned those cars thoroughly with our flashlights. The scariest one was when we found a thick black plastic bag in the trunk of a gold mini van. We called the authorities about that one. They said let it go. So we did.
As I am typing this I realize that while we were there, at one point there were police cars, and most likely under cover cars speeding down the streets. Helicopters in the area as well. It was a concern because that didn’t happen for a few hours. But it was Brooklyn, so it could of been anything. We all looked at each other and said, “What’s going on?” Now I know. 🙁
3:00 AM rolled along and my feet weren’t necessarily agreeing with my heart. I am ashamed to say, that I told the women, “I can’t do Ocean Parkway. I’m too tired.” They immediately said, no problem, please stay over my house and sleep here tonight. My friend who wanted to see me earlier also wanted me to stay over, but I just couldn’t. I needed to get home to my husband and my children.
By 3:30 we got back into the car. I drove two of the women home. On my way to drop off the woman who I was with all night long, she asked me if I wanted to go to the area where Leiby was last seen. So I said yes. We get there a few minutes later. I park and we got out of the car. It was now 3:45 in the morning. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was standing there. In the same spot where he was just a day before. The spot where the monster went over to him to begin his journey to GEHENIM (hell).
There were a lot of things going on all at once. The corner ice cream shop was open and packed with people. We were standing next to private investigators looking at a house and saying, “There is a camera there.” I couldn’t believe I was standing there. I was speechless.
At the command center they gave us a bunch of flyers for the next days search. I thought I would bring some to Passaic and put them up in the local Jewish shops, because, well, you never know.
4:00 AM, we decided to head home. I started my drive back to Passaic. I cried a lot. Listened to talk radio to see if I could hear any news. I got home at around 4:30. Gave a small update to my Facebook friends. I finally fell asleep at around 5:30.
At 7:00 one of my kids came in my room and woke me up. Half asleep, I reach over for my phone and see the light blinking. I’ve got mail. I press the button to turn on the screen. Subject line, “Tragedy.”
I can’t tell you exactly what made me do this. I didn’t really think about it. I just did it. I put in all the effort that Hashem gave me. Now, we just need to figure out a way to cope with the horrific events that are unfolding in front of our eyes. We can’t forget, ever. Please do not read this and walk away. Let’s all try to do an act of kindness in Leiby’s name.
As I type this, Yehuda ben Itta Esther is being laid to rest.
Tonight, in the midst of tears, frustration, and questions, my dear husband said to me, “He is, for sure in Shamiyim” I ask him, “But he doesn’t feel pain when he sees what his mother is going through? What we are going through? He said, “No” I said “How?” He said, “Because he is able to see the truth.”
When we hear of tragic things that happen in this world, we always think, those things happen to other people. I didn’t know this child, or his family. But, I felt, and I knew, this did happen to me. It happened to all of us.
To the Kletzky family, May the Almighty comfort you among all the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim.
We should hear of no more sorrow.
A very tired, worn out but feel good because I wrote this, mom. Good night.