by Mary Murphy (WPIX 11)
July 29, 2011
A video that was produced for the Orthodox Jewish community about "stranger danger" -- BEFORE the kidnapping and murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky -- is getting fresh buzz on YouTube.
A group called the Torah Safety Commission produced the video before Leiby was killed, but some of the situations talked about by a child actor and a grandfatherly figure are eerily similar to what happened to the boy from Borough Park. The video shows the boy, who's about Leiby's age, eating cereal in a kitchen, while his grandfather talks to him about the dangers of trusting somebody you don't know.
The boy tells his grandfather on the video lessons he has learned, "Never talk to strangers!" The grandfather says, "Who is a stranger?"--and the boy replies, "Somebody I don't know". The video instructs children to run, if a stranger tries to help them in the rain, and also shows an adult man on the street asking a boy for directions to a bakery. "Grownups ask other grownups for directions," the grandfather tells the boy-actor in the kitchen.
In the Leiby Kletzky case on July 11th, it was the 8 year old boy -- a week shy of his 9th birthday -- who asked a 35-year-old man, Levi Aron, for directions -- when the boy got lost on the way to meet his mother in Borough Park. Aron is charged with kidnapping the 8-year-old and taking him to his attic apartment, where he drugged, smothered and dismembered the child, saying he panicked over the media attention given to the boy's disappearance.
Leiby Kletzky was a member of a Hasidic Jewish community in Borough Park, and now, PIX 11 has learned that another Hasidic community -- the Lubavitcher movement in Crown Heights -- was taking special steps to protect its young people from abuse the night before young Kletzky was kidnapped.
The Beth Din of Crown Heights -- a rabbinical court in the Lubavitcher community - -issued a ruling on Sunday, July 10th, that child sex abuse, referred to as CSA in its letter, needed to be addressed by civil authorities.
Here's part of what the letter said: "The severe prohibitions of mesirah (reporting crimes to the police) .do not apply in cases where there is evidence of abuse."
"The Lubavitch is the first community to do this, the first Jewish community," said 18-year-old Mordechai Feinstein to PIX 11. Feinstein told us he met with the rabbinical court in Crown Heights before it issued the ruling, to complain about a self-styled rabbi, Moshe Keller, who was suspected of abusing numerous teenagers who sought guidance from him. Keller was charged this week with attempted sexual abuse of a 15-year-old, three years ago. Feinstein told us that 15-year-old was him. "He used to talk to me about pornography, masturbation," Feinstein told PIX 11 Friday. "He put his hands in my pubic area. I said what kind of rabbi does this?"
Feinstein said he was afraid to say anything for several years, because Keller helped him get into schools and fed him when he had trouble at home. "The person pushing me to be religious .that same guy was trying to molest me," Feinstein said.
It turns out Keller's 17-year-old son had died five years ago, and Keller named a foundation in his honor, ostensibly to help at-risk adolescents. Feinstein remarked to PIX 11, "It's sick how he names an organization after his son and uses that organization to betray little kids."
Advocates for children say the push to teach them about stranger danger -- and the potential dangers they even face from people they know -- will increase, in the aftermath of Leiby Kletzky's death. Assemlyman Dov Hikind told PIX 11 Friday, "When I started talking about this three years ago, people were infuriated with me." Hikind said many more videos will be produced and urged parents, " If your child is sexually abused, you must take action."