Brooklyn, NY – With Tisha B’av just hours away, many of us have difficulty relating to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash hundreds of years ago.
There is no doubt that the loss of the holiest place in the world should touch us deeply, but the passage of time has dulled the pain that we as a nation feel over the devastation wrought in Jerusalem so many centuries ago.
Yet today we are witnessing a modern day churban of our own, burying young members of our community at an alarming rate.
In an extraordinary lengthy emotional interview with Dovid Lichtenstein, Borough Park resident Avrumi Klein shares the story of his 20 year daughter Malky who died of a heroin overdose just weeks ago, a painful reminder that while the events of Tisha B’Av may have transpired long ago, tragedy and mourning continue to be a part of our lives.
A sweet, good natured girl, Malky began receiving resource room services when she was four, said Klein.
A teacher who told the class that Malky should have been left back inflicted the first of several major hits to Malky’s self esteem when she was just a second grader.
More blows followed as Malky’s high school acceptance was inexplicably rescinded weeks before school started. A second placement fell through weeks later as the school felt unprepared to deal with Malky’s extra academic needs and an offer by the Kleins to build and fund a resource room to help their daughter keep up with the workload was summarily rejected.
While Malky was finally accepted by a third school after months of being home, it was an exhausting experience as she spent all of her waking hours either in school or working with tutors.
By tenth grade the strain of having to invest hours to grasp what other students absorbed in minutes became too much for Malky and she dropped out of school completely, leaving her education and much of her religious upbringing behind.
It became clear to the Kleins that the rejection that Malky had experienced all too often in her educational career had left a deep imprint on her soul when after hearing about a local rabbi who had been given a prison furlough over the yomim tovim Malky blurted out, “they should put all rebbes, all teachers, all principals, everybody, they all belong in jail.”
Despite having supportive parents, Malky eventually began to dabble in drugs. On one occasion she explained to her father that drugs numbed the agony that was her constant companion, telling him “you do not know what it feels like being stupid every single day of your life. You can never feel that pain. That is what I feel.”
Malky’s continued battle against substance abuse lasted for years, coming clean first on her own and then going away to rehab when she found herself relapsing. She discovered a talent for art, painting vivid pictures that revealed a hidden gift but also spoke very clearly of her inner torment.
In time she felt ready to come back to Brooklyn, where she knew she would face accusing stares and the judgment of others.
In the one week that Malky was home with her family before she died, she overdosed on heroin twice. In the first instance, her father was able to bring her back from the brink of death by injecting her with a dose of Narcan, which reverses the effects of a heroin overdose. Malky’s second overdose proved to be fatal.
Five weeks have passed since the Kleins buried Malky, the fourth of their five children. In the pre-Tisha B’Av interview, Klein offered his advice to educators in the hopes of preventing yet another churban like the one that claimed the life of his daughter.
“I would especially tell principals and mechanchim and mechanchos to never think that they were born to be mechachim or mechanchos, that it’s in their DNA,” said Klein. “There is a lot more to learn of how to deal with kids that are not running on autopilot, kids that need extra help, kids that need guidance, kids that we need to be their GPS. Those are the kids that we need to concentrate on .”
Some children are more resilient than others and can withstand an insensitive remark, noted Klein. But for the others, a thoughtless comment can be devastating.
“One time telling a child in second grade that they belong in the first grade, they never ever get over it,” said Klein. “It makes them feel stupid for the rest of their lives.”
Klein recalled a visit he and his wife had paid to Ruchama Klapman of MASK after Malky was told to leave school in the beginning of ninth grade. Klapman called the principal of the school, asking them to reconsider their decision. Six years later, her words are eerily prescient.
“She picked up the phone and she called that principal and she said to the principal ‘I just want you to know if you don’t do something about this you will have blood on your hands.’”
Listen to full 1 hour interview below.
The interview was conducted by David Lichtenstein who runs a news programme every Motzei Shabbos and can be listened to online here at http://audio.headlinesbook.com/ Lichtenstein is the author of two books on the Halakha view on current events such as Terrorism, Gay marriage, Abortion, Missionary Activities, Insanity, Genetics, Vaccinations, etc. his book can be purchesed here