Thursday, November 10, 2011

Change in response to tragedy

A guest post by BerelShain

This week, the New York area saw 3 horribly tragic deaths as a result of motor vehicle accidents. In Monsey, 9 year-old Moshe Grubman lost his life when he was struck by a van as he was running towards his school bus. The Flatbush community was devastated by the deaths of Dani King and Eli Schonbrun when the vehicle they were traveling in rolled down an embankment as they headed back to their yeshiva in Waterbury Connecticut. Investigations in both cases are ongoing and the speculative conjecture of bloggers and posters notwithstanding, determinations as to the causes of the accident and mechanisms of death have not yet been made. Ultimately, professional accident reconstructionists will reach their conclusions.

In response to these tragedies, many well-meaning folks have made all sorts of suggestions as to how the community should react - shmiras halashon hour, tehilim, increase tzedaka, improve our concentration during davening, etc. I find these suggestions upsetting. While improving our spirituality is always commendable, I would have hoped that the community would have been more practical in its response.

This past summer, our community endured the unspeakable horror of the Leiby Kletzky story. Immediately after the murder, people took practical steps. Video and audio presentations by educators and professionals were widely disseminated and everyone that I know had talks with their children about safety, strangers and the like. Although by all indications it appears that the Kletzkys properly prepared Leiby for his first taste of independence, the community still took the event as a wake-up call to take measures and have discussions that were sorely needed. Nobody took those steps as criticism of Leiby's parents as well nobody should have. Rather, the horrific incident was the catalyst for the community to take practical steps to prevent future tragedies, even if the Kletzky tragedy itself may not have been prevented by those steps. Unfortunately, the fatalities of this week elicited no such reaction.

In my view, in addition to any religious improvements we may choose to accept upon ourselves, it is imperative that we follow our own example from the Kletzky case and take practical steps to improve our safety. An informal poll among my friends revealed that many people admit to texting, tweeting and emailing while driving, failing to use seat belts especially for back seat passengers, driving while tired and so on. Changing these lethal habits is as important as any ruhcniyusdikeh kabbala if we wish to avoid future horrors. Therefore, in response to the events of this past week, I'd like to suggest that each of us accept one or more of the following:

  1. No use of the hands for anything other than the steering wheel while driving - no texting, tweeting, emailing, talking etc.
  2. Never pass a school bus even if all children are entering the bus from the opposite side of the bus.
  3. No vehicle should EVER be in motion unless ALL passengers are properly belted.
  4. If a driver suspects that (s)he is too tired to drive, (s)he will not drive.
  5. Absolutely no alcohol will be consumed prior to getting behind the wheel - not even a sip of wine.
  6. The next "tzedaka" check you write will be to purchase a hands-free device if you don't already own one.
  7. Vehicle owners will regularly inspect their tires to ensure that they are safe for continued use.

Tragic circumstances such as those witnessed this week should serve as a wake up call to all of us. Improving in areas of bein adam lamakom is always a worthy endeavor. However, practical everyday changes must also be undertaken - especially when they may well save lives.

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