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Always My Malky

Yisroel Besser

A sparkling child growing up in Boro Park. But then difficulty in school. Shattered self-esteem. Rehab. All along Malky’s parents were with her — until it was all over

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

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CLOSE TO HOME “I learned,” says Avreimie with a sigh, “how readily accessible the most dangerous narcotics are right here in Boro Park, how simple it is to obtain them, how there are dealers all over this neighborhood. We couldn’t do very much, because to cut off the money would have forced Malky to come up with money on her own. We knew we didn’t want that” (Photos: Amir Levy, Family archives)

A vreimie and Rivka Klein sit at the kitchen table as if meeting an insurance agent or contractor.

As if their world hasn’t exploded into a million little pieces.

As if the words of the past months — words meant to comfort, stories of others who’ve lost and grieved, compliments about their poise and dignity — have come close to reflecting their new reality, when nothing could. Reality is suspended now, because for so long, in such a deep way, their essence and identity and reason to live were the role they were given:

Malky’s parents.

So what now?

At this very table, a commitment was made long ago, a decision as hard as the tabletop’s marble.

And once it was made, the Kleins never looked back.

Rivka Klein, just a few weeks after sitting shivah for her beloved daughter Malky, who died of a heroin overdose on June 29, looks up, fire in her eyes.

“I don’t like when people say, ‘Oh, you did everything you could, you’re such amazing parents, you never stopped trying.’ You know, parents with a child in Sloan Kettering, lo aleinu, sit there day and night, and no one says they’re so amazing. They’re just parents. It’s what parents do.”

Avreimie gets up, paces a bit, sits down by the computer, and now suddenly turns back to us. “Okay, I’m ready,” he blurts out. “It’s worth the whole article if you can get out this one message. There is no such thing as a bad child. There are no bad kids.”

“We saw how many friends she had, and knew our role was just to get her through the school years”

He refers to a recent video in which popular speaker Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Jacobson told Malky’s story and drew relevant lessons.

“I watched it, and then read the comments, and I thought to myself, ‘Wow. Some parents are lucky enough to be clueless. I’m happy for them. Others aren’t as fortunate.’ ”

He turns to face me, a question in his eyes, as if he’s searching for something dear and can’t find it.

“I once wrote an article in my mind, the title was ‘Foresight, Hindsight, and Insight.’ Insight is actually getting it, the reality of being inside the topic, not outside.”

The dining room wall in the attractive Klein home in Boro Park features an exquisite picture of Rav Shmuel Tzvi Horowitz, known as Rav Hershe’le of Spinka, the rebbe of the Klein family.

“The Rebbe once advised a friend of mine to switch his son from a chassidish mossad to Torah Vodaath. I remember my surprise. I didn’t get it. I was blissfully naive. Some things you need to experience in order to understand.”

The pain that colors Avreimie Klein’s face subsides for a moment as he speaks of his rebbe.

“Years before we got into this… this… parshah,” he says, shrugging as he comes up short in finding the right word, “I got my marching orders from my rebbe.”

He goes back to a simpler time, when his oldest son was very young and not particularly interested in attending the makeshift cheder in the bungalow colony where they spent summer vacation. “He didn’t want to go learn, plain and simple. I was by my rebbe one evening and I told him about the situation. I mentioned that my son really wanted a new bike, so I would use that as an incentive if he went to cheder nicely.

“The Rebbe listened to my idea. Then he said, ‘Yes, but buy the bicycle first. Let the child see it. Chain it to the house and tell your son that he’ll get it after cheder if the rebbi says he was a good boy. And then speak to the rebbi and make sure he finds some way that your son was good so that the boy gets to ride his new bicycle every day.’ ”

It was a revolutionary idea, and it laid a foundation in Avreimie Klein’s mind, the backdrop to advice he would receive many years later. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 672)

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