Two weeks after 8-year-old body was discovered in a Fourth Avenue dumpster, family friends, neighbors and even perfect strangers are coming together to ensure that the memory of the young Borough Park resident long outlives his short life.
Through the Prospect Park Alliance's commemorative tree program, a neighbor has started a tree fund to memorialize Leiby, who police say was murdered after he got lost and asked a stranger for directions in his short, seven-block walk to meet his parents after school.
“I don’t know the family at all,” Jody Alperin, the creator of the fund, said. “I’ve never even spoken to them. But this tragedy hit close to home.”
After a community wide discussion, Alperin knew it was time to take action.
“I thought about what I could do to help,” she said. “Planting a tree in Leiby’s honor doesn’t bring him back, but it is a way for our community to honor this child and do something good for the family.”
Alperin said she was inspired by the Jewish tradition of tree planting in Israel to honor deceased loved ones. In the dry, arid land of Israel, trees are symbolic of growth, rejuvenation and life.
By planting the tree close to home, Alperin hopes to help the borough in the long healing process to come.
When enough funds have been raised, a tree planting ceremony will be held in Prospect Park. It will be open to all and the Kletzky family will be invited to attend.
“People throughout Brooklyn have been affected by Leiby’s death,” Alperin said. “But I can’t imagine how his family feels. I hope to hold the ceremony at a more appropriate time.”
More than fifty individual donors have already given to the fund, and donations have been spiking in the last several days.
Large or small, any donation will aid Alperin’s mission to memorialize little Leiby: tees in Prospect Park range from $1,000 for an understory tree to $10,000 for a rare heritage tree.
For those wishing to donate, Leiby’s parents have also set up an additional fund: the Leiby Kletzky Memorial Fund, which aims to raise $1 million to aid disadvantaged children and families who cannot afford to wed.
“This tragedy has touched so many people,” said Chaya Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the organization. “And now, it is more important than ever to come together and help other families.”
To donate to the Lieby Kletzy tree fund, click here. In order for your donation to go toward Lieby's fund, you must write “Tree Fund for Leiby Kletzky” in the memo line of your check, the comments section on the online form under or explicitly state over the phone what the donation is for.
To donate to the Leiby Kletzky Memorial Fund, visit the organization’s website.