Why I Offered a 50,000 Shekel Reward
Two weeks ago, I saw a video that broke my heart. A haredi mother and father were standing in their apartment begging for help in finding their 16-year-old son. The boy’s name is Moishe Kleinerman, and he has now been missing for over 90 days. His parents, Shmuel and Gitty, are heart-broken (who wouldn’t be) and they are trying everything possible to publicize his picture and his story.
Not only don’t his parents know where he is… they have no idea what even happened to him. He was last seen on Shabbat, March 26th in Meron. He spoke to his parents on Erev Shabbat and told them that he was going to spend Shabbat in Meron with a group led by Rabbi Yoel Roth, who was visiting from Williamsburg. Security cameras showed that he was in Meron on that Shabbat and then… he was gone. Nobody has seen or heard from him since. Recently, there has been a break in the case, but a gag-order has been issued, and we are not exactly sure what is happening. Therefore, we are proceeding along as we have in the past, with no change in the search, until new information is obtained.
Here are the possibilities being investigated:
Did Moishe fall down a hill into the woods around Meron? It’s possible – many people meditate in these areas, and they are quite dangerous.
Was he kidnapped by the Lev Tahor cult? Also, possible – these things have been done before, although smuggling him out of Israel would not have been easy.
Did he run away from home? The police are checking this as well, although he was on excellent terms with his parents, so it’s not likely.
Did he attempt to daven at one of the kivrei Tzaddikim in an Arab village, something which he did in the past, only this time he didn’t make it out safely? Israel’s “GSS” (Shin-Bet) is looking into this although the investigation is secret.
Was he abducted by someone posing as a friend, who might have harmed him in some way? Did he go on a hike? Swim in the Kinneret? Anything is possible.
In short, there are many questions and very few answers but just one thing matters to his parents. They simply want Moishe back home… and so they made the video pleading with Am Yisrael for help. Maybe somebody saw him or communicated with him or knows what happened. I watched that video and it ripped at my heart. How much pain are these parents in? How can they sleep? How can they enjoy Shabbat without knowing where their son is? Is he alive? If he safe? Or… I don’t even want to write the words.
So, I jumped into action, not because I’m anyone special, but because Ahavat Yisrael demands that we feel the pain of a fellow Jew. My first phone call was to my dear friend, Yekutiel “Mike” Ben-Yaakov who is the founder and director of the Israel Dog Unit. Unlike other groups, that just woke up now in this case, Mike has been involved in searching for Moishe since early April. His dedicated volunteers and highly trained SAR (search and rescue) dogs have already spent hundreds of hours searching the forests in and around Meron and Tzefat. Mike was in daily contact with Moishe’s parents, and I called him with an idea. I told him that my foundation, the Am Yisrael Chai Fund, is willing to offer a reward of 50,000 shekel for information leading to finding Moishe Kleinerman alive and well. He loved the idea – as it would generate interest in the case and cause people to take it seriously. We decided that we needed to coordinate and clear it with Moishe’s parents, so Mike called them on my behalf. The parents asked their Rav for guidance, who then asked his Rabbonim, and finally, the answer came back: Green Light! I immediately called an amazing Haredi PR guy, Motti Goldman, who helped with the logistics, and we were off and running. Mike and I filmed a quick video with the parents, and then Motti performed his magic. Within minutes – no exaggeration! – news of the reward went viral. It was covered by every Haredi media outlet in Israel (online as well as radio), plus Twitter, dozens of WhatsAPP groups, email lists and Facebook pages. The secular media picked up the story as well including YNET, Arutz-7 and Makor Rishon and then Motti started hitting sites in Europe and North America. In short, the story of a missing 16-year-old boy named Moishe Kleinerman went from “What are you talking about?” to front-page, headline news.
I was interviewed by various radio stations, podcasts and print media. Baruch HaShem “Moishe Kleinerman” became a household word and phone calls started coming in. Everything from; “We think we saw him in Bnei Brak asking for money for Shabbos food” … to “I’m pretty sure I saw him in Jerusalem” … to the incredible “He’s in Hungary! We saw him there” … every one of those leads was checked out and I can publicly state that the Israeli police are doing everything they can to find Moishe and return him to his family.
Offering the reward accomplished a great deal. It generated interest, made people aware of the problem and opened people’s eyes. Obviously, our goal is to find Moishe, but the problem is a lot bigger than Moishe Kleinerman. About 25 people go missing each year in Israel that are never found. These Yidden are from every part of the population and range in age from 15 to 90. I met some of these families. A beautiful Ethiopian mother who went missing the day after her son’s bar-mitzvah… a religious man from Moshav Modiin who left behind a wife and children… a 23-year-old woman who never returned home from work… These stories shatter the heart, and it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to find these people and reunite them with their families.
Therefore, the next time you see a “Missing Person” picture, please don’t turn away. Look at it very closely and write down the number to call. Who knows? Maybe you will be the one who returns a child to the arms of his/her mother.