Like thousands of others, I read the headlines and Tweets from the Forward and other Jewish publications about the Newtown school massacre.
One read, “Rabbi consoles relatives of #Newtown shooting victims … fears one victim could be #jewish..” And I read replies on Facebook, which lambasted the paper for focusing on Jewish victims. They apparently interpreted highlighting Jewish victims as downplaying the grief we feel for all the victims, whatever their religion.
While part of me agrees that we should not write such ethnocentric headlines, another part of me wanted to read those stories first. And when I did, the tears came faster because the connection was a little more direct.
As outsiders not directly impacted by the events, we search for a way into the story. Since I grew up in a small town near Newtown and have a child in kindergarten, the news hit home on many levels.
We all search until we find a connection. Until that moment when it hits home and we can imagine our own children, our own schools, and, for a moment, our own grief.
At times like this, we are easily overwhelmed by numbers and facts; we all need to find smaller stories within the larger one to help us. We reach out to our families and neighbors and jump on line to get help from the media.
I am not exactly proud that I click first on the Jewish headlines but I am willing to admit that it opens a window that is small and discreet enough to allow me to look inside. And it is in looking inside that we find the place in us that trembles in fear and horror.
It reminds me of the passports with the story of a single individual that they give out to each visitor at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. People go numb when they look at the big picture. We all need a single name, image and story as a bridge to our grief. Of course, we cannot truly imagine what is like for the families involved but I think the process of connecting helps us to increase our own humanity a tiny bit.
In the coming days, many more of these bridges will appear as the media writes profiles and we see images of the children, teachers and staff. But in the immediate aftermath the stories in the Jewish press served as a bridge for Jewish mothers like me. And while I recognize there are millions of other paths into an event as large and horrible as this one, I appreciate that the Jewish press helped me find one of them.