Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Despite the pressures of a weekly deadline, it’s generally a fairly jovial mood here in The Jewish Week’s editorial bullpen on Tuesdays as we scramble to bang out our copy as thoroughly and accurately as humanly possible, whip it into shape and get it off to the printer on time.
Obviously, this week was different as we struggled to do justice to an emerging story that was not only tragic, but infuriating and at times gut-wrenching. On Monday the news emerged that the victims of the Chabad House massacre were not simply murdered but, according to Indian hospital officials, subjected to heinous brutality before they died. It is likely that Rabbi Gavriel Holztberg was the last to die, judging by the fact that the other victims were respectfully covered with tallisim, whch means that he probably saw the death of his pregnant wife and spent his last moments worrying about their two year old son of whose miraculous rescue he may not have known.
What more blatant example could there be of pure good and pure evil thrown together at the same time and place? The mission of Chabad is to shed light in the darkest corners of the world to bring about a redemption that will uplift everyone. We can only speculate on the mission of the terrorists and what greater good they believed they were serving.
Reporters are objective but human. We make no secret of rooting for the good guys and scorning the bad guys. And even if we don’t put our anguish into a news story, it’s probably fairly implicit. Our rookie reporter Sharon Udasin immersed herself deeply in the anguished world of Lubavitch as they tried to cope. The result is a great illustration of how a Jewish newspaper covers a story like this like no one else can, even media organizations with correspondents on the scene in Mumbai.
Few, if any, of us in this newsroom have led lives never touched by the work of Chabad, even if it was just receiving a Purim shlach manot package or being invited to a Chanukah party or brit by the Lubavitch media liaison. We didn’t know Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife or the other four Jewish victims, but we know people just like them, people who live and work and travel through life with us, people whose good work we cover and, disturbingly, people who may also end up one day in the target sight of a terrorist’s gun.
The paper is out for this week, with our hearts on the pages. Hopefully next week the news will be better.