Sisterhood Blog

Finding Judaism in Newtown Tragedy

By Johnna Kaplan

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While 26 people were being massacred at an elementary school in Newtown, I was 50 miles away in Hartford, talking on the radio about the eccentricities of Connecticut. Town nicknames, historical tidbits, “Nutmeggers” vs. “Connecticutians,” that sort of thing. The show was over at 10:00 am ET; I have no idea when the first fragmentary reports made it onto the air.

On my way home, I stopped briefly to talk to my mom on the phone. “There was a shooting at a school in Newtown,” she told me. “Sandy Hook.” Though I write about Connecticut frequently, my awareness of Newtown was primarily geographical. I knew it was an hour and a half from where I live and 40 minutes from where I grew up — New England countryside meets New York suburbia. “Like, a real shooting?” I asked.

I kept driving, checking Twitter updates at every stoplight, and the news slowly spun out like a spool of evil thread, and with the rest of the state I abandoned what I had planned to do that day and sat, numb, switching between channels live-streaming the horror, watching as the world watched us.

Connecticut spent that day, and the following days, in a sort of collective daze. (I am not sure we’re out of it yet; the flags have been raised to full staff and they look out of place there.) But my focus on my home state was interrupted and complicated from the beginning by nagging Jewish thoughts.

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