A
t the Republican National Convention a few years ago, a thin young man with prematurely white hair approached me. He asked if we could speak for a bit, so at a round metal table in the shadow of Quicken Loans Arena, he bought us both Diet Sprites and confided in me that he worked for an evangelical daily somewhere in the Bible Belt, and the newspaper didn’t allow for a certain type of language or image. He’d seen my yarmulke, and wanted to discuss our shared challenges working for religious media — telling the full story while respecting the ideology behind the publication.
Oh, Ross... or was it Roger? — I don’t recall — but we are so, so different. What we do is so different.
I didn’t explain it then, but now I’ll try.
You work in a black-and-white world, for us and against us, the faithful and the condemned.
For us, it’s much more nuanced. There is no against. Yitamu hachata’im, but not hachotim. Attitudes are condemned, not people.
Last week’s Mishpacha magazine included a long feature on Jonathan Neumann’s book, which argues that the Reform and Conservative agenda is “other,” the focus and obsession on tikkun olam that they use to remain relevant a sad replacement for authentic Torah values.
That was on Shabbos. After Havdalah, the computer went back on, and suddenly, we were mourning those very same people with whom we’d taken issue: They were no longer others, but brothers.
(As an aside, how much kiddush Hashem was there in the fact that the wider media noted that tens of thousands of observant Jews wouldn’t hear the tragic news until after nightfall? What an international message about the privileged, blissful ignorance of Shabbos, when sophisticated, contemporary people escape this world for the shelter of G-d and family!)
But with Shabbos gone, the news filtered in: The deadliest attack on a Jewish community in US history. Eleven dead.
And as happens in these situations, heartache and shock mingle with the sense of responsibility to readers. Even before my Shabbos hat was back in its box, the e-mails were flowing.
Various editors suggested coverage, formats, and leads, and we all accepted assignments.
But first, we consulted the rabbinical board.
There were awkward questions about presentation. Could it be called a shul? Could the service be referred to as davening? It sounds like it’s just semantics, but really, it’s so much more than that.
It was comforting to step into the precise, perfect system of halachah and its parameters, but once we had our guidelines, there was only mourning.
Families shattered; a community crushed; pure, precious Jews cut down.
Brothers, sisters, the blood of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov spilled on the sanctuary floor. 
What my friend Ross or Roger with the earnest eyes can never understand is how the same “us” we write about this week were the ones we referred to as “them” the week before.
Whether or not we refer to their prayer experience last Shabbos morning as Shacharis doesn’t change the fact that they were killed for the sole reason that they were Jews, so they are korbanos.
 Yehi zichram baruch. May their memories be a blessing. May their families find comfort, their community find healing. And may we all find our way back the Mountain where we became one, together, in health and happiness.