This weekend, while visiting a friend in D.C., I ventured for the first time to the Newseum, a 250,000-square-foot colossus that offers a window into hundreds of years of news headlines, news history and of course, the people behind the news. For a journalist, visiting this place is like unleashing a wide-eyed child in Disney World. Among other exhibits was a floor-to-ceiling wall of front pages following 9/11, Â a transplanted memorial version of Tim Russert’s office and the News Corporation News History Gallery — which features front pages from major events that occurred anywhere from 1455 to the present day.
As far as Jewish things go — because this is a Jewish blog of course — I was particularly impressed by one choice made my museum curators. In that News Corp New History exhibit, the front page chosen for 1948 was thankfully a commemoration of Israel’s statehood. However, the page chosen wasn’t from The New York Times, or The Washington Post or any other major world news outlet. Rather, it was from The Westerly Sun, a regional daily based in the southern tip of Rhode Island.
Being the Zionist I am, I was of course instantly filled with pride the moment I saw that headline, “New Jewish State Proclaimed in Tel Aviv.” But after giving the yellowing newsprint a second glance, what was even more meaningful to me was the choice of that specific Rhode Island paper. Selecting a small paper from a town in the smallest state of America shows just how omnipresent Israel’s independence was in 1948. At that moment, people everywhere, from major cities to rural towns, were recognizing Â the sovereignty of that tiny democratic Middle Eastern Nation — that Jewish nation. Jews throughout the Diaspora, from those in Tel Aviv to those in Rhode Island, had reason to celebrate.
And hey, Rhode Island is home to Touro Synagogue, the oldest American synagogue still standing (erected 1763), so the choice might be that much more significant.