January 2000 in the Exponent: In the Service of a King; Israeli Scandals Linked to Debate Over Peace


The first issue of 2000 (technically not the first of the millennium, which began in 2001) featured some common themes from throughout the Jewish Exponent’s history.

The lead article on Jan. 6, 2000 addresses the concept of tikkun olam as it details a Martin Luther King Day of Service sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

The citywide event was expected to attract 15,000 participants. The Jewish Federation organized volunteers to work on beautification projects at William Penn High School in North Philadelphia and the Waterview Recreation Center in Germantown. Other volunteers were helping at the Neuman Senior Center and the Klein Jewish Community Center (now KleinLife).

Joseph Smukler, then chair of the Board of Trustees at Jewish Federation, explained the importance of an iconic photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel — who he described as his personal hero — marching, arms linked, for civil rights.

“Two peoples faced with racism and discrimination joined together,” Smukler said. “I think it is part of our responsibility as Jews to work with other minority groups against discrimination and racism.”

The article noted that while it was the first time Jewish Federation had been a day of service sponsor, students from the Jewish Community High School of Gratz College and other Jewish groups had participated for many years.

A second cover story examined peace talks (ultimately unsuccessful) between Israel and Syria that President Bill Clinton was moderating.

But that delicate process was already under a cloud because both Israeli President Ezer Weizman and Prime Minister Ehud Barak were under fire for alleged financial improprieties. Some contended the allegations were made by their political opponents to weaken the Israeli leadership and Weizman’s pro-peace position.


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