If there’s a way to describe 2017 in one to two words — aside from “dumpster fire” or “s___ gibbon” — it’d have to be “boisterous.”
This year was all about citizens, politicians, celebrities and the like raising their voices on any and every issue under the sun — for better or for worse. And some of the rays hit the Jewish community in Philly head-on.
Unfortunately, 2017 started off with multiple bomb threats called in to JCCs across the country, as well as Jewish day schools, a Jewish museum and the Anti-Defamation League.
An Israeli-American teen was arrested for the JCC threats and now, at the end of the year, another assailant, St. Louis-based former news reporter Juan Thompson, was sentenced to five years in prison for his threatening calls.
Jewish cemeteries and synagogues also faced vandalism this year: desecrated tombstones at Mount Carmel Cemetery, rocks thrown through windows and other vandalism at Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai, and an assailant who urinated on Congregation Beth Solomon.
But there was light at the end of the tunnel. Mount Carmel Cemetery was restored and cleaned up on a large scale and honored by Mayor Jim Kenney, while locals turned other acts of graffiti vandalism from swastikas to playful chalk windows.
“If one is serious in dealing with issues of hate or anti-Semitism, you have to take a multitude of steps,” said Anti-Defamation League Deputy National Director Ken Jacobson.
It was a shocking year for natural disasters: Hurricanes hit Florida and devastated Houston and Puerto Rico, while the California fires are an ongoing concern.
But the Jewish community in Philly and across the country rallied to support those in need. Local Jewish agencies came together to drive much-needed supplies from Philly to the Jewish Houston community after Hurricane Harvey.
On a lighter note — and a smokier one — Wynnewood saw its first annual barbecue festival, Hava NaGrilla, with thousands in attendance. The event is sure to become a Jewish-Philly tradition in the community in the years to come, with the ever-adorable Mooshe the mascot in attendance.
And we turned another year older and — hopefully — wiser. The Jewish Exponent celebrated its 130th birthday in April, though if you ask us, we don’t look a day over 129.
While not as obnoxiously tragic as 2016, which took with it the loss of many beloved celebrities (Carrie Fisher, David Bowie and many, many more), this year, too, saw its own losses.
LGBTQ rights activist and Philly native Edith Windsor died in September, leaving behind her legacy of helping take down the Defense of Marriage Act, which led to the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Comedy giants Jerry Lewis and Don Rickles had their last laughs — but leave us with plenty of memories.
We pay our respects, too, to actor Martin Landau, best known for roles in Mission: Impossible and more films than we can count.
Riled and Rallying
For the many controversial political acts that transpired this year, there was an even louder community response in support of refugees, DACA, health care and the environment.
The year started off with the Women’s March, which while headquartered in D.C. also spawned branches across the country, including Philadelphia. When Trump announced his travel ban, restricting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, Philadelphians flocked to the airport to protest the announcement and stand in solidarity with refugees.
As cemetery headstones were toppled, Philadelphians rallied in support of the Jewish community. The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia organized the Stand Against Hate rally to illustrate the community’s strength.
When the white nationalist rally took place in Charlottesville, Philly stood up to the hatred in response with multiple vigils and rallies, including a “Philly is Charlottesville” march that began at Congregation Rodeph Shalom and ended at Arch Street United Methodist Church. I mean, how many ADL surveys must be released before white supremacists get the hint?
Many M.O.T.s won big this election cycle, including Maria McLaughlin as a 2018 Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge, Larry Krasner for Philadelphia district attorney, Matthew Weintraub for Bucks County district attorney, Court of Common Pleas judges Vikki Kristiansson, Zac Shaffer and Mark Cohen, and Rebecca Rhynhart for Philadelphia controller.
Aside from President Trump, headlines have been reeling recently over the sexual misconduct allegations against state Sen. Daylin Leach.
It’s unlikely he’ll be tangoing in stringent tweets with Trump any time soon.
This year also became a loud feminist rallying cry for the total equality of men and women, from the beginning of the year with the Women’s March to the end of the year with the dozens and dozens of powerful men facing their reckonings for abusing their power and abusing women.
The #MeToo movement — which started a decade ago originally by one-time Philadelphia activist Tarana Burke — has inspired women to share their stories of sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace.
Jewish women have added their voices to the movement, from Sarah Silverman speaking out in response to the allegations against her close friend, Louis C.K., and her support of the women who accused him of misconduct, to our own opinion pages with recent op-eds about modesty and the importance of speaking up.
More notably, however, it’s hard to ignore that many of the men in question (though certainly not all of them, and the list is long and still growing) are Jewish — Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Tambor, James Levine of the Met, Al Franken, Dustin Hoffman, and (just generally speaking) Woody Allen.
Although this year was kind of rough politically and otherwise, we’re hoping 2018 brings fewer dumpster fires.
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