We Asked, They Answered: What Are Your New Year’s Resolutions for 2017?

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Person silhouette standing in 2017 on the hill at sunset

It’s that time again — time to say you’re going to do the diet that, just a few short weeks into January, becomes far too onerous, or stop that one bad habit that it turns out is actually too fun to discard. Most New Year’s resolutions don’t get kept, but that doesn’t stop us from indulging in the yearly paean to optimism because we all really do want to be better and live better, even if it’s challenging to do so.

In the spirit of glass half-full, then, we decided to ask some folks in the Jewish community of Greater Philadelphia what they are thinking about in terms of secular New Year’s resolutions for 2017 — whether for themselves or for the region at large. Those who replied came up with diverse and inspiring answers — and not one of them mentioned going on a diet!

Jane Golden, founder and executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia


“My resolution is, considering the frayed state of the world, to put more energy and effort than ever into serving young people and vulnerable adults … to work relentlessly to use art in both a pragmatic and aspirational way. To impact individuals, to weave together communities, to bring meaning and hope to our city. And then in between I want to start doing yoga and playing our piano, which is, at the moment, gathering dust. Maybe learn to meditate; but that is probably a lost cause.”

Judy Groner, head of school, Perelman Jewish Day School

“For the secular new year of 2017, I resolve to: share my passion for Jewish day school with a larger audience — both as a strong foundation for living a richly satisfying Jewish life and as a vital connection to other Jewish institutions; celebrate 60 years for Perelman Jewish Day School … and envision the innovations we will implement for the next 60; conduct stand-up meetings; find more time to exercise (treadmill meetings, anyone?); hakarat ha-tov — be grateful for all the good I see, hear and experience each day.”

Stephen Fried, author of The New Rabbi and co-author, with Patrick Kennedy, of A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction

“My resolutions? Finally finish my book on Dr. Benjamin Rush, call fewer fouls in my half-court basketball game, and help more faith communities fight discrimination against mental illness and addiction.”

Rabbi Eli Kopel, Aish Philadelphia

“Most people do, what most people do, because most people do it. I would suggest doing what is truthful and right even if it is out of the box. Instead of repeating last year again, break out of your cycle and do something great. Connect with your rich heritage in a more profound way this year.”

Allan Domb, Philadelphia City Councilman at-Large

“My two resolutions for 2017 are to help the City of Philadelphia do a more effective job in collecting delinquent taxes and to help get more Earned Income Tax Credit dollars into the hands of all eligible Philadelphians.”

Jon Grabelle Herrmann, executive director, USA250

“Ta-Nehisi Coates recently interviewed with Vox’s Ezra Klein, offering advice to simplify your personal life in order to do the greatest good in the world. That seems very Hillel-ian to me. For this secular New Year, I will be for myself so that I can be for others.”

Sharon Pinkenson, executive director, Philadelphia Film Office

“From now on, I will not torture myself over things that I have no power to change. I worry all night long when I should be sleeping. I always try to do my best and I voted my conscience (Hillary). Maybe I will finally start to get the beauty rest I dearly need.”

Sam Katz, founder, History Making Productions

“In 2017 I have resolved to launch a new documentary film on Jewish Philadelphia, to be a little more outspoken on things that matter, and to spend as much time as possible with my kids and grandkids.”

Inga Saffron, architecture critic, Philadelphia Inquirer

“I haven’t focused [on resolutions] yet, but they usually involve vowing to fix various broken-down parts of my house.”

Cathryn Miller-Wilson, executive director, HIAS Pennsylvania

“I resolve to spend as much time as I can educating as many people as possible about 4th Amendment Cities — why they are critical to our civil liberties as well as our safety; about DACA — why it is an important tool that should be expanded upon, not reduced; and about the facts about immigrants and refugees — their critical contributions to our way of life and our obligations as global citizens to be there for those who need us because someday they might return the favor and because it’s the right thing to do; to work as hard as I can to protect our rights and those of our neighbors; to ensure that my husband and children and friends and loved ones’ support for causes that I hold dear buoys me in times of despair and keeps me moving forward so that I can do what needs to be done.”

Nathaniel Popkin, historian, author, co-editor of Hidden City Philadelphia

“I resolve to imagine a just world is possible.”

Hannah Sassaman, policy director, Media Mobilizing Project

“Since the election, I’ve had a commitment to saying yes to members of my community stepping up to resistance of the new world order — old colleagues, friends, and acquaintances who are turning to me looking for leadership on how to get engaged with making Philadelphia and all its people resilient. In late night calls, texts, meetings at our homes over unruly kids and tables, I and many others have tried to listen hard to their need to help and to give them guidance. My resolution for 2017 is to say yes even more strongly and loudly, and to help as many people as possible find their best ways to organize for justice in our city and world.”

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Liz Spikol is the Jewish Exponent's editor in chief; she has worked for the publication for four years. Prior to that she was at Philadelphia magazine, Curbed Philly and the before-its-time Tek Lado, a magazine for bilingual Latinx geeks. She is active in the American Jewish Press Association and contributes to the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, Baltimore Jewish Times, Washington Jewish Week and Phoenix Jewish News. A Philly native, Spikol got a bachelor's degree at Oberlin College and a master's at the University of Texas at Austin. She lives in Mt. Airy.

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