At the risk of stating the obvious, a lot sure has changed in the last 130 years.
Not that I have firsthand experience of all the particulars, but in a span of time that saw the invention of the automobile, the lighting of America, humankind’s harnessing of flight, two world wars and the planting of an American flag on the moon, Philadelphia’s Jewish community went through its own dramatic changes.
Waves of immigrants transformed historic Jewish neighborhoods in Northern Liberties, South Philadelphia and North Philadelphia, as did the later expansion of the community into points further north, east, south and west.
Synagogues became churches, which then gave way to demolishment, as new shuls popped up in Wynnefield and the Northeast, and later across Lower Merion Township and the rest of Montgomery County, along with Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties. Practices evolved; movements gave birth to new expressions of Jewish identity.
Through it all, your Jewish Exponent, the second-oldest Jewish newspaper in the United States, has been there, documenting the highs and the lows, the stories both inspiring and discomfiting, the joys and sorrows of American Jewish life.
We’ve also provided a window into politics and Philadelphia society as seen through a Jewish lens. We’ve been the place where the different factions that make up the rich tapestry of Philadelphia’s Jewish community come to debate and sound off on the issues, and we’ve been the forum where you share news of the newest arrivals and the dearly departed.
Over the course of the last 130 years, though, the Exponent has been more than a newspaper. It has tried to be a reflection of you, an extension of the community and, with the support of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, it has worked to enliven, invigorate and energize Jewish expression in the City of Brotherly Love. Such an undertaking would never have been possible without the support of you, our readers.
It’s far from a secret that journalism is a tough business. The last two decades have seen the costs of paper, ink and delivery skyrocket. Add to that the exponential expansion of available news outlets, primarily online, and you’ve got an environment in which delivering the news is more difficult and less certain.
But the journalists who have shepherded the Exponent are a resilient bunch.
Not only do we believe in the power of the press to help perfect society by shining light where light needs shining, but we also are incredibly proud members of the Jewish community, dedicated to seeing American Jewish life and the State of Israel as strong and vibrant.
Do we have a perfect record? Of course not. No one does. But I can guarantee that every single person whose byline has appeared in the pages of the Exponent — throughout its long history — has given their very best and committed their utmost care to the community.
I can attest that the future of the Exponent is bright, because of the dedication of its writers, editors and business staff. Our website continues to break news, while our pages, week after week, aim to inform, engage and inspire. In an age when the charge of “fake news” is levelled against all sorts of media, we are showcasing the real work being done in the community, from the volunteers packing boxes of food for those in need to the protesters determined to put an end to anti-Semitism.
On behalf of all of the chief editors before me, I am proud of the work the Exponent has done, and I am thankful for each and every one of you who keeps reading.
When I was a child, the Exponent was given equal billing to the Inquirer by my grandparents. And when I became the editor-in-chief, my grandfather was beaming with pride. That’s as much a testament to the intimate bond between the community and its newspaper as it is to the bond between a grandfather and his grandson.
The fact is Philadelphia is one of the best cities in the United States, and its Jewish community is one of the strongest in America. It’s only fitting that its Jewish newspaper be equally strong, equally proud and equally resilient. Thank you for making it possible.
Joshua Runyan is the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent. He can be reached at [email protected]