This week’s issue of The Jewish Chronicle is the last of 2012 — our 50th year covering Jewish Pittsburgh, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
This year, the Chronicle marked its golden anniversary in two ways: We covered the past, and the future.
From Jan. 5 to March 1, we published a weekly series of columns called Retro News, each column analyzing a past issue from a week in which history was made — the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars, the Raid on Entebbe and the Camp David Accords. We looked at how the Chronicle covered these stories and noted local news breaking on those given weeks.
But on March 8, the anniversary of our first issue in 1962, we abruptly shifted gears. Instead of looking back, we looked ahead with a series of investigative stories titled The Future of…. These were objective, comprehensive looks at the state of congregation life in America, women in Judaism, the rabbinate and Israel.
On this last week of the year, the Chronicle is again looking back — with our page 1 synopsis of the top 10 local stories of the year.
And in this space, we again look ahead as we predict some of the stories that will grab headlines in 2013.
Some of those stories are continuations of issues our community has faced and will continue to face. Some will echo national headlines, but some will be new and innovative. All of them, however, will have a lasting impact on our community, our country, even our world.
Here they are:
• Congregations across the region will continue to struggle with declining membership and red ink in 2013. A few outlying synagogues may close their doors for good as small town communities continue to disappear. In Pittsburgh and its suburbs, congregations will continue to seek cost savings through attrition, or through partnerships among themselves, such as the religious school consolidations that have been occurring.
• Young Jews will continue to seek new, more meaningful ways to express themselves as Jews other than the traditional synagogue; this train has left the station and it can’t be turned around. We see entities such as J’Burgh and Moishe House leading the way in this trend, but there could be new efforts on the horizon we have yet to hear about. Every generation of Jews leaves its own imprint on the faith and the community, and this one will be no different. We can fear the change this generation brings, or we can embrace it as a source of strength for Jewish Pittsburgh. Either way, the change is coming.
• Jewish denominations will — and frankly, must — find new ways to bridge the gaps between them. It is already happening, as we noted above, through religious school consolidations that cut across denominational lines, but so much more is possible. Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform Jews can find common ground in matters of worship, views of Israel and outreach to the Jewish and greater communities.
• Local Jews will join national debates on the toughest issues of our time. Jews are on different sides of the fence when it comes to tax relief, gun control, climate change, the Iranian nuclear threat and even Israel, and those opinions will be expressed here in the weeks and months to come. We’re not a monolithic people; our opinions on these issues cover the spectrum, and no one position constitutes the “Jewish” view. However, as these debates pan out, the Chronicle will cover them all.
Looking back and looking ahead are two of the most important roles the Chronicle plays in our community. We must remember our past to learn its lessons and we must plan forward to the future if we are to survive and thrive as a community. The Chronicle has been honored to serve as the source of news and ideas for Jewish Pittsburgh for 50 years. And we assure you, it’s only the beginning.