Our twin themes of the 2019 CCAR Convention in Cincinnati are the celebrations of both the 130th birthday of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the 200th birthday of Isaac Mayor Wise. Although four more years would pass before Wise established the CCAR in 1889, our auspicious co-anniversaries prompted me to revisit our 1885 Pittsburgh Platform. While some of the Platform’s planks no longer support us – our movement’s embrace of ritual observance has certainly swung far away from the Pittsburgh Platform and our fidelity to Israel shapes Reform Jewish identity – many of Pittsburgh’s planks are as sturdy today as they were then. My particular favorite is the 8th and final plank:
In full accordance with the spirit of the Mosaic legislation, which strives to regulate the relations between rich and poor, we deem it our duty to participate in the great task of modern times, to solve, on the basis of justice and righteousness, the problems presented by the contrasts and evils of the present organization of society.
Join me at the Convention on Wednesday, April 3, from 11 AM – 1 PM for a “Tour of Two Cities,” a special off-site program that will bring the “contrasts and evils of the present” into sharp relief as we explore two sides of economic development: urban renewal and gentrification. Together, we will walk the plank through Cincinnati’s historic, working class Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood, exploring the complex changes and challenges brought on by OTR’s rapid boom and transformation.
We will enter OTR via the Cincinnati Bell Connector, itself a source of controversy regarding both its route and who the streetcar serves, before arriving at Washington Park for consecutive walking tours of the neighborhood. We will travel over to and up Vine Street before returning to Washington Park, as together we will witness OTR’s incredible commercial and residential development, asking ourselves critical questions and seeking answers that may also apply in our own communities. We will be led on our tours by Eric Avner, Senior Program Manager of Community Development for the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation, and Dr. Mark Mussman, Director of Education for the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and tentatively hope that our colleague Rabbi Lucy Dinner will help offer a Jewish frame to our conversation. Our excursion will conclude with an optional pizza lunch at Venice-on-Vine, a pre-employment training and job placement program for individuals with barriers to employment.
Rabbi David Spinrad serves Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, VA.