From the Editor: November 2006

A couple of weeks ago, I ripped up our planned November cover story in an attempt to jar all of us awake. There is a school of thought in the magazine game that putting a gun on your cover, accompanied by the word “murder,” is kind of, well, off-putting. You don’t want to scare your customer, after all.

But after reading Greg Gilderman’s “The Dead of Night” (page 104), which is both a gripping narrative of one night on the front lines of our city’s murder epidemic and the most definitive piece yet on why we can’t seem to join other cities in effectively combating violent crime, I decided we should be scared. Five-year-olds are getting gunned down in our streets.

If that doesn’t break our hearts and spur us to action, perhaps self-interest will. These last couple of years have seen a resurgence of Philadelphia’s national reputation. All the good things behind that — increased tourism, vibrant restaurants, luxury condos, bustling city streets — will be imperiled if a perception takes hold that we are once again unsafe. In fact, it’s already happening; not long ago, the BBC aired a report on violence in America. Which city do you think they chose as the setting for their broadcast? That’s right. Ours.

So what can be done? Turns out, as Gilderman documents, we know what works; we just lack the political will to get it done. In fact, we have the preeminent expert on modern-day policing right here in Philly: Penn’s Lawrence Sherman. But except for the four years John Timoney served as our police commissioner, Sherman’s cutting-edge ideas have been virtually ignored by our leaders. You can join us this month for a Philadelphia Talks discussion, in partnership with the National Constitution Center, about what can be done; Sherman will be there to expand upon his comments in our cover story. (For more information, go to phillymag.com or constitutioncenter.org.)

You can also join us as we continue to push on this front. In September, senior writer Matt Teague reported from one neighborhood in North Philly that has been wracked by gun violence. Last month, we published a chart of murder hot spots. Next month, our Contrarian columnist, Noel Weyrich, will weigh in on the issue. We want to hear your thoughts, too. Read Gilderman’s article, talk to your friends and neighbors about the issue, go to our website and offer advice or rebuke our mayor and police commissioner; mid-month, I’ll deliver your comments to City Hall with a plea to Mayor Street that he not let the chalk outlines that dominate our local news become his legacy.

My wife Bet and I enjoy playing a little game when we drive down Montgomery Avenue in Bala on a Saturday afternoon. We call it “Spot the Jew.” We compete to see who’s first to shout “Jew!” upon spying an Orthodox member of my very own tribe on his or her way to shul. (It’s fun to kid the Chosen People.)

Recently, my nephew — a college student — told me of his interest in Orthodox Judaism. Sage uncle that I am, I told him it’s good that he’s on a spiritual quest, but that he really should be focusing on drinking beer and trying to get laid on Friday nights. That said, I realized something was afoot. So we turned to Philip Weiss, a former Daily News reporter who has written for New York magazine and Esquire, and is currently working on a book about American Judaism. Phil’s report, “Oy Vey, There Goes the Neighborhood,” on page 126, is a fascinating glimpse into a growing subculture on the Main Line. It’s both a sensitive attempt to understand what’s behind this generational pull toward Orthodox Judaism, and a look at how Bala Cynwyd and Merion — places where Jews of any stripe were not entirely welcome not so long ago — are changing once again.