Tisha'b'Av and Urbanism
Monday night and Tuesday, observant Jews all over the world will be fasting for Tisha'b'Av, a day dedicated to remembering pretty much every major disaster befalling Jews over the past twenty centuries or so, or at least a few of the major ones- especially the destruction of the Jewish Temples by foreign invaders (Babylonians in 586 BC, Romans 656 years later). What does this have to do with urbanism?
Just as Jews remember the destruction of the Temples and the anti-Jewish atrocities caused by the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, urbanists should take time now and then to remember the destruction of American cities in the late 20th century through urban "renewal" and middle-class flight.
And just as Jews need to remember that (despite the triumphs of American Jewry and of the state of Israel) the world in general and Israel in particular remain highly flawed, urbanists need to remember that American cities are, in a sense, unredeemed. Even relatively successful cities like Boston and New York have a disproportionate share of the region's social ills; they still have more poor people and more social ills than their suburbs, and their more prosperous areas are crushingly unaffordable for many. And many older American cities, like St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland, are still struggling: still constantly losing people, still far poorer than their suburbs.
I'm not saying that the readers of this blog should fast this week; but it wouldn't hurt to go on Google Maps, look at the east side of Cleveland or the north side of St. Louis, and remind themselves that just as the Temples have not been rebuilt, neither have large chunks of urban America.
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