The Violence of our Philadelphia Poverty Calls us to Action, A Letter from Rev. Kent Matthies

September 15, 2018

We are in the midst of the Jewish High Holy Days.  This is a season of recognizing we all are wronged, we all do wrongs, and we all have an obligation to try and make things right.  How appropriate that we all get a chance (again) to wrestle with the reality of the endemic, unacceptable levels of poverty in our Beloved Philadelphia. 

See “Mired Still” by Alfred Lubrano in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sept. 13, 2018.  Lubrano writes, “Out of step with the rest of America and its own suburbs, Philadelphia has remained stubbornly mired in poverty while its median household income has plummeted.”

Our poverty rate remains about twice the national average. Not only do we remain the leader in poverty rate amongst the ten largest cities in America, (population). While many cities are reducing poverty, we are not. The gap in our leadership position is growing,

Poverty is violent. Poverty involves painful hunger. Poverty involves getting sick more often and not receiving good medical care. Poverty involves fewer educational opportunities. Poverty involves being destabilized by cold and hot. Poverty creates more poverty.

What can we do? One thing is to advocate for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

Our congregation –the Unitarian Society of Germantown – is delighted to have joined the interfaith organization POWER: Pennsylvanians Organizing With Empowerment.  POWER has numerous campaigns working to lift people out of poverty in Philadelphia., including:

The 21st Century Living Wage Campaign

This effort builds on POWER’s success in raising wages in Philadelphia, now seeking to move the minimum wage to $15/hour for all city workers and those who work for city contract and sub-contractor agencies.

On Thursday, September 27th at 10:00am POWER will join others at City Council to give testimony and advocate in favor of such a bill. Please consider coming out to City Hall show your support.   

There will be other opportunities to work to alleviate poverty in the coming weeks. In this Holy season Jewish communities often throw breadcrumbs into bodies of water to symbolize letting go of patterns of wrongdoing. Let us throw our breadcrumbs of complacency into the river of life and empower one another to work for justice.

In faith,
Rev. Kent Matthies