There is evidence of major physical and social transformation in Cincinnati. Spearheaded by 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation) downtown Cincinnati and Over the Rhine are not what they were a couple of years ago.
As a result of this transformation, the demographics, business and social structures are changing too. More businesses are moving into the formerly decayed Over the Rhine. Entertainment establishments are thriving and younger professionals are moving into the renovated residences. Now, weekend crowds on the streets consist largely of the young, walking their dogs or enjoying a drink in the mushrooming wine, beer and coffee bars.
Back in 1990 Cincinnati became famous – or infamous, depending on one’s perspective – because of the controversies stemming from the Maplethorpe exhibition at the Cincinnati Contemporary Center. Before that, there was, and still is, debate around Larry Flynt and his Hustler business.
The picture created from all this was is of an intolerant Cincinnati. Deep below the surface though may lie a community of a silent majority and a vocal minority – a prevalent reality with many American communities.
There are signs too that that may be changing. Change in social issues can be spearheaded by an institution or by a segment of the community that steps forward as the voice of the voiceless. That is what is happening in Cincinnati.
A couple of months ago, the pastor of Crossroad Community church gave a sermon castigating homosexuality as a sin. This caught many by surprise because the church is perceived as progressive. It was equally surprising when the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral issued a rebuttal of the sermon.
Most people know the position of the Episcopal Church on such matters. What was surprising was the fact that somebody was vocal about it. Indeed, being vocal on social issues and the voice of the voiceless seems to be the new direction for Christ Church Cathedral under the newly installed dean.
There is still another illustration of the change of times.
This past Sunday, June 22, Yaniv Waizman, Tel Aviv City Council Member and founder of Israel Gay Youth, who is also Tel Aviv mayor’s special advisor on LGBTQ affairs, was in Cincinnati sharing glimpses of LGBTQ life in Israel, especially Tel Aviv which was named the Best Gay City in the world in 2011.
On Monday, June 23, Mr. Waizman shared his experience in creating change in Tel Aviv and encouraging activists and professionals to keep Cincinnati moving in a positive direction. This event was hosted by Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach and Greg Landsman at 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab on Vine Street.
Both of these events, named “Israel Out of the Closet” were the final parts of the ISRAELITY Speaker Series held in partnership with Congregation Beth Adam. Some of the other sponsors included the Jewish Federation Cincinnati, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), American Jewish Committee (AJC), Hebrew Union College, Jewish National Fund (JNF) to name just a few.
There is no doubt that change is taking place in Cincinnati, both institutionally and communally and it appears to change the landscape rapidly.