The passing of civic icon and Citizen Chairman Jeremy Nowak leaves a void for those who loved him and for the city he loved
“Man plans, and God laughs.”
That’s an old Jewish axiom that Jeremy Nowak—public intellectual, Philadelphia civic icon, and our Chairman here at The Citizen—liked to say. He’d chortle at the vicissitudes of fate, while always modeling for us the wisdom in daring it. Jeremy passed away on Saturday, after suffering a massive heart attack on July 11. He was 66 years old.
It’s telling that Jeremy’s heart gave out, for it was in constant overuse. He was all heart. Yes, Jeremy was brilliant; as his recent book, The New Localism, attests, he had more sui generis ideas, knew more about the plight and potential of the American city, and saw deeper connections between policy and people than anyone on our public stage.
But what set Jeremy so far apart from other original thinkers was that heart, just how much he wanted to make things better for others. His withering criticisms—around here, “getting Jeremy’d” was a thing—could be unsettling, sure, but they were also expressions of deep love: He just cared so damn much, about his city, about his fellow citizens, about his family, and, especially, about the sunken state of our public discourse.
“I don’t speak because I have the power to speak; I speak because I don’t have the power to remain silent” – Rabbi A.Y. Kook
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