Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise in the South End

Change is coming

How did this man change the way Jews in America worshipped?

Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900) was the leading organizational genius behind the rise of American Reform Judaism in the late 19th century. He played a central role in the founding of three major Reform Jewish institutions that still exist today: The Union of American Hebrew Congregations [1873], now the Union for Reform Judaism, the parent body of Reform synagogues; the Hebrew Union College [1875], the Reform movement's rabbinical seminary; and the Central Conference of American Rabbis [1889], the Reform rabbinical association (American Archives)

Isaac Mayer Wise was born in Steingrub, Bohemia in 1819. After studying in various yeshivot in Prague, Czechoslovakia and Vienna, Austria he became a rabbi in Radnitz, Bohemia. Because of the poor prospects in Europe at the time, Wise immigrated in 1846 to New York. He shortly thereafter became the rabbi at Congregation Beth El in Albany. There he became an advocate for reforms such as confirmation, choral singing and mixed pews.

Wise's reforms were not popular with his Albany congregation. He broke off in the early 1850s to form Anshe Emeth Congregation in Albany. Wise considered taking a pulpit in Charleston, South Carolina but in 1854 moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. He remained at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in that city for the remainder of his life.

Wise remained actively involved in the creation of an "American Judaism." Shortly after his arrival in Cincinnati, he created the weekly paper known as The Israelite and a German supplement titled Die Deborah. He also started the Zion College- a school for Hebrew and secular studies. It folded a short time later (American Jewish Archives)


Isaac Mayer Wise

Isaac Mayer Wise

As a younger man | Source: American Jewish Archives | Creator: Orville Abrahams View File Details Page

Street Address:

77 South Ferry Street
Albany, NY 12202 [map]

Cite this Page:

Orville Abrahams, “Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise in the South End,” Albany Walks for Health, accessed December 13, 2018, http://www.albanywalksforhealth.com/items/show/153.

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