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September 03, 1965 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1965-09-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Story of Isaac M. Wise, Founder of Reform
Judaism, Anti-Zionist, Ably Told by Heller



Dr. James G. Heller, who for a
number of years held the pulpit in
Cincinnati of the late Isaac Mayer
Wise, the founder of the Reform
Jewish movement in America, has
written an unusually good biogra-
phy of the man who introduced the
liberal religious ideas in this coun-
Under the title "Isaac M. Wise
—His Life, Work and Thought,"
published by the
Union of Ameri-
can Hebrew Con-
gregations, 8 3 8
Fifth, NY 21,
Dr. Heller has
compiled the
basic facts about
the rabbi, writer,
historian, who
was in the center
of many contro-
It is a large book of 800 pages,
and in it the able author has in-
corporated the basic historic facts
—about the background of Dr.
Wise's arrival in this country after
the 1948 European Revolution, the
conditions under which he served
here during the first years of his
ministry, events referred to by Dr.
Wise himself as "The Spirit of the
Age," the education acquired by
the hero of this biography and his
courageous role as a leader in his
community—in Cincinnati and from
there as an influence on major
American events.
While this is a biography of
an eminent American Jew, Dr.
Heller's review of European con-
ditions which led to a revolt,
which were responsible eventual-
ly for a mass migration of Jews,
are of marked interest in the
life story of Dr. Wise. In the
subject of Dr. Heller's biography
are co-mingled, as the author
states, the "smarting sense of
defeat, a hope deferred," result-
ing from the revolutionary oc-
curences in Europe and also the
loss of sacredness of ceremony
in Jewish ranks.
Dr. Wise's first services were in
Albany. In Cincinnati he held the
pulpit of the Isaac M. Wise Tem-
ple frOm 1856 to 1900. It was dur-
ing those years that he organized
the Union of American Hebrew
Congregations, the Central Con-
ference of American Rabbis and
Hebrew Union College. Dr. Heller
occupied the Wise Temple pulpit
from 1920 to 1952.
Rabbi Wise was the center of
stormy debates over the develop-
ments in Reform Judaism while in
Albany. When he came to Cincin-
nati he began to propagate his
views with vigor, and he felt the
need for a journal to serve as his
organ. He formed the Israelite, as
a weekly magazine, and it later
became the American Israelite, cur-
rently the oldest surviving English-
Jewish periodical in the land.
There were many issues in
which Dr. Wise became deeply
involved, but during the Civil
War he devoted himself to his



Friday, September 3, 1965-31

congregation, and "while he
could have thrown himself into
many causes and spoken many
stirring words," about "preserv-
ing the Union by force," etc., Dr.
Heller states that he "instead
withdrew into silence and rare-
ly wrote a syllable that revealed
what was passing in his soul."
At the time of the Affaire Drey-
fus, it was Wise's hope that after
the French Jewish captain's ac-
quital all "scores shOuld be con-
celled" and there should be "no
He opposed intermarriage "as
long as Jews are regarded as
`damned,' as long as they—Jews-
continue to think Christianity mis-
taken, such marriages will be not
only wrong but dangerous," Dr.
Heller explains the Wise position.
There was an element in Reform
Jewish ranks that had advocated
abolishing circumcision. Dr. Wise,
in a letter, Sept. 26, 1886, to David
Philipson, stated that Milath
Gerim—circumcision of proselytes
—ought to be abolished, "especial-
ly from our standpoint when we
look upon Judaism as the univer-
sal and not as a tribal religion."
While not making U. S. Grant's
attitude toward Jews the sole is-
sue in the campaign, Dr. Wise
opposed Grant's candidacy for
President, saying he was "moral-
ly and intellectually unfit" for
the office.
Isaac Mayer Wise was the known
antagonist to Zionism and Dr. Hell-
er, a one-time leader in the Zion-
ist Organization of America who
later became president of the
Labor Zionist Organization, goes
into great detail about this phase
in the life of the father of Reform
Judaism in America. He refers to
early sentiments expressed by Dr.
Wise for a return of Jews to Pale-
stine and a Hebrew renaissance
and states that "he was not con-
sistent in the years that went be-
fore." By degrees, Dr. Heller ex-
plains, "Wise came to believe that
Zionism was a menace to his own
Messianism, his interpretation of
the character and destiny of Juda-
ism, that Zionism was more than
the fantastic and visionary scheme
of a few dreamers . . ." And in his
later years Wise was among the
most outspoken opponents of Zion-
In a Hanukah sermon in 1880

Oppressive Themes by Poet Nathaniel Tarn

Nathaniel Tarn is a poet of note ,
and a prize winner. There is
power in his messages, and there
are evidences that his moods are
guileful—often motu-nful and de-
"Old Savage Young City," his
newest book of poems, published
by Random House, contains many
themes. He proves he can be sen-
timental in "B ring a Child
Flowers." He writes powerful
love songs.
His Jewish themes and there
are several in this book — will
cause concern. His "Portrait of a
Modern Jew" is problematic. "Is-
rael in the Park" does not leave
a good taste.
He delves into history and bi-
ography in "Simeon ben Yohai to
the Columns of Light, A.D. 135,"
Abulafia at the Gates of Rome,
A.D. 1280," "Noah on Ararat
But when he resorts to the vul-
gar in "The Master of the Name
in His Privy, A.D. 1760," he leaves

He is a good poet, and the feel-
ing left with the Jewish reader
who is sensitive about such mat-
ters is that he should have aimed
for more dignified approaches to
what is for many sacred.

Wise said: "The race-proud Jew is
a fool, as all race-proud people
are." At rabbinical conventions he
was among the most bitter in the
God . . . Everywhere
attacks on the Jewish national
Tell me, said an unbelieving
movement. He wrote extensively
Jew, to the Hasidic Itzhak Leib
condemning Zionism and Zionists.
Dr. Heller comments that this anti-
of Berditchev, where is your God?
Zionism "flowed from his univer-
Tell me, replied the rabbi, where
salism . . . his Jewish missionar-
He is not.
ism, and many other central themes
of his lifelong credo concerning the
tradition and destiny of Israel.
This was an organic part of the
whole man, as it was part of the
`age' out of which he came, in
Dry Cleaned
which his mind was immersed and
in which he lived and labored."
There are many matters re-
lating to anti-Semitism and to
With Decorator Fold
Christianity which also are an
Removed, Measured and
integral part of the Reform lead-
Rehung to Your Satisfaction
er and which are reviewed with
Commercial — Residential
thoroughness by Dr. Heller.
Phone for Free Estimates
He states, for example, that a bad taste.
"Wise's estimate of Richard Wag-
ner's music was hopelessly dis-
torted by his hatred of him as an
Dr. Wise was disturbed by "the
"Music at Its Best
8914 W. 7 Mile Rd.
indifference of some of his flock,
for Your Guests"
their apparent lethargy."
UN 1-6688
He did not believe in kinder-
gartens which were then being in-
troduced bceause he disapproved
of putting too much strain on chil-
drens' minds when they were
Numerous other attitudes are re-
flected in this biography—a well-
written full-length work that re-
16221 W. 8 MILE ROAD 4 Blocks W. of Jos CouzenS
sults from good research and pro-
Let us assist you in arranging accomodations for the enjoy-
per understanding of the life, times
ment of your out-of-town guests. Ask about our Hospitality
and attitudes of a man who holds
Room breakfast special.
an important place in American
BR 2 1404
Jewish history.




EL 7-1799




BY 100,000 KIDS

Yeshiva U. Library Now
in Garage — Temporarily

NEW YORK — Yeshiva Univer-
sity will move its famed Pollack
Library collections of liberal arts
volumes and periodicals to a con-
verted garage.
The move will allow the institu-
tion to raze the present two-story
structure and prepare the site for
construction of a $5,000,000, six-
story, block-long, Central Univer-
sity Library. Dr. Abraham G.
Duker, director of libraries, made
the announcement.


World Book Lore


The sailors on Christopher

Columbus' first voyage may not
have found all the gold they
wanted, but they did discover ham-
mocks. They found the Indians of
the West Indies using these sleep-
ing nets and began using them on
their ships. Sailors used hammocks
for many years, and when a sailor
died at sea, his body was.wrapped
in his hammock for burial.




when you pick 'em up at your supermarket

Made from Round Steak. Same as served at BIFFS GRILLS

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