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December 18, 1981 - Image 80

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-12-18

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

80 Friday, December 18, 1981


Stephen Wise: `A Voice That Spoke for Justice'

(Continued from Page 2)

Fighting Against
Impending Holocaust

Dr. Urofsky does not ig-
nore the charge that was
leveled at SSW that he
failed to release the facts
regarding the mass murder
of Jews, that he yielded to
Assistant Secretary of State
Sumner Welles to refrain
from spreading, the facts
that were revealed in a tele-
gram to Wise from the
World Jewish Congress rep-
resentative Gerhart
Riegner. It took weeks to get
confirmation from the State
Wise was stymied by
anger from men like Max
Gottschalk, himself an
escapee from Nazism,
who viewed the reports
about the Nazi bes-
tialities as atrocity prop-
aganda. Urofsky poses a
question and provides
the answer when he
"If Wise had refused (to
withhold information con-
tained in the Riegner cable)
might anything have pre-
vented the further massacre
of hundreds of thousands of
Jews? The answer sadly is
probably not. Hitler had de-
termined to destroy the
Jewish people no matter
what the cost and cared no-
thing for so-called public
Dr. Urofsky has a defense
of the American Jewish
community. He refers to the
many protest meetings, the
sense of outrage expressed,
and he also indicates how
the refusal to recognize the



Nazi menace persisted in
some Christian ranks, stat-
"Perhaps no more call-
ous response could be
found than in the pages of
the Christian Century,
which while admitting
that terrible things were
happening to the Jews,
questioned 'whether any
good purpose is served
by the publication of
such charges as Dr.
Stephen S. Wise gave to
the press last week.' The
journal disputed Wise's
claim that Hitler wanted
to kill all the Jews of Po-
land, noting that the
Polish government-in-
exile claimed that only
half had been marked for
extinction and less than
250,000 actually killed."
Dr. Chaim Weizmann 'fi-
gures prominently in the
Wise biography. Wise was
the leading Brandeisist at
the 1920 Cleveland conven-
tion. He had his differ-
ences with the world
Zionists. It was when

Weizmann was awarded an
honorary degree by the
Jewish Institute of Relig- .
ion, the rabbinical college
that was formed and headed
by Dr. Wise and later
merged with Hebrew Union
College, that the Wise-
Weizmann rift was re-
Dr. Urofsky refers to the
biographical writings by
Dr. Carl Hermann Voss who
also compiled a volume of
the letters of SSW. He
quotes this tribute to Wise
by Dr. Voss:
"Carl Voss once said that
`Stephen Wise was the most
Christian man I ever knew,'
meaning that Wise tried to
live out in his own life the
teachings of brotherhood
enunciated by the Galilean
Jew two millennia earlier."

* * *

A Tribute to
Stephen Wise

There is this noteworthy
tribute to Wise with which
Dr. Urofsky concludes "A
Voice That Spoke for Jus-


"To measure a man's
life is not easy, for surely
it is more than just an ac-
counting of achieve-
ments and failures. Wise
was the last of a genera-
tion of titans in American
Jewish life, people who
by the force of their per-
sonalities and will
shaped the Jewish com-
munity into a self-
respecting, self-reliant

"Such individuals are no
longer on the scene, foi-
American Jewry, like
American society, has ma-
tured to the point where no
one person can exert the in-
fluence a Wise or a Brandeis
or a Louis Marshall was
able to exercise in the ear-
lier part of this century.
"In large measure, the
success of Wise and others
in creating the institu-
tional structure of Ameri-
can Jewish life has shifted
the focus away from the
charismatic leader toward
the organizational man-
ager. The inchoate Jewish
society in which Wise lived
and worked has now become
structured, and in the eyes
of many observers overly
rigid and terribly unin-
"What set Wise apart was
not his great accomplish-
ments but his less pub-
licized work as a caring and
devoted shepherd of his
people. He fought Hitler not
only because fascism
threatened democracy, but
because the Nazis tortured
and killed individuals, men
and women and children.

He opposed Tammany Hall
and worked for numerous
reforms not only because of
the larger principles in-
volved, but because of the
terrible effect that corrupt
politics, stinking tene-
ments, and unsafe factories
had on people.

"For Wise, the Tal-
mudic dictum that 'he
who saves a single life
saves the entire world'
had a special meaning,
and as Nahum Goldmann
said, he not only loved the
Jewish people, he loved
every individual Jew,
and beyond that, every
person in need. The
thousands of common
people who filed past his
bier or stood bareheaded
in the rain as the funeral
cortege passed loved him
not for his great acts but
for the greatness of spirit
he showed in his small

"He was not a saint, a role
he would have found rather
uncomfortable to play. He
had his share of failings, his
ego and temper at times got
the best of him, and on occa-
sion he could be madden-
ingly self-righteous, as-
sured that he alone knew
what was right. But these
failings pale to insignifi-
cance when measured
against, if nothing else, the
love and care he lavished so
prodigiously on his people.

"He fought for decency
and democracy,. for the
rights not only of the Jewish
people but of all men and
women. Throughout

Stephen Wise's long life and
career, he was indeed a
voice that spoke for justice."
Mrs. Wise was a leader in
her own right. She was a
charming hostess, an artist,
an inspirer of many follow-
ers. She was associated with
Henrietta Szold in the
founding of the Hadassah
women's Zionist movement.
Judge Polier received
much acclaim when she
presided over a juvenile
court in New York. Upon


her retirement she actively
cooperated with her hus-
band, Shad Polier, in the
leadership of American
Jewish Congress affairs.
James Waterman Wise,
who has become an art col-
lector and a prominent fig-
ure in the art world, au-
thored several books. His
historical analysis of the
Swastika, which emerged
as a symbol of hate, was
among the first books deal-
ing with the Nazi terror,
published in the mid-1930s.

The Battle Against Assimilation

Festival of Hanuka Has Modern Meaning for Diaspora


World Zionist Press Service

Hanuka a minor festival.
This Feast of Lights is not
even mentioned in the Bi-
ble, and it celebrates a
military event rather more
than a miracle. During the
eight days of its observance,
very little fuss is made —
Jews continue their work-
day routine; there are no
celebrations in the
synagoguefew customs as-
sociated with it apart from
gastronomical ones and the
nightly kindling of the
menora lights.
Why do we still bother to
celebrate it at all?
Hanuka celebrates the
successful revolt of the Jews
in the days of the Second
Temple against the Greeks
who had inherited the Sy-
rian part of Alexander the
Great's fallen empire. An-
tiochus Epiphanes, the

tyrannical ruler, tried to
force Greek religion and
culture on Judea, finding
the non-conformist Jews a
threat to the state. His op-
pression reached its peak in
168 BCE when his army
erected an idol in the Tem-
ple in Jerusalem, and he
forced Jews to sacrifice
swine to the Greek gods.
This was the final insult
that caused the Jews to
rise up and revolt, stem-
ming the evil tide of
events. On 25th Kislev 165
BCE, Judah Maccabee
led a victorious band of
loyalists and the Temple
was recaptured. Eight
days were spent in
purifying and rededicat-
ing it (Hanuka literally
means "Dedication").
The Temple service con-
tinued for two more cen-
turies until the Romans
overthrew Jerusalem in
70 CE and again the

Temple was destroyed.
Hanuka is the most re-
cent Jewish festival in
terms of origin, and has the
least number of observances
connected with it. Although
it commemorates oppres-
sion and subsequent vic-
tory, there are countless
examples in our history of
Jews driving out oppressors
and regaining indepen-
dence. What makes Hanuka
more important?
It was Judaism's first en-
counter with the danger of
assimilation that
threatened to wipe out
Jewish identity for all time.
It is a similar threat which
Jews living in the Diaspora
are facing today, and the
same question which must
be asked: can a small minor-
ity, dwelling among a diffe-
rent culture, take part and
contribute to the general
society without imitating
its customs to such an ex-

tent that they are swal- culture superior to their of the cruse of oil that lasted
lowed up?
for eight days instead of one
The masses of Jewish
It begins by celebrating in the Temple. What we are
people today face two major Christmas as well as, or really commemorating is
threats to Jewish identity even instead of, Hanuka; our whole history . . . the
— one posed by the cruel the New Year rather than Jewish nation that should
repressions of the Soviet Rosh Hashana; Easter in- have lasted a brief hour yet
Union and similar regimes, stead of Passover; until a has never been consumed,
and one posed by the toler- _ Jew sees most of his herit- and still burns brightly.
ant, seductively attractive age slipping away as he
Israel is a nation again
societies of the free Western takes on more and more with its own heritage, its
world. It is hard to know gentile culture and obser- own destiny. The miracle of
where - the greatest danger vance. It is hardly different Hanuka is not a super-
from the Hellenization that natural act. Its symbol is
to Judaism lies.
was imposed on Jews in the
Behind the Iron Cur- time of the Maccabees, ex- the light which emanates
tain, Antiochus lives cept that it is a voluntary from God, but the real mira-
cle is that because of our
again where our faith is act.
and. the state of Is-
considered to be
When we light the
superstitious and bar- Hanuka candles, we are rael, the light is still burn-
baric. Marxism has re- "proclaiming the miracle" ing brightly despite the sur-
rounding darkness.
placed God and freedom
of worship exists mainly
on paper. Jews who wish
to practice their religion,
study the Hebrew lan-
guage or make aliya to Is-
rael are persecuted and
placed outside the pale,
with all their rights and
liberties denied them.
The opposite is true in the
West, yet the danger is gre-
ater because the threat is
more subtle. There are no
restrictions at all on follow-
ing the Jewish religion and
tradition, yet there is the
hidden pressure to imitate
what many Jews are
Worshipping at the Western Wall during Hanuka
seduced into believing is a

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