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WISE, Isaac Mayer (1819-1900)

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WISE, Isaac Mayer (1819-1900), American rabbi, religious scholar, educator, and leader of Reform Judaism. He was born in Steingrub (now Lomnice, Czech Republic). Educated in Prague, he entered the rabbinate in Bohemia in 1843. A nonconformist in his religious and political views, he immigrated to the U. S. in 1846 and became the rabbi of a congregation in Albany, N.Y. He was rabbi of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Cincinnati, Ohio, after 1854. Believing that traditional Judaism lacked the flexibility to meet the ever-changing conditions of the modern world, he became one of the outstand ing pioneers of the Reform movement in American Jewish life. He expounded his views in the newspapers The American Israelite and Die Deborah (published in German), which he established (1854 and 1855, respectively) and thereafter edited. A great organizer, Wise founded the three leading Reform organizations in the U.S.: the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, in 1873; Hebrew Union College (now Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; q. v.), in 1875, the first school in the U.S. for the preparation of rabbis; and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, in 1889. Wise was president of the latter two institutions until his death. Some of his numerous writings, which include essays, novels, plays, and a revised prayer book, are History of the Israelitish Nation(1854), Origin of Christianity (1870), Judaism: Its Doctrines and Duties(1872), The Cosmic God (1876), and Judaism and Christianity (1883).

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