Stephen Samuel Wise
Stephen Samuel Wise was born in Budapest in 1874 but as a child emigrated
to New York where he received his Jewish and secular education.
He was ordained as a rabbi in the new Jewish Theological Seminary
and went on to become a Reform rabbi. However, unlike most Reform
rabbis and congregants at that time, Wise was a Zionist. He attended
Zionist Congress in 1898 and was elected to the General
Actions Committee. However, his disappointment with the movement's
attitude to the North American Jewish scene led him to withdraw
from active involvement.
In 1914, when Louis
Brandeis headed of the American Zionist movement,
Wise became his key lieutenant. Two years later, he became Chairperson
of the Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs
and was instrumental in influencing President Woodrow Wilson to
support the Balfour
He founded the Jewish Institute of Religion in 1922 , an educational center in New York City to train rabbis in Reform Judaism. It was merged into the Hebrew Union College a year after his death.
In 1925, Wise became Chairperson of the United EretzIsrael
Appeal whilst he continued his efforts to win the Reform movement
around to a proZionist stance. With the rise to power of
the Hitler regime, Wise took the position that public opinion
in the United States and elsewhere should be rallied against the
Nazis. He, along with Leo
Motzkin, encouraged the creation of
the World Jewish Congress in order to create a broader representative
body to fight Nazism. He used his influence with President Roosevelt
both in this area as well as on the EretzIsrael question.
During the war years, Wise was elected cochairperson
of the American Zionist Emergency Council but due to
differences with Abba
Hillel-Silver and the growing militancy of the
Zionist movement, Wise found himself increasingly isolated.
He was, appointed special representative of the Jewish
Agency to the United Nations Conference in San Francisco
in 1945 and testified before the AngloAmerican
Commission in 1946. At the 22nd Zionist congress, Wise
supported his old ally Chaim
Weizmann, but he too was
in decline. Stephen Wise died in New York on April 19, 1949.
Sources: The Jewish Agency for Israel, The World Zionist Organization, Wikipedia