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Louis Wolsey

WOLSEY, LOUIS (1877–1953), U.S. Reform rabbi. Wolsey, born in Midland, Michigan, was ordained in 1899 by Hebrew Union College. From 1899 to 1907 he led Congregation B'nai Israel in Little Rock, Arkansas. He then served as rabbi at Congregation Anshe Chesed, Cleveland, leading in the construction of its Euclid Avenue Temple. When he left this congregation in 1925, it had increased from 150 to over 1,300 families. He was rabbi at Philadelphia's Rodeph Shalom Congregation from 1925 to 1947. Wolsey helped lead Reform organizations as president of Hebrew Union College Alumni Association (1914–16), executive board member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (1925–29), and president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (1925–27). He was a founder in 1926 of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and was chairman of the committee that revised the Union Hymnal published in 1936.

Although comparatively favorable to nonpolitical aspects of Zionism during his Cleveland years, Wolsey was one of the group of rabbis who opposed the Central Conference resolution for the establishment of a Palestinian Jewish military unit in 1942, and he led the dissident group through several conferences that formed the *American Council for Judaism. He resigned his council vice presidency in 1946 to protest its stand against unrestricted Jewish immigration to Palestine, and resigned from the council itself in 1948. Wolsey found it irreligious and anti-humanitarian in the face of "a harried European Jewry," and demanded that it dissolve. Likewise, "the Zionist movement… should dissolve into a unity of world Jewry for the creation of a Jewish culture and a Jewish life in Israel."


S. Halperin, Political World of American Zionism (1961), index.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.