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Main organizer of the Reform movement in the U.S. Rabbi Wise left his native Bohemia in 1846 and came to the U.S., where he took an Orthodox pulpit and began to reform the service. In 1854, he settled in Cincinnati where he proceeded to lay the groundwork for Reform Judaism in the U.S. He founded an English weekly called The American Israelite, the oldest Anglo-Jewish newspaper in the U.S. In 1873, he organized the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the organization of Reform congregation in the U.S., and two years later the Hebrew Union College, the Reform rabbinical seminary, the oldest rabbinical seminary in the U.S. In 1889, he organized the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the organization of American Reform rabbis. These accomplishments not only ensured the vigorous growth of the Reform movement, but also served as a model for organized Jewish life in the U.S., emulated by other religious movements and by social and cultural organizations.

Rabbi, author, and Zionist leader. Born in Budapest and brought to the U.S. as an infant, Stephen Wise was educated in New York City, where he studied at City College and Columbia University and prepared privately for the rabbinate. He took his first pulpit at 19, and from 1900 to 1906 served in Portland, Oregon. In 1907, Wise returned to New York and founded the Free Synagogue, which he led to the end of his life. Fifteen years later he established the Jewish Institute of Religion, a rabbinical seminary dedicated to the an> liberal ideals Wise embodied as rabbi and citizen. In 1950 this institution merged with the Hebrew Union College.

Wise‘s brilliant gifts as orator and administrator early gained him a distinguished position in the two areas that were to preoccupy him throughout his career: social reform and Zionist affairs. While still in Portland, he spoke out on behalf of labor reform. Later, he became a prominent advocate of civil rights, labor legislation, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program. An early Zionist, he was a founder of the Federation of American Zionists in 1898, the year of the second Zionist Congress. During the half-century that followed, he worked passionately within the community to gain adherents for the movement. But Zionism was only one facet of Wise‘s concern with Jewish life. To provide democratic representation for American Jewry as a body, he joined with Justice Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter in found_ing the American Jewish Congress in 1917, whose interests, as well as those of Zionism, he represented at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. In 1936, to provide an agency for contact between Jewish communities the world over, he organized the World Jewish Congress. During World War II, Wise made many attempts to influence President Roosevelt to do more to help rescue European Jews from the Nazis, but found out that the war effort precluded such action.

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