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Stephen Samuel Wise

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Stephen Samuel Wise (1874 - 1949) was a U.S. rabbi and Zionist leader. He founded the Jewish Institute of Religion, 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.

He embraced a Jewish equivalent of the Social Gospel encouraging social justice, and was a close friend of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who turned to Wise for advice on issues concerning the Jewish community in the United States.

Wise has sometimes been criticized for his initial failure to recognize the Holocaust prior to American entry into World War II, and his dismissal of early reports of the Final Solution as propaganda. Like much of the American Jewish community at the time, his mistakes in this area probably stemmed from a desire to not fan the flames of anti-Semitism by drawing undue attention to the sufferings of the Jewish people in Europe under Nazi rule, fearing an upsurge of anti-Semitism in the United States.

Jewish Encyclopedia Version

American rabbi; born at Budapest March 17, 1862; son of Aaron Wise. He studied at the College of the City of New York (1887-91), Columbia College (B.A. 1892), and Columbia University (Ph.D. 1901), and later pursued rabbinical studies under Gottheil, Kohut, Gersoni, Joffe, and Margolis. In 1893 he was appointed assistant to Rabbi Henry S. Jacobs of the Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, New York city, and later in the same year, minister to the same congregation. In 1900 he was called to the rabbinate of the Congregation Beth Israel, Portland, Ore.

Wise was the first (honorary) secretary of the American Federation of Zionists; and at the Second Zionist Congress (Basel, 1898) he was a delegate, and secretary for the English language. He was a member also of the International Zionist Executive Committee in 1899. In 1902 he officiated as first vice-president of the Oregon State Conference of Charities and Correction; and in 1903 he was appointed Commissioner of Child Labor for the state of Oregon. He is the founder of the People's Forum of Portland. Wise is the editor of the Arabic original of "The Improvement of the Moral Qualities," an ethical treatise of the eleventh century by Solomon ibn Gabirol (New York, 1902), and of the "Beth Israel Pulpit".

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