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Stephen S. Wise papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: K0002
Series one consists of 0.5 linear feet of correspondence to, from, and about Stephen S. Wise. The letters are arranged into subseries according to general topic, and alphabetically arranged by name of correspondent within each subseries. There are nearly two hundred letters dating from 1905-1953, with the bulk of correspondence from 1907-32. The letters are primarily written in English with some in Hebrew and German. Correspondents include many prominent Jewish rabbis, scholars, laymen, and philanthropists, primarily from the New York area, as well as notable non-Jewish authors, politicians, and religious figures.

Series two consists of 0.25 linear feet of diaries, notes, and addresses written by Stephen S. Wise as well as research guides relating to Stephen S. Wise dating from 1908-1952, with the bulk of materials from 1908-1927. Included are three sets of personal diaries ranging from 1910-14 and 1921-22, notes from his trip to Palestine in 1922, and a number of undated writings on scrap paper. There is also a twenty-eight page bibliography on the writings of Wise.

Series three consists of general newsclippings and pamphlets, as well as invitations and programs of events relating to Stephen S. Wise, dating from 1909-1977, with the bulk of materials from 1911-1940.

Dates

  • 1905-1953

Creator

Restrictions on Access

Some records may be restricted.

Restrictions on Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Extent

1 Linear Feet

Abstract

Series one consists of correspondence primarily to and from Stephen S. Wise. There are nearly two hundred letters dating from 1905-1953, with the bulk of correspondence from 1907-32. Series two consists of diaries, notes, addresses, and research guides related to Stephen S. Wise from 1908-1952, with the bulk of materials from 1908-1927. Included are three sets of personal diaries ranging from 1910-14 and 1921-22, notes from his trip to Palestine in 1922, and a number of undated writings on scrap paper. There is also a twenty-eight page bibliography on the writings of Wise. Series three consists of general newsclippings and pamphlets, as well as invitations and programs of events relating to Stephen S. Wise, dating from 1909-1977, with the bulk of materials from 1911-1940.

Biographical Note

Stephen Samuel Wise (1874-1949) was born in Budapest, Hungary, and came to the United States the following year. In America, his father Rabbi Aaron Wise and the esteemed rabbis, Alexander Kohut and Gustav Gottheil prepared him for the rabbinate. At the age of eighteen, he graduated with honors from Columbia University and a year later, in 1893, he was ordained in Austria by the Chief Rabbi of Vienna, Adolph Jellinek.

"The People's Rabbi," as Wise would later be known, developed his deep concern for the less fortunate at an early age. When he was seven years old Wise heard of the government sponsored pogroms inflicted upon the Jews in Czarist Russia. This incident would open his eyes to the suffering of the poor and the powerless. Wise, who would enjoy the reputation as one of the century's finest orators, established a connection with the masses. In true liberal spirit, Wise fought for housing projects, the abolition of child labor, the improvement of working conditions, securing rights for female workers and equal rights for African Americans, and was a co-founder of both the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP] and the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU]. Wise began his Zionist career during the nascence of the movement in the 1890s. Wise, like Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, was outraged by the 1894 trial of French Captain Alfred Dreyfus who was accused of treason, falsely convicted and not exonerated until 1906, resulting in a shared conviction that the Jewish people required a homeland. Wise helped to organize its supporters and communicate the movement's ideology. He founded the New York Federation of Zionist Societies in 1987, which led to the nationwide Federation of American Zionists in 1898, and was a founder of the World Jewish Congress. Later, Wise was a leader in the American Jewish Congress, president and vice president of the Zionist Organization of America and an important liaison to American Presidents, such as Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In 1900, Wise accepted the post of rabbi at Temple Beth Israel in Portland, Oregon, the same year he married Louise Waterman. He remained in Oregon for six years where he threw himself into "Good Government," pressing for reform in state and city politics. He pioneered in interfaith cooperation, social service, and civic leadership, which included his non-paid position as Commissioner of Child Labor for Oregon. In 1906, Wise first sprang into national prominence. In his famous, "Open Letter to the Members of Temple Emanu-El of New York on the Freedom of the Jewish Pulpit," he rejected the offer to serve as rabbi of the prestigious Temple Emanu-El of New York because his demand for a "free pulpit," one that was not subject to control by a board of trustees, was refused. A year later, he returned from Oregon to New York and founded the Free Synagogue, which had free pews to all without fixed dues and maintained an extensive program of social welfare. Most importantly, Wise established a pulpit where the rabbi had the autonomy to promote social welfare, criticize inaction, and encouraged the use of religion as the remedy to society's ills. Like his Christian colleagues Walter Rauschenbusch, Josiah Strong, and Washington Gladden, Wise was a bold and influential preacher of public concerns.

Among Wise's proudest achievements was his establishment of the Jewish Institute of Religion [JIR] in 1922 in New York City, a rabbinical seminary which merged with Hebrew Union College in 1950. Wise became a mentor to a young Isaac Edward Kiev who began his studies at the seminary in 1924 and gave Kiev a job in the JIR Library to help pay for school. The relationship between Wise and Kiev grew and Kiev became Chief Librarian in 1943, where he remained until his death in 1975. In 1996, I. Edward Kiev's personal library was donated to the Gelman Library at the George Washington University and the papers of Stephen S. Wise were included with the original donation.

Stephen S. Wise died in 1949 in New York City.

The Stephen S. Wise Papers, containing 191 boxes, are housed at the American Jewish Historical Society [AJHS], AJHS Manuscript Catalog, #P-134

Collection Organization

Organized into three series: Correspondence, Writings, and Ephemera.

Acquisition Information

In 1996, I. Edward Kiev's personal library was donated to the Gelman Library at the George Washington University and the papers of Stephen S. Wise were included with the original donation

Bib#

12212717
Title
Prelminary Guide to the Stephen S. Wise papers, 1905-1977
Author
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Date
2007
Language of description
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

Contact:
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Washington 20052 United States of America