Wise, Isaac Mayer


Born: March 29, 1819

Ohio connection: Former Resident

Isaac Mayer Wise was born in Bohemia in 1819, the son of Leo and Regina Weiss. He was a brilliant student, and became a rabbi in 1842 at the age of 23. He married Therese Bloch two years later, and they would have ten children together. After serving as a rabbi in Bohemia for several years, he immigrated to the United States in 1846. He served Temple Beth El in Albany, New York, from 1846 until 1850, when he was dismissed for what many in the congregation felt were overly radical changes. Soon afterwards, a group broke away from Temple Beth El and, with Rabbi Wise, established a new Reform synagogue known as Anshe Emet (“men of truth”). In 1854, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became the rabbi of Beth Eichim, a Reform congregation. He remained there the rest of his life. He worked tirelessly to form a network of Reform congregations. In 1873, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations was established. In 1875, the Union established Hebrew Union College. In 1889, the Central Conference of American Rabbis was formed with his guidance. Wise wrote more than ten books of Jewish history and theology; eight novels in English and three in German; and two plays. He also produced a prayer book called Minhag America, meaning “the custom of America.” Isaac Mayer Wise died March 26, 1900, following a stroke.