Isaac Mayer Wise
An Author
 

 

 

 

 Much of The Reformer’s influence on American Jews came through his use of the printed word.  Indeed, “the literary labors of Isaac M. Wise were not an amiable pastime of his; they were part of his strenuous life purpose” (Philipson and Grossman 89).  Wise even came to be known as “’The American Jewish Novelist’” (Temkin 161).  Perhaps his most personally rewarding literary achievement was the publication of his Minhag America in 1857.  These Hebrew words simply mean “’American Ritual,’” essentially a prayer book (Glazer 36, 37).  Each ethnic group that immigrated to the United States had come with its own Minhag that, in Wise’s view, “seemed to hide rather than reveal the genius of Judaism” (Temkin 52; Philipson and Grossman 63).  Wise, in his efforts to “Americanize” the Jewry, sought to establish a ritual that would be accepted and uniformly used in all the American synagogues.  Increasingly, the American congregations did agree to the use of this publication as standard in their worship (Glazer 38).  The Minhag America was, however, eventually replaced in most synagogues by the Union Prayer Book.

Possibly accounting for more of his fame than the Minhag America were his two newspaper publications, the Asmonean in Albany, and the Israelite (later known as the American Israelite) in Cincinnati.  It was through the former that he spread many of his ideas on reform and unity; of the Israelite, it is expressed: “It would be hard to overemphasize the  role played by [this publication] in establishing Wise as a leader of the American Jewry” (Temkin 86-90, 112).

 

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