RABBI IN AMERICA by Israel Knox

RABBI IN AMERICA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This is the biography of Isaac Mayer Wise, who emigrated from Bohemia in 1846 and spurred the Reform movement in American Judaism. It should have been a provocative and stimulating book, but its dry textbook style and dull presentation of such potentially dynamic material will win few readers outside the circle of those who need to find out the bare bone facts. Wise's first congregation was in Albany, where he vigorously instituted reforms in the Orthodox services. As these grew more radical, the older members began to grumble, the congregation split, and Wise's supporters founded the first truly Reform synagogue in America, in 1851. Wise lectured, travelled, wrote for the press and periodicals and became a nationally known, controversial figure. He moved to Cincinnati, as rabbi of a larger synagogue -- and Cincinnati took its place as the center of Reform Judaism. He established a Union of Reform Rabbis, fostered the birth of the rabbinical school, wrote two novels of little importance, published two weekly journals, and died at the age of 81 in 1900. The latter part of the book deals with Wise's philosophy of religion. A brilliant, arrogant man and the impact of Reform upon Orthodox Judaism deserve a more dynamic book.

Publisher: Little, Brown